Monday, July 11, 2005

IFC's Punk Documentary

So I dial up my TiVO and was delighted to see a 90 minute documentary on punk rock had been downloaded from the Independent Film Channel.

Info on this documentary can be found here:

What a pile of rubbish this documentary was and I am just too angry about it to let it go.

First of all, any punk documentary that spends 88 minutes recording drivel from David Johannsen pontificating on how socially significant they are and only two minutes showing and playing actual *music*, is bollocks.

To me, the best visual and audio historical documents of punk are the performances themselves and other than a very cool gritty film clip of an ancient Ramones performance at CBGB's, the actual musical performances in the film are brief.

We get endless musings from Henry Rollins however, weighing the 'significance' of this or that and we get Jelo Bifra congratulating himself for how important he is. (NOTE: Score a major point for Rollins, when he said PIL was infinitely more interesting than the Sex Pistols, I could not agree more).

The sum theme of the film is essentially, that Punk is an American invention, invented by Andy Warhol and then robbed and tainted by the British. While the film gives due credit to The Clash (and the film is dedicated to Strummer), and highlights worthy bands such as the The Slits, it also takes many occasions to deride the London scene. The scene in New York which was equally derivative and shallow at times, is largely given a clean bill of health.

And saddest of all, the punk scenes and punk bands that aren't from London, New York or LA aren't even mentioned at all, with the exception of Bad Brains, which I was pleased to see, but even they are barely a footnote, compared to about 15 minutes dedicated to Nico from Velvet Underground.

Then the documentary pulls an interesting stunt, it derides previous histories of punk as always glossing over the 80's, then immediately glosses over the 80's. The film literally moves from the breakup of the Sex Pistols to Nirvana, in about 5 minutes and most of that 5 minutes, is the lead singer of Agnostic Front whining that he never made it big.

The politics embedded in punk is utterly dismissed, and even suggested here and there, that it never belonged anyway. Like somehow, "Too Drunk to Fuck" was pure punk and something like "2 Milllion Voices" were just spoiled Londoners whining about the Dole.

Also embedded in the film are each artist's contempt for one another. Rollins passively-aggressively takes a stab at the California scene, Johannsen seems to think everyone owes him a percentage of their royalties he was so influential, and just about every New York artist suggests the London scene was bollocks.

The London artists, all seem to like everyone, except once again, we all refuse to believe that Sid Vicious was responsible for what he did to his body and his career. Right, and Yoko was the reason the Beatles broke up too I guess? Bah.

The film isn't a disaster, its just dull. It is really more a love affair with the music scene of the New York underground from 71 to 76. I don't disagree that was an influential and fascinating time and place for music, but to suggest punk 'died' shortly thereafter, or suggest that London just 'subscribed' to whatever scene was in New York and then fucked it up, is more than unfair, its downright boring and petty.

A punk documentary shouldn't be introspective. It shouldn't take a few egos and paste them all over a canvas with insightful commentary. It should have the same kind of energy and nihilism that was the center of what made 'punk' so refreshing.

Most tragic of all, the documentary, couldn't find one interesting new band to tell me about. Are you kidding me? I saw a great punk band in Kansas City of all places, the last time I was there and the only new punk bands you see to tell me about are fucking Green Day and Rancid? Do your homework, there's still great punk out there, what kind of garbage is this?

This isn't a punk documentary, it was more suited for an analysis of Pink Floyd or Eric Clapton. It might as well have been broadcast on PBS with Ken Burns directing. It actually tried to take something as random and beautifully meaningless as "punk rock" and put it in a bottle, label it and paint a historical perspective around it.

What do I think of this documentary? Unless you want to hear other artists tell you how wonderfully terrific MC5, Television and The Ramones were, *over and over and over again*, for about 90 minutes, you are better off finding some bootleg Stiff Little Fingers video and just watching that instead.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:11 PM

    There's no comments because everyone can see what a tool you are to our modern culture's rash of A.D.D., Drive Through mentality. If you want to hear the music, play your records. If you want to learn somthing, shut up and pay attention!