by Kurt B. Reighley

The Weirdos

w/the Skulls, DEK, the Girls

Sat Nov 29, Graceland, 5 pm, $10 (all-ages).

w/the Skulls

Sat Nov 29, Singles Going Steady in-store signing, 1:30 pm, free.

Weirdos don't take their cues from anyone. In the beginning, the offbeat L.A. combo didn't even have a drummer. Although they recorded one of the classic singles of the original L.A. punk era, it took them over a decade to release their first album (and at first they even rejected the "punk" tag). But they also endured, while better-known contemporaries, like the Germs (who played their first show opening for the Weirdos), quickly burned out. Today, the Weirdos continue to work off their own clock.

For example: The Weirdos are now playing a handful of West Coast dates in support of their new retrospective CD, We Got the Neutron Bomb: Weird World Volume Two (on Frontier Records). The events were originally scheduled to celebrate the band's 25th anniversary. Except the Weirdos' first shows took place in the spring of 1977. You do the math.

No matter. We Got the Neutron Bomb is worth the wait. While its companion set, 1991's Weird World Volume One, focused on material recorded between 1977 and 1981, the new set draws on everything from 1977 rehearsal tapes to outtakes from the band's debut full-length, Condor... which they didn't get around to making until 1989. To keep things interesting, the founding members--singer John Denney, guitarist Dix Denney, and bassist/guitarist Cliff Roman--programmed the set in retrogressive order, and segued the cuts together without pauses. "We approached it as a concept album," says Roman. "Our attitude was, even though this is old stuff, let's pretend it's a new record."

Among the highlights are the original versions of the band's first two singles. "Destroy All Music," released in 1977, is a visceral, minute-and-a-half diatribe about the pathetic state of pop, with a taut, edgy vibe that underscores the group's love of roots rock (the new CD also includes live covers of Link Wray's "Fat Back" and Hank Mizell's "Jungle Rock"). Its 1978 follow-up, "We Got the Neutron Bomb," remains the Weirdos' signature tune, a brisk damnation of America's foreign-policy-by-intimidation, swept along on layers of distorted guitar. As catchy as anything in the Buzzcocks' catalog, "Neutron Bomb" is the earliest example of the sing-along quality the band would continue mining on subsequent offerings like 1979's Who? What? Where? When? Why? EP.

Neutron Bomb also features a previously unreleased, Condor-era cover of "Seven & Seven Is," the classic 1966 single by L.A. rock oddities Love. "That song was one of my earliest favorite records when I was a kid," recalls Roman. It played a key role in shaping his aesthetic. "'Seven & Seven Is' was a progenitor of the punk rock sound. That song, and a few others, formed the basis of the Weirdos style, and the elements we used to create our music."

It was a deep love of music that sparked the genesis of the Weirdos in the first place. As teenage friends in the '70s, Roman and John Denney would spend hours together listening to albums, from jazz masterpieces by Eric Dolphy, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis, to the glam sounds of Bowie, T. Rex, and the New York Dolls; Captain Beefheart's Lick My Decals Off, Baby and Trout Mask Replica were particular favorites. Roman cites seeing Iggy & the Stooges at the Whisky a Go-Go in 1973 as the moment he finally decided to form a band of his own--though it would be three more years before he and John roped in Dix to play lead guitar and the Weirdos were born.

What made the Weirdos stick out was their flair with both sound and visuals. "Before we even started, we always had ideas for how to look in a rock band," admits Roman. They could work wonders with paint, staples, and electrical tape. "They had the look down," remembers Robert Lopez (AKA El Vez), whose band the Zeros played with the Weirdos in the early days. "Their odd dress was the extra visual plus: lots of spray-painting with stencils, and things hanging off from here and there. Back then, you could still find that great, one-of-a-kind thrift-store clothing oddity, and they had that in spades." But Lopez was even more enthralled by the music. "They had great hooks and beats, really different, and not in a Ramones, blam-blam-blam kind of way."

Looking back, Roman says the most exciting thing was accomplishing so much from outside the system. "We did all of this on our own. We had no contact with anybody in the music industry. And then all of the sudden, there was a lot of attention. There we were, playing the Whisky, in Time magazine, and on the cover of Slash. People would come see us and start their own bands. At the time, it just felt like you were on an elevator." Twenty-six years after they got in on the ground floor, the Weirdos are still pushing buttons and enjoying the ride.