As a collection of stories told by local NY punk bands, “American Punk“(Dave Lawler) is quite a fantastic documentary. Steve Trilivas of The Saints of 36th Street, Jonnie Whoa Oh of Whoa Oh Records, Mike Faloon of Egghead, and Mike Yannich of The Ergs recount a few of the many amusing experiences they’ve had working and traveling with their respective bands. As an exploration of American punk music, though, “American Punk” doesn’t completely deliver. Good documentaries about musicians are balanced in their addressing of the artist and the music. “American Punk” spends more time on depicting the punk rockers as individuals. Their music is secondary to the documentary as a whole. It’s not that there isn’t enough footage of the bands’ music, but it’s ineffectively incorporated.
Lawler captures the interviewees in a very personal manner, you feel like you’re the camera. The home video aesthetic portrays the guys (and girls) as if they want people to get to know them. Their music becomes a backdrop rather than a spotlighted aspect. Consequently, with the exception of Dirt Bike Annie, you’d love to hang out with the bands but not necessarily see their shows. Lawler’s documentary makes you ask yourself “Is ‘American Punk’ marketing music, the musicians, or the idea that there are bands in existence that you’ve never heard of before?” When the various band members discuss their thoughts on pop music and file-sharing, it becomes apparent that “American Punk” is over two hours of a group of people talking about their lives. These people just happen to be in punk bands.