GEARS/D.I.’S, THE: Rockin’ at Ground Zero/Rare Cuts: CD

Rockin’ at Ground Zero is one of those releases that anyone even remotely interested in underground music should have in their collection, period. No discussion, no hall pass, no excuses. Yes, it is indeed that goddamned essential, a pitch-perfect example of what happens when girl-crazy, A-bomb fearin’ teenage brats intent on giving punk a rockabilly undertow instead stumble upon bona fide art. It’s been released in a number of incarnations and formats over the past nearly thirty years, and this time they’ve augmented the album’s original fifteen tracks and the oft-included three-track Let’s Go to the Beach EP with five additional demo tracks, so if you happen to be one of the total dweebs who has yet to procure a copy, now’s the time, bucko. Not long after the Gears threw in the towel, Axxel and Dave started a new band, the D.I.s, and for the next few years L.A. punkers confused them with Casey Royer’s band D.I., another legendary Southern California punk rock band in its own right. Axxel ’n Dave’s band took the Gears sound as its foundation and veered off in a number of interesting ways, first following many of their early Hollywood punk peers into roots rock and then slowly adding in some of the hard rock and glam influences that, by the end of the ‘80s, dominated the L.A. club scene. Collected on Rare Cuts are twenty-two tracks spanning their ten-year existence and feature a slew of sidemen who made their bones in some of L.A.’s greatest bands. Maybe it’s age, ’cause I clearly remember seeing the D.I.s a number of times when they were around and really not thinkin’ too much of ’em, but what I’m hearing here causes me to revisit that assessment. Most of what’s here complements Rockin’ at Ground Zero quite nicely, illustrating what happens when you get enough of a chance to take an idea so far that you end up back where you started, which is pretty much what happened—as I recall, once the D.I.s bit the dust, the Gears were back in action, and they’ve more or less remained so ever since.  –jimmy (Hepcat)