You can jokingly lump the Circle Jerks in with the Rolling Stones because of their age. You can say the Circle Jerks have made much better albums than their new release, "Oddities, Abnormalities and Curiosities." But please don't say the Circle Jerks aren't punk rock.
L.A.'s legendary Circle Jerks, who have been playing and recording for nearly 20 years, are the very definition of the term punk rock. While young music fans have been snatching up copies of the latest Offspring and Green Day albums, the Circle Jerks have quietly regrouped after more than five years of inactivity and are hitting the concert circuit to reclaim some of the thunder many of us were wondering if they had lost.We should have known better. They haven't missed a step, as well-documented by the quartet's blistering 90-minute set Tuesday night at Club DV8. Wisely interspersing material from the new album with longtime favorite numbers, the Jerks put on a punk show so intense its like hasn't been seen since the band played the sadly defunct Speedway Cafe in 1989.
By the time vocalist Keith Morris barked out the oldie "All Wound Up," the third song in the band's set, the group had already wound up the crowd, egging the fans into a slamming, stage-diving frenzy. And who wouldn't have, given the concussive assault bass guitarist Zander Schloss and drummer Keith Clark unleashed, especially on "Wonderful," "World Up My (Bleep!)" and "When (It) Hits the Fan?"
Morris himself was every mother's worst nightmare, a dread-locked maniac crouching predator-like just before he screamed in a voice that can only be described as like a more adenoidal version of the Dead Kennedys' Jello Biafra after chain-smoking 12 cartons of cigarettes and consuming 40 cups of coffee. He played the crowd like a fine instrument, even getting those on the floor to sit down to hear his dramatic vocal quaver on "Fable."
That's not to slight guitarist Greg Hetson, who also plays in L.A.'s seminal hard-core unit Bad Religion. Hetson's splintered riffs enlivened "Teenage Electric" and "Shining Through the Door," songs that are dreadfully lifeless on the new album.
The only downer to the group's masterful performance - besides the fact that the gems "I Just Want Some Skank," "Beverly Hills" and "Mrs. Jones" weren't included in the set - was some overly exuberant stage-diving by the crowd. But that hardly deserved the uncalled-for rough treatment the club's security dished out to some of the divers, especially one female patron who was taken down like a running back. If the club doesn't want this kind of behavior maybe it shouldn't be featuring this kind of show.
On a more positive note, openers Unwritten Law and the Lemons proved there are some things young acts can show the veterans. The latter, a San Diego five-piece, played irresistible pop-punk that caught many in attendance off guard. Harmonies like those from vocalist Scott Russo and guitarists Steve Morris and Rob Brewer usually take years to flourish this way.
Catchy numbers like "C.P.K.," "Suzanne" and "Tribute" started those close to the stage slamming, which caught on in a hurry. And "Superficial Society" and "World War III" only turned up the intensity, ensuring that the moshing would continue well through the Jerks' set.
As for the Lemons, the Washington quartet proved that - even though its debut album "Marvel" is sour - its Ramones-inspired pop-punk can be mighty tasty.