Movie Breakdown: A Band Called Death (Noah)

May 22, 2013


People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing lead us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

When Drag City released Death’s cobbled together album For The Whole World To See it was a revelation in terms of early punk. Nothing that sounded like this had really been discovered and the fact that it was blasting out of the amps of a trio of black brothers from Detroit made it all the more exciting. A documentary chronicling the history of an album this awesome is sure to be awesome just because of its proximity to so much awesomeness. Right?

The Reality:

Turns out that sometimes a good album comes from a really simple, pretty boring story. In the 70s, three brothers from a slightly musical family decided that they wanted to make music. One of the brothers was a bit of a savant, started blasting some pretty weird shit, and voila a band popped out. Unfortunately that band was called Death and no one in their right mind wanted to attempt to change the face of music with a punk trio, before the word even existed, from Detroit. Bad things happen, the music disappears, someone finds the music, the band gets big again, blah blah blah blah. It’s a great story, a story that’s defined a million musical rediscoveries (especially as of late) and one that seemingly every musical documentary in the last five years has hit upon. I’m not saying that A Band Called Death isn’t a heartfelt tale of three dudes making good on their abilities as musicians (though I can’t say that ending up as a reggae band counts as “making good”…), but it’s really just that. Call this film a victim of enormous expectations, but we’ve seen a lot at this point in the history of the music documentary and, well, I think I was just expecting to see more.

The Lesson:

Elijah Wood is, if this movie tells the truth, as musically respectful as Henry Rollins, Jello Biafra, and ?Love. Somebody close my mouth, there’s flies getting in it.

A Band Called Death is available now on VOD.


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