Wednesday, December 03, 2008

"Punk Attitude," 2005

Directed by Don Letts, "Punk Attitude" is a fine documentary about the history of punk rock. Starting out in the 60s & 70s New York City scene of grit, poverty and dissonant sounds, crossing over to England for the British punk rock explosion and U.S. invasion, then finally winding its way towards the West Coast for a bit of the hardcore scene, the East-Coast no-core sound, and Nirvana, melding everything that is excellent about punk rock into one big international world take-over.

It ends in a fizzle of confused elder punk-rock statesmen and women, trying to explain the youth-of-today (of 2005) and their commodified love of Blink 182 and Limp Bizkit, the election of Bush, and acceptance of the Iraq War. The middle-aged interviewees, such as Leggs McNeil, Jello Biafra, Henry Rollins and Tommy Ramone can't quite make sense of it all. But the times are a-changin' as we'll no doubt see soon enough.

With very little fanfare, a conscious decision was made in editing to feature many close-ups of women singing and playing with their bands right alongside the men. Don Letts, I commend you for your low-key approach. There's great shots and interviews with members of The Ramones, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, with plenty of male writers, poets and producers, AS WELL AS Siouxsie Sioux, Chrissie Hynde, Ari Up of the Slits, Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex, and female filmmakers, photographers and commentators for good measure.

There's an extra "Women in Punk" segment on bonus disc 2 and the whole thing gave me a warm, fuzzy, punk-rock feeling. It was a moment in time when so many creative weirdos got together, formed bands and put themselves out there, creating a new art-form. It was especially liberating for women, who, as noted by Slits co-founder Ari Up, had yet to create their own look and sound without the interference of SOME MAN (her words) telling them how to do it. I grew up listening to much of this music and it's formed me into who I am today. Here's a few screen-shots of the trailblazing women in "Punk Attitude."

Patti Smith, along with Iggy Pop and the Stooges, The Ramones, The New York Dolls, MC5, and a few others, including Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground, are all given credit where credit is due. Several of the men interviewed admit to being in awe of Ms. Smith and that hasn't changed much over the years.
Tina Weymouth, bass-player for Talking Heads in a zoom shot I could barely capture.
Debbie Harry and Blondie--so very cool and timeless.

Siouxsie Sioux who had never sung on a stage before she co-founded Siouxsie and the Banshees.
Ari Up and the Slits.
Hey, it was their idea to pose like this for their album, "Cut"--Now a collector's item!
Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders. She's interviewed throughout and makes a good link between the U.S. and London punk scenes, since she was living over there at the time.

Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex. She admits to toning down her femininity so she could could tell her band how to play her songs.

Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth keeps on keeping on.
Special X-Ray Spex Section

I especially love Poly Styrene who was all of 18 when she formed X-Ray Spex and screeched (in some kind of new key) "Oh Bondage, Up Yours!"

The Day the World Turned Dayglo


Mike Long dances to I am a Cliché

I am a Cliche from Mike Long on Vimeo.

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