TV Party - D

DAMNED, THE - Don’t You Wish That We Were Dead {MVD/ TCF}
It should be known that I’m a bit of a DAMNED fan - a fan to the point of having about 250 records by them. That’s albums, singles, bootlegs, promos etc. So, obviously this was great viewing for me, but given my appreciation of the band, I also noted a lot of holes. Anyway, to those reading, THE DAMNED should need no introduction - unlike some of those attending the Las Vegas Punk Rock Bowling gig that opens the DVD. Truly hilarious and tragic at the same time. From there though, it only gets better...
As usual with these documentaries, we get an opening track (‘Neat Neat Neat’ in this case) filmed at numerous locations and over-dubbed with soundbites from those interviewed. Besides the main players of the band, past members and managers, we also get Punk luminaries like Glen Matlock, Jello Biafra, Ian Mackaye, Steve Diggle, Don Letts, Lemmy, Mick Jones, TV Smith, Keith Morris, Jack Grisham and more.
The documentary itself goes back to the era of Brian James in LONDON SS and the precursor to the original DAMNED that included Chrissie Hynde and the ‘other’ Dave who dressed in white as a negative of Vanian’s black. Unfortunately, there were no pics. From there, it tells the band’s extensive history that raises several laughs, displays open bitterness, gut-wrenching sadness and a vague sense of under achievement.
The highlights of the film are most certainly the interviews with the core members. Sensible certainly gets most screen time and the friction between him and Scabies is very much to the fore. Original guitarist Brian James probably comes over as the least scarred (although with the biggest drink problem apparently) while Vanian remains coy, intelligent and slightly regal - at least until a section toward the end where he enviously berates a number of other ‘77 bands that have ‘music in TV adverts’ but not the DAMNED. There’ a dejected air about the whole band - even at the time ‘Eloise’ was a massive hit and they all had incredible gear, with Scabies saying they sat there looking at each other not knowing what to play - a statement he says through tears. That, however, is countered by a stunningly belligerent vocal attack on director Wes Orshoski, the band and the film as he walks through a London street.
Elsewhere, Paul Gray and the late Bryn Merrick are interviewed together - suffering from the same form of cancer. It’s a sobering scene in a film of chaos, incriminations and incredible music. The importance of ‘Curtain Call’ is discussed, as is Algy Ward’s drinking.
Musically though, it’s a bit of a let down. There is a lot of live footage, but most of it is with the current line-up. We get a glimpse of the original line-up live at Sussex Uni in ‘77, some much-seen promo videos, a clip of BRAIN JAMES AND FRIENDS doing THE STOOGES’ ‘1970’ with Texas Terri on vocals, but no real unseen gems from the original line-up as I had hoped.
Given the band has had a tumultuous 40-year existence, there had to be holes in the story. The biggest is a complete disregard of the ‘Strawberries album and no acknowledgement at all of Patricia Morrison and the ‘Grave Disorder’ album or the most recent ‘So, Who’s Paranoid?’ album. Even the successful ‘Phantasmagoria’ was not really mentioned in-depth; the ‘Anything’ album that followed got more coverage.
The extras are worth seeing however. The first featuring Fred Armisan (former Saturday Night Live member and creator of Portlandia) is a bit throwaway though, as he massages Captain’s ego before hitting the US streets to do a bit of busking. The Captain then takes us on a tour of Croydon including the Fairfield Hall where he met Rat (and includes a hilarious tale of, when cleaning the toilets, having to chop up a turd with a knife and fork out of the canteen), accosting a cello at an ELO gig and visiting RMS studios where more Rat slander occurs. Then there’s a 12 minute piece about the Anarchy tour with some fresh revelations from former manager Rick Rogers and Stiff’s Dave Robinson. That’s followed by a piece about Henry Badowski and THE DOOMED and finally a live take of ‘Smash It Up’ at the Captain’s 60th birthday bash. Includes a great booklet too with filming stories from the director.
Much as I wanted this to be more - if my version had been filmed, it would have been a four-hour epic with an equal amount of extras - the fact is it’s a great documentary about the most intriguing band of the ‘77 UK Punk boom. All of the main players are featured and the dialogue between those main players is captivating beyond words. Orshoski (who also directed the film about Lemmy) has managed to craft a genuine continuity to what must be one of the most chaotic stories in Rock ‘n’ Roll and with some artful editting given the story energy and gravitas in equal measure. Mandatory viewing - plain and simple. (02.12.16)

