Thank God for smartphones. Instead of getting annoyed by almost anything while riding a train to work I watch documentaries. Of course I always look out for movies with punk and hardcore in it. Here are reviews about two of them. The first I can recommend to almost anyone. Simply because it is informative, has a lot of humour and gives you insight into something you might not know about. The other one I did not like that much. While I have a lot with the subject I found it lacking in the area’s where it could have made a difference.
YOU WEREN’T THERE THE HISTORY OF CHICAGO PUNK 1977-1984
While it’s length surpasses the short attention span of most this is one of the finest documentaries around about hardcore. I never had much with the Chicago hardcorescene while I always have liked Articles Of Faith and Life Sentence. Naked Raygun is a band that is too freaky for me and to be honest, aside from Mentally Ill I didn’t like most bands. What I loved was the story behind them. This is a well-structured document that follows the Chicago scene over the years from 1977 until 1984.
Joe Losurdo and Chris Tillman paint a pretty good picture about one of the most fucked up scenes ever. The kids were young, energetic and violent. A mixture of old live footage and newer interviews takes you along a scene that contained hope and desperation. On the one hand these kids went out to make a difference, on the other hand they were harassed by cops and shows turned out to be riots or big fights. Now you hear stories about that everywhere in every documentary or book about this era. But here you can actually see it up close. What surprised me was the big role the gayscene played in all this. Two groups that society frowned upon somehow found their selves allied in a way that I never saw or heard of in other historic pieces. Okay, there is this passage in the American Hardcorebook that mention something about homosexuality but it seems to be a big taboo. When there were no more venues or places to play the gay community offered this and there even was a bit of confusion whether the cops shut a place down because of the gay community or the hardcorekids.
While this may be a detail that stuck with me and was really news to me the bands their selves do not stick around. Like I mentioned early the stories are way better than the bands and their music. I have to say that the story about ‘Gacy’s house’ and the response the guys of Mentally Ill got from John Wayne Gacy after sending a single to him was hilarious. Even better was their giddy reaction on this. Now if you are a fan of one of the Chicago bands you will love this even more. All in all this is a far better documentary than the American Hardcore movie and actually offers insight into a scene and an era few of us know or lived through. And yes, there is again old fart whining about how hardcore died after they lost interest in the genre but they actually seem to have a good reason.
THE OTHER F-WORD
Andrea Blaugrund Nevins had a pretty good idea. Let’s look how punkrock dads deal with their children. Along the way this idea gets watered down and aside from some touching moments this is actually the ‘Jim leaves Pennywise’ movie.
As a father myself I know that I am not like all dads. On the one hand you are into testosterone driven music with messages that the general public couldn’t care less about. On the other hand your kid is still a blank slate that could be anything in life. One of the most brilliant one-liners I heard recently was ‘I wish I would make lots of money but I somehow had to listen to Black Flag when I was 14’. It’s true. How much hardcore has enriched my life I know that there is a lot to say for a more easier life. And how far do I take these rules and dogma’s that I invented myself through the music and messages in hardcore when it comes to my son? While I still ponder about that answer I found little or no ‘advise’ in this movie. Not that this was the goal of the movie but still. These people inspired me with their music over the years and now…
…most of them live in pretty big houses, seem pretty wealthy and more normal than I hoped. While all of this could be a façade this was the first thing that I noticed. Don’t get me wrong, they worked hard for it and deserve all the money, luck or whatever. You don’t have to live in a squad or on the road to be punk. It was just not what I expected. This is really nit-picking off course but it somehow seemed pretty strange to me. Because aside from the tattoo’s, piercings and T-shirts their houses do not look punk at all except when it comes to Duane Peters.
Duane and Flea offer you the best scenes in the movie. Somehow these few moments show you more heartfelt emotion than all the other stories do. It seems that the less screen time those interviewed got the better their stories. Because most of the time you are watching Jim leaving Pennywise. And it bored me. It had not much to do with his kids but more how he felt about the band and how he got sick and tired of touring. And yeah, one of the motivations behind that was that he would have loved to spend more time with his kids but I somehow got the feeling that there was much more wrong. This makes up the biggest part of the movie and those that watched the horrible pretentious documentary about Refused know how dull and boring this can get.
I somehow get the feeling that this was targeted at a larger audience. Because the first half hour is more about punk in general and the rest of the movie had the Jim storyline with some cameo’s. And these cameo’s only work when you are a fan of these people. This is where the movie fails to me and I know a lot of people will disagree but I did not get any wiser. Well, I know now Jim left Pennywise.
Verdict: Watch this if you have really nothing better to do or if you are a fan.