Music-related DVDs running the gamut from documentaries to live concerts occupy the Compact Capsules spotlight this week. On the documentary side of the agenda is capsule-style looks at two films from the very hip music/film label Shout! Factory, one chronicling the career of esoteric art rockers The Flaming Lips and the other the story of a rock and roll swindle of magnificent proportions, that being the rise and fall of the Sex Pistols. On the concert footage side of the agenda, we have the latest batch of releases in the Live from Austin TX DVD series that features classic performances from the Austin City Limits television program. A collaboration between indie label New West Records and the Austin City Limits program, the series draws from the 400-show back-catalogue of the PBS staple’s 30-year existence. Also recently released and covered this week are a couple of live concert DVDs featuring the Old 97s and Drive-By Truckers.
Taking it’s title from a neighborhood tackle football team going by the name The Fearless Freeks and formed by the teenaged brothers Coyne in the mid 1970s, the documentary The Fearless Freaks (Shout! Factory D2D-32634) is an insightful and oft-times entertaining look at the two-decade career of Oklahoma City-based rockers The Flaming Lips. Led by Wayne Coyne, what started out as a noisy, punk-leaning, hard rock band without a lot of talent eventually evolved into an avant-garde art rock band, not to mention one of the most successful acts in popular music. It was 15 years ago that Coyne’s Oklahoma City neighbor Bradley Beesley approached him about filming the band. Given what was pretty much given an open door where filming was concerned, Beesley captures the band during both “off-the-field” moments as well as in performance. Over the course of some 400 hours of tape, The Fearless Freaks presents an honest and intimate portrait of this band. Receiving critical accolades at such esteemed film festivals as Sundance and South-by-Southwest, the viewer get the highs and lows from drummer Steven Drozd’s frank discussion of his heroin addiction (including demonstration) to studio and concert footage to up close and personal interviews with the band members and their families and friends to Coyne waxing nostalgic about his job as a fry cook at the local Okie City Long John Silvers fast-food restaurant. While each has his most definite quirks, the Flaming Lips fellows come off as little more than regular guys devoid of any rock ‘n’ roll star attitude. Considering the success of the band, it’s pretty refreshing. In addition to the complete film, the DVD release of The Fearless Freaks DVD includes outtakes, deleted scenes, additional performance footage and a photo gallery. Flaming Lips fan or not, The Fearless Freaks is a solid documentary that comes highly recommended.
The Great Rock & Roll Swindle
Swindle or not, the album Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols to this day is a record that still hits hard. First released in the U.K. in 1980 and now available for the first time on DVD, the mockumentary The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle (Shout! Factory DVD-330017) is described as a fictitious biography of punk legends the Sex Pistols starring, you guessed it, the Sex Pistols themselves along with their manager Malcolm McLarren. Directed by Julien Temple, it tells the story of a Svengali type in McLaren who creates a band to pull a fast one on the record companies and the gullible youth of the world. The Sex Pistols was that band and in its creator McLaren had someone who knew how to push the buttons. Whereas the self-serving McLaren seems intent on stealing the show, in the end it is the Sex Pistols, particularly the large amount of live clips of performances and interviews with the band members that carries The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle. The DVD release also features a number of bonus items including a new audio commentary by and interview with Temple as well as bits of news footage, archival material on the band and some pretty hilarious animated interludes.
Austin City Limits on DVD
Taken from complete Austin City Limits concerts that were originally reduced to half-hour programs for TV broadcast, the Live from Austin TX DVD series from New West Records introduces previously unreleased performances edited out of the original broadcasts. The re-edited performances include all of the songs that aired on the original Austin City Limits broadcast as well as never before heard or seen songs from the tapings. For fidelity fanatics, the DVD versions of these concerts are re-mixed and re-mastered in 5.1 surround sound to provide the highest quality concert footage. In addition to the DVDs, CD versions of the audio from these performances will also be available. The second set of releases in the Live from Austin TX series features performances from a respectable bunch of roots music types that includes No Depression poster band Son Volt, Americana queen Lucinda Williams, and British folk rocker Richard Thompson.
The Son Volt release (New West NW8011) dates back to a November, 1996 appearance by the band on Austin City Limits. This was the group in its initial incarnation as lead by Jay Farrar – Farrar has recently put together a revamped Son Volt with a new album just out recently. Consisting of 18 different numbers, it features the band in excellent form mixing songs from its first album, the 1995 release Trace, with songs from what at the time was its upcoming album, the 1997 recording Straightaways. Add to that a few nuggets from Farrar’s Uncle Tupelo days and it adds up to a winner of a DVD that Son Volt fans one and all should not be without.
The Lucinda Williams DVD (New West NW8001) captures a December 1998 performance not long after the release of her Grammy-winning album Car Wheels On a Gravel Road. Featuring 16 tracks from that ACL appearance, it finds Williams in crackerjack form mixing rootsy rockers and blues while covering nearly the entirety of Car Wheels along with some of the best moments of her previous albums.
Also checking in at 16 tracks, the Thompson DVD release (New West NW8010) captures a 2001 performance by the revered British singer/songwriter and folk rock legend. It presents songs from various stops during his storied career dating back to his Fairport Convention days to his duo work with ex-wife Linda through such solo knockout punches as “1952 Vincent Black Lightning”. With accompaniment from long-time bassist Danny Thompson and drummer Michael Jerome, the Thompson installment in the Live from Austin TX DVD series presents the complete package from his compelling songcraft and singing to his equally excellent guitar work.
More from New West
Also out from New West Records are DVDs capturing live performances from the Old 97s and the Drive-By Truckers. Old 97s Live (New West NW8007) is a 77-minute performance by the band captured at the legendary Hollywood nightclub haunt The Troubadour. It features the band as tight as ever working its patented brand of galloping twang pop delivering a hearty cross section of its catalogue spanning early kickers like “Doreen” and “Big Brown Eyes” to its big label days with Elektra Records ala such catchy fare as “Lonely Holiday”, “Rollerskate Skinny” and “Time Bomb” to road testing a few unreleased numbers on the adoring audience.
The Dirty South: Live at the 40 Watt (New West NW8009) from the Drive-By Truckers captures that hard workin’, Southern-fried rock band in one of its sprawling, now stuff-of-legend live performances from its “home” club, the 40 Watt in Athens, Georgia. Renowned for its live shows, The Dirty South: Live at the 40 Watt presents 22 tracks as captured during a two-night stand at the Athens club in August of 2004. It brings the DBT live experience right into your living room offering up some 135 minutes of live concert footage to go with all kinds of bonus features including backstage footage and interviews with band members. (Information: Shout! Factory, 2042-A Armacost Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90025, or www.shoutfactory.com; New West Records, 9215 Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90212, or www.newwestrecords.com)