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FROM THE VAULTS : Weirdos and Germs : VARIOUS ARTISTS, “Live from the Masque 1978, Vol. 1" (<i> House of Punk/Flipside</i> ) ***

Now that punk-rock has defied the obituaries and escaped the underground to become both hot commodity and voice of bored youth, what better time for a flashback to the origins--Southern California style?

In this punk primer that kicks off a planned series of three CDs, four of the bands that sparked the L.A. punk renaissance are captured on the two memorable nights at the Elks Building in February, 1978, when the city’s music community coalesced.

The shows were benefits for the Masque, the seedy Hollywood basement club that was the crucible for L.A.'s punk scene. Its proprietor, Brendan Mullen, contributes an informative, chatty, sometimes catty liner essay, and is also heard on the album addressing the audience in his Scotch-Irish brogue: “Stop being so scrappy and obstreperous in the front two rows!”

The music of the Weirdos, the Bags, the Germs and the Skulls on “Live” doesn’t sound too far from contemporary strains, especially the surprisingly pop-ish Weirdos. The Germs’ blur exerts a compelling aura, while the raw and thrashy Bags and Skulls are pure exhilaration. Pogo till you drop.

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