Circle Jerks reformed to play in London for the first time in 35 years to mark the 40th anniversaries of their first two studio albums, ‘Group Sex’ and ‘Wild In The Streets’, their tour slightly postponed due to the pandemic. They played 32 songs, the majority of which were taken for these two records and the lineup was formed of founding members Keith Morris (vocals) and Greg Hetson (guitar) with the band’s second bassist Zander Schloss and newer addition Joey C (drummer).

They hit things off with ‘Deny Everything’ from ‘Group Sex’, also playing ‘Stars And Stripes’ from ‘Wild In The Streets’ and alternating with each respective album, playing fast paced with more from the former such as ‘Back Against The Wall’ and ‘I Just Want Some Skank’. The band performed non-stop like this throughout the set apart from ‘towel breaks’ after blocks of songs to retune, breathe and hydrate, which Morris, mindfully at 67, unabashedly said if it made him a “pussy” to do so that’s what he was.

They continued into the next block of songs with additional material from their third album, ‘Golden Shower Of Hits’, playing ‘When The Shit Hits The Fan’, one of Morris’ favourite Circle Jerks songs. Their tracks are aggressively formulated with similar structures featuring chorded guitar, tempo building verses that bubble up to explosive choruses, crashing drums and strong basslines that typify the hardcore punk genre of their Southern Californian roots. They returned to ‘Wild In The Streets’ with ‘Trapped’ and title track ‘Wild In The Streets’, a Garland Jeffrey’s cover.

Circle Jerks continued to ‘Live Fast Die Young’, with Hetson’s screeching guitar. During one of the band’s breaks between songs, Morris spoke about the new founded rapport amongst the members after “hating each other’s guts” despite still having small disagreements about cutting songs off the setlist which he comically described in graphic detail, then playing such a song which he argued with Schloss’ about because it contained the  bassline the latter wrote in ‘Casualty Vampire’; they also played other such material taken from later studio albums such as ‘Wonderful’ and ‘VI’.

The band played the rest of their main set primarily from ‘Group Sex’, featuring ‘World Up My Ass’, ‘Operation’ and ‘Red Tape’. They also returned for a three-song encore, which included a cover of The Soft Boys’ ‘I Wanna Destroy You’, with Morris paying homage to Robyn Hitchcock’s anti-corporative sentiments in the song.

03/08/22: Circle Jerks @ Electric Ballroom, London.

Photos © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs.

© Ayisha Khan.