on May 8, 2003
The name "The Year Punk Broke" was a sly response to the commercialization of underground music and how ridiculous it was that this music was in fact becoming the mainstream stuff that everyone could get their hands on. All they had to do was turn on the TV or open a magazine. This was a time when everything was fresh for music. Doors were opening for all kinds of music. Everytime you turned around some new band was being popularized. Being in college at the time, it was crazy how much music I was being exposed to. I could watch this movie a lot, but I generally don't listen to a lot of music that came out during this period. Not because it isn't good music, it's just that it's a bit dated and I guess I feel a bit old. However, watching this video is a good piece of nostalgia. Most of the bands on this video have not made a decent album in some time (some of them for obvious reasons), but then, I was at the record store the other day and saw a new album by J. Mascis, the mastermind behind Dinosaur Jr. He once said that the reason he plays music is because it's something to do besides watching TV. I wonder if he watched this?
on April 22, 2002
The music is great, especially the performances by Babes in Toyland, Nirvana, and SY itself. However, the director seemed to have trouble filling the gaps. Or maybe he was too messed up on whatever Thurston was on to really pay attention to his narrative arc.
To fill the sizeable gaps the director allows Thurston Moore to dominate almost every non-music segment. Moore's ironic ramblings and painfully forced spazz-outs get really old really fast. He was so haughty and obnoxious that it tainted their blistering live performances. Good job, Thurston. Thurston did almost all the talking. Too much Thurston talking. Too much precious Thurston. Isn't he precocious? Barf.
Plus, Kim Gordon is completely silent. She hides behind a mask of detached, snobby idifference and aloof style. She, too, comes across very poor. She could've/should've said something, right? Am I wrong here? Mebbe Kim Gordon could've talked AT ALL. Instead she just looked cool.
Ultimately there are many angles the director didn't explore/many interviews he could've conducted but didn't. Nirvana provides an air of laid-back zaniness in what really seems to be an exercise in Sonic Youth self-aggrandizing and myth-making.
Again, the music was great. Well worth the very low sticker price. Sonic Youth fans beware: they really seem like egomaniacal dorks. The less refined groups like Babes in Toyland, Dinosaur Jr. and Nirvana are great, though: there should've been more off-stage footage of these acts, and less SY camera-mugging. Kurt Cobain's attempts at flirting with Kim Gordon are pretty sweet, though....
on February 16, 2000
This is my favourite film, I bought the video a couple of years ago & have watched it seemingly hundreds of times because it is pure fun. Thurston really became a hero for more resons than the excelelnt music w/ raps & rants like "tonight will be the night that the skies will open & spray forth the divine hand & poisoned finger & say everybody 'you're not just a duck, you are human, YOU ARE HUMAN! go forth, go forth & thrash'" which then segues into Negative creep by Nirvana. Kim & J talking is amusing. Dave & Krist pouring wine & fruit everywhere & Kurt being quiet generally except for ramming himself into the drums & spraying SY w/ beer. The onstage performances are generally brilliant, Thurston almost hangs off the front of the stage @ 1 point. Also notable is Courtney's 1st step into fame thanks to an mtv creew showing up. There's a lot more moments I could mention but you should watch it for yrself. Also recommened for Nirvana fans wanting to find out about Sonic Youth [you need to]. Oh whoever mentioned that 1st Teen Spirit performance that was in the Hype! film which focussed on Seattle whereas this here is more broad.
on February 10, 2000
Well, I don't like Babes in Toyland, or Dinosaur Jr., or Gumball. But I do like Nirvana and I really like Sonic Youth and I really like this video. The live footage really isn't much to write home about (save for "Dirty Boots" and the now famous first ever performance of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "Mote" and "Teenage Riot" and "Endless Nameless"), the gamma-kinetic documentary footage is HEE-larious! Some people find it pretentious and boring when, for example, Thurston Moore sits on the roof of a building and rambles on about nothings in pah-tick-a-lahs, buhhhhhtttttt... well, it's a matter of taste I suppose. I reckon... I reckin' it's a-matta ah taste pard-ner! The German Food Tent scene in particular is great, as is the one where Thurston lays out his plans on live radio, to a foreign journalist who has no idea what he's saying, to light the audience at an upcoming show on fire and then take a shotgun and "just do it baby". Oh, and the talking mokey head at the carnival! Aren't German's weird? BUY IT!
on June 14, 1999
This video contains excellent live footage of Nirvana, Sonic Youth, and Babes in Toyland. But watching it can be infuriating for several reasons.
