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Story of the Year - Our Time Is Now

Image // Unrated // May 13, 2008
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted June 30, 2008 | E-mail the Author
Listening to Story of the Year's newest album, The Black Swan, reminds me a lot of a great summer from a few years back when I listened to Page Avenue so much that it probably burned a few rings into the disc layer. During that time, they had a few solid tracks that were making the rounds on the mainstream and underground rock stations. Ah, there's plenty of fond memories to be found within just "Sidewalks" alone. Then, In The Wake Of Determination hit the streets; it brought out the quintessential "sophomore" reaction in me that arises when a band tries to drastically change their sound and, in the process, consequently redirects my interest in the opposite direction.

Part of this Our Time is Now DVD, the making-of set of features that map out their creative process behind that sophomore record, helped me realize that I was a little harsh on those tracks. The other part, being that of the home video footage that Our Time is Now headlines, is basically like grinding up copies of In The Wake of Determination with the recent Jackass flicks and overdosing on its flashing, psychedelic stupidity.

The Video Diary:

Our Time is Now is actually the title for the primary kaleidoscope of footage taken from various points during SotY's post-In The Wake tour. Forget about trying to follow any timeline through this two-year long continent-jumping trip, because there is absolutely no cohesiveness to the material that has been edited together. Instead, the audience is subjected to the band's immeasurable upon immeasurable rock star craziness that rise up once the curtain's fall on their shows. Imagine a collage of videos featuring your friends as they're clowning around for the camera, and you've got Our Time is Now - complete with that empty, rather annoying feeling that you get when you realize that you weren't there as you witness a bunch of jokes that you'd have to be there to get.

Name it, and Story of the Year did it during this tour; drunken fast food drive-through craziness, liquor chugging, skater trespassing, naked debauchery, bed jousting ... pretty much everything you'd expect. You get to see the band play pool, go bowling, as well as mess up a shotgun arcade machine. Be forewarned - fecal matter and male nudity run amuck here. Honestly, only if you're a die hard Story of the Year fanatic or a mild fan of Jackass type screwball antics will this appeal to you.

To limited degrees, the meat-and-potatoes footage from Story of the Year's high-octane performances comes scattered throughout the runtime. At the beginning, several of the cities' crowds are captured on camera and paired with the city and venue title. It got me excited; seeing some quality footage from the shows across the world as the band was riding high on their popularity sounded like a blast. It's just a shame that the home footage has such bad mastering issues. Roughly ninety (90%) percent of the time, the stage captures look and sound horrible. The performance pieces, for the majority, either clip out intermittently or possessed a horrible, grating buzz with each scream and vocal strain from the group. To say the least, the proportions between this poorly captured, albeit exciting, performance footage and the somewhat maddening home video stuff is poorly skewed.

Remember, I did say ninety (90%) percent was flawed; the other ten (10%) percent, mainly footage captured from Rhode Island, looks and sounds quite good. It shifts into desaturated shades and comes across with a bit of a burnt feel, but the way that footage appears sounds is indicative of what I really wanted from Our Time is Now. I found myself relishing in these rare moments of quality entertainment from the music and crowd reaction, then cursing when the barrage of rapidly edited backstage shots wiggle into the picture. Oh well, the target audience shouldn't despise this footage nearly as much as I did.

What I did thoroughly enjoy from Our Time is Now, however, is the In The Wake making-of materials found in the supplemental features, as well as the video making-of stuff. It starts with the band throwing together some tunes and piecing together solid track concepts, followed immediately by their pitch to the recording manager. It's some very solid footage that just keeps getting better; through three or four strategically placed cameras, the band is captured during the recording phases. We're not just taking about "let's all get together and just play and record" footage, either. Plenty of time is spent directly on the meticulous drum recordings alone, along with the incorporation of the other instruments by increments. Yeah, more of the goofy bits roll into the feature, but it's much more tolerable in between the great behind-the-scenes stuff that showcases the band's actual appreciation for the music. Seeing Story of the Year brainstorming and, especially, lighting up at the musical magic they're creating makes this supplemental half worth watching.

Whether the full three hours or so of Our Time is Now is worth your time really all depends on your taste, devotion level to the band, and tolerance for just "watching" drunken (and not so drunken) debauchery. It's a highly indulgent piece of work with a very specific audience in mind. Casual fans of Story of the Year need not apply; Our Time is Now is engineered for the hardcore in mind and, keeping that in perspective, should give them an ample helping of exactly what they're asking for. It does rustle up a bit of alienation towards its more latent fans, like myself, but it certainly won't keep me from spinning The Black Swan any time soon.

The DVD:

Image Entertainment has presented Story of the Year: Our Time is Now in a standard keepcase presentation with psychedelic artwork that mirrors the coverart for "In the Wake of Determination".

The Video:

Presented in a fullframe image clearly stretching to its home video roots, Our Time is Now looks about as good as it can. There's a lot of digital grain and lack of detail across the board, but that's clearly from the source material. Where Our Time is Now looks nice is when the footage is presented in an altered black-and-white image. It left me wishing all of the performance footage looked about like that, even though it wasn't the visual portions of the problematic shots that bothered me that much.

The Audio:

What did irk me about the concert footage is how horrible it sounds within its Dolby 2.0 Stereo track. Let's go ahead and default it to being a problem with the audio from the grade of equipment; just about all of the concert footage sounds like its being performed in a wind tunnel. Vocal strength is horrible, bass range is really bad (causing some grating noises at low levels), and at times the audio just ... disappears. Now, whether that's the DVD production crew equalizing some really atrocious parts out is a possibility, and a potentially welcome one. Once again, this doesn't apply to the black-and-white scenes. Sure, it doesn't sound quite as good as some hi-fidelity concert discs, but this doctored footage still sounds pretty decent. Outside of that, everything really just shows whatever weaknesses the audio equipment might have had, which isn't nearly as noticeable with the regular recorded voices. Again, the technical specs really aren't the doings of the production company, but inherent with the source.

The Extras:

Making of In the Wake of Determination:
As mentioned, this material is what makes the disc worth buying for any replay value at all. Watching the band go through the recording process, from brainstorming and pitching to the producer all the way to conceptualization through live recording was phenomenal. It's segmented into several "chapters" for your watching pleasure, all that add up to a little over an hour.

Deleted Scenes:
Roughly 5 minutes of unused footage is included here, featuring more of the same ole' goofy stuff used in the rest of the core film.

Making of and Full Videos for "We Don't Care Anymore" and "Take Me Back":
Similar to the "In the Wake" assembly footage, these videos actually capture some of the fun and insightful elements in making two of the band's videos. Though these are rather simple videos, comprised of a lot of stage performance stuff, it's neat to see the studios and the ways the bands prep before each shoot. The "We Don't Care Anymore" featurette lasts around 17 minutes, while the "Take Me Back" bit lasts a smudge over 8 minutes.

A Trailer is also included to start off the viewing experience.


Final Thoughts:

Story of the Year hardcore fanatics will get a kick out of watching their backstage tour lunacy within the Our Time is Now video diary, but even then I think it'd only be worth a spin one, maybe two, times. More commonplace fans, however, really should only approach this disc if the antics of Johnny Knoxville are remotely appealing. As mentioned, it's worth watching to see how the band threw together their sophomore album during the Making of In The Wake portion, but by any means this shouldn't get passed the Rental stage. Money is better spent running out and renting this disc, then picking up the band's most recent record, The Black Swan, which shows a strong return to form that resonates much like Page Avenue did several years ago.

Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site
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