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Un(der)seen Cinema: The Decline of Western Civilization

Penelope Spheeris’s 1980 film about the LA punk scene features bands like X, the Germs, Black Flag and Fear. You get the feeling that the scene is peaking when Nicole, the Germ’s manager explains why they don’t get gigs anymore. With the new bands, she says “there’s no threat of an imminent riot”. The Germ’s Darby Crash, famous for smearing himself with peanut butter and rolling in broken glass, died of a suicidal heroin overdose shortly before the film came out. Some of the performances are eardrumbursting spectacular, including some of the best by X, who perform “I’m Desperate”:

i play too hard when i ought to go to sleep / they pick on me because i really got the beat / some people give me the creeps / every other week i need a new address / landlord landlord landlord cleaning up the mess / our whole fucking life is a wreck / we’re desperate / get used to it it’s kiss or kill / coca-cola and a motorola kitchen / nauga-hyde and a tie-dye t-shirt / last night everything broke

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