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Jack Rabid's 2005 Top 10 Music DVDs

9 February 2006

I am continuing with my countdown of my top picks for the year 2005, with brief comments on each. Having done all the new recordings (60-41, 40-21, and 20-1) and then 40-1 for Old Recordings/Retrospectives, (40-21, 20-1), here’s my Top 10 selections for music DVDs (a new category this year, now that they’ve become so prevalent) Stay tuned for my final best-of-2005 list, of my Top 10 Singles of the year!!!

10. JOHNNY CASH – Live From Austin TX (New West)

Those inspired by JOAQUIN PHOENIX’s respectable imitation in Walk the Line to want to view the deceased real thing, are advised to seek the TV-special footage of Cash’s famed late ‘60s prison concerts (Folsom and San Quentin)—the bold shows/live LPs that cemented and catapulted his revived career, and thus climax the movie. But having seen him in New York around the time of this taping 18 years later (January 3, 1987, for the great Austin City Limits live TV series), it was clear the great man in black was still thriving and entertaining in his 50s, as a less rockin’, more adult-oriented act, and that comes through here. Don’t miss the one high-octane throwback, “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” for a glimpse of the older ‘50s/’60s firebrand.

9. DEVO – Live 1980 [DualDisc] (Music Video Distributors)

Unlike MVD’s Live in the Land of the Rising Sun; Japan 2003 DVD of a Devo overseas comeback gig, the vintage footage here is too dark and grainy, and the serviceable sound quality is barely better than bootleg. So why does one dig this DVD from the old Target Video catalog? Because it’s Devo in their prime, that’s why! They could do no wrong then—especially on the second half of this August 17, 1980 Petaluma set. That’s where, following a superb “Blockhead,” they break out the first LP Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! oldies like “Mongoloid,” “Jocko Homo” “Gut Feeling/(Slap Your Mammy),” and “Uncontrollable Urge”—from when they were a punk/new wave phenomenon instead of just new wave. This reminds they were also as much weird intellectual theater as band, too, like a singing Blue Man Group. And they were conceptual film artists, as well.

8. Various Artists – Punk Attitude (Capital Entertainment)

There are numerous flaws in this documentary. To list just the most condemning, JOHNNY ROTTEN is glaringly absent, having been the biggest story/star of the genre; and likewise, why include such a paltry few American West Coast late ‘70s notables? Just to highlight how little director DON LETTS really knew about punk rock outside his home U.K? (i.e., no WEIRDOS, AVENGERS or DILS—pishtosh!) And his attempts to link the original stuff with the tin-can thin-gruel American imitation that exists in the charts today come off as sincere but wholly unconvincing. But that said, Letts was there with his eyes open when the London portion was going down 1976-1979, serving as the reggae/dub DJ at the Roxy, even if he still shows way too much favoritism to his admittedly crucial, incredible homies THE CLASH and the less exciting/competent/great, but equally empowering THE SLITS, just like in his The Punk Movie a quarter century ago. Thus, there’s so many great quotes from so many of the originals and a lot of hot music footage here, that this remains a must for anyone into either punk rock or the history of rock ‘n’ roll in general.

7. THE SKULLS – Beyond Warped [DualDisc] (Immergent)

If you missed 2004’s Night of the Living Skulls, this is more of the same recent speedy ‘77 punk fire. The band’s revival has been a splendid opportunity to observe frontman BILLY BONES on stage, something only lucky Californians had for the most part circa 1977-1979. 28 years later, he looks wild and great, in clothes that recall the crazy unpredictability of the original punk days’ still-fresh, anything-goes fashions (in an odd-patterned jacket, loud tie, and undertaker black against his dark blonde spiky locks and dark shades, and eventually, an outrageous, too-big, flight captain hat). For a guy likely around 50, he looks 28, and his presence, unhinged movements, and over-the-top attitude is a primer/reminder of what real punk is, at any age: a near total lack of self-consciousness, of letting go completely. Hot young band he’s got, now, too.

