TV Party - B

BAD BRAINS - Live at CBGB 1982 {MVD Visual} It’s common knowledge that THE BAD BRAINS was one of the most musically talented and ferocious bands to be born out of the original USHC boom. By all accounts, the band was rather bigoted in its opinions too - but that’s not discourse for this review. This is a live compilation DVD featuring 24 tracks of skin-blistering, brain-boiling, intestine-melting intensity recorded over three nights (Christmas Eve to Boxing Day, 1982) at the now defunct but legendary New York City club, CBGBs.
The DVD starts in fine form, setting the mood with a bunch of Punks outside the club who clearly state this ain’t no Christmas Party! The action switches to inside CB’s, as Punks start flooding onto the stage, thrashing wildly to Earl Hudson’s thumped intro to ‘Big Takeover’. As Dr Know’s electrifying lead line cuts in the whole venue seems to explode before H.R. hits the stage like some kinda whirling, screaming, shaking dervish. From there, each song is a classic: ‘Banned in DC’, ‘Attitude’, ‘Riot Squad’, ‘Right Brigade’, ‘Coptic Times’ and ‘Pay To Cum’ - some of them appear twice culled from different shows.
The quality of the footage is, essentially, bootleg. It’s recorded on 2 hand-held cameras (which, given the crazed nature of the band and audience, capture the shows' intensity incredibly well) with varying degrees of sound quality. The sound from what appears to be the second show on the disc proves to be the best of the bunch, being clear and punchy. But this was no major-league rock star event captured on 48-track digital perfection. This was 1982; this was filmed during the founding days of USHC; this was THE BAD BRAINS in CBGBs - I’d be disappointed if it had been desensitised, over-dubbed perfection.
What is a let down are the extras. Listed as ‘Interviews from 1982’, one assumes they are with the band. It’s actually 5 brief minutes of chats with Punks out of the audience. They have little to say of interest - especially the chick from DC who had her hand run over by a car. That’s your interviews over. Then there’s a live audio track of ‘I And I Survive’ - at least I assume it’s live, it sounds way rawer than the version on the album of the same name. Finish. Disappointing is not the word. The liner notes, written by Jack Rabid of Big Takeover zine, are well worth reading. He attended the shows and has a way of writing that is almost as energised as the performances themselves.
The disc does stand as a great document of a band that broke all the barriers, both social, political and musical. It’s a document of a time in Punk’s own history that will not and could not ever be repeated. As a historical document, it’s essential viewing... Just wish those extras could live up to the band’s legacy and quality of the live performance.

BAD RELIGION - The Riot {L.A. Access/ MVD Visual} Let’s be honest - BAD RELIGION peaked with the ‘Suffer’ album. As good as some of the band’s other output is, nothing matches ‘Suffer’. This DVD captures a raw live set from 1988 plus an infamous riot from a cancelled show in 1990.
Recorded at Cal State Northridge Devonshire Downs in Oct ‘88, the live footage features 16 songs. It’s filmed the way Punk shows should be filmed - on a single camera, hand-held, up close, no overdubs, no 24-track mixed surround sound - a warts ‘n’ all performance. This is BAD RELIGION though; the performance is tight and defiant - especially the tracks from the recently released (at the time) ‘Suffer’. Highlights have to be clinical versions of ‘You Are The Government’, a set-closing ‘When’ and a blistering ‘Bad Religion’. It’s filmed on a moderately small stage when compared with some of the boards the band played in the future years and the band itself is pretty animated - Greg Hetson in particular is his usual stage-roving self, looking not unlike a Punk Rock version of AC/DC’s Angus Young!
The Riot footage was filmed two years later at Hollywood’s El Portal Theatre. It’s a liberally infamous show that also featured PENNYWISE and NOFX. Due to the venue being an all-seater, Fire Chiefs shut the show down after PENNYWISE. And so the venue got trashed. It’s not exactly spectacular footage but you see cops go in with helicopters, water cannons are employed, there are some bloodied heads and broken glass aplenty. All credit to cameraman Richard White - he wasn’t filming this as a shocko documentary with the intention of skimming thousands in performance rights. He was just there, capturing a moment in Punk history.
The negative is the confusion raised on the DVD’s sleeve about the relationship between the live footage and the riot that is at best misleading and at worst downright fictitious sensationalism. The sleeve clearly states, "..captures Bad Religion’s infamous set (and the fracas which followed) in all its glory." Spot the error? The band never got to play this ‘infamous set’ as the show was shutdown prior to the band performing. There’s a soundcheck of ‘21st Century Digital Boy’ but that’s it. Not ‘the set’ the sleeve suggests. The tense eruption of focused anarchy that IS the riot was recorded two years after the concert footage here. That’s either a marketing scam or negligent graphic design! Admittedly, that quote is supplied by some hack from the All Movie Guide - guess he didn’t watch the actual doco.
Of the extras, there are two re-mastered tracks from the ‘88 show with some flash video effects. You also get a long (and slightly tedious) piece of skateboarding footage, a ‘meet-the-band’ segment and a smoking ‘I Want To Conquer The World’ from the make-good show at the Hollywood Palladium for those who attended the cancelled El Portal show. There are some interesting Director’s Comments and finally a bit of backstage footage from the Palladium show - presumably post-show - that makes a fun curio.
As a DVD it’s a great package - fantastic live footage, a riot filmed on the spot and some neat asides and extras - totally satisfying. As a piece of marketing, it’s rather disappointing.

