“Rage: 20 Years of Punk Rock” is a documentary that gets down and dirty with some early pioneers of California punk music. Actually, I think it gets down and dirty with any early pioneer of punk who is still alive, and isn’t too successful to talk to them.
I am a fan of punk and thus know the vicious circle that ensnares this genre. See, if you’re a punk band, you will be labeled a sell-out if you do anything resembling success. Make money, sign to a major record label, get too popular or (gasp!) make decisions considered uncool by the punk democracy. The punk scene is a soap opera that takes place in the gutter.
Thus, “Rage” features some punk pioneers who never reached for the golden ring and stayed true to the punk spirit. Yes, they are all pretty much broke now. While I respect the punk ideals, I have little or no time for washed up punkers who ramble on about the ills of the music industry. While I agree with many of their complaints, I can’t help but think they had a chance to do something about it!
“Rage: 20 Years of Punk Rock West Coast Style” traipses back and forth between better known punkers like Dead Kennedy’s front-man Jello Biafra, Germs drummer Don Bolles and TSOL founder Jack Grisham to lesser knowns (who are still plugging along) like Gitane Demone and Duane Peters…the sour-graped vocalist for U.S. Bombs.
The people here are interesting because they truly and honestly never wanted to be anything more than punks. Hell, Grisham never even used the same name on any two albums! But that begs the obvious question: what’s the point? If a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, does it make a sound? Why is it wrong to make some money and continue the fight from the inside? You can do more damage to the industry from inside the confines!
I completely comprehend the film subject’s anger towards bands like Blink 182, Offspring and Greenday who have taken the early punk sounds, shined them up and cashed them in. But many times “Rage” just feels like an hour long bitch session. While it’s nice to see these people have remained true to their values, there needs to be a point to the film and some kind of plot or story-line that propels a documentary along. “Rage” is missing that. Yet, I think fans of old school punk will be thrilled to see the faces of the people who graced their record players are still alive and are still fired up.