When I moved to New York City from Atlanta in 2008, one of the first events I attended in the city was a reunion show of Teenage Jesus & The Jerks at the now-defunct Chinatown Knitting Factory. I didn’t know what to expect, even though I definitely consider myself a fan of the iconic no-wave band and especially of lead singer Lydia Lunch. The show was 20 abrasive minutes of classic Teenage Jesus & The Jerks, with Thurston Moore on bass at this particular show. The best part was when Lunch would stop to berate the audience, which was often. It was a sight to behold, and seeing her perform live cemented her idol status in my brain. So when I found out that legendary New York director Beth B. was directing Lydia Lunch: The War Is Never Over, a documentary about the proactive musician, I went in hoping that she would be able to capture the magic of Lunch’s live performances.
Lydia Lunch is an underground New York City icon, even though she hasn’t lived in the city since 1990. However, when she did, the art she made, both by herself and with others, was legendary. Few people have impacted the worlds of both music and film in the way Lydia Lunch did. Whether starring in films by Richard Kern, Nick Zedd, or Beth B., to name a few, or fronting bands such as Teenage Jesus & the Jerks, 1313, and Retrovirus, Lunch is always 100% authentic. This is not always pretty, however. Her childhood sexual abuse from her father plays a significant role in her written work and music.
Lydia Lunch and Beth B. first worked together on the 1980 film The Offenders. Since Lunch and B. have known each other for such a long time, there must have been a comfort in talking about the past that wouldn’t have been there with someone else. However, I’m not sure if I can imagine Lunch being uncomfortable with anything.
“Few people have impacted the worlds of both music and film in the way Lydia Lunch did.”
It’s a lot of fun to see Lunch on tour with her current band, Retrovirus, and know that she’s nowhere near done telling the world like it is. Her work has helped empower women (and I’m sure some men) around the world. Though definitely not a family-friendly personality, Lunch is someone to look up to. She took her childhood trauma, weaponized it, and used it as a means to create some incredibly fascinating art over the years. She could have wallowed in misery or went insane, but no, she’s tough, and she’s been around for a long time, despite everything.
My greatest hope for Lydia Lunch: The War is Never Over is that people who don’t know the subject will realize how amazing she is. I also think the prospect of someone watching it and being completely scared to death by her is really hilarious, so here’s hoping there are a few of those incidences. Beth B. brings together some of Lunch’s closest collaborators from her decades-long career, such as J.G. Thirlwell, Thurston Moore, Richard Kern, and Bob Bert. B. leaves no stone unturned when it comes to Lydia Lunch ephemera. There’s great live footage from all of her music projects and spoken-word events. It’s a treasure trove that long-time fans will love.
I’m so glad that I wasn’t disappointed by this documentary. I’m not surprised it’s good, considering everyone involved, both in front and behind the camera. I’ve never found myself disappointed after a Beth B. movie, and Lydia Lunch is one of my personal heroes. If you find yourself in a similar position, you should definitely check out Lydia Lunch: The War is Never Over. I think that all music fans, philosophy nerds, and feminists will enjoy this as well, even if they know nothing about Lunch. You may receive an eye roll from me because how could you NOT know who she is?
"…all music fans, philosophy nerds, and feminists will enjoy this..."