Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk: DVD

Doing any sort of “[hi]story of…” type deal—book, film, panel, whatever—is destined to attract detractors, often based just as much on who/what was not included as on who/what was included. Turn It Around has its share of omissions, some rather glaring (one of Berkeley’s key first-wave hardcore bands and arguably the most influential of U.S. anarcho-punk bands, Crucifix, is diminished to a passing mention), some more understandable (Rabid Lassie, Sewer Trout). It’d be easy as pie, especially so for scene locals, to bicker and nitpick Turn It Around and totally miss the forest for the trees—a reverential film about one of the country’s more influential venues, 924 Gilman Street, the community that built up around it and flourishes within its walls, and the bands that have called it home.

True, the early history of punk in the East Bay is kinda blown through relatively quick-like: The Free Speech Movement and hippies give way to the first smatterings of punk in the shadow of San Francisco’s larger scene housed at the Mabuhay Gardens. That in turn spawns the Maximumrocknroll multimedia juggernaut, serving as the back story leading to the establishment of Gilman. That aside, what’s left is a very well made, good-looking film (thanks to Green Day and its former manager, who serve as executive producers) lovingly crafted with the direct input of many who were/are directly involved in that scene. A two-and-a-half-hour run time sounds daunting, but pacing is such that one hardly feels it. Director Corbett Redford successfully juggles many narrative pins in the air at the same time—varying and sometimes clashing politics/viewpoints that occur between individuals, subgenres and generations; differing ways of dealing with outside pressures; the inevitable sniffing around by the music industry in the wake of “Gilman bands” Rancid and Green Day’s success; and the flawed, very human folks who brought it all into existence. It’s done in a way that accentuates the positive while maintaining a level of honesty, revealing that even the best utopic intentions of, say, a DIY punk venue has its share of challenges and missteps. Exhaustive dumpster-dive into thee history of a scene? Nope, but it is a helluva testament to the lasting effects of what people can do on their own without corporations, Svengalis, money-grubbing parasites, and all the bad, boring shit they drag along in their wake. –Jimmy Alvarado (1-2-3-4-GO!, 1234gorecords.com)

Weird, Wonderful World of Jeffrey Garcia, The: DVD

The brunt of this DVD’s eighty-minute run time is made up of two short films, Whimsy and Hester and Radio Candy. Whimsy and Hester runs about twenty minutes and concerns the plight of a set of conjoined teenage twins, desperate to lose their virginity before the big dance. Their dad huffs cleaning products! Their mom drinks! It’s madness I tell you! At the risk of spoiling this cinematic masterpiece for generations of impressionable youth (WARNING: I intend to do just that! Read no further, impressionable youth!), one twin loses her virginity, while the other doesn’t. The still-a-virgin twin becomes depressed over this regrettable state of affairs, so the de-virginized twin has sex with the other twin (I did mention they’re conjoined, right?), and everybody’s happy. But oh no! The de-virginized twin has given the other twin AIDS! They commit suicide by wrapping plastic bags around each other’s heads, and the movie ends with the dad urinating on his daughters’ still-conjoined corpses before floating them down the river on a raft. The end. As far as I can tell, it’s sorta like Trailer Park Boys meets Roger Corman filming a John Waters short film.

If that trips your trigger, you’ll certainly be agog for Radio Candy—at thirty-five minutes in length, a veritable Titanic of the genre. I won’t give away the plotline of that one—to be honest, I kinda forgot what it was —but you’ll love how the scene where the people jerk off on the wheelchair-bound grandma after battering her senseless with baseball bats segues right into a scene involving a crucifixion with a power drill. You’ll also adore how, on occasion, a dude will give another dude a blowjob—not to flesh out a character or advance the storyline or anything, but, you know, because it’s wacky! The remainder of the disc is given over to a bunch of much shorter pieces, sort of Robot Chicken style, of which Mysteries of the Universe is the most appealing. I could see hauling this cinematic masterpiece out at a party if everyone is hammered to the point of idiocy. Regifting is a suitable option as well. –Rev. Nørb (Pecan Crazy, pecancrazy.com)

