The No Wave revival: blind without its roots...and attacked by kittens instead of cats
There's nothing captivating--or, at the very least, enlightening--about the No Wave movement which started in New York City's East Village/SoHo District in the mid-1970s as a non-commercial, non-melodic answer to glam rock and punk. Skittering through a brief history of the music--which includes vintage footage and new interviews with pioneers Lydia Lunch and members of Teenage Jesus, Swans, Suicide, Theoretical Girls, and '80s torch-bearers Sonic Youth--amateur auteur Scott Crary avoids overtures to nostalgia while demonstrating what was so enticing to these musicians about being completely out of the mainstream: they were free to do their own thing while (unintentionally, perhaps) cementing an art-rock off-shoot. But Crary can't wait to get up-to-date with the new bands carrying on and, unfortunately for his film, few of the 20-somethings who hit the stage can barely formulate a concise thought much less create a riff. Though based in Brooklyn, the lead singer for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs talks like a Valley Girl from Sherman Oaks. "And, um, it's like...well, when we...I mean, you know..." Lydia Lunch is correct when she says the No Wave movement has become softened through homogenization; the veteran bands were fighting the bourgeois, middle-class aesthetic, but I have no idea what is driving this new generation (the kids have the atonal rage down pat, yet show no interest in the music's history, no appreciation of the communication between audience and performer). There are one or two funny insights dropped along the way (who wouldn't want to listen to Lalo Schifrin over Black Dice?), but otherwise this documentary does the opposite of what I assume Crary was trying to accomplish: it makes the No Wavers of today look like vapid substitutes desperately in need of a thesaurus. *1/2 from ****
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