Monday, May 5, 2014

#14 A Band Called Death (2012)

It seems there was always someone doing something before that someone you thought did it first... did it (is that even a sentence?). And the art of tracking the punk rock genre back further and further has become a bit of a sport. Now someone claims it to be a band called Death. And depending on how you label your music they were the earliest ones - that is, if you call Iggy & The Stooges "proto punk" instead of "punk", for instance. Anyways... one of the things that made Death special was that it was an all black band... playing "white boy music". And their name.

I saw "A Band Called Death" at the recent Spot Film Festival in Aarhus, Denmark. The film tells the story of three young black brothers inspired by The Who recording an album's worth of material - but only cutting a single - in the early 70s and not going anywhere with it (I'm wondering: They rehearsed, they recorded, but we never really hear of live shows. Maybe that was the problem?). Presumably they got turned down mostly because of their name. After years of rejection the band drifts apart and... yes, you guessed it: Many years later someone finds a 7-inch and before you know it you got a proper underground record geek hype on your hands.

In the film the two surviving brothers are sad about the loss of their brother, but seem very happy to finally tell their story. It does get a bit tiresome having them show you around saying: This is where we did this and this is where we did that, as if it all had significant meaning. And in true American fashion they of course "get the band back together" and go out and play again. But only after the film spends a lot of time telling their story. Maybe a bit too much, as it gets a bit longwinded after a while. But the protagonists in the story are genuine characters and very likable. Sweet old reggae musicians, actually. But the attention on the people themselves does overshadow the actual music. They cut a few good tracks. And maybe was punk before punk. But the film tries to cut the punk-before-punk angle so sharp that one wishes the director would ease off it a bit.

The story is the classic one of "overlooked genius" (not quite sure, but I'll go with "talented"). And the film tells it in the most formulaic way. And this is where the movie doesn't deliver completely. Both the subject matter and the way the film decides to present it is just too predictable. Overall the production is nice and professional, though. And yes, it's enjoyable. Producers of course couldn't resist the sensationalism. And therefore after the viewing the feeling is a bit flat. But if you love a "classic" rock'n'roll story, by all means, check it out.

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