well, until i get some shit written of my own, here's...



Formed Los Angeles, 1980.

In what seemed like a backlash against New York's art-punk scene of the 1970s, young rock acts on the West Coast came out of the decade parading a rootsier, more working-class sound than their elitist forebears. The first band from this new wave to gain broad notoriety were the awesome Black Flag. Flag's original singer, Keith Morris, left in 1980 to form his own band, Circle Jerks, a quartet whose early line-up was completed by Morris's friend, the energetic guitarist Greg Hetson (formerly of the acclaimed Red Kross), bassist Roger Rogerson and drummer `Lucky' Lehrer.

What might appear an unassuming band name was in fact a euphemism for a nasty little frat-house initiation involving several young men and a milk bottle, and thus Circle Jerks found some labels a touch reluctant to sign them up. However, the hardcore-championing SST stepped in to issue the band's first album, the entertaining Group Sex (1981). This was a not entirely successful attempt to establish a more solid identity than the 'Black Flag mark 2' tag, but nonetheless contained the elements of humour and satire that were to become a trademark of Circle Jerks' lyrics. Alternative US college radio stations loved it, and the frantic strains of classics such as "Wasted" and "Beverley Hills" could be heard echoing across many a West Coast campus. In the UK, John Peel saw to it that Circle Jerks were heard by his own audience at least.

Circle Jerks were rapidly becoming a compulsive act. Later in 1981 this was recognized by ex-Police manager Miles Copeland, who signed them to his own Step Forward/Faulty label, which soon issued the second LP, Wild in the Streets, bringing Circle Jerks to a wider audience. Almost to order, this label transfer (along with a slightly tighter production) brought about a backlash; 'The satire, spirit and fun of the first album is practically non-existent', complained the New York Rocker. Well, it wasn't ever that bad, and included a definite stand-out in the adrenalin-infused "Letter Bomb".

Circle Jerks' reputation as being at the helm of the US hardcore battleship was strengthened by their inclusion on Jello Biafra's compilation Let Them Eat Jellybeans, to which they contributed the popular "Paid Vacation". However, the appeal of early 80s US punk began to wane by 1983, and Circle Jerks' third album (the stale and regrettably named Golden Shower) took a critical pasting. Disillusioned by this downturn of fortune, Rogerson and Lehrer disappeared from the scene.

Undeterred, stalwarts Morris and Hetson continued, and, after a hiatus of nearly three years (during which time Hetson worked with hardcore contemporaries, the enduring Bad Religion) returned with V1, a long-player which appeared almost to ridicule their earlier identity. Sadly, it received almost no publicity, and garnered little airplay, even from those die-hard college stations. Just as it seemed the Circle Jerks were to disappear without trace, they acquired new musicians in bassist Zandor Scloss and sticksman Keith 'Adolph' Clark. This breath of new life spawned Wonderful in 1988, which showed the band maturing and even attempting to nurture some of the other then-current musical stylings. Stand-out tracks included "Killing For Jesus", and, continuing the band's apparent fascination with incendiary devices, "Making the Bombs".

Although little has been heard of Circle Jerks since this last outing, their influence (and that of their contemporaries) is echoed in the sound and lyrics of such US crossover acts as Green Day and Offspring, while their satirical bite has natural descendants in, amongst others, Rancid, Royal Trux, SNFU and Ween.

Jeremy Simmonds