The Weirdos were one of the first Los Angeles punk bands. Formed in 1976 by brothers John and Dix Denney with longtime friends/creative collaborators Cliff Roman and Dave Trout, their brilliant, virile collision of Dadaism, junk culture, mad genius, stupidity and youthful energy reflected both their sleazy Hollywood environment and art-school backgrounds. John Denney’s voice and onstage persona were as distinctive and iconoclastic as Richard Hell, Mark Mothersbaugh, Tomato Du Plenty or Johnny Rotten, and the band had a New York Dolls-meets-Damned chug in service of an absurdist, sinister outlook.
The band made it to the pages of Creem, Search & Destroy, Slash and even Time, but never released an album in its early prime despite tons of grade-A songs. (Maybe Denney’s gorilla suit episodes in record exec offices had something to do with that!) After releasing two potent singles and several great EPs, the band fell into semihibernation in the early ’80s, with members moving on to work with Lydia Lunch and Captain Beefheart. A brief excerpt from their “Helium Bar” vid was featured in the movie Down and Out In Beverly Hills. One of their sporadic reunions in the late ’80s resulted in the underrated Condor LP and Weird World Volume 1, which mixed essential 7- and 12-inch tracks with previously unheard demos.
The second volume is finally out, featuring 16 songs from 1977 to 1990. It’s a mixed bag as far as sources go; the disc ranges from studio sessions to experimental home recordings. The collection kick-starts with remixed songs from the Condor sessions, “Terrain,” and “Cyclops Helicopter” and an unreleased cover of Love’s “7&7 Is.” Versions of Link Wray’s “Fatback” and Hank Mizell’s stellar “Jungle Rock” recorded in 1980 also appear. The collection is worth the admission price just for 1981’s “Shining Silver Light” — its abrasive, space age Fred Flintstone vocal is highlighted by drummer Cliff Martinez’s irresistible, metronomic Neu-meets-Moe Tucker beat. “It Means Nothing” is another absolute stunner; previously heard only on a bootleg of 1977 demos, this 1980 version is more streamlined, brimming with Chuck Berry-on-speed riffing. You also get two “proto-industrial” tracks — which utilize household items, tape loops and detuned guitars — plus their best-known 45 cuts, “Destroy All Music” and “We Got The Neutron Bomb.” The album ends with Denney shouting “Hit it, man!” as the band launches into a raw, 1977 rehearsal of “I’m Not Like You,” with the confidence, energy, and glee of a band at the top of its game.
Gems like “Go Kid Hugo” and “Do The Dance” remain unreleased, so a third volume would be great to see, as would a Detroit appearance by the once-again active band.
E-mail Heath Heemsbergen at [email protected].