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ALBUM REVIEW / POP

August 31, 1996|SANDY MASUO

*** Various artists, "Germs (Tribute): A Small Circle of Friends," Grass. In their brief existence, L.A.'s Germs took a valiant stab at becoming America's answer to the Sex Pistols, with singer Darby Crash's flamboyantly reckless persona often coming off as an unholy blend of Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten. The legacy that's persisted since Crash's overdose death in 1980 isn't quite as epic as the Pistols', but it did impact a bevy of impressionable young punks and semi-punks, many of whom appear on this inspired and imaginative 20-track tribute.

Three-fourths of Hole (as the Holez) join forces with former Germs guitarist Pat Smear for a raging rendering of "Circle One," and the Melvins unleash a meaty, metallic rendition of "Lexicon Devil."

Equally impressive are the reinterpretations that twist the Germs' proto-hard-core into unexpected directions. Matthew Sweet rearranges "Dragon Lady" into a tuneful, low-tech Casio-fest, and the Posies subvert "Richie Dagger's Crime" into a deranged Beatles medley. It's a somewhat perverse treatment--Crash's death was overshadowed in the news by John Lennon's murder the next day--but one that is perhaps most true to the Germs' irreverent spirit.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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