Skulls: Night of the Living Skulls, CD + DVD

It’s cooler than hell when an old band comes back and is actually better than the first time out, and such is the case with the Skulls. One of LA’s original punk bands, the original band released very little product in its initial run in the ‘70s and, while that product was good, it paled in comparison to what some of their contemporaries were doing. Which is not to say they weren’t all that, but it is no easy feat to stand out when you’ve got the Weirdos, the Germs, the Bags, the Screamers and the Plugz to contend with, you know? They faded quietly, some members went on to Wall of Voodoo and surpassed all them other bands in notoriety, and those of us who dug their raw sound were forced to make the most of a single and some live tracks on the first of the Live at the Masque comps. When Billy Bones reformed the band a few years ago, there was no indication that anyone should even pay all that much attention, especially considering how many other bands/people from that bygone era had come back from the dead to take another stab at cementing their name in LA punk’s history books, only to make utter fools of themselves. Then that first new release, a single on Headline Records, came out and coldcocked any nay-sayers and skeptics who lumped the Skulls in with the hordes of has-beens who had come before. Backed by an all-new group of young malcontents, Billy has managed to breathe some life into the corpse of both his old band and LA punk, and over the course of two albums has released some of the best music this tired, arrogant city has ever heard, and just in case anyone thought he managed to do so via studio trickery, here is a live document to prove that these guys can rip shit up when put in front of an audience. Recorded at a recent show at LA’s El Rey Theatre (which also included a performance by the Weirdos, I believe), this multi-camera, pro-shot extravaganza shows a band in full command of an awesome artillery of musical prowess, great songs and seemingly limitless energy. They blast through their set like they’re lobbing plastique-encased hand grenades at the audience, deftly showing all in attendance that you have to be neither young, inept nor a virtuoso to rock, just fucking determined, which is what good punk, at its core, has always been about. This is one of those rare documents where the viewer can actually pine for the lost opportunity of seeing the performance in person, while at the same time being more than able to make the band’s next gig. Much respect and kudos must be doled out to the legendary Bad Otis Link, who is responsible for the direction and hard work put into making this look and sound as great as it does. Also included here are a number of interviews with Billy and assorted members, both past and present, providing a detailed history of the band, and some additional footage of the band performing at a birthday party for an eight-year-old kid named “the Milkman.” I was also surprised to see an old schoolmate of mine, Benny Siegal (of local bands Batman’s Enemies and AD Do, and Multiplication of the Typical Joe fanzine), interviewed on here as well, not to mention hearing him say that Ink Disease fanzine, which was started by two of his siblings, is planning to publish again, but I digress. If watching ‘em play ain’t enough for you, them fine Finger folks have included the set on CD as well. Dunno how long the Skulls are gonna be with us this time ‘round, but I highly suggest you make the most of their presence while they’re still here. –Jimmy Alvarado (Finger, 18092 Sky Park Circle #51A Irvine, CA 92614)