Wednesday, September 03, 2008

DVD: Punk's Not Dead

Label: MVD

Released: July 8, 2008

Most documentaries are just visual histories of a band or a scene. The trouble is that they take a scientific approach with a hypothesis that they attempt to prove over the course of the film. But punk is a human story and one that, at its best, has dictated its own future. Punk's Not Dead lets the story tell itself, no judgments, no science.

It follows punk from the Ramones through the Pistols and Clash, on to Black Flag and Minor Threat. It picks up the punk revival of the late 80s and early 90s and its subsequent commercial breakthrough via Green Day up through the corporate-sponsored Warped Tour. The interviews include a few big names like Rollins, MacKaye, Biafra and Armstrong, but dig deeper as well into the Charlie Harpers and Jimmie Purseys, right down to the kids who make their own scenes happen (with whole sequences on little sub-scenes like Drunk Tank House as well as bits sent in from kids around the world).

Punk's Not Dead succeeds largely because it gets it. It doesn't take an outsider's view or have that old "back in the day" condescension, but instead focuses on the ever-changing and evolving state of the punk scene and how it has managed to be an alternative for thousands of kids even after it was co-opted by mainstream culture.

Rating: 8/10

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Blogger Jeff said...

Punks not dead? I always thought it was. Anyway, how were the interviews with Biafra? The DK are probably my favorite punk band, but it's like pulling teeth watching his interviews. He is just so over the top ridiculous it's quite irritating. Also, I'm not sure if you would know this, but does MacKaye drink now? Or maybe that's just a rumour.

10:22 AM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

I know what you mean about Jello interviews. When I was about 15, I bought one of those picture disc interviews of Jello and it was like a half hour of him going on about Jerry Falwell. He's funny and behind it all, he does have some good stuff to say (though not all), but he's best in smaller doses, I suppose. In Punk's Not Dead, the clips are short, so he can't get too over the top.

As far as Mackaye goes, I don't know, but I doubt it. He seems as committed to his beliefs as anyone could be and he still sticks to the anti-commercialism stuff. I think he's a vegetarian now too, so he might even be more strict than before. Those rumors have been around awhile. I remember hearing something about that back in about 1988 and I wrote a song about it, because I was straightedge (I guess I still am) and I was outraged. Turns out it was just a goofy story. My song, by the way, for all its venom, wasn't very good.

People have been saying punk is dead forever. Crass did a song called "Punk is Dead" back in 1978 and I think it's been going on ever since. Still, punk seems to be able to find itself in the underground even after each wave of commercialization. I think it still speaks to disaffected kids even when it's shallow facsimile is speaking to the mainstream.

10:40 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

I would probably consider myself straight edge as well, but I certainly try to keep away from the often psycho straight edge scene. I love Minor Threat, but most stright edge music is too crazy for my taste. Now that I think about it, I don't even think I could name one straight edge band around now, I often hear Hatebreed categorized as one, but I don't really see it. For me living straight edge is just a personal choice, I've never felt the need to indoctrinate others with how I live, and I sure as hell won't be getting any X's tattooed on my hands, or any part of my body for that matter. I feel like too much of the straight edge scene is filled with lunatics who feel the need to preach to everyone.

11:50 AM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

To me, straightedge boils down to one rule and one rule only: Do the right thing. For me, this includes, but is not limited to not drinking, not smoking, not taking drugs, being vegetarian, being pro-life (in more ways than just anti-abortion), monogamy, recycling and mowing my neighbor's grass. For other people, the right thing may be different. I think it is possible, in theory anyway, to drink and be straightedge.

A lot of people don't get that. To them, a glass of wine or a beer "breaks edge," but they aren't thinking about the thing they object to. It's not the alcohol itself, but insobriety. I can't say that I don't believe that sobriety is good for everyone, but I have to allow for both my own fallibility as well as the fallibility of others. To me, you can only "break edge," to use their silly term, if you act against your own well-examined conscience and, because I can't know someone else's conscience, I can't really sit on the high court of straightedge that a lot of these people think they can.

I used to participate in a straightedge group on Myspace and there were a few funny things that came up. First, someone asked about Communion at Church and another person suggested that you could not receive Communion and be straightedge. yet another peson chimed in about transubstantiation and how it was okay if your religion believed in that, but not okay otherwise. But the funniest thing by far was some people concept of claiming and breaking edge. Apparently, the unwritten rule is that you can drink before "claiming edge," but if you do after, you can never "claim edge" again, leaving you to be, at best, "poison free."

It's all silly. Do the right thing. That's it. And you don't need a label.

12:08 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

There are so many little rules and people go crazy and get carried away with them. Most people see me as straight edge solely because I don't drink, do drugs, and I'm in a monogamous relationship, but if a hardcore straight edge person were to look at me I would probably be breaking far too many rules to be straight edge. I'm not a vegetarian, I'm pro-choice when it comes to abortion and I'm sure there are little other nuances which the hardcore would see me as breaking.

Like you said, it's all about making the right choices. It's silly to get yourself caught up with all these crazy little things just so you can fit the label of a true straight edge.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

I thought you might've detailed this review a bit more. I'm psyched to watch my copy but there's a lot of time to it and the baby stopped me within two minutes on my first try, drat it

12:00 AM  

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