First, most of the performances are marred by pretentious, distracting, MTV-style editing. I can't describe how frustrated I felt, wishing I could just watch a straightforward document of these (by now legendary) shows, and instead sitting through a piecemeal montage of unrelated, home-movie clips. When a great moment is happening on stage, I don't want to be made to stare at Dave Groll's shoe for two minutes, or frying wienersnitzel or Thurston sucking beer foam off of the ground. I kept looking for some subversive or artistic point to this sloppy patchwork eyesore, but there was none. The endless transitions were never exciting or disorienting, as the editor might've hoped. Only boring and distracting.
Even worse were Thurston Moore's bored, self-indulgent monologues. For hour after hour we are subjected to his droning, mumbling discourses on nothing in particular, seemingly drug-inspired and devoid of any content, insight, or enthusiasm. Any 12-year-old fan could've provided a more keen and involving narration of the tour; how could they allow this rambling, affected blather to be aired? If you have any respect for Moore as a musician and a writer (I have a great deal), you will literally not believe your ears.
Perhaps it's unfair to criticize the muffled sound-quality and washed-out film stock of all the concert footage. The cameramen had to make do with what they had. And, there are some fun backstage antics by the musicians, though the Ugly Americanisms were about as funny and "hip" as dayglow, middle-aged Iowans braying at London Beefeaters.
It just puzzles me that a movie about "punk," which has always stood for honesty, excitement, and directness, should be done in such a dull, pretentious, obfuscated manner.
on February 24, 1999
This is simply a great film filled with brilliant live performances - especially those of Sonic Youth, who takes center stage - and amusing backstage antics peppered with cultural commentary. Thurston Moore is our playfully arrogant yet lovable tourguide on this brief fun-filled romp through Europe. The film very effectively takes the pulse of the early "alternative" scene. There is a sort of fleeting, magical excitment here in the air that only comes at a turning point. This was the climax of the underground, with Sonic Youth and their peers starting to "make it" but not fully. I could also see here how the social and creative cohesion of Sonic Youth have helped them be so prolific and experimental, while Nirvana was more about energy, emotion, and ultimately self-destruction. One of the highlights is Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," which is refreshingly played as just another fun, energetic song rather than a statement which forever changed the landscape of rock music and youth culture. Sonic Youth's "Dirty Boots" is truly exceptional, filled with urgency and ending with some painfully beautiful improvisation. A very satisfying taste of what must have been an incredible tour.
on June 17, 1999
Despite what the previous reviewer said, I think Thurston's narration is hilarious. This video is a great anthropological look into "alternative" music circa 1991. The reason it was called "Punk" is because for America, Nirvana and others commercial success from the fringes of music industry recalls the Sex Pistols, the Buzzcocks and the Clash's commercial success in England in 1976 thru 1978. Punk was never commercially viable in the USA, and bands like Black Flag, X, the Minutemen and the Germs never got to soak the benefits (or lack there of...) of fame. I guess, as a Nirvana fan, the only thing this film needed was more Kurt. Other great performances here include Babes in Toyland's "Dustcake Boy," Dinosaur Jr.'s "The Wagon" and a fast "Commando" by the Ramones. I'm hungry damn it. Where can I find me a pig's head?
on April 13, 2012
I've grown up watching this video. It spurred on my love for Sonic Youth. I thought the film makers did a great job showing what these bands were really like. I like how it isn't glamourized, and trying too hard to make them seem more exciting than they are. It's nice to see them in the down to earth environment that all the bands are shown in, it really shows some insight into them.
It doesn't show much footage of Nirvana, but that wasn't a disappointment for me, because it's main focus was Sonic Youth, so if you are looking for a concert DVD about Nirvana or Dinosaur Jr, this isn't it, although they do have some stellar performances from Dinosaur.
The backstage clips were great too! I actually laughed throughout the movie, which is good :)
I LOVE this movie, and would recommend it to anyone.
on January 7, 1999
A very humorous and fascinating look at Nirvana and Sonic Youth's 1991 European Tour. There is a classic bathroom scene with Thurston Moore that is one of the highlights of this documentary. The most interesting thing about this film is seeing Nirvana before the explosion of "Smells Like Teen Spirit". It's hard to believe that at one time they were just three guys who were opening for Sonic Youth. Dinosaur Jr. plays a few legs of the tour and J. Mascis contributes to the humor of the film. The spontaneousness of this back stage glimpse makes "The Year Punk Broke" a classic moment in time in the history of true alternative music.
on December 16, 2003
Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Mudhoney, Dinosaur Jr., Babes in Toyland...bands that mass (misdirected) media tried to co-opt into a fabricated category called "grunge," demeaning the bands' roots and artistic vision...to purists, though, their music was punk. This video excellently captures that crazy time when distortion, feedback, and unusual tunings were appreciated and accepted as standard musical conventions. My personal highlights include Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore playing slide guitar with a drumstick and Nirvana generally trashing sets. Long live punk rock! DGC, release this on DVD!