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an ode to the most rock and roll genre of film

EHave you ever played the classic rock documentary drinking game? The drummer described as “the base”? A finger. Steel guitar on the wall of a chic home studio overlooking a landscaped garden the size of Kent? One finger each. Septuagenarian in a cashmere shirt and wearing glasses inside? To pull. History of destroying an expensive car with Keith Moon, killing an unknown but promising young folk singer? Pour your glass. The bassist dies of a heroin overdose? The first to drink everything in the apartment wins.

This week sees the release of Daniel Roher’s new documentary about the called group Were once brothers, and it is a classic of the form. The history of the group has it all. Years of hard work for “overnight” success. Sparks of genius have ignited in rural isolation. Wealth, bad alcohol, worse drugs, classic cars totaled, power struggles and lifelong resentment. It’s a fascinating, turbulent, and ultimately shattering tale of fame, fortune, and tragedy, but somehow it feels as cozy and comfortable as a Make fun of the week marathon on Dave.

Why? Maybe because the trajectory of any classic rock band with enough drama in their history to make a documentary worth doing is so standardized and familiar that it works the same as any comfort cinema. gender based. Just as you are happy to watch yet another group of horny teens who have never heard of cell phone chargers being hacked to a survivor by an immortal psychopath and teleporting in a slightly different mask, there is something reassuring. watching another group of sheep. chopped hicks concoct rare magic in the dark, fight their way to instant fame, run out in three albums flat on powders and paranoia, part ways over royalty feuds, lose all their money in divorcing models and hosting full performances of their solo triple concept albums flop on top of the Sphynx, have an awkward reunion for tax reasons, then gradually die of organ failures in their early fifties. In fact, one of the main reasons we can watch successful band documentaries without bubbling with envy is knowing that if we had followed this career path ourselves, our chances of survival weren’t there. not too big to be in the documentary.

“Searching For Sugar Man” won an Oscar in 2013. Credit: Alamy

Of course, the most acclaimed rock docs are those who set out to break the rise-fall-reunion routine of legendary acts. Those who focus on the music’s gravelly undergrowth rather than its towering oak trees. 2012 In search of the sugar man won their Oscar precisely because their hero wasn’t sitting in an expensive studio remembering the jam with Bo Diddley at their Hall of Fame inauguration. The Devil and Daniel Johnson was a moving glimpse of the thin line between creativity and instability. Anvil!, for all its tapness, is a far more accurate and fascinating description of the average long-term career in music, and the depths of illusion it takes to sustain the effort, than any number of films from Led Zeppelin filled with stories that you have read a dozen times already.

The almost famous stories may be shorter about ego conflicts, excesses, and Beatles cameos, but they are more compelling for their unpredictability. Some of the most acclaimed music documentaries of recent years have brought to light faces and names that fascinate precisely because you haven’t heard of them. Legendary characters play the organ or sing monster gospel choirs right out of the field. Movies like 2008 about the studio pioneers of the 1960s Demolition team and 2013 20 feet of fame, which focused on the unknown backing vocalists for the Rolling Stones and David Bowie, brimming with fly-on-the-wall mystique, exposes the inner workings of an often cruel and ruthless industry and pays homage to enormous support and unrecognized cast, while being much more relatable than watching another millionaire sitting in front of a mixer mocking Allen Klein. The “fame is hell” tale seems a lot less human than the star-eyed chase.

Musical documentaries
‘To dig!’ focused on the rivalry between The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Credit: Alamy

This is why what you might call “Struggle Docs” are some of the most famous – movies like Wilco’s. I’m trying to break your heart from 2002, retracing the band’s troubled recording of their groundbreaking 2004 album ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’ from the Battle of Portland To dig! or Penelope Spheeris’ Decline of Western Civilization trilogy, which shed light on the abandoned, the wanderers and the degenerates – successful or not – punk and glam metal scenes of LA through the ages. This is what makes Were once brothers‘one-of-a-kind crossover – a rare example of bit players hitting big on their own, then looking helpless as success tugged at their stray flaws until it all fell apart. Just keep your glass filled for all car wrecks.

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