DVD Review - Punk Attitude.

This is what makes up the bulk of the film: the British wave of punk bands, the fuss they caused in the UK, the catalyst they were in the US to impressionable young things like Henry Rollins. And this is what makes the film a bit of a disappointment for me.

 

 

 

DVD Review - Punk Attitude.

I've just had the editor in chief on the phone. "What are you writing this month?"

 

Think quickly. "I've got a DVD to review. It's called 'Punk Attitude', directed by Don Letts... err he was in 'Big Audio Dynamite'."

 

"Wasn't he John Lydon's rasta mate?"

 

Was he? "Yeah, err... it's got interviews with err,"- find it quickly, look at the back - "err...what's his name, Jello Biafra, Henry Rollins, err... a load of British people too. It's a documentary, about how punk isn't just big shorts, Green Day, wallet chains, what punk is, not just the music, the philosophy and what it set out to do and it's legacy."

 

"OK, I'll send you some CDs to review too."

 

Phew. I'd better watch it now. The DVD starts with a black and white clip of a very young Iggy Pop, while Henry Rollins says, "All you need is one guy, or girl, to stand up and say 'Fuck this' and everyone goes 'Voice of a Generation, I've been thinking that but I never had the guts to stand up and say it." Promising...

 

Next we jump to Jim Jarmusch saying something pretty similar, but this time it's over a black and white clip of Johnny Rotten. OK. I like the Jim Jarmusch bit too. Mixing film, or art, or writing with music is a good thing.  Just look at Incendiary. The film then settles down into its formula. What you get is a series of talking heads, giving their opinions on where punk came from, who were the first punks (Elvis, Chuck Berry) and some influential sixties bands (MC5, Velvet Underground). Not punk? Well, they were important to the punks you know.

 

Jello Biafra says: "We were the only guys in our towns that were into these bands. We moved to bigger towns, met each other and formed bands." Then it's time for a detailed look at the 1970s. Yes, here's the bit about the New York Dolls and now here comes the bit about the Sex Pistols, The Buzzcocks and The Clash. This is what makes up the bulk of the film: the British wave of punk bands, the fuss they caused in the UK, the catalyst they were in the US to impressionable young things like Henry Rollins. And this is what makes the film a bit of a disappointment for me.

 

OK, I'm an old fart. Yes, I can remember Sex Pistols singles being played at the time they were first released. So maybe the fact that I know all of this stuff means the film isn't for me? Maybe it's aimed at a younger audience, saying "Look. This is your heritage?" So I'll forgive it, this time. There's not too much about the American answer to the UK punks. Black Flag gets a brief mention, Sonic Youth a doffed cap. The film notes that all histories of punk ignore the 1980s, it says that they usually say it all went quiet before Nirvana, and then it perpetuates this. A bit odd. I reckon that extra scenes are as interesting as the film, although there are many pieces that are used time and again. The extended interview with Henry Rollins interview is interesting to see his (sometimes nerdy) enthusiasm about the scene he loves. Although this is somewhat spoilt by pretty poor editing, for example this gem:

 

"The best live band for me (fade to black and back) and believe me I've been to a few shows (fade again) talk about the Buzzcocks. Yeah." What saves the DVD for me, are the talking heads, who are pretty cool people. When you get away from the potted history, some of the insights into how these guys think is interesting. We get words of wisdom from Jim Jarmusch, Wayne Kramer, Glen Matlock, Marco Peroni, Paul Simonon, Thurston Moore, Jello Biafra, Siouxsie Sioux and many more.

 

So I'll leave you with a few quotes about what 'punk' is:

Paul Simonon: "Question everything".

Jello Biafra: "'Fuck you' to corporations and branding everything."

Jim Jarmusch: "People's minds get complacent. The fight against that complacency is punk rock."

And my favourite quote is from Henry Rollins: "If you have to ask, then you're never going to be able to get it..."

 

Words: Chris Gibson.