Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Delusions of Grandeur make for Great Documentaries

The other day, I finally watched a documentary I had heard so much about for years. It was "DiG!", which chronicles the careers of two bands:

The Brian Jonestown Massacre

and the Dandy Warhols.

These two bands are drastically different in style, as BJM is more folksy blues rock whereas Dandy Warhols' output is generally more accessible and radio-friendly. I had heard of Dandy Warhols before watching this movie, but hadn't really listened to them extensively at all. Some of their tunes have been used in TV commercials and as theme songs to some shows, but in all, I hadn' t ever really listened to them. Both of them collected some major-label interest in the late 1990s, and "DiG!" chronicles the two bands during that time. They developed a rather fierce rivalry (well, mainly between the Dandy's singer Courtney Taylor and BJM's mastermind Anton Newcombe). They even mention once how it was almost as if they were trying to ignite a US version of the Blur/Oasis rivalry that overtook London in the mid 1990s. While the 'feud' between BJM and the Dandy Warhols never quite created anything near that much fuss in the US, the documentary is a fascinating look into the experiences of two different bands who both received attention in the mid to late 1990s.

One thing is made apparent while watching this film: Anton Newcombe is an absolute psycho. Not only is he convinced that he single-handedly helped bring about a musical revolution, but he is convinced that he is the best thing since Jesus. BJM has gone through about 150 members (or so it seems) since the group started, and only Newcombe has remained there the entire time. That is because he is absolutely impossible to work with.

There is footage in the doc from a show at the Viper Room in which Newcombe gets in a fight with his guitarist after he plays a note wrong: Newcombe flips out, and starts kicking him onstage. The chaos quickly becomes an all-out brawl between the entire band, which, needless to say, ends the set early. There are other instances in the doc where Newcombe does this at other shows, including when he kicks a heckler in the head at the Knitting Factory and gets arrested.

Juxtaposed with all this madness and dysfunction is the tale of the Dandy Warhols, who get signed to Capitol Records and fail to sell millions of records in the States. Overseas, though, they become huge, headlining the Reading Festival and becoming very successful. While the band still to this day hasn't really received the attention it has overseas, they are still around and just released a new album.

BJM, on the other hand, has become a band with a huge cult following, and will be at Coachella next month. It will be very interesting to see, and I for one cannot wait to see their performance. A friend just saw them last week opening for Primal Scream and he said Matt Hollywood (guitar) and Joel Gion ("percussion", which just means banging around a tambourine) are back in the band, and they are the ones featured prominently in "DiG!". Hollywood, for one, quits and re-joins the band a few times, I think.

This blog was a long-winded description of a marvelous documentary. BJM is a really interesting band, and Anton Newcome, while a gifted musician, is eccentric to the point of being one of the most self-destructive and unique people I have ever seen in music.

Watch this documentary if you haven't yet.

1 comment:

09 said...

And of course, this is all your opinion.