Kings of the Stone Age

A quarter-century ago, the Weirdos jump-started West Coast punk. Now they're back.

According to Ray Pepperell, although the Weirdos may have been the first punk band he ever saw, what he gleaned from them -- and what's missing from today's corporate-backed punk -- came down to the elements of another loved and loathed genre. "Look at the Beatles, the Sex Pistols, and the Ramones and you see that great bands like them and the Weirdos are like opera: It's about characters, costume, and music."

Indeed, Roman and the Denneys have never been lacking in those departments. As personalities, the core trio always complemented each other, with Roman's chiseled sex-god looks contrasting well against Dix's quiet reserve and John's bug-eyed ranting-actor stance. As far as costuming goes, the Weirdos' sense of anti-fashion was nothing if not unique in the post-glam era. "Everyone had long hair, and we'd cut our own and look like mental patients," says Roman. "We'd patch together our outfits at thrift stores while everyone else went to the Gap. We were like this jumble of zebra-striped pants, hand-painted torn-up shirts with zippers sewn into them, and the most stupid paisley ties we could find."

Where the music's gusto is concerned, you need only check Weird World, the band's hard-as-nails, two-volume retrospective released on L.A.'s independent Frontier label. Matching the look and personal energy are the band's slashing double-guitar attack and pounding rhythms behind John Denney's relevant yet absurd lyrical sneer ("Gonna drop it all over the place/ Yer gonna get it on yer face/ We've got the neutron bomb").

Details

The Skulls, the Night Crawlers, and Strung Up! open

Saturday, Dec. 13, at 9 p.m.

Tickets are $15 in advance, $17 at the door

255-0333

www.slims-sf.com

Slim's, 333 11th St. (at Folsom), S.F.

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Throughout its history, however, punk has centered on youth rebellion. And with major labels grooming their spiky-haired rosters for the ever-desirable teen market, punk rock seems more baby-faced than ever, as groups like Green Day slink into obsolescence by the time their members hit 30. Even with their solid, pioneering repertoire, can a bunch of middle-aged originals like the Weirdos compete in what's become a young man's game?

With former Circle Jerks bassist Zander Schloss and Skulls drummer Sean Antillon in the current lineup, Roman says yes. "Having those two is like having [the Who's] John Entwistle and [the Rolling Stones'] Charlie Watts on your team. And as far as punk now, there's this uniformity to bands like Linkin Park and Good Charlotte. They have that look and sound, they do big shows, and they're financially successful, but is their music any more compelling or raw than ours? Honestly, I don't think so. And if we can still do it well after 25 years, I don't know why we shouldn't."

Pepperell, who's toured the world with the re-formed Dead Kennedys for the past three years, expands the point. "[Ageism] seems to be the last remaining prejudice in underground rock. People should get over it. We've played shows with young bands like Mest, who stand on the side at first looking skeptical, and when we start playing, they're like, 'Whoa.' Rock 'n' roll is 50 years old now -- that's middle age. You really have to judge bands by the content of their music rather than their birth dates."

Roman puts the age issue into perspective. "Remember when they rediscovered old blues guys during the '60s? That's how I think of us now. People are asking: 'What are the roots of this music we like so much?' And though we just represent punk's roots in L.A., I think it's still significant. For us, the bottom line is that we're still alive and healthy, and we play well and have fun. We're just ready to do this."

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