6. GUIDED BY VOICES – The Electrifying Conclusion (Music Video Distributors)

This concert film of GBV’s farewell gig at Chicago’s wonderful Metro Club hall, New Year’s Eve 2004/5, will serve both as a sort of boozy The Last Waltz for one of the most consistently entertaining underground rock ‘n’ roll bands of the last 10 years, but also a great reminder of just how ROBERT POLLARD and mates could trot out over a few hours and knock the %$Y$Y#%# out of many great songs. And in DOUG GILLARD, Pollard had the perfect lead guitarist to realize his hottest rock dreams (which is why he lasted in the band so many years and tours). It’s been only 13 months, but we miss them, don’t we!?

5. LEATHERFACE – Boat in the Smoke (Punkervision/MVD)

Speaking of which, leave it to Sunderland, England’s Leatherface to be one of the very few groups to show us that punk rock can still be authentic, legitimate, and supremely relevant 30 years later, as they have since 1992’s stunning Mush. They’re so style-over-substance that their music sometimes overwhelms with its sheer force of heart, intelligence, passion, emotion, and simple-guy guts with no pretension, uniform, or gimmick. They’re pure, unmitigated, blasting rock ‘n’ roll with a harsh edge, sneaky subtlety and dynamics, and an odd and prized lyrical thoughtfulness. This DVD features an hour-long show at London’s Camden Underworld March 23, 2004, with a packed and wild crowd, plus another half-hour from a hometown show three years prior that doesn’t repeat any songs. FRANKIE N.W. STUBBS throws his entire being into singing and playing, as if his very bar tab depended on the intensity of his expression. And since Leatherface haven’t toured the United States in some time, you may have to repeatedly view this completely serviceable document. Throw yourself into the emotional frying pan!

4. THE RAMONES – End of the Century (Magnolia Pictures)

This fantastic documentary tells a familiar story with so much new, rich detail that it¹s like we’ve never heard it before. In a series of intercut interviews with all the principals (including all three now-dead members) and their circle of insiders and punk peers, an entire primal era of the mid- to late 1970s comes to life. The cartoon image of the band and the punk movement is rubbed away and the reality of a determined group comes into focus, as does the larger scene that shook up a moribund era but couldn¹t crack the popular consciousness. This also reveals the unvarnished truth about the deteriorating personal dynamics and politics inside the group. And it offers up a cornucopia of super-hot live footage of the always-storming band throughout its career; the 1976-1980 stuff alone explains my entire life, and that of many others, I’m sure.

3. X – Live in Los Angeles (Shout! Factory)

Having seen X a lot from 1980 to 1985, I was still amazed by how much more I liked them in 2004 at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall, and again here. With all four original members, they seem hungrier now, and even more a powerhouse in their middle ages. Plus their music seems more unique now with the passage of time, as few ever picked up on their hyper-rockabilly strain of literate punk. There’s a screaming ferocity to this performance from a recent L.A. House of Blues gig that you just can’t miss. “Los Angeles!” They had to “get out! Get out! Get Out!”

2. IGGY POP – Live San Fran 1981 (Music Video Distributors)

Another MVD presentation from the old Target Video catalog, this is the Ig at his post-STOOGES best, from 1981 in San Francisco, marking the tail end of his glorious 1975-1981 run. In fact, this even corrects the tepid production he received on his then-new LP, Party, while bringing to life such underappreciated classics as “Dum Dum Boys,” “Lust For Life,” “Some Weird Sin,” and “Bang Bang”—as well as a few Stooges torch jobs. Super hot band, too, with DAVID BOWIE axeman CARLOS ALOMAR and BLONDIE’s rhythm section in drummer CLEM BURKE and bassist GARY VALENTINE. And the Ig’s outrageous antics and singing make this absolutely unique and essential!!!! There will never be another Iggy, and here he is mad, bad, youngish, and dangerous!

1. NEW YORK DOLLS – All Dolled Up (Music Video Distributors)

Remarkable! I’d never even heard that famous rock photographer BOB GRUEN (and his wife) had ever filmed these seminal punk rock forefathers in their 1973-1974 prime once, let alone 40 hours worth!!! Distilled into this 90-minute revealing look, with tons of live and backstage footage from many, many gigs, this is the window into history those of us born in the early 1960s just barely missed out on, dang it (and everyone else born since, too), and a great chance to relive it if you were lucky enough to be there then. I’d seen all of about 10 seconds of footage of these guys on stage before, from the Midnight Special TV clip you always see. Holy cow!!! It’s like this came out of thin air!!!

 

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