How The Hell Did I Miss This! Or The Decline Of Western Civilization Collection

declinebox2

Not an ordinary documentary(not that such a thing exists), The Decline Of Western Civilization was a focal point for controversy and youth rebelling against… well, the same thing they’ve always been rebelling against – authority. But Penelope Spheeris certainly attracted the attention of ‘the establishment’ with her vivid looks at counter culture throughout the 80’s and 90’s. Hell, in 1981 infamous LAPD police chief Daryl Gates wrote an open letter demanding theatres not show the film in his city. Of course that only solidified the first films notoriety and in essence helped it to become a cult classic.

Released on July 1st 1981, the first in the series was a look at the LA punk scene and featured Black Flag, Circle Jerks, X, Germs, Catholic Discipline and Fear. The movie poster accidently bordered on the macabre in featuring the Germs singer Darby Crash on stage with his eyes closed mere weeks after his death from a heroin overdose. The poster had been designed and printed before his death, but it certainly added to the hype surrounding the film.

The Decline of Western Civilization Part 2: The Metal Years was released in 1988 and took a close look at the excesses and contradictions found in the LA glam metal scene. While Spheeris admitted to faking a scene with Ozzy Osbourne that depicted him shaking and spilling a glass of orange juice because of alcohol withdrawal; the rest of the film came off as a horror expose about the futility and stupidity of her subject matter. While the first films youths were fighting for something, the second saw the hair metal kids fighting for fame and fortune… aka nothing in particular. Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine is on record declaring that The Metal Years was in part responsible for the fall of glam metal and the rise of thrash and grunge; hypothesizing that fans were disgusted by scenes of debauchery. In essence the film suggests that fans just couldn’t relate on any level to the real existence of these rock stars and their hangers on.

However, the final film in the trilogy, The Decline of Western Civilization: Part 3, is by far the scariest and most difficult of the films. Originally, the documentary was only released on the festival circuit and hadn’t any official release since its limited 1998 run. The movie follows homeless hardcore street punks known as ‘gutter punks’ who have ‘extreme’ anti-establishment beliefs.  Despite this, the end result is a commentary on homelessness, alcoholism, abusive parents, and broken homes. After shooting the third instalment Spheeris would become a foster parent. Part 3 went on to win awards at both the Sundance and Chicago film festivals.

Whatever it was that kept a general release from taking place has just been settled and the trilogy is out now on DVD and Blu Ray. Thankfully my birthday is in a couple weeks so I think I’ll add it to my wish list.

The Decline of Western Civilization Collection was released on June 30th.

The Hard Rock Blue Print or Aerosmith – Toys In The Attic

aerotoys2

Say what you want about Aerosmith, and I know that opinions vary wildly, but they were at one time the most important rock ‘n’ roll band in the U.S. of A. Too heavy to be power-pop, too light to be metal they were the popular bridge between the so-cal sounds of Fleetwood Mac and the raw power of Black Sabbath. The path that Aerosmith helped to create in the ‘70’s is what every glam-hair-metal band rode in on the 80’s. Furthermore, Toys In The Attic was the blueprint used by many of these bands trying to find mainstream success. A couple all out naughty rock tunes (“Walk This Way” & “Sweet Emotion”), a ballad (“You See Me Crying”) some quirky humour (“Big Ten Inch Record”), deep cuts to give a bit of depth (“Uncle Salty” & “No More No More”) and you have the recipe used by everyone from Faster Pussycat to Bon Jovi.

Of course Toys In The Attic sold close to 8 million records, so finding a copy isn’t a problem. The real issue is finding what is worth owning from a fidelity point of view. While original copies are plentiful, finding a great copy while crate digging can be hit and miss. Looking at discogs, you can see a virtual ton for under $5.00, but warning, buyer beware. This was about the time record companies began to release material on crappy vinyl. Standard was 120 gram, and some companies began to cut back to as low as the wobbly 80 gram. Inspect it first, or only buy from a reputable vendor. As for the reissue and re-mastered market, you got a couple really good options.

I don’t usually recommend CD’s, but in 1993, Columbia released a limited and re-mastered edition of Toys In The Attic on a super bit mapping 24k gold disc as part of their legacy collection. After buying it back in the 90’s, I sold my original CD copy and retired my old worn out vinyl edition. The sound from the gold CD blew them away. Still it can get a bit pricey finding one in great shape. Resellers have them listed anywhere from $30 to upwards of a $100.

aertoys1pt3341

Still, being a bit of a vinyl enthusiast I picked up a new 180 gram limited edition (5000) copy on Record Store Day 2013. This is also a newly re-mastered edition. With the two playing back to back I noted a couple of small differences. The vinyl seemed to have a much warmer sound on the bass and drums while the CD put a bit more emphasis on the vocals and guitars.

rsdaerosmith

Honestly, I’m on the fence this time. I’ll take the vinyl on a great system with headphones, but the CD sounds awesome on everything that has a decent set of speakers.

Anyway, the RSD vinyl is still widely available for under $30 for anyone who is thinking of taking that route. I have no regrets with mine.

So Bad, It’s Brilliant! Or The Darkness – Last of Our Kind

darklast

Back in the mid 80’s when the crimping iron was king and glam-rock-metal kids wore makeup in the fashion of Poison, a movie came out that was so bad it was absolutely brilliant – Maximum Overdrive. The villain was a big rig truck wearing a Green Goblin mask, the hero was Emilio Estevez, and the director was none other than the master of horror himself, Stephen King. Trucks, lawnmowers and even vending machines turned homicidal in a film King himself would admit to being done as he was “coked out of his mind.” Ultimately it was a film that stretched “suspension of disbelief” beyond any reasonable limit.

maximum-overdrive_34411

Well, I certainly can’t say what or even if The Darkness was ‘on anything’ but it certainly takes a sense of humour to enjoy this record. The Darkness always seemed to have their tongue planted firmly in cheek, but now I have my doubts. You see, I’m not quite sure if this is a band that takes itself seriously or not anymore; and I’m not sure if their intention is rock supremacy or parody; I just know that the guitar “licks” are straight from the era of Whitesnake, White Lion and vocals are over the top cliché. The big hair 80’s had music was catchy, the subjects silly and spandex was thought to be cool.

From track number one “Barbarian” the axe swings a heavy blow against… well… it swings a mighty blow, and the falsetto screams of… well… screams. “Reducing the feeble citadels to ashes and blood stain / enslaving the sweet women folk / while every man is slain” is hilarious in its “epic-ness” as a description of story rather than storytelling itself.

Things get even more… um… colossal (that sounds good) throughout the record as The Darkness take on sounds of Queen doing the soundtrack for Flash Gordon. We are told to “open up your mighty wings and fly” in that high pitch testimonial climax on “Mighty Wings.” Regardless, it has all those metal moments of high drama and sound. You can imagine waves crashing, lightning flashing, broken hearts and quests for the nature of existence.

It isn’t that The Darkness have put out a bad record, it’s just that like Maximum Overdrive it stretches the “suspension of disbelief” beyond my capacity. Do they know they have broken the forth wall down and have in essence become a musical episode of Disney’s Phineas & Ferb? Is Last Of Our Kind a parody, and if so, who is it a parody of?