A look into the Los Angeles punk rock scene, that was largely ignored by the rock music press of the time.A look into the Los Angeles punk rock scene, that was largely ignored by the rock music press of the time.A look into the Los Angeles punk rock scene, that was largely ignored by the rock music press of the time.
- Self - Black Flag (Bass)as Self - Black Flag (Bass)
- (as Gary McDaniel)
Although I didn't grow up in California, the American punk scene was the first music scene I ever truly lived in. At the height of the hardcore I was immersed in from about 1979-1981 everybody had a band and the only common denominators between bands and indeed members of their audiences were:
* the rejection of conformity
* tolerance and enjoyment of difference
* a desire to have fun - hard and fast
Hairstyles, politics, dislike of authority figures, and violent slam-dancing were not integral to what I experienced, though there were certainly cliques or factions who tended to be intolerant of those who did not dress, speak or act "punk" enough. And there was often a certain amount of unearned credit extended from some of these cliques to those who tried really hard to live down to the fascistic paradigm of anarchic, self mutilating, angry young cop-haters.
Although the interviews with audience punks in Penelope Spheeris' excellent Cal-Punk documentary "Decline of Western Civilization" present a very narrow view of the subculture some of us enjoyed, the interviews with the bands, club owners, promoters and even the security people are much more representative of at least my own perspective and memories of 'the scene'. nevertheless, it is possible for those who approach this with prejudices about what punk is to experience this film without having their preconceptions challenged. Unfortunate as this is, the blame for it rests solely with those who promote, believe in or feel comfortable with stereotypes - Not the film-makers. Don't blame the messenger.
The music presented here is not going to be for everybody - nor even most. It's not the most crude stuff out there, but it's loud, obnoxious, fast, and less concerned with technique than with raw energy.
For me, seeing early Black Flag with Ron Reyes singing, X, Fear and the Circle Jerks was worth far more than the cost of this hard to obtain film. As much as I like The Germs, seeing Darby Crash for the mess - and the nice guy - that he was left me a bit cold. Nevertheless, the scenes of Darby playing with his pet tarantula while "Shut Down" droned on and on in the background were precious. The X interview is also great.
Spheeris' straightforward documentary style is supplemented by wild pans and zooms during the musical segments. During the interviews, framing is used very nicely to provide context for whatever is being said. Considering her experience and the budget, Spheeris did as well as anybody could have with this film.
Recommended for those who appreciate what this film is actually about, and for those who have forgotten those few years of fun, honest, direction-less rebellion before Amaerican punk was co-opted into yet another flow within the musical mainstream and the stereotypes became more important than the basic philosophy.
- Jan 16, 2008