January 12, 2012

Do you like this?

Music was my first love.  I’ve always loved movies, but I was in college before I ever thought about them critically.  But from very early, I was immersed in music through the church and FM country.  My parents never really exposed me to rock music, seeing rock musicians as subversives bent on enticing me into a lifestyle that would escort me directly to the gates of hell.  My life changed in high school, however, when we finally got cable television.  While Comedy Central introduced me to wit and satire and Cinemax introduced me to onscreen nudity, VH1 introduced me to Rock and Roll.  I absorbed Behind the Music documentaries and Storytellers concerts.  I watched loved Pop Up Video, not for the jokes, but for a chance to listen to older music that had passed me by.  I was quickly becoming a scholar in American pop music history.  The rate that I absorbed names, dates, and facts was staggering.  It was the only subject that ever came so naturally.  Imagine my surprise, then, when a few weeks ago I discovered an influential band that had flown completely under my radar.  While attending the film club Mise En Scenesters screening of a holiday film about an evil Santa, I learned their next film was going to be a documentary called Color Me Obsessed, about The Replacements.  This is a band that had an influence on artists ranging from Green Day to They Might Be Giants to the Decemberists.  They were the beginning of the alternative movement, and somehow, I had missed them entirely.  

    Color Me Obsessed is a film by Gorman Bechard that examines a rock band from the perspective of the fans.  According to Chris Dortch, Mise En Scenesters founder and Replacements fan, the filmmaker “strings the film together like an oral history.”  “Maybe the stories we here are true,” Chis says, “maybe half true, maybe total BS, but no matter what they are we get a great sense of not only the importance of  the band, but the impact they have on their fans.   It's such a fun film that’s…also a great place to start for folks who might not have discovered The Replacements yet.”  Even more impressive is the exclusive nature of this screening.  According to Chris, Chattanooga is hosting one of the only screenings in the southeastern part of the country.  Chris credits Mise En Scenester club member Karla Walker Evans with bringing it here.  “This film had been on our radar and was on our list of films we hoped to program but it was Karla who initially got in touch with Gorman … and appealed to him to let us do a Chattanooga screening,” Chris says.  “I think he realized pretty quickly that we were "pure of heart" and that both the club and all our screenings are total labors of love.”  

    If you are like me and mostly uninitiated with the Replacements, I would describe their sound as being on the edge of chaotic, with a strong sense of melody and acerbic wit.  I spent several hours listening to their albums in order to prepare myself for the documentary.  There is quite a back catalogue to go through, excluding any bootlegs and concert footage, a good sign for anyone discovering new music.  What I liked most about their music is how subtly controlled they are.  They drive their songs right up to the edge of anarchy.  It takes talent to walk that line and I loved the raw nature of the recordings.  They embrace their mistakes as part of the song, which is a nice departure from the overproduction common in the music industry today.   If I had to guess, the fans reacted to the music because they felt that they were witnessing the spontaneous creation of music, not the practiced tones of a well oiled machine.  Those types of bands are the best live.


January 12, 2012

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