Kim Phuc formed in 2004 on a whim, explains guitarist Ben Smartnick. A party conversation led to the band starting as a four-piece that "basically wanted to sound like The Germs." It was meant to be a short-lived thing, lasting a few shows then burning out. Seven years later, Kim Phuc is a five-piece — Smartnick and singer Rob Henry being the only original members still involved — and at last releasing its first full-length.
There have been three Kim Phuc 7-inch singles since the current lineup (which includes guitarist Eli Kasan, bassist Corey Lyons and drummer Tom Payne) solidified in 2006. All three singles are revisited on the rapidfire 10-track LP, Copsucker, issued by Iron Lung Records.
"At the time, the 7-inches were like the singles to the LP," Smartnick says. "I just didn't expect it to take this long. But we were figuring out what kind of band we were."
What they are is, for one thing, not a Germs clone by any stretch. Copsucker starts with the repetitive art-punk drone of "Animal Mother/Local Round-Up" and winds through high-energy old-school hardcore-punk tunes like "Black Triangle," ending with the persistent rocker "Wormwood Star." Throughout, the pent-up tension in the guitars matches the anxiety and nihilism in Henry's vocals. Kim Phuc has become a band that has as much in common with post-punks like Wire and The Fall as with The Germs or Black Flag.
The Kim Phuc sound might be attributed to the band's disparate backgrounds: Henry was in late-'80s Greensburg hardcore band Direct Action, Lyons played bass in the legendary '90s punk band Aus Rotten, and Payne and Kasan come from a younger crop of punk. Kasan came up in melodic post-punk bands Forward Motion and Mary Celeste in the early '00s; Kim Phuc "became a totally different band once Eli joined," notes Smartnick.
"Prolific" may not be the word to describe Kim Phuc — statistically, the band averages less than two songs released each year — but maybe that's because its members have been around long enough to realize that quantity isn't necessarily crucial. Especially when you're one of the most exciting and innovative punk bands in town.
KIM PHUC LP RELEASE with SICKOIDS, RAW BLOW. 8 p.m. Fri., Jan. 6. The Shop, 4314 Main St., Bloomfield. $6. 412-951-0622