There seems to be an interesting problem that exists with most music documentaries. While the subject matter may be admirable, and often worthy of closer examination, the sheer scope of material needed to be covered is usually so dense that the individual voices profiled are usually truncated into one or two clever sound bites. While this is an understandable restriction of time, it still leaves the viewer with what is essentially a mere sketch of the material reduced into a few colorful footnotes.
As an introductory expose to No Wave for the younger crowd this film does a decent job, but to the more long time fan's of the genre the brief glimpses of interviews with people like Alan Vega, and M.Gira may seem too fleeting.
To be fair S.A. Crary seems to realize this and the DVD comes with almost an hour of extended footage, but the problem really seems to be the nature of the subjects them selves. Ultimately Suicide, Lydia Lunch , and the Swans were all predicated on such remarkable stories that any one of them would make a remarkable 3 hour documentary all on their own. To be sure, M.Gira's anecdote of sending certain dna body fluids of his in a baggie to Robert Christgau after a particularly pejorative review is worth the price of the DVD alone. That being said, even with the additional footage I was still left with a desire for more exhaustive interviews with people like Lydia Lunch , while the cinema of transgression figures Nick Zedd and Richard Kern (an important part of no wave ) didn't even make an on screen appearance at all.Again, I don't feel this is a fault of S.A. Cary's, it's just that the scope of the project has so many facets that even 3 hours seems too restrictive. This brings the other issue - The profile of the contemporary groups performing music.
With the current trend of pop music magazines tripping over themselves to serve up the latest expose of ground zero for cultural hip ness, many of the younger people in the film, by accident or by design, will no doubt be more familiar to most older viewers as the pin up stars staring back at them on the shelves of Borders , and Barnes and Nobel in the magazine section, than the architects of memorable music someone has turned them on to. With their affected hair and their romantic thrift store clothes askew, just so, it's almost too easy to take dismissive pot shots at these 20 something street kid millionaires. The fact remains though, that good looks and white belts with brown pants alone don't garner a following. As a bit of a jaded older person I was pleasantly surprised to find that in fact most of the younger people here like the Yeah Yeah Yeah's are actually very decent pop songwriters , and despite Lydia Lunch's venomous diatribe of that supposed crime, I could respect and see why their following was so strong. Quite simply they're just good musicians.
Black Dice , the Liars and Gogal Bordello respectively are all excellent and compelling and if the film has any point to make, I'd say it's that the spirit that first brought the Velvet Underground together and carried on through other bands in the 70's and the 80's is as strong now as it's ever been. As for the proprietary pissing contest between the old guard bitching about how " real " they were and how phony and illegitimate the newer bands are, really, it's a waste of time. There's enough room in the world for Diamanda Galas and Lady tron.