A Band Called Death is a documentary about the three Hackney brothers who form a punk band in Detroit in the 1970’s. One of them, David, is a visionary. A genius. The other two are competent musicians who are along for the ride, and don’t understand David’s vision. Long story short: David wills them into a legendary recording studio, makes a brilliant album which is then shunned by everyone in the recording industry because they don’t like the name of the band: Death. David does not fold. Twenty years later, before he dies, he hands off the master tapes to one of his brothers and tells him that people will demand to hear the record, but only after his death. He was right.
A Band Called Death was fine while it talked about the brother who had the vision. But once it was down to the two surviving dullard-Jesus-loving brothers, and the kids, it got to be a drag. By the end, while the hipsters were doing their “I was into them before you” dance, I just wanted to stick a gun in my mouth.
The main thing I got out of this documentary (in the last third) was that fame starts with one well-connected hipster (a sort of Patient Zero) who has decided that your work is so rare that you are worthy of his hipster attention. The hipster gushes on a blog over how rare it is and how only he appreciates it, and puts your work up on E-Bay for some ridiculous amount of money, which will make other douchey hipsters stand up and take notice. The fame then spreads like a plague until you have Kid Rock on camera squawking about you. The only thing you can do on your end is have an “unwavering faith” as one of the surviving Hackney brothers said of his brother “in what you are doing.”
No matter how much Indian food I eat, or post-rock I listen to, or foreign films I enjoy, I’ll never be a part of the ruling elite. Is there a better word than “hipster” for a rich-kid parasite/dilettante? I don’t know. They don’t create… they latch on to people who do, and then claim them like they own them. That’s what made my teeth grind in the last third of A Band Called Death. David Hackney was a fucking genius. But first he needed to be validated by the ruling class before anyone could deign to take him seriously, and it helped that he died first. Helps with the exclusivity part of it that Hackney, by being dead, has a limited output of art, and therefore his work is essentially rare. Ah, fuck it.
One other irritating thing about this movie: The same still photos were used over and over and over, with the same bullshit special effect of pulling one of the people out of the picture and zooming him away from the others. Is this something taught in MFA in Documentary Making programs? I don’t know. I guess that a still photo is not enough visual stimulation for our current crop of Young Adults. Whatever.
[Aside from your trusty editor JK: blame Ken fucking Burns for that photo shit.]
But now that Death is famous, the rich kid parasites can move on to their next rare gem “discovery.” We await your next ruling breathlessly, overlords!