Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Somebody has done a great public service and put the entire Another State Of Mind film up on Youtube for your viewing. I watched it last night, for the first time in 28 years(!), and the memories all came flooding back. Somehow or other, a beta video version of the film was available for rent in The Suburb Where Nothing Ever Happens, North Balwyn, back in 1984, and my brother and I decided on a whim to give it a shot. It'd be nice to rewrite history and have you all thinking that I was a died-in-the-wool punker at the age of 12, but I'll be honest: I had not heard of a single band in the film, and my idea of punk rock at the time was post-Levene/Wobble-period PiL and the Sex Pistols' "Friggin' In The Riggin'" (a track custom-made for impressionable 12-year-olds). I had a long way to go. My musical diet at the time consisted mainly of English fops in pirate shirts; my conversion would come about the next year. But still, I must've watched the film a dozen times, as I somehow managed to recall just about every single scene whilst viewing just 24 hours ago.
The movie follows two ne'er-do-well punk rock bands of the day, Youth Brigade and Social Distortion, and their semi-disastrous summer tour of the US in 1982. With cash earned from benefit shows, the Youth Brigade's Stern brothers - Shawn, Mark and Adam - purchase a beat-up old school bus and decide to take their positive message to The Kids. Strangely enough, they chose one of the most un-positive bands of the day to come on board w/ them - SD appear(ed) to be a band made up of an alcoholic and a gaggle of poseurs and beaver hounds - and a series of debacles ensue. It's not that the tour was a total flop - they made it to DC before it all fell apart and managed to play at least a handful of semi-successful shows along the way - although in between, it's in-fighting, rip-off promoters, poor attendances, police and redneck harrassment and a bus w/ a serious habit of breaking down. Joe Carducci wrote about the film in Rock & The Pop Narcotic, remarking that Ian MacKaye makes the only intelligent remarks in the whole movie, and also noting that the film documents the division between what he saw as the "serious" bands willing to tour hard and play their music like they mean it, and those who were merely along for the ride. I don't totally agree w/ this assessment. After all, SD, despite their woeful music and love of make-up, were a committed band (at least Mike Ness was), and that's ignoring the fact that their entire schtick was a shitawful concoction of B-grade Clashisms (a C-grade band at that), SoCal melodic punk and bad-boy R & R cliches. And as for Youth Brigade, you bet they were committed, and boy, did they like telling you about it. If anything, Another State... (ASOM) really shows where the rot of HC started to set in, as the entire "movement" became such a yawn-o-rama pedestal for blowhards to mouth off about everything wrong in society. Hell, I should know, I was one of those blowhards! And saying all this, I ain't knocking the participants - they seem like nice enough fellows who were truly kicking against the pricks back in the day - but their relentless earnestness (and various other talking heads in the film) had me rolling my eyes just about every time they opened their collective mouth.
Still, ASOM is a film I can wholeheartedly recommend. It'd be a whole lot better if it actually featured two bands I ever cared about, of course (Youth Brigade rate as merely boring, as opposed to terrible), but it captures the spirit of the day perfectly, and you do get to witness a few talking heads who occasionally have something interesting to say. Keith Morris pops up and says nothing particularly profound, though I love that Californ-aye-an drawl of his in just about any context, and you get a glimpse of the Circle Jerks at the time, playing to a large crowd of boofheads slamming their way to oblivion. Hot. There's also a segment filmed at Dischord House in DC, w/ a young Ian MacKaye (who sounds like his voice is shot from too much screaming) waxing lyrical on the straight edge philosophy, serving ice cream at Haagen-Dazs, as well as a cool clip of the short-lived 5-piece line-up of Minor Threat tearing it up. There's also some rather depressing footage of some seriously messed-up street punks in French Canada, and the priceless footage of a lesson in slam dancing. The scenes of Mike Ness applying his make-up before a show, then flailing around on stage dressed like a goddamn mummy had me hooting out audibly. I heard he played recently w/ Bruce Springsteen. I guess he got the last laugh. Or maybe we all did. Regardless, Another State Of Mind is a good way of chewing up 90-odd minutes of your life, and it'll take you back to a time when earnestness, as opposed to irony, was the mindset of America's disaffected youth.