Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Celluloid Heroes

A reader of this blog will find it as no surprise that I have a weakness for rock movies.

Watching a film starring a band you like is a no-brainer. A Hard Day's Night, Help!, Don't Look Back...these are among my all-time favorites, not just within the pigeonhole of the genre. Even when the cinematic experience isn't top notch, as with Concert for Bangladesh, the music is right up my aural alley and I can, and have, watched many times.

The real challenge is a musical paean to a band you don't know, or hardly know. A few of those for today.

I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, a 2002 documentary about Wilco shows a band that is made up entirely of assholes. Jeff Tweedy, front man, is such a dick in this movie that it is hard to like these guys by the time the credits roll. I knew a little Wilco before I saw the flick, and a little more of Tweedy's first band, Uncle Tupelo. While I hated these guys after watching them up close and too personal, I ended up going all in on the music, loading up on the CDs I had missed. Having since seen Tweedy in concert as a solo artist, I am convinced more than ever that he is a tool, but he is also at the upper echelon of today's pop world. See the movie, hate the guy, love the music.

Dig! The bitter rivalry between The Dandy Warhols and Brian Jonestown Massacre is explored in depth in this 2004 doc. The what between who? Yeah, I know these are two groups few have heard of and, really, who cares, but it is a gripping show. That's part of the joy of a rock movie, the enthusiasm by the filmmaker for the music is palpable. Who would make a movie about a pair of relative unknowns other than a passionate devotee of their sound? The bands started out as pals, but as the Dandys got popular, the leader of BJM, Anton Newcombe, grew bitter. Anton is one of those "geniuses" - a sort of talent that creates religious devotion among his followers, allowing for some outrageous behavior. Compared to Anton, Jeff Tweedy is Mother Teresa. I never followed up with either band's music, I have to admit, but Dig! is a must see.

The Fearless Freaks is the impetus for this post. Recommended by a musical compadre and his band following daughter, this tribute to The Flaming Lips is well-worth your time. The Lips have a dedicated following, but I can't see it. Just not my style. 4 CDs to played at once? A garage full of car stereos synced for an art-rock symphony? As Keith Richards once said, you don't move me. That may make me a total L7, but I'm good with that. So, musically, The Lips didn't do it for me, but the movie is mesmerizing. You couldn't find a group of white trash less likely to become artsy-fartsy. Coming out of Oklahoma City, with family backgrounds heavily infused by drugs, jail, polka bands and Long John Silver's, The Flaming Lips seem to be the kind of people you would have steered clear of as they smoked pot while leaning on their cars outside the mall.

Drop me a comment on your favorite rock movie, or a recommendation. I'll watch it if I haven't seen it, guaranteed.

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