Monday, May 21, 2007

I always come back to you, I'm just a bad penny

My rock movie and book kick continues apace. The most recent item is DiG!, a documentary about seeking success in rock music. While this sounds like a Behind the Music episode with swear words, it is quite a bit more.

For one, the documentary follows two frenemy bands, the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols. The band members are like siblings from a broken family. They can't stand each other, but can't seem to stay away either. They play pranks on each other and torment one another. With the first burst of success, the Dandies go to the BJM flophouse early in the morning for a surprise photo shoot. The crazed leader of BJM, Anton Newcomber, responds by penning an anti-Dandy song and then mailing the group with shotgun shells with their names literally on them. The period covered is nearly ten years and the back and forth continues over the same period.

Anton Newcombe is too crazed (and too little known) for a Behind the Music episode. He proclaims his revolutionary character and his hit making prowess, but squanders it in drug use and abuse of his bandmates and the audience. Documentaries can lie through selective use of footage, but at the very least Anton had some career limiting behavior. Getting in fights with bandmates when the labels come to see you is not the wisest of courses.

While those interviews talk about making music and incredible live performances, the focus is much more on the process of music making. We see touring, recording, writing and excessive behavior including the consumption of much cocaine. What we don't hear is a lot of music. A failing of the movie is that we are told that BJM is one of the greatest bands you have never heard, but none of what we hear or see validates this claim. As one of the movies theses is that success is as much about luck and not being a jackass, I think this is OK.

The DVD has commentary from both bands and it is well worth listening for context.

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