4 posts categorized "Rock 'n' Roll"

February 15, 2020


Echo_in_the_canyonThis beautiful musical performance/documentary love letter to Los Angeles’s mid ‘60s Laurel Canyon music scene that gave rise to The Association, The Beach Boys, The Byrds, and The Mamas and the Papas is an addictive musical journey. Jakob Dylan proves the perfect unobtrusive guide through L.A.'s prolific utopian Laurel Canyon musical scene that existed between 1965 to 1967. I’ve watched this doc 8 times, and will gladly watch it again anytime.

Michelle Phillips

Jacques Demy’s underseen L.A.-set 1969 romantic drama “Model Shop” serves as inspiration for Jakob Dylan (a revelation as the band leader for a concert with a rotating group of co-singers that include Jade Castrinos, Cat Power, Fiona Apple, Beck, Regina Spektor, and Norah Jones) to interview the musicians who created such classics as “Go Where You Wanna Go” and “Never My Love.” Tingles run up your spine. 

Echo petty

Jakob's cool-hang interviews with the likes of pop music royalty as Stephen Stills, Brian Wilson, Tom Petty, Ringo Starr, Roger McGuinn, and Lou Adler allow for some hilarious tales told outside of school. Jakob Dylan’s subtle sense of humor get nice traction with Brian Wilson when discussing a song’s key. Jakob offers to “get out the capos.” Funny musician humor, I know, but I love it. Jakob Dylan is as unpretentious as they come  


Recording sessions as historic Los Angeles recording studios where great artists have recorded countless hits segue into Jakob Dylan’s live concert celebrating Laurel Canyon’s 50-year anniversary. The briefly utopic community of musicians who gravitated to Laurel Canyon created a Niagara of poetic pop songs turning folk music into rock ‘n’ roll. This is a groovy movie about a brilliant period of music that flourished before its awe-inspiring flight came to an inevitable end. This is a really fun movie to savor. My only complaint is that they didn't feature another four or five songs.


Sidebar: Although it's never brought up in the film, the Laurel Canyon music was a direct outgrowth of Bossa Nova. Bossa's utopian romanticism came out of João Gilberto's Sinatra-inspired idea to soften samba into a more romantic ballad-based style. The early '60s period of Bossa Nova's explosive popularity in the country occurred prior to a movement of young musicians to turn up the heat on folk music and make it rock with the same attention to songwriting that Gilberto and Jobim utilized for their timeless songs. "Never My Love" meet "The Girl From Ipanema."

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Rated PG-13 — 88 mins. Five Stars


Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal! Every bit helps keep the reviews coming.

Cole Smithey on Patreon

August 03, 2018

NICO 1988

Nico 1988Writer-director Susanna Nicchiarelli crafts a brief biopic about Velvet Underground legend Nico that is at turns inspired, frustrating, thrilling, and inchoate. Trine Dryholm’s unvarnished performance holds the film together with a weathered beauty teetering on the edge of an abyss that only her drug-addled character can see.

One element missing from the film is any regard for the stunning beauty of Nico’s youth — she worked as a model — who captured the hearts, minds, and libidos of Jackson Browne, Jim Morrison, Iggy Pop, Bob Dylan, Brian Jones, Jimmy Page, and notably Alain Delon with whom she had a son named Ari. Never mind that Delon never claimed the child who Nico abandoned when he was four-years-old.


Dryholm embodies the tone-deaf chanteuse with the same nihilistic charisma that Lou Reed freely exhibited for most of his career. Nico clearly copped Reed’s heroin habit and refused to ever let it go. Her fascination with death comes through in the songs of her later career as featured in the film.


Audiences unfamiliar with Nico’s ‘60s era collaborations with Reed and The Velvet Underground, under the guidance of Andy Warhol, receive no hand-holding in this film. If you don’t already know the haunting sound of Nico’s baritone European accented voice on the songs “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” “I’ll Be Your Mirror,” “Femme Fatal,” or “Sunday Morning,” then you’ve got some homework to do.

Living a junkie existence with a band of amateur musicians, save a classically trained violinist, Nico (real name Christa Päffgen) performs for small audiences around Eastern Europe. Border crossings pose imminent danger. She hates the communist youths that risk jail to host her performance. She also loathes her fans, especially if they appear in the guise of naïve young women.  


We get that Nico was a child of war; she carries around a portable recorder to capture source sounds from the environments she visits, in the hope of rediscovering the sound of Berlin being bombed when she was a tyke. Nico longs for annihilation.

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Ultimately, “Nico 1988” fails because it never convinces the audience as to why we should empathize with this brutal person. That Nicchiarelli omits the moment of Nico’s lonely death on a bicycle in Ibiza, comes across as laziness on the part of the filmmaker. “Nico 1988” is a solid showcase for Trine Dryholm but it doesn’t make a case for Nico’s music.  