TIM BARRY + LA PAR FORCE - Live {Punkervision} "What the fuck am I doing in London?" bellows Tim Barry at the start of this DVD. I’m sure Tim knew exactly what he was in London for and judging by the quality of tunes here, everyone else knew also.
Regular readers and those who know me will testify that I have nothing but utter respect for Tim Barry and AVAIL. He and the band have always come across as completely genuine, sincere and constantly deliver the goods be it via records like the classic ‘Over The James’ or via stunning live shows that are without parallel. Even so, I was unsure of just how the Barry vocal would transfer to more Countrified songs where his voice didn’t have to battle against Joe’s bombast of electric guitars and the barrage of the mighty AVAIL rhythm section. More to the point, would the songs be any good?
‘Sagacity Gone’, the opening track dispelled any doubts. Tim’s gravel-toned vocals perfectly matched the raw, acoustic songs - and it only got better from there. ‘Ain’t Right Sure’ is a poignant - almost despairingly so - song of the increasing property prices in his home suburb of Oregon Hill in Richmond, Virginia while ‘Church Of Level Track’ is a slow, reflective and sobering track. The slower tracks seemed to work better than the faster ones; they seemed to carry greater lyrical power and in the live setting (filmed at London’s Camden Underworld) carried an increased musical clout too. Even the AVAIL chestnut, ‘Fall Apart’ gets a brief airing and losses none of its visceral power. The in-between song chat is riveting too; Barry is a great person to talk with and to listen to and his reflections and anecdotes here confirm that.
Besides the Barry live show, you get a Travel Diary of Tim’s tour with LA PAR FORCE. It kicks off with the first rehearsal and then, two days later, it’s the first show! Again, Tim’s sincerity for what he does continually shines through the whole 54-minute documentary. He goes to great pains to stress that he is not the only songwriter in AVAIL and reassures any doubts and fears with the statement that he, "always wants to play in AVAIL." There are some intimate, buzzing solo performances and a brilliant squat version of ‘Idle Idylist’ with its message of ‘keeping life simple’ virtually embodying the Barry ideal. There’s another nod to AVAIL with a version of ‘Fifth Wheel’ and a shot of Tim’s scrapbook/ diary that would make for awesome reading.
The final extra is a set by LA PAR FORCE from the same Camden Underworld show. The band’s sound is an interesting amalgamation of JAWBOX with THE BREEDERS and a hint of SAMIAM - The Smiths had they been from DC and signed to Dischord is another possibility. The band is from Bavaria, seem a nice bunch of people but ultimately didn’t stand up to the quality of Barry’s gear.
A great DVD for fans of Barry and AVAIL and one that proves the respect I carry for man and band is not unfounded.

BUZZCOCKS - Auf Wiedersehen {Cherry Red} A 17-track live show filmed in Hamburg back in January 1981. It’s said to be the final show by the original, classic (at least, post-Devoto) line-up. Legend states that in the ensuing chaos of the show, the camera man also got stabbed while filming. What is plain to see, even through some stirring performances, is a sense of displacement coming from frontman Pete Shelley.
It’s a well filmed, multi-camera recording that opens with a bristling, energised version of ‘Why She’s A Girl From The Chainstore’. You get all the singles you expect to hear (except ‘Orgasm Addict’) with particular thrills being a pacey, crisp ‘Ever Fallen In Love’ and disc highlight ‘Harmony In My Head’ that is frantic, urgent and riveting. It has to be said, Diggle’s songs seem to be those that have the most passion and visually he is the focal point. Whether the internal friction within the band lead to the aggressive, possessed performance (as opposed to the apparent ambivalence of Shelley’s) or not, I’m glad it was there. The complexities of ‘I Believe’ get slightly lost in the live setting but the song’s quality cannot be diminished - unlike a patchy ‘Friction Romance’.
The band members say little between songs and when they do, it’s brief and kinda terse. The crowd seem slightly stoic considering the stature of the band at the time - even during a classic like ‘What Do I Get’ or ‘Ever Fallen In Love’ - looking a little bemused for large portions of the set.
A version of ‘Boredom’ by the reformed band at the Holidays In The Sun Festival in 1996 is the solitary extra. While the band appear much happier with Shelley beaming smiles from every angle and Diggle displaying guitar histrionics only bettered by Pete Townsend , the actual recording is not a patch on that of the Hamburg show and mirror the sub-standard recordings on the 'Burning Britian' DVD from the same show.
I’ve never been the biggest of BUZZCOCKS fans but it’s without a doubt the band virtually invented the genre that mutated into ‘Pop-Punk’ and, as a document of the band that initiated the genus, this is well worth seeing. When you consider it’s the band’s last show, are aware of the internal friction within the band and witness Shelley plaintively proclaiming, "There is no love in this world anymore," the importance of this particular show carries a whole lot more gravity.