DEVO - The Complete Truth About De-Evolution {MVD} I’ve never really been much of a fan of these infamous sons of Akron, Ohio. I can appreciate the originality, the quirky nature of the songs, the subversive politics behind a lot of their actions - but I have never really got into the band’s music. If ya never heard the band, which I find hard to believe, think a fusion of SCREAMERS and DICKIES via TALKING HEADS and SPLIT ENZ. For the ardent fan however, this DVD will probably make your life complete.
What we have are 20 promo videos ranging from ‘Devo Corporate Anthem’, through ‘Whip It’, on to ‘Beautiful World’ and closing with ‘Post-Post Modern Man’. Needless to say, there are specific highlights, be it the unsettling plastic faces of ‘Jocko Homo’ and ‘Secret Agent Man’, the New Wave Cow Punk of ‘Come Back Jonee’ that’s filmed in front of a madly pogoing crowd of Punks, the nuclear-infected red glow suits of ‘Worried Man’ or the closing ‘Post-Post Modern Man’ that offers some wry observations on consumerism and TV marketing.
As the videos are presented in chronological order, there is a marked improvement as time progresses, with some particularly impressive productions toward the end. Some of the earlier videos come over as tacky budget jobs (which they probably were) but are imbibed with charisma and charm. It’s also worth considering that many of these videos pre-dated MTV and are visionary in some cases in their ability to take the piss out of 80s MTV slop before it was even recorded.
While the 20 videos form the core of this, it’s the extras that make it something special. You can replay all the videos, but with a commentary from band members Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald V. Casale. Between them they come up with some great comments that define DEVO impeccably: "Random possibilities in a world of chaos", "self-contained conceptual unit" and "post-modernist protest band" are just three.
From there, you can access an interview with director, Chuck Statler, a gallery of the band’s releases (including bootlegs) with some written text, a dramatic monochrome film by Bruce Conner put to ‘Mongoloid’, a slide show of stills, a chapter called ‘Men Who Make The Music’ that’s a collection of clips featuring the band in all their different guises and even a mini-documentary about band mascot Booji Boy.
And then you get some vintage lives performances including monochrome footage from 1972, a great clip from The Crypt in 1977 that sees the band finishing their set in the briefs and t-shirts, and another as the band’s alter-ego DOVE from 1980. Further, higher quality lives performances follow including a great ‘Gates Of Steel’ from 1980 (complete with cone-heads), ‘Uncontrollable Urge’ from a gig in Japan and a (rather quiet) version of ‘Mongoloid’ live at the Sundance Festival in 1996.
This is a totally comprehensive over-view of DEVO’s work and Dada-esque tendencies. It was too much for me in one sitting I have to say but the commentary coupled with the music made this a highly entertaining watch in two or three separate sittings. (30.05.16)

THE DICKS FROM TEXAS {MVD} Subtitled ‘The Men, The Myth, The Music’, this 70 minute documentary tells the story of one of the most confrontational and incendiary bands that not only Texas ever produced, but Punk Rock as a whole. For those who don’t know, THE DICKS formed in Austin, Texas in 1979 and were fronted by Gary Floyd who was openly gay and would frequently dress in drag. He was also bellicose, politically challenging, had a fixation for Maoist symbolism and had a voice that was powerful and rich, just like some of the finest Blues guys, but imbibed with the spirit and fury of Punk Rock.
After a few soundbite interview snippets, the film starts with a Gary Floyd interview telling the story of his formative years - and of seeing the SEX PISTOLS in San Fran. From there, it’s the familiar story of band formation including the fake posters Floyd made before the band got together and the band’s live debut at the Punk Prom in 1980. Those interviewed include all band members, many from the Austin scene of the time and notables Henry Rollins, Ian MacKaye, David Yow, Texas Terri, Mike Watt, Pat Doyle (OFFENDERS) and Randy ‘Biscuit’ Turner. The interviews are separated by some great stills and excellent home-movie footage of not just the band in concert but of its environs.
Of course, with a band like THE DICKS, there are myriad stories but several people mention that the band looked like it had just crawled out of prison and were a genuinely frightening experience to the uninitiated. One story included was that of Floyd stuck liver down his panties and then threw it into the audience. Elsewhere there is reference to the all-inclusive attitude of the Austin scene at this time; there were no unwritten ‘cool’ codes of dress more a case of if you were there, you were already included. Rollins makes an interesting analogy in that the Austin scene was more like a "weirdo Collective" than what he knew from the West Coast.
The legendary Raul’s venue is discussed, as is the band’s close ties with the BIG BOYS and its first move to San Francisco that resulted in its inclusion on the Rock Against Reagan tour with MDC.
The film climaxes with the passing of guitarist Glenn Taylor, Floyd moving back to San Fran and the formation of SISTER DOUBLE HAPPINESS (although no mention of THE DICKS Mk II or the ‘These People’ album) before looking at the reunion of the original line-up some 20 years after they split and the band’s induction into the Austin Music Hall Of Fame.
As for bonuses, you get a couple of live gigs. The first is recorded at On Broadway (San Francisco) in 1982 and opens with a FLIPPER-challenging ‘Kill From The Heart’. The second gig is from Akron, Ohio on the Rock Against Reagan tour from 1983 and it’s a brutal, intense gig opening with ‘Dicks Hate The Police’ that sees slammers launching from all angles and the band in totally destructive musical form while ‘Bourgeois Fascist Pig’ sees Floyd go crowd surfing.
Director Cindy Marabito has crafted an informative and highly entertaining film that’s essential viewing for anyone with an interest in this Punk Rock thing. It’s been a genuine labour of love too, having taken 16 years of work. If there is a negative, it’s that some of the interviews are either recorded somewhere with a lot of background noise (usually a bar), lack clear diction or have a DICKS backing track playing under them that’s too loud. The narrative also tends to wander a little rather than sticking to a distinct time line.
Somehow though, the lo-fi attitude kinda works to its benefit and the resulting film is sincere, intimate and grabs the attention.
Now - I wonder if there is any chance of a sequel, called THE DICKS FROM SAN FRANCISCO? (09.03.16) 

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