Sunday, May 24, 2015

“On Tender Hooks” DVD (director: Kate Shenton)

Flawed look at fringe subculture

Fakir Musafar and Re/Search’s “Modern Primitives” have a lot to answer for. This documentary centers on the growing subculture of “suspension”, i.e. hanging oneself from meathooks. Director Shenton follows several practitioners in England, as well as partaking herself in a suspension ritual in the final chapter of this marginal film.

As shocking as this film purports to be, I found myself bored and restless, but not because of the “taboo” subject matter. The focus on a small and idiosyncratic group of piercing and suspension fans doesn’t include any history or clear lineage of the practice. Nor does it really touch upon much of the spiritual or cultural significance behind these body modifications. What is the genesis of such a practice? Why would modern-day people return to these rituals? “On Tender Hooks” strikes me as a personal document of Shenton’s experience, but does little to illustrate why it should be significant to an outside audience. As I don’t know Ms. Shenton nor have any insight into her life or history, I’m just left watching someone else’s experience, with little insight. Maybe this one has its own fringe “in-the-know” audience, but to an outsider like me, there is little to glean here, sorry.

Devo - “Hardcore Devo Live!” DVD

Well-done live document 

The fact that I’m not a big fan of Ohio’s legendary Devo doesn’t affect my appreciation for their unique contribution to modern music. Being so instrumental in the developments of both American punk as well as early electronic pop isn’t a feat that should be ignored, as Devo were certainly inspirations to bands from both genres. And although some may only know the band from their mega-radio hit “Whip It” from 1980, they have had a number of memorable and popular cuts that transcend description and era.

Despite the loss of Bob 2 (Bob Casale) in 2014, the band soldiered on with a series of shows called “Hardcore Devo” — focused solely on their earliest, classic material (1974 to 1977). This DVD documents that tour, complete with early and obscure proto-electronic rock tracks that continue to wow and bewilder fans. It’s a seriously professional document, recorded impeccably with multiple cameras quality angles. And, of course, the music is still pretty weird. You get greats like “Bamboo Bimbo”, “Midget”, “Uncontrollable Urge”, You Got Me Bugged (Booji Boy)”, and a ton more.

Fans will already own this one, and if you consider yourself a serious Devo-tee, this one’s for you.