The Other F Word (Oscilloscope)
In Anthony Burgess' novel "A Clockwork Orange," the violent protagonist, Alex, has a much different ending than in the probably more-widely experienced film. In the notorious 21st chapter -- which wasn't even available in the U.S. for about 20 years after the book was released and which the film ignored -- the wild boy does something unexpected. He grows up.
In the sweet and brutally honest film "The Other F Word," any number of possible Alexes are presented for us to get to know. Their common link? They are all punk rock dads, but not only that -- they all come from varying degrees of dysfunctional nightmares far too common in the childhood of my generation, the kind of home lives that victimize you, push you into the position of self-destruction and blame you for what's been done to you.
The other thing they have in common is that they all moved past what had been laid out for them and made their own lives, largely through the experience of being dedicated parents.
The main focus of the film is on Jim Lindberg, lead singer for Pennywise for the last 20 years who is facing his own parenting demons -- absence. He didn't plan to make a career of being in a punk band, but it happened and, like any father looking to provide for his family, he goes with the opportunity. But now it's taken over his life, especially given the economic realities of the music business in the
Lindberg's struggle is shared with plenty of other dads featured in the film, including Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tim McIlrath from Rise Against the Machine, Ron Reyes from Black Flag, Tony Adolescent from The Adolescents, Lars Frederickson from Rancid, and others. But there is also the larger question -- how did they move from rebelling against the system, sometimes violently, to being as much a part of it as any other family?
Director Andrea Blaugrund Nevins traces this journey and, more importantly, demonstrates how a generation of misfits was able to take all their parents' mistakes and use them as a primer for what to do when you find yourself with kids. It becomes the ultimate revenge, in a way, turning out to be a model citizen with great children.
One great strength of Nevins' film is that any walls between the realm of disreputable bohemian kids and the rest of the world is torn down in the name of unity -- revelation to the world, these guys aren't much different from any other dads, and you don't have to necessarily be a punk, ex or current, to see yourself and your friends in their stories. In an era where the popular culture is devoted to the portrayal of the man-child, it's refreshing to see a portrait of those who pushed back the mainstream as the grown-ups in the room. These guys are happy to let go of their adolescence and be the grown-up. They're happy to center their life around their kids. They're happy to channel their energy into changing the world not through song, but through parenting.
And that may be the greatest revelation in this film -- parenting can be as much an act of revolutionary creativity as any artwork. As Lindberg muses, it may be the most valid way to change the world. "The Other F Word" is a touching celebration of the guys with rough edges who wanted to change the world, and then grew up and figured out how to actually do it.
-- John Seven
The Melvins -- Freak Puke (Ipecac)
What's your preference in the bands you hold dear? Would you rather they agonize over each release -- spending 5, 6, 7 years and exorbitant studio time working on songs, aspiring to "perfection"? Whatever that is ...
Or, do you gravitate to groups who, like working folks, hit the studio every year, year-and-a-half, and hammer out new stuff in a matter of days, creating something of an ongoing experience of who they are as people, as a band and as musicians?
I betrayed my leaning, but the distinction can't be overstated. Pretension characterizes the former sort, and it runs rampant on their inevitably belated product. Fraught with self-important peacockery, the sound strikes me as bloated and boring. It's the Radioheads, the Talk Talks, the Arcade Fires, the Flaming Lips, and other similarly acclaimed and detestable acts of the world. It's contrary to the very spirit of rock music and just about the least punk thing I can think of. Bachelorette parties, skinny jeans, and promoting one's new record through Starbucks may be less punk (I'm looking at you on that last bit, Sonic Youth).
The Melvins are exactly the opposite. They bring a heavy-hitting, wisecracking style completely their own, a style that's proven to be one of the most influential in American rock music. Entire musical sub-genres -- good ones -- exist because of the Melvins. I don't know a single respectable metal act that don't worship these guys -- fitting, because the Melvins rescued metal from ever-increasing lameness back in the late 80s. The fact that they've never taken themselves seriously and have been slaying listeners and audiences for near 30 years now, may be the most important thing here. Buzz Osbourne's guitar is next.
Freak Puke, the new jam, is billed as a "lighter" Melvins fare -- Coady Willis of Big Business is out and with him the dueling drummer approach (that's right, the Melvins have worked two drummers since 2006), swapped for Trevor Dunn on stand-up bass. This provides the typical change in the textbook Melvins sound featured on each of the band's successive releases, and makes for an interesting template. The bass is stellar throughout -- lively, adding significant bounce, its effect amplified by uneasy strings and psychedelic atmospherics.
"Mr. Rip Off," the opener, particularly wins in this regard. It's a lounge-y shuffle, complete with jazz bass, symbol chimes, guitar left free to meander, and Buzz slurring nonchalantly about having his "head against the wall." Buzz, nearing 50, cool as ever.
And the riffs follow, lordy. Jump to "A Growing Disgust" and you have the takeaway of the bunch. It's Melvins of the highest order, breaking out their best riff since 2006: an escalating bridge that stops dead at a drone before kicking back up from the bottom. Vocal delivery, lyrics ("another beast," "not friendly," "pavement"), bass, etc. -- it's perfect. The next track, a classic romp titled "Leon vs. The Revolution," isn't far behind.
The rest of the disk follows from there, hitting an apex with a bitching cover of McCartney and the Wings' "Let Me Roll It" (possibly their best in a long line of great covers -- the Melvins, the Wings -- who knew?) and some cool, psyche stuff.
Listen to the Melvins. Love them. I do. My teenage years would've been a lot less cool without great records like Bullhead, Houdini, Lysol, and Eggnog on my shelf. You can also catch them on the recently announced 50-states-in-50-days tour, spanning the months of September and October. Thirty years on and they still haven't sucked, not even once. Is there another American band you can say that about?
-- Phil Demers