Germs

Forming

Song Review by

Part of the idea behind punk rock was that you didn't have to be able to play like a virtuoso to make the stuff work and that was a lesson the Germs both took to heart and made a career out of passing along to others. The Germs were among the very first of L.A.'s punk bands to release a record, and the A-side of their debut single, "Forming," very literally captured the sound of a band figuring out what they were doing as they went along. A rudimentary bass line thuds along in the left channel, soon joined by a chugging barre-chorded guitar and a drum kit being operated by someone who hasn't figured out how to do anything besides hitting the high-hat on one and three and the snare drum on two and four. Lead singer Darby Crash then bursts forth from the right speaker, monotonally bellowing lyrics that blend English-class poesy ("I the Emperor proclaim/Us the masters, we rule the game") with angsty teen snot ("Rip them down/Hold them up/Tell them that/I'm your gun/Pull my trigger/I am bigger than"). It's a performance that's at once exciting and a bit laughable. It's obvious everyone on board is still learning how to make music, and Crash even closes out the performance with a concise and fairly accurate review of the proceedings ("We're playing it all wrong. The drums are too slow, the bass is too fast, the chords are wrong, this is making the ending too long...ah, I quit."). But as tentative as the Germs sound, there is just enough piss and vinegar in their sound and their song to make clear that the real victory was that they were willing to step into a garage studio and bravely commit their juvenilia to tape. Two years later, the band cut the song again with future X drummer D.J. Bonebrake taking over for the departed Donna Rhia (Don Bolles was on hiatus); Crash's monotone had evolved into a frantic, discordant wail; Pat Smear's guitar is both looser and stronger, and Lorna Doom's bass playing sounds kind of/ sort of professional. In short, they'd grown from an inept garage band figuring out how to put the pieces together to an inept punk band who, for better or worse, knew just what they wanted to do, and it's their strength and confidence that makes all the difference in the world. The two versions of the song bookend the excellent compilation CD (M.I.A.), which ultimately tells you everything you really need to know about the Germs.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
What Stuff [1991] 1991
Various Artists
Iloki 3:05
(MIA): The Complete Anthology 1993 Slash / Slash Records 3:06
Punk and Disorderly, Vol. 1 1999
Various Artists
Anagram 0:00
Punk Tribute to Green Day 2004
Various Artists
Tributized / Big Eye Music 1:27