photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
a common theme throughout many documentaries concerning PUNK ROCK and its assorted, tangled family tree of sub-genres (HARDCORE, POP PUNK, POST HARDCORE, NEW YORK HARDCORE, etc) is the concern over what constitutes "success" to an artist by definition catering to a niche community. is it being INDEPENDENT and SELF-SUFFICIENT from the larger recording industry? is it making business decisions that cut back on PROFITABILITY or CONTROL but allow your fan base greater access to products, shows and the like? is being PUNK about not making money? to my knowledge, there is no right answer.
and that is the crux of what is at stake in the documentary PUNK ROCK EATS ITS OWN: A FILM ABOUT FACE TO FACE (ANTAGONIST FILMS, 2006), released shortly after the breakup (which would end up being an extended years-long hiatus) of the veteran SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PUNK ROCK group FACE TO FACE in 2004. the film is as much about the business and cultural forces that have led to numerous internal lineup changes as it is about the career of the band itself. on the face of it, the band enjoyed a mid-level career where they were signed to independents and mid-major labels (most notably FAT WRECK CHORDS and VAGRANT) and were able to sustain headlining tours for the better part of a decade from the mid 1990s through the mid 2000s.
as with most films about this pre-internet period, where RECORD SALES and the PHYSICAL DISTRIBUTION of product in stores was a paramount concern, it only shows how inverted the whole pyramid has become in the years since. back then you toured to sell records. now you put out records at a loss to make money on the road through ticket and merchandise sales. that obvious fact aside, the through line of the documentary is how the permutations in the lineup mirrored a refinement in focus and intention of purpose with the remaining members. when a founding member became a purist and was philosophically not on board, he was let go to pursue other pursuits (with PULLEY and NO USE FOR A NAME among others). another member becomes too much of a rock star and indulges in selfish behavior detrimental to the unit, same deal. hell, even a member left voluntarily to honorably spend more time with his young children.
as a film PUNK ROCK EATS ITS OWN is pretty bare-bones with extensive interviews with former and then-current members. its spare, no-frills aesthetic plays into the authenticity of the bands itself, who largely escape vanity with badly lit and recorded, horrendously angled, spur of the moment interviews that get at the heart of the band: their connection to the fans. i only wish they had extended the interviews beyond the band and their manager to other bands and fans.
if you are a fan of PUNK ROCK or the 1990s ALTERNATIVE ROCK explosion, than this documentary is worthy of further investigation. enjoy.