Saturday, January 30, 2016

Circle Jerks: “VI” (1987/2016) CD Review

In 1987, the Circle Jerks released their fifth album, titled VI because, fuck, not everything needs to be in order. I had listened to the Circle Jerks early on, thanks to some friends who turned me on to bands like Descendents, Dead Kennedys, Suicidal Tendencies and, of course, Black Flag. One thing I appreciated about the Circle Jerks was their sense of humor. I mean, even their choice of band names is funny, and I have to admit the title of their third album, Golden Shower Of Hits, still makes me smile (and what a great cover that album has). But by 1987 I was off into other musical realms, and so didn’t listen to VI upon its initial release. Now it’s being remastered and re-issued, with new liner notes, and so I’m getting a chance to enjoy it. And there is plenty to enjoy on this disc. The tracks are mostly hard, fast, short, in-and-out punk rock tunes, with a sense of humor, but also with something to say. Check out “Living,” for example. I wish I had this record back in my teens, but the lines “I’m tired, give me something/Is that all there is, is that all there is” still speak strongly to me. Most of the tracks are originals, the exception being an excellent CCR cover.

The album opens with “Beat Me Senseless,” which is actually one of my least favorite tracks. It’s just not all that interesting. It has kind of a hard rock sound. But no worries, two minutes later, we’re into “Patty’s Killing Mel,” which is a much better tune with more of a biting sense of humor. This one was written by Zander Schloss, who had joined the band in 1984. “Patty’s killing Mel/Red beef, cocktails, sending him to hell/Susie killing Sal, Bobbi killing Joe/It’s your blood, who’s to know/Carol killing Del, Sally killing Sam/Get too close, you’ll understand.” And of course it has the spoken word part about dust under the counter indicating a possible lack of love in the relationship. Then “Casualty Vampires” rips on people who thrive on seeing the misery of others, those people who slow down on the highway to look at car wrecks, hoping to see a corpse. That’s followed by one of my favorites, “Tell Me Why,” which has a strong message. “Watch your mouth, mind your speech/Be aware, stay on your feet/Try to run, get you when you’re weak/Why are they always hounding me.”

I am also really fond of “Protection.” Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Like the whales in the ocean/We could become extinct/Don’t let them hunt us/In the wild kingdom/You better believe all the animals need protection.” But probably my absolute favorite on this album is “Living,” which is another with strong social commentary. Check out these lines: “Not much hope for any future/No desire to recall the past/Lower standards of education/Hard to think when your stomach is empty.” This is a great song.

The album’s only cover is a rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son,” which is perfectly placed after “American Way” (which has lines like “They can justify anything they do/It’s all right, as long they’re/Waving the red white and blue”), and delivered with the right snarl and anger and attitude. Seriously, this is a really good version of “Fortunate Son.” It’s a perfect song for getting the hardcore punk treatment, the anger being there in the original (John Fogerty sings the fuck out of it). This CD concludes with another strong track, “I Don’t.” “I don’t cook, I don’t clean/I don’t have the energy for the scene/And I don’t got no car/I don’t worry ‘bout the price of gasoline.”

CD Track List
  1. Beat Me Senseless
  2. Patty’s Killing Mel
  3. Casualty Vampire
  4. Tell Me Why
  5. Protection
  6. I’m Alive
  7. Status Clinger
  8. Living
  9. American Way
  10. Fortunate Son
  11. Love Kills
  12. All Wound Up
  13. I Don’t 
This re-issue of VI is scheduled to be released on February 5, 2016 through Real Gone Music.

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