The Gears and the D.I.s
Rocking At Ground Zero, Deluxe Edition with Rare Cuts!
We’ll start this two CD set with The Gears, whom you might vaguely recall as a minor band in the hot house days of late ’70s L.A. Punk. Like everyone else in a mohawk and ripped jeans era, these guys took on silly names: Axell G. Reese on vocals, Dave Drive on drums, Kidd Spike on guitar. They played rockabilly-flavored punk: songs were about love not social decay, lyrics were clear and coherent. But nothing ran over three minutes and most of these power pop ditties clock in less than two minutes. Besides lust, these guys surfed and got beat up by the LAPD. That was a badge of punkdom as surely as a homemade tat and an orange mohawk. About a third of this disc contains 1979-era demos and original 45 mixes. It’s fun listening to the same track from two different times — the official album version of “Let’s Go To the Beach” feels a bit slicker, but the 45 has a wonderful overdriven garage band sound. “Don’t Be Afraid to Pogo” gives a similar experience — the original captures the energy, but on the later version you can actually hear the lyrics.
After a decade of various projects, Mr. Reese & Mr. Drive were still together in a band called The D.I.s (as in The Drill Instructors). The band put out one E.P. (Lock and Load) under the guidance of X guitarist Billy Zoom, then went though the rapid-fire personnel changes that signify smoke in the cockpit of so many faltering bands. The D.I.s’ music is slicker and more studied, as one would expect from a few years of abuse by the Los Angeles club scene, but most of it never made it out of the studio until this Rare Cuts! release. There’s some good stuff here if you enjoyed Gun Club or New Wave Theatre — “Mowhawk vs. DA” captures the fluidity of the scene, the lead singer takes us from skateboarding in Torrance to driving a ’59 Mercury in L.A. “Devil’s Music” could have been a hit under the promotion of the X publicity machine, and the 1990 track “Jezebel” still drips excitement and energy. The downside is neither the Gears nor the D.I.s led the charge of punk and post-punk, but they were just far enough behind the vanguard to eat their dust and miss the publicity. This is a collection of solid punk music, lacking anger but holding a few gems that should get more attention by today’s post-post-post-punks.