One of the best of the 'post grunge' bands to come out of the Seattle music scene in the late nineties was The Murder City Devils. They put out three studio albums (Empty Bottles, Broken Hearts, In Name And Blood and The Murder City Devils), one EP (Thelema), and a live album (R.I.P.) but it really wasn't enough. They didn't last nearly long enough for my tastes and the fact that I missed out on catching their last tour when they came through my town bugs me to this very day. Watching this documentary Rock & Roll Won't Wait compounds that frustration as it features some great live footage of the band doing their thing.
The documentary follows the band from playing in someone's basement to, the next day, playing in front of 22,000 people on an opening slot for Pearl Jam. Despite some serious critical acclaim and a very solid cult following though, they never rose to the prominence that they really deserved. Maybe the lyrics weren't accessible enough (they sing about drinking and heartbreak a lot though, which are two things many of us are very familiar with), maybe the music was a bit too eerie sounding, maybe the vocals weren't appealing enough. I really don't know what it was. Regardless though, they never hit the big time, even if they came close a few times and really did deserve it.
So what we've got, in the form of this fifty-eight minute long documentary from director James Bazan, is a fly on the wall account of the band on the road and the difficulties, trials, and tribulations that were encountered there. This is interspersed with some interview footage recorded after the fact with the band members individually looking back on their experiences. It's almost like a real life version of Hard Core Logo mostly set in and around the Seattle area.
There's also quite a bit of attention given to Gabe, the band's roadie, and his parents are even interviewed at one point. Gabe seems to have done a lot to hold the band together as long as they lasted and gets a lot more credit than most roadies ever will for what success the group did achieve.
So if you like gloomy, kind of post-punk rock and roll with an eerie organ punctuating pissed off vocals, give the band a shot. If you're already a fan, and this hasn't come across your radar yet, do check it out as it's worth your time. There isn't a lot of video footage of The Murder City Devils out there at all so having an hours worth plus the few bonus features MVD has slapped on the DVD is definitely a blessing.
Some of the video looks very nice, some of it not so nice. It's compiled from various sources like interviews, performances, and some behind the scenes footage and none of it is really all too professional looking save for the interview footage that the filmmakers shot by having the band members sit down in front of the camera. The quality of the video varies depending on what source is being used at the time. On an average, things look decent, just not great, as should be expected for this type of movie. While some of the video doesn't look so hot at least the transfer is solid without any compression problems and only the slightest bit of edge enhancement. It's all very watchable, it's just not great.
There are two mixes on the DVD - a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix and a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. Neither of them sound stellar and a lot of the live footage is kind of rough. The 'in the studio' interview footage all sounds just fine though and some of the better quality live footage does have a nice kick to it. There are a few moments where the drum and bass kicks in nicely in the mix, as good rock and roll should do from time to time.
There aren't a whole lot of features here, simply a trailer for the documentary and two of the band's music videos: 18 Wheels and Bunkhouse.
Rock & Roll Won't Wait is a pretty frank and honest look at The Murder City Devils on the road. It doesn't paint everything out to be all happy and whimsical but it doesn't paint it as a totally horrible experience either. It gives us a look at the ups and downs of the band through their all too short career, and they music contained in it is great. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.