CBGB (2013)



Complete and utter shit.  I had already read the reviews and seen the trailer so I wasn’t surprised that this movie was going to suck.  I just watched it to see how bad it stunk and I was not  disappointed.  It did not even come close to rising above the absolute wretchedness which I had expected.  What’s sad is that CHEETAH CHROME WAS INVOLVED!!!  It’s mind boggling to me that a former participant on the CBGB scene could be involved in such a piss poor travesty and allow himself to be portrayed as a complete buffoon.  Chrome is a smart dude!  He’s well spoken and reads a lot and certainly must have been aware of how the actor portrayed him as a completely moronic thug.

But let me start from the beginning.  I wasn’t there.  I didn’t witness the first ever Ramones performance where each member played a different song, angrily stormed offstage and came back to play “Blitzkrieg Bop”; one of those legendary performances where the people in attendance had no idea that they were witnessing history being made.  But I’ve read Please Kill Me along with a ton of other literature on this topic and I’ve seen plenty of live footage from the era and, for chrissakes, I listen to all of these bands!!!

CBGB the movie is total VH1-style, biopic nonsense.  A few key scenes were underlined and recreated as stylistically bankrupt as possible (unless you consider crude comic book panel transitions a “style”).  But what do you expect from a film made by the same guy who directed Houseguest? A clever, post-modern docu-drama in the style of 24 Hour Party People?!!!!!

Like I said, I read Please Kill Me so I knew exactly what scenes they were recreating; the aforementioned inauspicious inaugural Ramones performance, Stiv Bators from the Dead Boys receiving oral sex onstage, Legs McNeil, John Holmstrom and Mary Harron interviewing Lou Reed for the first issue of Punk and Johnny Blitz’s stabbing among others.

And there you have it; the key stories behind the CBGB club excepting early performances from a bunch of other bands that were left out for practical reasons (I understand there might not have been room for Devo, the Cramps, the Misfits or the Damned but where the hell are Johnny Thunders and Heartbreakers or the Dictators in all of this?)… but the execution is a complete and utter joke.  The only one that actually, kind of works is the Talking Heads one.  They actually do look like the early Talking Heads but that only lasts for a couple minutes.  The Ramones in the movie are completely laughable.  Joey, who most considered typically cool, sounds like Woody Allen!!!  He sounds like a neurotic, New York Jew and not like a too-cool-for-school rock ‘n’ roll guy.  Apparently Linda Ramone, wife to deceased Ramones guitarist Johnny Ramone, approved one Ramones song to be in the movie but… instead, for some reason, they use a Joey Ramone solo recording.

The rest of the performances stink; actors that kinda sorta resemble Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, the Dead Boys (pre-Jeff Magnum who, for some reason, never appears in the movie(?!)), Television (with a pudgie Richard Hell(?!)) and the Police (who inexplicably “save” the club at the end (?!)) poorly mime to studio recordings of some of the greatest songs ever written.  The movie is also full of blatant, easily avoidable mistakes; there were stickers all over the wall for bands who hadn’t even played there yet, Patti Smith performs “Because the Night” two years before it even came out and basically the Dead Boys’ entire story arc is a complete insult to the group, which I’ll save for the next paragraph.

I’m surprised Cheetah Chrome says anything positive about the movie since the Dead Boys are treated like Hilly Kristal’s big mistake.  The movie only shows the Dead Boys’ public persona as a group of Midwest, white trash thugs where, in actuality, they were smart, charming and polite people!  The actor who plays Stiv looks like Parry Farrel and does a bunch of stupid, overly-exaggerated “punk” poses and the Cheetah character keeps making nimrod, little kid, “nyeah, nyeah” faces while looking completely incapable of holding a guitar.  If you watch any Dead Boys TV performances, it’s obvious they’re tight musicians who have quite a bit of charisma onstage.  None of this is shown in the movie.

They do show the onstage blowjob and Cheetah Chrome shows Young, Loud and Snotty producer Genya Raven his pubes.  This is important stuff, ya know.  And they do show people shooting dope in the CBGB bathroom and guys giving each other head, which did happen, I guess.  And they do show some dramatic scenes between Hilly (Allen Rickman) and his daughter Lisa (Ashley Greene) and how Hilly can’t handle money and was involved with some shady bikers and some other vaguely historical shit or something.  But who cares?  There is so much awesome early footage available of every single one of these performers on youtube that the only reason to watch this is to see how much of it they get wrong.  Oh and the guy who played Iggy Pop is too tall.