L.A.M.F. Live at the Bowery Electric: DVD

The Heartbreakers were one of the first five punk bands whose records I owned. Oddly, my introduction to them wasn’t their classic (and only) studio album from 1977, L.A.M.F., it was Live at Max’s Kansas City—a posthumous document of a 1978 farewell/reunion show. I was fourteen years old and had never even heard of the band, but the back cover liner notes made them seem important (it said they joined the Sex Pistols, Clash, and Damned for the “ill-fated Anarchy Tour”) so I figured they must be somebodies and their album worth my babysitting cash. It is the first live punk album I’ve ever heard or owned, and remains one of my favorite live albums of all time to this day.
This DVD represents a 2017 live performance of L.A.M.F. in its entirety, knit together from three different performances at New York’s un-huge Bowery Electric club. Original guitarist/second banana Walter Lure, having had original bandmates Johnny Thunders, Jerry Nolan, and Billy Rath all be grimly reaped over the years, is joined by an all-star cast of Tommy Stinson (Replacements), Wayne Kramer (MC5), and Clem Burke (Blondie) who slam through the album’s dozen tracks (plus an encore of “Do You Love Me” by the Contours, just like on Live at Max’s!) with a mixture of deft precision and fingers-crossed-hope-for-the-best anxiety, everyone trading vocal chores like baseball cards.
Here’s what I took away from the performance: 1) It really isn’t that interesting to watch Tommy Stinson sing Heartbreakers covers; 2) It really isn’t that interesting to watch (special guest) Jesse Malin sing Heartbreakers covers; 3) It is slightly interesting to watch Wayne Kramer sing Heartbreakers covers because he’s such a stiff at it; 4) It is slightly interesting to watch (special guest) Cheetah Chrome sing “Going Steady” just because he never really seemed like a “Going Steady” kinda guy; 5) It’s somewhat interesting to watch Clem Burke sing Heartbreakers covers just to prove he can drum and sing Heartbreakers songs at the same time; 6) It’s quite interesting to watch Liza Colby sing “I Love You,” because I had never heard of her before this and I always thought that song was dippy, but she knocked the shit out of it, and 7) Even though his voice breaks from time to time and his hat and jacket make him look like a cross between a punk rock Captain Kangaroo and Red Skelton, it’s still interesting to watch Walter Lure sing Heartbreakers songs, although, quite frankly, I’m more interested in hearing him singing Waldos songs from the ‘90s than Heartbreakers songs from the ‘70s these days, but I’m always happy to take what I can get.
Overall, the sound is great, though the camerawork is marred a bit by what appears to be senseless autofocus (hence auto-blurriness as well), and the cameras never really seem to be stable on their tripods, as they’re always moving slightly this way or that. Overall, it comes across exactly as advertised: An all-star cast getting together after a couple of practices to knock out some forty year old punky rock’n’roll classics, no more, no less. It was nice to see so many people of such disparate ages singing along, but, jeepers creepers, I think if you really “got” the Heartbreakers you’d put your fucking phones away during the show. I guess that’s what Walter must have written “Get Off the Phone” about. –Rev. Nørb (Jungle Records, Suite 3E, Alperton House, Bridgewater Rd., Wembley, HA0 1EH, United Kingdom, jungle-records.net)

Who Is Lydia Loveless?: DVD

“Wearing a white lace dress and drinking a PBR”—Lydia laughs off that this is the way most of her press pieces start out, as she also expresses frustration that this is the image she is constantly boiled down to. This near two hour-long documentary is helmed by Gorman Bechard who is known for making films about The Replacements, Archers Of Loaf, and Grant Hart. Seems right up this mag’s alley, right? But when you cut to the core of who Loveless is as an artist, she falls under the self-proclaimed “indie alt-country” umbrella which I don’t know that Razorcake particularly prescribes to.
Her story is told by beautifully shot interviews with herself and her four bandmates, one of which is also her husband who she wed at twenty. I personally believe that punk is carried in a person’s way of thinking and viewing the world. What I was left with at the end was that the punk lean that this film tries to convey lies within Loveless’s controversial lyrical content (she doesn’t shy away from using words like “pussy” or “shit”), as well as a propensity for drinking and imploring a raucousness in her live performances. Though—as far as I could tell through the doc’s footage of her shows—is that they close with her writhing around on stage barefoot and/or drunkenly climbing atop the amps and speakers.
I don’t mean to completely dismiss this as it regards to punk, as there are several noteworthy conversations she has with her documentarian. Her comments on the monetary value of art, representation of women and sexism in the music industry, an unwillingness to kowtow her lyrics to fit with mainstream radio-friendly audiences, and her aversion to being filmed by cell phones when she’s trying to make a connection with the crowd are all wonderful and valid things to explore. On the other hand, topics like the sadness of having to put down her and her husband’s dog seem to be a desperate grasp at portraying tragedy in her life.
Lydia shares that she hates when artists reveal a song’s meaning only to ruin her own interpretation of it, so she refuses to do the same. Her lyrics are snapshots of love, life, drinking, and some despair, though I would like a peak at the pain behind those inspirations. Show me some struggle of what it’s like being so young and making music your fulltime commitment.
My takeaway is that this maybe is not for the audience of this magazine, though if you’re interested in a well-shot story of a rising country star with a hell of a voice, take it for a spin. Also I have to say that I was surprised that this documentary has a commentary track. Aren’t you already doing that in the documentary? I just don’t see why one needs another two hours about how the sausage is made. –Kayla Greet (What Were We Thinking Films, 203 Windsor Rd., Pottstown, PA 19464)

