My October 2010 film column for Maximum Rock N Roll. Originally appeared in issue 329 (330 part 1).
The title of the documentary I Need That Record! is a bit deceiving. It is not about the unquenchable desire some people have to buy records. The discussion leans more toward the subtitle The Death (Or Possible Survival) Of The Independent Record Store. The film concentrates on what is happening within the record industry as seen through the eyes of record store owners, employees and musicians. The case the film makes seems very scattered though it is next to impossible to pinpoint that one cause. Too many things contribute. Plus sometimes musicians don't really have the best understanding of things. It is a combination of corporate greed, media consolidation, big box stores, illegal downloading and the consumer. Record stores are closing. Why is this happening? I'd like to know.
One of the two stores concentrated on in I Need That Record! is Trash American Style in Danbury, Connecticut. The store is shut down when their landlord of seventeen years decides not to renew their lease. He just signs a lease with a printer next door to take over the space. That situation is pretty clear cut. It is due to an asshole landlord. It is really unfortunate, but the industry has nothing really to do with it in this case.
The other store Record Express which has been in business ten years has a more traditional story. This one seems to be lack of business though I Need That Record! never actually states the specific cause. While Trash American Style's owner Malcolm is rightly pissed. Record Express's owner Ian seems just sad. When asked if he is ready to move on, he is left speechless. Later in the documentary he is working at Trade Joe's.
I Need That Record! digs up a lot of facts regarding the music business. Knowing that Wal-Mart sells 1 in every 5 albums sold in the US is just plain wrong. Ian MacKaye states that people who work at major labels don't even like music. Glenn Branca seems to lay it on the line. He hates major labels, but he also doesn't like to pay too much for things. He buys on the internet because it is cheaper. It is hard to compete with that. Paying less always seems to be the American way even if you end up paying more in the long run. Others interviewed lament the loss of a social place where you can go to find out and talk about music.
I love record stores as much as you do. You just need to look at my house. If I didn't have a record problem, my house would be empty. I just don't get this sense of community argument. I don't like to hang out at the record store. I usually know what I want or I spend a bit of time looking through the stacks to see if anything catches my interest. As a youngster I never had an experience where a record store employee was nice to me, never mind turned me on to something cool. I had radio for that. I could hear a band and make the decision whether I was willing to spend my limited income on that record.
That said when I do hear something I like; first I head out to the store to buy it. I prefer instant gratification. Hopefully, they have it. I am spoiled that we have Amoeba Records in the Bay Area. Most of the time I can find a record I want there, no matter how obscure. If not, there are other smaller record stores to check. The one topic I Need That Record! doesn't cover is used records. I have always been under the impression that used records are a vital part of a record store's income. I know the internet has cut into those sales. Any way, make sure you spend some money at your local record store.
Funniest part of I Need That Record! is Noam Chomsky stating he doesn't like rock music, but it was always a part of activist gatherings in the Ô60s. Also anything Glenn Branca says. He's hilarious. www.ineedthatrecord.com
Anything Boys Can Do is a 1996 documentary about women in music. It is an interesting artifact of a strange time musically for women. Riot Grrl was just past its peak so Anything Boys Can Do gets to look through the eyes of the burgeoning riot grrl back lash. Nothing really new is revealed. People treat female musicians differently than male ones. There is a wide selection of bands interviewed: Tribe 8, Voluptuous Horror Of Karen Black, Vitapup, The Wives, Thrust, Maul Girls and many more.
Although the focus of Anything Boys Can Do is on music, also included are interviews with a spoken word artist, a fanzine creator and some female skinheads.
Included on the DVD release of Anything Boys Can Do is Mark Of The Ninja. Mark Of The Ninja is the story of the Antagonist Art Movement in New York. Their logo is that of the face of a ninja. Although the word antagonist could have a very loaded meaning, the artists describe their movement as anything "that doesn't fit into mainstream society". This includes painting, photography, music, spoken word and marketing. The marketing aspect, which is mostly posting stickers around town, gets a lot of screen time.
Most of the art in Mark Of The Ninja comes across as not very exciting. Perhaps, this is because the movement is just starting out. One of the exhibitions is ordinary people as dictators. It is an interesting concept, but the result seems to lack that punch that was probably intended. Spoken word performer Brother Mike Cohen delivers a long rant against his adoptive parents, which seems rather adolescent for a grown man. It really sucks that these people adopted him and acted like most parents do. Then there is Crispy T who decorates dollar bills. Fortunately, he doesn't care if he ever sells any of his art.
The Antagonists did end Mark Of The Ninja on one inspiring note. They conducted a Street Gallery where they displayed the photos of Sean Smith on the streets of the Lower East Side. The photos exhibited were of the neighborhood ten years prior. The Antagonists mounted the photos to wood and then attached them to street parking signs. Although some of the photos were eventually tagged or torn down, the concept of the Street Gallery was a good one. More innovation like that could turn the Antagonists into a more powerful movement. www.antagovision.com
Finally, there is Shonen Knife - Live At Mohawk Place 2009. This DVD is a live show shot in Buffalo, NY on the last date of their US & Canada tour. The band is in top form. They are not as cutesy as I seem to remember from seeing them in the '90s. They play great, sound and look good and have fun with their set. There is even an appearance by former band member Atsuko who sings "Fruits and Vegetables". The DVD is professionally shot, but aside from a brief interview all you get is the live show. Fans take note. www.mvdvisual.com
I am always looking for films to review. If you made one, send a copy to Carolyn Keddy, PO Box 460402, San Francisco, CA 94146-0402. If your film is playing in the San Francisco Bay Area, let me know at email@example.com. I will go see it.