Vice's 'New Garage Explosion!!' flick lights up but never catches fire
New Garage Explosion!! is not a history, it's a snapshot. Trying to cover everything from genre legends MC5 to upstarts like Vivian Girls proves to be a tough task, and so the doc mostly lingers on the recent cadre of Scion-and-Vice-approved bands that have pulled in loads of attention via glowing reviews on Pitchfork or other similar music sites. It starts promisingly with images of amps and drumkits being carried through dingy venues as part of every group's pre-show load-in ritual, calling immediate attention to the DIY spirit of the movement (everyone's their own roadie). Then it smashes headfirst into a riotous performance by the late Jay Reatard, who staggers, screams, and pisses on the stage as firecrackers explode next to him. Interviews with figures like Reatard, Mick Collins (of Gories/Dirtybombs fame), Thee Oh Sees, Magic Kids, and The Black Lips range from insufferable to heartfelt, with Cullen Omori of The Smith Westerns coming off terribly and Pierced Arrows frontman Fred Cole providing one of few sincere moments as he tears up at the thought of his wife/bandmate buying him a vinyl cutting machine for his birthday. It's the veterans of garage rock who present themselves and their passions in the best light.
|Jay Reatard, RIP|
As the film trudges through the crumbling homes and crash-pads where garage rock is born, skateboards and old VHS tapes lying in corner heaps, you get a sense of just how much falls by the wayside in pursuit of pure rock vitriol (mentions about practicing all week to play for 30 to 50 people on the weekend and unfulfilling day jobs make solid impressions), but it's hard to escape the feeling like you already know these bands, their struggles, and their personal investment--it might even mirror your own. In the end, even though there are funny and sometimes emotional moments to be found in NGE!!, it's hard to unreservedly recommend spending time watching filmed soundbytes from bands that have already been the focus of so much industry hype, especially when you could be out at our very own Hexagon Bar or the Turf Club experiencing the real thing for yourself.
You can watch the entirety of New Garage Explosion!!: In Love With These Times both on YouTube and at VBS.TV.