photo manipulation by nacrowe
THE STOOGES were a primal, feral outfit out of DETROIT that by all accounts imploded and failed. except they didnt. calling them arguably the greatest ROCK AND ROLL is not hyperbole, they are the truth. luckily i got to see them back in the early 2000s at JONES BEACH when IGGY POP reunited with the ASHETON BROTHERS (and MIKE WATT filled in for the deceased DAVE ALEXANDER). they sounded ferocious and i still consider that night a gift.
the JIM JARMUSCH-directed documentary GIMME DANGER (MAGNOLIA PICURES, 2016) attempts to harness and present what made this lightning-in-a-bottle group of misfits so special, complete with rare footage and interviews with various members, both living and deceased (RIP RON & SCOTT ASHTON, STEVE MACKAY & DAVE ALEXANDER). what is so interesting about their career is that their three albums were all commercial failures and by the time RAW POWER (COLUMBIA, 1973) was released the members had largely fallen back into obscurity, exception obviously being IGGY.
what JARMUSCH does a great job through his editing is present a narrative that is largely focused on the main members and not just IGGY. there are several clever animations that drive home their humble MICHIGAN roots and the lengths at which they foot to exist.
watching this i cant help but think back to discussions we had at DEER GOD when our recording studio was up and running about the nature of great records. my feeling was that it was all about the listener, how they completed a cycle initiated by the artist. that feel, intention and some weird alchemy has to happen that transcends sound quality and production values. THE STOOGES are prime examples of such. RAW POWER is famous for its horrible mix but the songs transcend because they make you feel something.
i'm happy to report that this documentary provides some contest on the members but ultimately showcases their ability to produce music live that connects and elevates their audience to a higher plane. and i can't put my finger on how, it just is. if it was a formula with a checklist, believe me some studio rat wouldve figured it out by now. would've been a plugin for that by now.
the stooges are the real deal and i couldn't recommend this documentary even more strongly.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
PUNK: ATTITUDE (3DD PRODUCTIONS, 2005) by legendary DJ / MUSICIAN / DIRECTOR and original PUNK ROCK scenester DON LETTS is probably the most comprehensive documentary about the beginnings and evolution of PUNK ROCK, both stateside and in ENGLAND. it includes an exhaustive yet entirely impressive cast of participants, many now deceased, whose insights provide an appreciation for the wide array of interests and backgrounds that led to the formation of the genre. this includes, but not limited to, musicians such as JOHN CALE (THE VELVET UNDERGROUND), JELLO BIAFRA (THE DEAD KENNEDYS), MARTIN REV (SUICIDE), CHRISSIE HYNDE (THE PRETENDERS), DAVID JOHANSEN, SYLVAIN SYLVAIN & ARTHUR KANE (THE NEW YORK DOLLS), MICK JONES & PAUL SIMON (THE CLASH), DARYL JENIFER (BAD BRAINS), POLY STYRENE (X-RAY SPEX), HENRY ROLLINS (BLACK FLAG), WAYNE KRAMER (MC5), PAT SMEAR (THE GERMS), SIOUXSIE SIOUX (SIOUXSIE SIOUX & THE BANSHEES), TOMMY RAMONE (THE RAMONES), CAPTAIN SENSIBLE (THE DAMNED), ARI UP (THE SLITS), STEVE JONES & GLEN MATLOCK (THE SEX PISTOLS), THURSTON MOORE (SONIC YOUTH), K.K. BARRETT (THE SCREAMERS), RAY CAPO (YOUTH OF TODAY), GLENN BRANCA (THEORETICAL GIRLS), KEITH MORRIS (BLACK FLAG / CIRCLE JERKS), ROGER MIRET (AGNOSTIC FRONT), PETE SHELLEY & HOWARD DEVOTO (THE BUZZCOCKS), DEE POP (THE BUSH TETRAS), ALICE BAG (THE BAGS), RICHARD MANITOBA (THE DICTATORS), JAMES CHANCE (JAMES CHANCE & THE CONTORTIONS) and film director JIM JARMUSCH, CBGBs owner HILLY KRISTAL and various managers, writers, artists and photographers.
i think one strong suit of this documentary is its ability to elucidate the long line of influence that followed one band to another over time. how bands like THE DOORS influenced THE STOOGES who influenced THE SEX PISTOLS and BLACK FLAG and NIRVANA and so on. in essence you see how bands such as THE VELVET UNDERGROUND, SUICIDE, THE DEAD KENNEDYS, PATTI SMITH, THE DAMNED and THE RAMONES (among many others) are all linked and part of a greater movement towards challenging, complicating, questioning and, in turn, revitalizing the form of ROCK AND ROLL.
examples provided included the concurrent POST PUNK and NO WAVE that came about after the first wave of PUNK ROCK. both took the ethos of originality and freedom and applied such to the music, creating new takes on song structures and experimented with expanded palette of instruments.
the HARDCORE scene of the 1980s was the opposite of such in that songs got condensed and sped up even faster. scenes that began with first wave PUNK adherents more interested in art and originality were taken over by HARDCORE bands that were largely aggressive and violent. part of that anger was political at the REAGAN administration as well as a feeling that their lives were set to be disrupted by economic uncertainty. that scene begat the ALTERNATIVE ROCK scene of the 1990s, or as JELLO BIAFRA puts it "punk inspired rock bands." as the 1990s dragged on you get bands like KORN and LIMP BIZKIT with their dumbed down break down sections and shocking lack of social consciousness.
there was nothing revelatory about this documentary, but it serves as a welcome definitive statement about a genre for anyone new or interested in the place of PUNK ROCK in music history. it really gets at the core idea of the genre in spite of its many permutations: that being the value being an individual. finding your voice, whatever that may be, and speaking your truth vociferously with an almost disregard for the opposition. thats a healthy sentiment for anyone to learn.
my only gripe with this film is that they spends way too much time talking about THE CLASH and JOE STRUMMER, but that is my own personal bias making itself apparent. i still find that band, despite their influence, to be full of themselves. just my opinion.