But, if you want to see for yourself, here it is on youtube.  Save yourself a trip to the theater or DVD rental and watch it here while you can:

Iggy and the Stooges – Ready to Die


ImageImageImage(out of 5)

It’s all relative I suppose and you don’t need me to tell you that I like the new Stooges album because you can just go on youtube and listen to the whole thing for free.  But, hey, I just want to talk about the Stooges even though I very clearly said I wasn’t going to do that in my introduction essay thingy.  The Stooges are built into the DNA of my music taste.  If you don’t own The Stooges, Funhouse, Raw Power and the two to three albums worth of songs on unofficial releases like Open Up and Bleed, then you and I do not share the same world view and we should probably not run into each other on the street.

The Stooges brief career ended in 1974.  Several of Ig’s former band mates played on a few of his solo albums but it was made pretty clear a reunion wasn’t going to happen; especially after the insulting liner notes on the 1997 Raw Power CD reissue.  To quote – regarding the Asheton bros. – “those guys couldn’t organize a home aquarium without me.”  Ouch!  But somehow, in 2002, the Stooges were back!  Iggy was joined by Ron Asheton on guitar, Scott Asheton on drums, Minutmen/Firehouse bassist Mike Watt and even Steve McKaye on sax.  They did four songs for Iggy’s 2003 album Skull Ring.  Then they put out their poorly received “come back” album, The Weirdness in 2007.  Then, in 2009, Ron Asheton passed away.  Well, who else should take his spot than the guy who did so way back in 1972?  So, even though he hadn’t held a guitar in three decades, James Williamson rejoined and here we are, with a new Stooges album.  Only now it’s Iggy and the Stooges but, we know what’s up.

It’s good!  I  don’t think people were expecting to be blown away.  But I’m enjoying Ready to Die a lot more than I did The Weirdness (although, to be fair, I might have to just go back and listen to that one since it’s been six years).  First of all let’s make one thing clear.  Ron Asheton was the man!  His forceful, primitive guitar playing is the reason why punk rock exists.  But James Williamson is a stronger player.  That means a world of difference in 2013.  The Weirdness is full of basic, not too interesting garage rock riffs and we need some new tricks to tides us over!  I’m not saying this new album is particularly original.  All I’m saying is that Williamson just plays better melodies and more creative riffs.

It’s a garagey/punky hard rock album!  They aren’t breaking new ground and don’t try to.  Instead it’s just rock ‘n’ roll.  Um, lessee… I wouldn’t call the album particularly diverse but there a few different things going on here.  Williamson plays Stonesy melodies but, just like on Raw Power, his tone and approach are meaner and dirtier than Richards.  But this, in no way, has the same anger, fire and vitriol of Raw Power so don’t think it does just because I made a comparison to it.  I bitched on facebook about how I want the “I’m a streetwalkin’ cheetah with a heart full of NAPALM!!!” Iggy not this modern, crooning Iggy.  But, how can I demand such a thing from a 67 year old man?  The album scores on the fact that they know what they’re good at yet don’t make active efforts to copy the past.

Most of these songs are energetic rockers in which Iggy does what Iggy does; he makes no bones about his love for “those double Ds” – which is funny because I always pictured Iggy as an ass man who loves huge amazons but whatever – talks about having a shitty job and being sick of it and a bunch of other hilariously blunt admissions.  But the rockin’ tone is broken up with a trio of bittersweet, acoustic numbers – the strongest being album closer “The Departed”, which aside from incorporating the “I Wanna Be Your Dog” riff on acoustic guitar is just a really beautiful song about their dead friend.

Some of the songs also have sax and piano on them so that adds some dimension.  I’m sorry if this review isn’t the most in depth thing but I really don’t know what else to say about the album.  It has ten songs in 35 minutes.  Some of the song names are “Sex & Money”, “Dirty Deal”, “Unfriendly World” and “Gun”, so you know, they try to keep things grounded but not get TOO negative.  After all, they’re old and lived long lives and have had plenty of time to be angry at the world.  I dunno, whatever, it’s good.