Sunday, March 31, 2013

"Mudhoney - I'm Now: The Story Of Mudhoney" DVD (directors: Ryan Short and Adam Pease)

As the great 90's rock scene of the Pacific Northwest (aka the "Seattle/Sub Pop Scene") dissolved due to drugs, death, and self-destruction, one prominent and influential band persevered and survived. Mudhoney may have been cut from similar cloth as Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and others, and perhaps they never had a huge radio hit, but the band did well enough, traveling the globe, playing for rabid fans, and inspiring countless others in their wake.

From their classic debut single, "Touch Me I'm Sick" (which still stands as a scuzz-rock landmark), Mudhoney crafted a series of solid albums that joined heavy "superfuzz" rock with sixties-inspired pop (aka "songs"). They survived Sub Pop's lean period, a major label signing, a member leaving, and the inevitable drug and alcohol abuse. And they're still around.

Short and Pease's superb documentary includes the participation of all Mudhoney members, and the interviews and footage here are as world class as it gets. Sub Pop's owners (Pavitt and Poneman), affiliated bands (Sonic Youth, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Tad), label personnel, and friends are all interviewed, and there's plenty of old live and promo footage as well. As far as rock docs go, "I'm Now" is as comprehensive as I've seen. Kudos to everyone involved for a well-done history (and celebration) of this band's life and times, from the underground to the "grunge" explosion to now. Excellence.

"Heroin King Of Baltimore - The Rise And Fall Of Melvin Williams" DVD

This skimpy, amateurish documentary is centered around a single interview with Melvin Williams, who gathered considerable wealth as a gambler and drug dealer from the sixties to the eighties. He also reportedly was instrumental in stopping the violent riots that went down in Baltimore after the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968. So Williams' street cred is impeccable. His insight into underworld dealings is expert and experienced, so it's good to see him here lecturing inner-city kids on the futility of drug trafficking and gang activity.

To flesh and illustrate out this hour-long doc, the director wisely uses dramatic recreations. There are also other interviews with associates and those around Melvin in his heyday. The quality of the recording seems pretty sketchy (like it was recorded from TV), and the main point of this seems to be a cash-in to appeal to the whole urban thug mentality, from someone who did it way back before it was "cool". I lost interest pretty fast, though I give total respect to Williams, who is quite the survivor.