Ungovernable Force, The: DVD

With a tagline of “put the oi in exploitation,” I am the target audience for this micro-budgeted campy punk gore comedy. It doesn’t disappoint with its onslaught of counterculture, nudity, goofiness, and gore. The Ungovernable Force tells the story of a wayward bunch of streetpunk kids at war with local jocks, cops, and politicians. Lead actor Jake Vaughan is genuinely compelling, as are the other adorable punk players who surround him. Cameo appearances from Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman, scream queen Debbie Rochon, Halloween actor Tony Moran, Steve Ignorant from Crass, Nick Cash from 999, Steve Lake from Zounds, Paul Russo from The Unseen, and Mensi from Angelic Upstarts add to the fun. Biting un-PC dialog permeates the script, which also includes more utterances of “ACAB” and “All Cops Are Bastards” than any other movie in film history. The action is punctuated with a killer soundtrack featuring The Blood, Who Killed Spikey Jacket?, Zounds, and more. The Ungovernable Force is way too long at 101 minutes, and the punk content far overshadows anything else it has to offer. Still, it’s audacious enough to warrant checking out. –Art Ettinger (BRINKvision, brinkvision.com)

Stolen Lyric, The: DVD

What obligation does a reviewer have to be nice? Straight up, this is one of the most grueling media experiences I’ve ever sat through. It’s the movie length equivalent of somebody flipping through the radio and making little flip book drawings illustrating the plot of the lyrics.

Okay, I’m not explaining the premise well. This is an animated film, a jukebox musical of a sort. The dialogue is entirely made of clips from songs, with the lyrics laid out in subtitles so the audience can follow along at home. It tells the story of a band, The Merry, and their singer Rob, and before you know it you’re watching a retelling of the Robin Hood legend as a rock opera about corporate suits and creative disputes.

Here’s the thing though: this whole thing is awful. The animation is limited, but really what’s more of a problem is the generic and amateurish character designs. The songs switch back and forth pretty immediately. Questions asked by the chorus of one song are answered by verses from another. Sometimes a song you actually like is played and you kind of wish the movie would just play that song for a bit so you can forget you’re watching a bad movie.

What this seems like to me is that somebody made an off-handed joke and then went way too far with it. An hour and forty-nine minutes of this presentation is a brutal chore. Dialogue goes back and forth, seemingly endlessly. Conversations that would last seconds in other films take minutes here. Some of it is bloated dialogue, but sometimes it’s a sound clip being longer than it really deserves to be. It’s not that I think it could be better, but that this whole idea seems like a misguided venture from the start. Also, every character is white. Why? –Bryan Static (chasepetergarrettson.com)

Fags, The: Light ‘Em Up 10th Anniversary: DVD

This is one reunion I didn’t see coming.

Chelsea: Live and Raw at Underworld: DVD

This video features the band playing Camden Underworld London in 2016. The cameras are right in the thick of it to capture all the blood, sweat, and beers.

Three Short Films by Jeffrey Garcia: DVD

This DVD features three short pieces: the nine-minute “Plush Bus,” eleven-minute “Lambchop,” and fourteen-minute “Terrence.”

Sad Vacation—The Last Days of Sid and Nancy: DVD

Although I am a fan of filmmaker Danny Garcia’s chosen subject matter in the past (The Clash, Johnny Thunders), I was a bit suspect of this particular story. Hadn’t the story of Sid been covered in movies like 1980’s DOA and Alex Cox’s Sid and Nancy? Apparently, I was wrong.