THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
At this point, so many "history of punk" documentaries have been released that there is nothing really
left to say without radical
revamping of the format.
If you only watch one documentary on West Coast punk, it might as well be Rage: 20 Years of
Punk Rock West Coast
Although it lacks the grit of earlier shot-on-film docos like D.O.A., the years have given those
interviewed a bit
of extra perspective (well, some of them anyway). Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys) and Keith Morris
(Circle Jerks, Black Flag)
sound like the punk elder statesmen that they are, but Jack Grisham (TSOL) sounds like a kid grown
up, still laughing about all the
stuff he stole and pranks he pulled in the old days. Duane Peters (US Bombs) is as grizzled as they
come, cursing the ground Gwen
Stefani walks on.
A decent amount of music is included but really that's what makes this stuff unique.
There are only so many times you can watch these guys rehash their youthful exploits. Of the three
major punk movements West
most like the bratty kid brother, with the UK providing the politics of the Sex Pistols and the Clash
and New York producing the
artistic noise of Patti Smith and the Ramones. So, other than reliving old glories and hypothesizing on
old skateboarding injuries,
these West Coasties have less to say than their more eastern cousins.
Rage is presented full-screen. The video footage looks fine. Archival footage is of varying
degrees of quality.
Again, the interviews are fine and the music varies depending on the source. The audio is Dolby
A few extra audio and video tracks are included, as is an interview with the directors, who come off
as pretty shallow.
They don't really articulate how what they were trying to do is different from any other similar film and
they talk at
length about how the punk bands they love never achieved any success or fame.
I don't know what planet they're living on. Bands like the Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks, and Black
Flag are legends.
Overall Rage only scratches the surface of its subject. It can't begin to compete with the Sex
Filth and the Fury for kinetic energy, historical scope, or statement of purpose (not to
mention that the DVD of The
Filth and the Fury also includes the short documentary Un-Defining Punk, which
features many of the same West Coasties as Rage). Fans of the artists interviewed
will enjoy but the casual viewer will do well to start with the music itself.
E-mail Gil at firstname.lastname@example.org