11 May 2017
22 December 2016
12 March 2015
Drew DeNicola, Olivia Mori
Release: 2nd March 2015
Buy: Nothing Can Hurt Me [DVD]
Nothing Can Hurt Me is a documentary of the cult band Big Star from Memphis, Tennessee. They bridged the gap between The Velvet Underground and what would later become punk rock, and more specifically the power pop and paisley underground that would come in it’s wake. It was the brainchild of two songwriters, Alex Chilton and Chris Bell.
The documentary, like the band’s fame, is a bit too late for it’s own good. The film really started filming around the time of Alex Chilton’s death and Chris Bell has been dead since the late ‘70s. Chilton also was notoriously cagey about speaking about his time in Big Star, and when him and Jody Stephens reformed the band, he admitted it was for the money many times. The film’s crucial flaw is that there is no on video interview with Chilton - there are audio interviews and some archive stuff but that’s all. Chilton, after all, wrote most of the band’s enduring songs.
It however does successfully tell the story of the band, and to some extent gets into the heads of the two songwriters, not from the outside but through the people who knew them. It’s very much a musos doc as oppose to a biography of the band; there is a lot of talk about the album’s production. I’m a massive fan of Big Star but, for the most part, couldn’t care less about the production techniques they used. This can also be said of anyone when they talk about the plus and minuses of album’s production.
Sadly there is very little footage of the band, mostly just silent footage of them in the studio. It’s a fascinating story of a band that nearly made it, but due to so many different factors didn’t quite make get there. What a different world we would live in if Big Star were as big as one of their contemporaries like Led Zeppelin. It’s very well made given the limitations they had, but if you're looking for a deeply insightful documentary into the minds of the bands’ songwriters you may come out of it disappointed.
8 October 2012
What’s the best possible way to end a band? Is there ever a ‘good’ way to end a project, musical or otherwise? These are themes that snake through the centre of Will Lovelace’s film Shut up and Play the Hits, a portrait of James Murphy and his band LCD Soundsystem as they perform their last ever concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Far from the usual infighting, drug overdoses and ubiquitous ‘musical differences’, theirs was a very planned departure from the music world, there was an announcement, a final album, a world tour and finally this – a farewell concert with a party atmosphere at the biggest stage in their home town. Then again, LCD Soundsystem were never an act to tow the lines of musical cliché. After 10 years and three landmark albums, the inventive New Yorkers depart leaving the lines between dance and rock, elctronica and punk distinctly blurred.
Seeped in sepia, Lovelace and co-director Dylan Soithern’s film flitters between footage of the concert, taking in the fervent and enthusiastic crowds, and Murphy’s life outside the band framed by a one on one interview with journalist Chuck Klosterman. It’s these candid moments that capture Murphy as a considered, thoughtful and far friendlier character than any one of his hipster imitators clogging up the swamped Brooklyn scene. Despite the incessant interruptions and exhaustive length of questions coming his way, Murphy talks eloquently about his hopes for his bands legacy (a refreshingly laid-back and inclusive approach), his take on pretension “being a pretentious child allowed me to learn a lot of cool stuff” and why he decided to call it quits – a subject he’s had to openly muse upon in every post-announcement interview on chat show sofa’s around the globe.
Heightening the focus on endings as a whole, we see Murphy in post LCD Soundsytem mode, solitarily roaming rooms and offices accompanied only by his faithful pug and coming in stark contrast to the packed, lively scenes backstage at Madison Square Garden that they come up against. What is his role now? Is he happy to turn his back on that life in favour of this new, infinitely slower paced one? Somewhat intriguingly these answers don’t come in the form of black and white answers from the horses mouth but are instead hinted upon with Murphy admitting that touring was never part of the plan anyway. Comprised of members used to a life on the road, his band came to fruition relatively late with the intention purely to make records and playing gigs very much an afterthought.
It’s to our benefit that that afterthought turned into a lived-out reality as the concert footage shows a band in full swing, top of their game and with new poignancy added to their lyrics (particularly in the epic All My Friends). The complete four hour party comes on the second and third discs of this bumper DVD package which also includes the interview in full and James Murphy trying his hand as sound recordist, turning the questions on his former manager. The overall effect is one that leaves us too wondering why this band couldn’t just keep it going for another tour, now how about a reunion?
Directed By: Will Lovelace, Dylan Southern
Cast: James Murphy, Chuck Klosterman ,Gunnar Bjerk
Buy:Shut Up And Play The Hits DVD/Blu-ray