Category Archives: Trailer

DVD REVIEW: L7 Pretend We’re Dead

31-ogThere’s gotta be a better way to describe the rawness of the unrefined rock & roll that rose to popularity in the 1990s than ‘grunge’. At any rate, L7 was an absolute force to be reckoned with back in those days. Their breakthrough cut ‘Pretend We’re Dead’ was an anthem of subversion, revolution, sex, Generation X’s subversive revolution of the sexes. It’s one of those songs that’re delivered with a simple superficiality cloaking an inner profundity. The song has real staying power to the extent that it’s just as sonically effective in 2017 as it was in 1992 which is pretty phenomenal, albeit somewhat anomalous, just because they produced dozens of equally strong and affecting songs over the span of their five album career.

Like the band itself, ‘Pretend We’re Dead’ has an overall presentation that’s comparatively unorthodox in that it doesn’t necessarily abide by a typical formulaic documentary arrangement, though the story is still told chronologically. Comprised almost completely of archive material—early gigs, travels, recording sessions, extensive touring, interviews, intermittent general time-killing fuck-aroundery—the visual story is told through 10+ years worth accrued video and film footage, much of which has never been seen before now.

Rather than telling the tale via oral narration, the band members engage the audience with pertinent commentary as the film plays through. As the band’s history is retraced, they sometimes delve into deep, and often candid, admissions and discussions. Suzi Gardner’s severed ear, Donita Sparks’ live television bush, the infamous tampon matter; they gladly recount the mishaps and controversies. On the flip side, the’ve included the moments that recall the disillusionment, misfortune, even tragedy during the chaotic whirlwind of a ride.

L7_Mary ScanlonOther than clips and footage, the individual band members don’t really make any appearances in the film, though many of their peers—including Alison Wolfe, Shirley Manson, Alison Roberts Krist Novocelic, Valerie Agnew—show up throughout. The first significant sighting of contemporary L7 comes in the form of recent festival performance footage at the tail end of the movie, which works surprisingly well because it’s almost like an ultimate reveal for the curious anticipation some people might build during the film, to see how the band sounds and appears today. After the dust has settled, ‘Pretend We’re Dead’ is a well-crafted affair that plays as a reverent ode to a band that refused to be labeled or characterized, while insisting on being seen, heard, and felt (even smelled).

Order ‘Pretend We’re Dead’ here

Why You Should Buy The DVD
For those people who need more than just a great movie, you’re in luck. As always, a DVD’s extras usually always make a great argument. With ‘Pretend We’re Dead’ you get the DVD and Blu-ray versions, which worked beautifully for me. Inside the case is an extra thick booklet full of photographs laid out in full color that goes on for 12 pages. The added performance footage is great and expounds on their legend as a life force of nature. And then there’s the movie; a second film. ‘The Beauty Process’s is a second feature that turns out to be a fantastic cheeky extra feature mockumentary that’s directed by Krist Novocelic; the same Krist Novocelic that played bass in an L7 buddy-band called Nirvana.

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PLASMATICS LIVE! Rod Swenson’s Lost Tapes: 1978 – 1981

MVD9695DAs the essential founder of the Plasmatics, from then absolute beginning Rod Swenson was like the silent member of the Plasmatics, always just off to the side. Over the years he directed all of their conceptual art videos and filmed their shows. Over time things were shuffled and loads of footage was lost in the grand mix. Literally decades later, while Rod was shifting some Plasmatics/Wendy O. Williams materials in storage the lot of the footage was found. At first, the integrity of the tapes were in question because of natural age degradation, though they proved to be salvageable and we’re successfully restored. Fast forward to the spring of 2017, along with MVD, Rod has compiled and unleashed a copious collection of surprisingly amazing footage of a few different performances during the band’s early years.

Like the band itself, the trajectory of the material is linear and straightforward. All told, there are 16 tracks total, taken from seven different appearances between 1978 and 1981. All of the songs come from Plasmatics’ early releases; ‘Meet the Plasmatics’, ‘New Hope for the Wretched’, ‘Beyond the Valley of 1984’, ‘Metal Priestess’.

Because of the multi angle perspectives and great relative sound quality, the footage from ‘Plasmatics LIVE!’ appears to be shot and edited professionally. The first two tracks–“Want You (Baby)” and “Tight Black Pants”–are taken from two different performances at CBGB; one in June 1978 and one July 1979, respectively. As the DVD plays through, you have some pretty far out performances of songs like “Sometimes I Feel It,” “Squirm,” “Butcher Baby,” “Living Dead,” “Fast Food Service,” “Sex Junkie,” “Black Leather Monster,” the list goes on and the performances are real classics. And speaking of classics, there’s a ‘bonus’ clip added to the end of the disc of the band slamming out “Monkey Suit” in New Jersey at Summertime Park from 1980.

Since the DVD essentially runs in chronological order, it shows development of their visual aesthetic over one year’s time. It also means that you see how their popularity continued to increase by their steady venue graduation: CBGB, the Calderone Theater, Bond’s Casino, Perkins Place, Dr. Pepper Festival. Early evolutions of the Plasmatics’ legendarily destructive stage shows are caught taking their shapes.

Rod Swenson’s footage immortalizes the early chaotic years of the Plasmatics’ brilliant legacy. ‘Plasmatics LIVE!’ serves as an exceptional document of band’s iconic rawness, sonic force, and its ultimate importance to the generations the followed. Any rock & roll fan worth their salt knows the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ that pertains to the Plasmatics’ legendary status in rock & roll history. ‘Plasmatics LIVE!’ tears a hole in time and looks back at the band’s beginnings to see how they did it.

You can grab a copy of this DVD from MVD, now.