Lexicon Devil (Germs/Darby Crash) BOOK review [Brendan Mullen/Don Bolles/Adam Parfrey]

Book Reviews
Lexicon Devil (Germs/Darby Crash) BOOK review [Brendan Mullen/Don Bolles/Adam Parfrey]
Apr 15, 2002, 04:20

LEXICON DEVIL: THE FAST TIMES AND SHORT LIFE OF DARBY CRASH AND THE GERMS by Brendan Mullen with Don Bolles and Adam Parfrey; Feral House, 2002

Published just shortly on the heels of the mostly enjoyable but somewhat thin We've Got The Neutron Bomb: The Untold History of LA Punk (also by Brendan Mullen but with Mark Spitz aboard as co-author) is this wholly enjoyable back story regarding one of L.A.'s most legendary punk acts made all the more notorious simply because their lead-singer and would-be cult leader aspirant Darby Crash took his own life with an intentionally lethal dose of heroin.

Funny what wonders death does for a career in the public eye, don't you think? But really, credit where credit is due. We can't overlook (GI), one of the all time great punk records ever.

While Lexicon fully discloses the rise and fall of The Germs this is predominantly the story of Darby Crash, aka, Bobby Pyn, aka Paul Beahm. A largely sad and factual account of a white trash kid from the lower class community of Venice Beach, CA. By all accounts, a bright kid who came into his own without ever really finding himself.

Thumbing my way through I couldn't help but recognize with crystal clarity the number of kids I grew up with in Southern California and largely the environment in which I was raised. And notably, co-author and editor Adam Parfrey put my familiarity in context in his publisher's preface, capturing my attention and hooking me in from the start. Parfrey states the following:

“When reading a couple interview transcripts I suddenly became dizzy and broke into a cold sweat, when words, words alone sunk to the pit of my stomach. What was being said did not affect me as much as how it was being said—the 1974 West L.A. juvie style in all its confusion, ignorance, and arrogance sucker-punched me in the gut, and brought me back to a time and place I spent so many years trying to forget.”

Still, there's been a lot of mythology spun over the years regarding the Germs'—and more specifically Darby's—legacy so consequently I lapped this up with the appropriate grain of salt—the brand of salt which all history books should be seasoned with—and that is likely why I found the following statement of former band manager Nicole Panter to be one of the more honest and straight-forward things printed:

“I thought he was troubled, talented, bright, but certainly no genius—I still don't think he was a genius, but he was smart enough to die before anyone could figure that out. Lots of people on the scene really disliked him and maybe even feared him a bit and with good reason, he was very much a pest.”

Told completely as a natural oral history a la Leg's McNeil's Please Kill Me, Lexicon  leaves you to determine who's full of shit and who is not. The conflicting stories, insights, and points of view are succinctly edited together, chock full of anecdotes and lots of salient points of historical minutiae that lends the book a really tight, narrative flow and keeps the pages turning. This one's a keeper.

-Peter Davis

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