Reviews & Columns
Reviews
DVD
TV on DVD
Blu-ray
4K UHD
International DVDs
In Theaters
Reviews by Studio
Video Games

Features
Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
Interviews
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Columns
Anime Talk
DVD Savant
Horror DVDs
The M.O.D. Squad
Art House
HD Talk
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum

Resources
DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info
Links

Columns




History Lesson Part 1: Punk Rock In Los Angeles In 1984

Other // Unrated // March 22, 2011
List Price: $14.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Rich Rosell | posted March 26, 2011 | E-mail the Author
REVIEW
For all practical purposes "punk" was theoretically dead long before 1984, but that didn't stop Los Angeles from spawning an entire movement and a wave of explosive albums (yes, vinyl) from a whole slew of groundbreaking genre bands, including Black Flag, The Germs and The Circle Jerks in the early 1980s. The spirit of the English punk movement - itself ironically spawned by the release of the first Ramones album in 1976 - was built on bucking the status quo of corporate rock, with short, high-energy music that spoke directly to the disenfranchised, angry or just plain bored. By the time the LA scene arose, the meaning of punk had turned left and taken on a new form, a mutated evolutionary step that was rooted in a harder, louder sound driven by lots and lots of speedy, showy riffs.

In A History Lesson: Part I - Punk Rock in Los Angeles 1984 filmmaker Dave Travis focuses on four LA bands that came into being after the initial fury and flurry of the Black Flag/Germs era: The Meat Puppets, The Minutemen, Redd Kross and Twisted Roots. Driven by modern-day interviews with an assortment of band members (Mike Watt, Paul Roessler, Jeff McDonald, Curt Kirkwood, Cris Kirkwood) and a collection of grainy concert clips the doc pieces together a loose historical roadmap, with the 57-minute film split into four sections, one per band.

There's nothing especially revelatory in what anyone has to say, but as a viewer/music fan the joy is in the act of reliving a time when a scene was forging itself into weird shapes, and hearing the bands go down memory lane to discuss what must have been an exciting time to be part of. As a guy stuck in the Midwest during that time I can only imagine. There's drug-addled recollections to be had here, as well as reminiscing about this show or that show and who was fronting what band where. For the curious, there's footage of Redd Kross performing live, with Bangle-girl Vicki Peterson on guitar. It's a blip on a long-dead musical radar, but it's all part of the history.

It has been said that talking about music is like dancing about architecture, yet here Travis cobbles together enough performance footage - rough as it is - to augment the talking head portions. So when Mike Watt of The Minutemen serves up some great stories about the quirky songwriting style of the late band frontman D.Boon, and when he mentions that their lives were built entirely around the music it's tough to not get a little jealous. Then Travis let's us see the band perform, led by devil-may-care charm of D. Boon, he of the chunky build, scraggly facial hair and frenetic guitar mangling that made The Minutemen such a mercurial sonic experience. The genre-warping approach of The Minutemen (see the superfine doc We Jam Econo) is indicative of the way the LA punk scene was morphing, and the clips gathered by Travis showcase a band that didn't care what audience expectations were because they were there to distort those fuzzy preconceptions.

The theme of punk's innate appeal to the "depressed and stupid", as Meat Puppet Curt Kirkwood intones early on, is what the anarchy of the music all about, in whatever form is evolved or devolved into (depending on your tastes). And that is something that Travis taps into in A History Lesson.... These four bands featured here were ripping it pretty hard in 1984, and even if the footage of them performing looks like it is a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy it doesn't matter. Rough. Coarse. Imperfect. Flawed. Distorted.

That's rock and roll, baby.

THE DVD
Video
The 1.33:1 fullframe transfer is rugged and imperfect, much like the bands themselves. For the interviews the limited range colors is flat - like a VHS tape that has been repeatedly copied - and the level of detail is soft, at best. By comparison the live footage is hazy, grainy and dark, but naturally any flaws are strictly related to the source material as opposed to the transfer itself.

Audio
Audio is provided in a low-rent mono mix that is adorned with all of the imperfections you might imagine. Distortion, odd hums and clipping are standard fare - and that's unfortunate for a doc that is built around vintage performance footage. The interview segments are serviceable, but it is the concert clips that come off the worst, and in some instances if the song title wasn't displayed I wouldn't have even known what song was being performed. Too bad.

Extras
There are no extras of any kind.

Final Thoughts
This casual history lesson looks at four unsung Los Angeles punk bands circa 1984 - including the mighty and unpredictable Minutemen - told via interviews with band members and some grainy performance footage with bad audio. It's a shame the concert clips aren't better quality, because that would really have made this worth its weight.

As it stands this is certainly worth a viewing if you were fan of these bands. Otherwise you'll likely wonder what all the fuss was about.
Buy from Amazon.com

C O N T E N T

V I D E O

A U D I O

E X T R A S

R E P L A Y

A D V I C E
Rent It

E - M A I L
this review to a friend
Popular Reviews
1. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Paramount Presents)


Sponsored Links
Sponsored Links