The Guardian once called punk quartet the Germs “the most outrageous band on the West Coast.” Often cited as one of the first hardcore bands, their influence far outpaces their discography (a single album before frontman Darby Crash overdosed on heroin). Guitarist Pat Smear achieved greater fame in Nirvana and the Foo Fighters, but the Germs’ music today sounds as aggressive and vital as it did in the late 1970s.
Well, not in Kevin Morby’s hands it doesn’t. His cover of the Germs’ “Caught in My Eye” is one of those where you have to double check the original lyrics to make sure it’s even the same song. The laid-back acoustic picker gives the hardcore punk tune a very different tone. Shimmery steel guitar and lilting female backing vocals invoke Laurel Canyon a decade before punk even came along. It’s beautiful in a way the original most assuredly is not, a radical transformation that works against all odds.
Morby explained the cover’s genesis to NPR Music:
“When I first moved to New York in 2006 I spent most of my time hanging out at and going to shows at a punk house in Crown Heights called The Fort where, amongst many roommates, my friend Johnny lived. Johnny loves The Germs, the legendary L.A. punk band fronted by the late, great Darby Crash. Johnny once said many years ago that he wished someone would cover his favorite Germs song, ‘Caught In My Eye,’ and make a beautiful version that really showcased the wonderful lyrics. So this is me attempting to do that. Thank you, Johnny. I hope you like it.
“PS: This song also features Meg Baird, who sings over the instrumental section. When she came in it only took her two takes and while I was listening to her sing from the control room her voice was so beautiful I started to cry. When I looked up and around at everyone else in the room I noticed they were all crying, too.”
Listen to “Caught in My Eye” below, off Morby’s new album City Music.