Last night I watched What We Do Is Secret, a film about punk legend Darby Crash and his band The Germs. It started off as sort of a mock documentary, with bad writing and questionable acting but I ended up sort of really liking it.
It turned out to be one of those it’s so bad, it’s good situations. I was immediately drawn to the film because I love The Germs. Then I was curious to see how Shane West was going to pull off portraying such a gritty punk with a heavy drug addiction. Then(!) I found out Bijou Phillips was in it and I was sold. She is a total train wreck, but I love her and will watch just about anything she is in.
When Darby formed the band in the late 70’s, none of the members knew how to play the instruments and none of them had performed live. They immediately booked a show and bumbled through it. Darby’s vision was brilliant. Start a band, create a bunch of hype, play a show then learn how to play. He was determined, and set a plan in place, to become a legend in five years. In this particular section of the film, David Bowie’s Five Years played in the background which is when I knew I liked the movie and it had me by the short and curlies. The band went on to book shows all around Los Angeles and were gaining serious notoriety. Mostly due to the self mutilation on stage (yep, Darby was a cutter!) and their ability to incite massive riots. The crowds grew increasingly violent causing the bands to be banned from most venues they were used to packing. This nearly derailed the band until Crash began booking shows under the moniker GI which stood for Germs Incognito. Brilliant.
After the venues got wise to this little trick, the band continued to struggle to perform live. Darby and Pat Smear left to form the Darby Crash Band, but the project did not take off like planned. They only played a few shows, then realized it was time to reform The Germs for one final show. They took the stage at The Starwood on December 3, 1980 and played to a packed house. The show was a success, but unfortunately the last one the band would play with this line-up. Darby Crash committed suicide by overdosing on heroin on December 7, 1980, the same day John Lennon was murdered.
The film did a pretty good job of capturing all of this, even if it was in a made-for-TV-movie kind of way. It was all a little clean though, the scene at that time was hard and dirty. They should have made the film a little edgier, but you can’t always get what you want.
Shane West did a pretty good job portraying Crash, they even managed to fuck up his teeth to mirror Darby’s cracked smile.
The Germs formed again to play the after party directly following the release of the film. Impressed with West’s work, the band asked him to take on lead vocals. I’m not so convinced it was that good, but it makes sense I guess.