First of all, let me just say that I was psyched to see Al Budd in this video. Here’s a guy I used to see with some regularity, considering he’s been working at Smash! record store in DC for probably going on twenty plus years, but, who I obviously have not seen lately, given that I don’t live in DC anymore. That was an unexpected delight. We are not great pals or anything like that, but through the years he’s always been very nice, not only at Smash!, but also when bartending at the Black Cat. So that was pretty cool.
The DVD itself—a short documentary about “the decline of the independent record store told through the opinions and anecdotes of the clerks who run them”—was a little messed up in the beginning. There were a few parts where it skipped and/or froze up. There was occasionally a high-pitched whistling sound and some scratchiness. And, sometimes, the people sounded like they were talking underwater. That seemed to clear up as the DVD went on, but should probably be checked out before sending out additional copies.
I was interested in this DVD, especially because a number of the record store folks they talked to and record stores they showed were from DC, but I was still left with a couple of questions and comments. One thing I would have liked to see was where the people they were talking to were from (while they were talking to them)—the names of the record stores, at least, and the city or town. Also, I thought some of the comments being made by the people in the video could have had more context. At one point, one of the guys was talking about 120 Connie Francis records being sold for $9,000, and, unless I missed part of it, it was unclear what exactly he was talking about (Ebay maybe?). At another point, one of the guys said, “It’s a cultural thing,” but we did not get any further explanation. Which culture? What do you mean? I understand that a film about record stores could be a very long film indeed, and editing is necessary, but I thought some statements should have been expanded on.
I also would have liked to hear more anecdotes. Stories about cutting out ads for sex phone lines and inserting them into straightedge record sleeves is pretty funny in my book. Complaints about customers not being very familiar with the alphabet or not knowing where the hip hop section is, even though they’re standing right under the sign, are not.
Additionally, I felt some more information about what kinds of record stores the people in the film work/worked at would have been nice. I could easily assume that they’re all stores that lean towards punk (and I know for a fact that at least some of them do), but that might be incorrect. Or, if it is correct, would there have been some value in including people from other genres of record stores? All in all, I’d say that I’m excited the director, Billups Allen, put this documentary together, but I didn’t feel I came away with very much understanding about what the film was apparently aiming at: the decline of the independent record store. A good effort, but I think it could be improved upon with length, more detail and history, and more investigation into the subject matter. –Jennifer Federico (www.billupsallen.com)