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Rated R. 99 mins. Two Stars


Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal! Every bit helps keep the reviews coming.

Cole Smithey on Patreon

March 01, 2009



Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal! Your kind generosity keeps the reviews coming!

Cole Smithey on Patreon


Pistols Forever
Julien Temple Does the Sex Pistols Proud
By Cole Smithey

Colesmithey.comThe Sex Pistols managed to offend more people and leave more destruction in their wake than any other punk group. They accomplished it with a tight collection of text-book rock ’n’ roll songs that directly assailed the people they were fed up with — the spoon-fed public in general, and militaristic governments in specific. Their incendiary success was as much a symptom of the ugly social and economic climate in London in the mid-seventies as it was their raw music.

The Filth and the Fury

The Sex Pistols’ untimely demise signaled a weakness in punk music that record companies took as an excuse against signing and/or properly promoting such bands. Director Julien Temple ("The Great Rock’n’ Roll Swindle," "Earth Girls Are Easy") fleshes out, in traditional documentary style, a balanced view of the band’s 26 month life span in interviews with band members Johnny Rotten Lydon (Singer), Sid Vicious (Bass Guitar), Glen Matlock (Bass Guitar), Paul Cook (Drummer), and the band’s Svengali manager Malcolm McLaren.


"The Filth and the Fury" is the first punk rock documentary to lay out, in an editorial style, a thorough linear account of the last major musical movement of the twentieth century by way of that genre’s fiercest example. There are so many live versions of the band playing and recording that you’ll be humming "God Save the Queen" and "Liar" for days. Temple interviews the Pistols’ surviving members in dark silhouette against a living room window to maintain the film’s focus on the Sex Pistols’ mid-to-late ’70s timeframe.

Rare Master Tape Of Sex Pistols The Filth & The Fury Doc Set For Auction

There are tons of treasured punk related film clips, such as Marc Bolan a.k.a. T-Rex speaking to the camera about his admiration of the Sex Pistols, and about their music as an expression of "violence of the mind, rather than violence of the body." There are obligatory clips of the New York Dolls in the height of their career, complete with a smacked-out Johnny Thunders playing guitar like a machete-wielding mercenary.


This is the movie that will inform any curious person as to which specific germs of societal and musical alienation provided such fertile soil for super cool bands like the Dead Boys, the Ramones, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, the Dead Kennedys, the Clash, and Blondie to alter the sound of pop music with an energy and attitude that has not been seen since.

The Filth and the Fury streaming: where to watch online?

Lydon’s descriptions of various British vaudeville comedians that he aped in creating his stage persona are juxtaposed with the relentless marching of military soldiers and a British populace suffering under extreme poverty. The indelible images instantaneously support the ironic and sarcastic delivery of the Pistol's mind-crunching songs.


The Sex Pistols butted heads with EMI and A&M records before being taken on by Richard Branson’s Virgin record label to release the tabloid title inspired album "Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols." The band only released one album containing twelve songs that, as it turns out, stand up against every other twentieth century musical pioneer of limited output (i.e. Chuck Berry or Robert Johnson). Even the cherry-picked cover songs that the Sex Pistols chose spoke volumes about their knowing position as avatars of punk ethics.

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"Roadrunner," Jonathan Richman’s bleak version of American suburban male lust, is still the freshest two-chord love song to A.M. radio ever written. "Stepping Stone," by the television-manufactured band The Monkees, is an R&B-lifted paean to anti-materialism that comes across, in the hands of the Pistols, as a heartfelt destructive remedy to commonplace class superiority.


One surprisingly sobering outgrowth of "The Filth and the Fury" is the innocent picture that it paints of Sid Vicious as a harmless kid who, before joining the band, was Johnny Rotten’s best friend and the Sex Pistols’ biggest fan. Sid’s interview with Temple took place on a rare sunny day in Britain before he was addicted to heroin, and it reveals a mildly repressed kid, gleefully claiming a territory of individual space. Interviews with and about Sid’s troubled girlfriend Nancy Spungen expose her as a prostitute and junky seeking to leach onto the Sex Pistols’ fame. It's clear that she, as much as the band’s greedy manager, was pivotal in ruining a band born from ruin.


By the time the Sex Pistols played Iggy Pop’s "No Fun" for their one song set at the Winterland club in San Francisco in February of ’79, McLaren had stolen the band’s money and Nancy had turned Sid into a heroin zombie. Punk had become less than a minimum wage job; Johnny called the last song and the band called it quits. The world will never forget.


Rated R. 108 mins.

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

Cole Smithey on Patreon

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