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The Los Angeles punk music scene circa 1980 is the focus of this film. With Alice Bag Band, Black Flag, Catholic Discipline, Circle Jerks, Fear, Germs, and X. Written by
Rich Swenson <email@example.com>
"Get me a ****ing beer!" A hilarious, dark, pulse-racing doc
One of the major successes to The Decline of Western Civilization, filmmaker Penelope Spheeris' indie breakthrough, is that it can perhaps appeal to non-punk fans as to the hardcore ones. More importantly, it captures a moment in history before the movement became completely "market-worthy", when bands would play (or, at the least, try to play in some cases) in dank, dirty clubs to an audience that had as much self-respect as they had respect for the bands. For the fan, such as myself, there are precious interviews with some of the quasi-legends of LA's punk-scum, some dead, some still living and still hard-working in the scene.
Performances and interviews include the likes of The Circle Jerks, X, Black Flag (in the pre-Henry Rollins days), Catholic Discipline, Fear, the Alice Bag Band, and most memorable (in my opinion) being the Germs. While I knew of a few of the bands and performers in the film (The Jerks and Black Flag mostly), I had only heard rumors about lead singer (the late) Darby Crash, and from the footage in the film he seems to be one of the, if not the, epitomes of the punk movement. He doesn't take himself too seriously, he loves to drink, sometimes when he speaks it's complete gibberish, and the attitude he brings on stage is both funny and in a free-form way exhilarating. A performer like that would probably scare Steve Miller and Jackson Browne out of their skins.
Decline of Western Civilization may not turn on every non-punk fan that seeks this film out (it's hard to find on video), but it shouldn't necessarily turn them off either. Like a kind of anthropologist that's sneaked into the party, Spheeris gets the behavior of these people down pat, their motives, their likes and hatreds, and the power that was their on and off-screen personas. A few of them almost come off as normal, some don't, but they're only offensive to those who aren't too open to things. On top of that, the film is a must-see to the kinds of kids that think they're punk fans just because they listen to Good Charlotte and Blink-182: if you want to get the real scoop on the movement and genre of rock you profess to love, give the pioneers a chance. A
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