Producer: Derek O’Brien
Band: Eric Melvin (NOFX), Greg Hetson (Bad Religion, Circle Jerks), Steve Soto (Agent Orange, Adolescents), Derek O’Brien (Adolescents, Social Distortion)
Release Date: October 28, 2008
People come to Punk Rock Karaoke to be the star of the show. And they are.
Since I go to school in the absolute middle of nowhere, I feel like I understand what the Ramones were feeling when they wrote “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue”. Young, punk, bored, I just wanna have somethin to do. That’s why people like me need to keep our eyes open for items like this, Punk Rock Karaoke, which may enhance a drunken night out with the guys. I mean, just look at the title. How can this not be entertaining at the very least?
There’s actually a history behind Punk Rock Karaoke that the DVD is based on. In 1996, Bad Religion’s Greg Hetson and some friends started a regular live band karaoke night at Vida Restaurant in Hollywood, and all sorts of punk rockers came by on a regular basis. Any average Joe could grab the mic and a little book of lyrics and scream, with a band of professionals beneath him. Since we haven’t all been able to share the experience, the DVD brings it right to our living/dorm rooms, and presto, that’s 90 minutes of doing something!
Punk Rock Karaoke is a CD/DVD package, and the CD is a collection of already karaoke-d songs with frontmen from other punk groups, such as Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Alkaline Trio, Pennywise, and even Flogging Molly. While this probably sounds like the most throwaway piece of the package, I actually found it pretty interesting to hear the voice of one group that I love on top of the music from another group that I love. Circle Jerks’ “Back Up Against the Wall” fronted by Pennywise’s Jim Lindberg is a great example, and the band sounds awesome – especially at the end when the tempo gets completely out of control. Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba sounds pretty out of place taking on Black Flag’s “Gimme Gimme Gimme”, but that’s sort of the point. As for replay value, this stuff ranks high above the actual karaoke videos, because honestly how many times are you going to do these 10 songs? Don’t you have Rock Band yet?
In the bonus feature sections, there are a few live karaoke versions (meaning, you watch random people sing songs live) including a couple Black Flag tracks and Dead Kennedys’ “California Uber Alles”. If you even watch this once, you’re pretty much guaranteed to never watch it again. Don’t get me wrong, it would totally kick ass to be there, but watching it and doing it are two totally separate things. As with pretty much every DVD I own, the so-called Bonus Features are nothing more than padding; consider the completely pointless “Welcome to Punk Rock Karaoke”, which is essentially, as you may have guessed, the words “Welcome to Punk Rock Karoke” repeated over and over.
For the most part Punk Rock Karaoke is a pretty hilarious idea, but it’s not necessarily worth $20. You might as well just turn on your Itunes and sing along, which would cost you nothing more than the price of the songs you already owned. I’ll come back most often to the vocalist renditions on the CD, but even that’s not worth the money. The best thing you could do is find somebody who already has it and borrow it.
Director: Don Letts
Writers: Don Letts
Release Date: 1978/2008 (USA)
Originally released 30 years ago right as the punk thing was just starting to take off, The Punk Rock Movie is a paradoxical concept when you consider that a movement this antisocial would under no circumstances allow itself to be filmed – I mean, if you were to go by the Punk Rock Rulebook. Punk DJ Don Letts was the guy who infiltrated that blanket of punker isolation, filming a bunch of groups with a super 8 camera at the exclusively punk club he owned in London, The Roxy.
There are a few reasons why Letts’ project worked. First of all, groups like the Sex Pistols obviously loved attention, even if they claimed not to. Second, there’s basically no dialogue or actual interviewing to be found in this movie. It’s more or less a series of song performances plopped down next to each other and juxtaposed with some random scenes of kids distantly talking to one another. The press release that came with the movie praised it as “stripped down and raw”, and I won’t argue against those descriptions, but the problem is in fact that the filming is too gritty for my 2008 senses to take in.
Besides the fact that the film overlooks Crass, those maniacal anti-musicians who were banned from The Roxy around the time The Punk Rock Movie was being filmed, it’s incredible who actually did make the cut. The roster includes bands you wouldn’t think to mention in a historical punk discussion: Slaughter and the Dogs, Subway Sect, Alternative TV, Wayne Country, etc. And sure, you could argue that while the punk movement was happening, you’d never know which ones would last since they were all set on self-destruction (particularly in Britain), but that doesn’t change the fact that on the Relevance Meter, most of this movie fails to chart.
As far as capturing punkers shooting heroin in a bathroom stall and carving shit into their stomachs, bravo. You don’t see that on film too much. But musically, it’s a little less exciting than that. Every performance is dominated by that canny, really loud kind of silence that you get in crappier YouTube videos, where it sounds like a vacuum cleaner is cleaning the space right by the microphone. I had the volume way cranked up so that when I put on music afterwards, I blew my ear drums. You’d think the crappy sound would work since it’s a film about bands who don’t care too much about how they sound, but you’d be wrong. This shit requires more attention than your average punk rocker is willing to spare.
There aren’t really any interviews in the film, just a bunch of fly-on-the-wall observations like Radiohead’s Meeting People is Easy. During these little segues, sound isn’t as much of an issue because there’s no music to be not hearing. Also, the songs you aren’t hearing get a little repetitive by the end. You’ll get pretty sick of “White Riot” by the Clash, which is the menu music and shows up at least twice in the film. And the super Sex Pistols overkill at the end of the movie – maybe 5 or 6 songs in a row – is at least interesting, but really makes you question how this qualifies as a ‘movie’.
As for special features, there’s just one Johnny Rotten interview, in which he clarifies that he hates the term ‘punk rock’ because it’s cliché (which totally surprised me.) Honestly, this single interview is probably better than the entire film, because for one thing you can hear what’s going on. Plus, there’s more insight in the questions and answers. When asked for his opinion on Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, Rotten answers, “What, do you want me to be sick on camera?”