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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Bastards of Young

Here's a document of the modern day version of emo that I can relate to. Bastards of Young (trailer found here) looks at how bands like Thursday, Fall Out Boy and The Starting Line went from small to large in a relatively short amount of time. Instead of dancing in the whipped cream of life with the topic, this documentary is very sincere, balanced and in-depth.

At certain points in viewing Bastards of Young, I couldn't help but think of Release, a documentary that covers a variety of hardcore, pop-punk and ska-punk bands (from Lifetime to Earth Crisis to MxPx to Sick of It All). Release is still a great look at what these kinds of bands were doing post-mainstream attention in the late-'90s. Going deeper with the pros and cons and the general release of playing music, the themes of Release haven't grown stale.

Why I kept thinking about that doc while I watched Bastards of Young was in a particular section early on in the film. One section of Release focuses on a final basement show at a house in New Jersey. Since the tenants were sick of each other and wanted to do separate things, this show was their final one at their house. Tons of people show up, then the cops show up and then the show's over. I get a grim sense of closure whenever I see this scene as there is a feeling of bitterness and hostility towards what all has happened. So seeing a section in Bastards of Young on basement shows that's about how they are still going strong in New Jersey, this really sets the tone for the rest of the film. What I encountered back in '97 and '98 was the end of something and thankfully, elements of these days are in the modern day version.

Make no mistake, there are certain elements of the modern day version of what "the kids" are into that do not sit well with me. Then again, talking about how straight edge you were or how long you had been into bands like NOFX or Bad Religion were elements that I didn't care for back when I was getting into punk. Of course pros and cons will always be there, yet I appreciate them when they are addressed in understandable ways. As uncomfortable as I found watching a young female fan lose her marbles describing the loss of her grandmother and how important a Thursday song meant to her, I appreciate the fact that this kind of relationship is addressed. I'm glad this wasn't dwelled on as this is merely a part of what many younger people attach themselves to with the music.

I may scowl at how young people treat people like Chris Carrabba, Pete Wentz and Adam Lazzara like messiahs, but I must remember that this is a natural thought process. While I've never thought of J. Robbins, Davey von Bohlen or Matt Pryor as deities, I can understand that people can get carried away into thinking that other people are vastly untouchable and superior. This topic is touched on the film, but again, this is not the focus.

So what is the general focus of Bastards of Young? I think it's on how relatively grounded these bands are even if they affect a large number of people. Sure, the trappings of fame are there and some people really love the glitz and adulation, but they don't forget where they came from. This is not a glamorization or an exploitation piece; this is a general snapshot that rings true for me even if I don't care for the Starting Line's or Fall Out Boy's music.

I must commend the film for touching on a subject that Jessica Hopper wrote a whole article on a few years ago: how a vast number of emo lyrics portray women as perpetrators and men as victims. Yes, this general idea has been talked about in lyrics for a long time, but the certain ways that bands like Taking Back Sunday sing about girls is exactly what is rather one-sided and self-destructive. Interviewing a couple of guys and girl en route to a Taking Back Sunday show, the guys talk about their favorite lyrics which happen to be very "woe is me." Cutting to a bit with the girl describing of how she's been hurt by guys, I was glad there was a voice coming from another view; a view that's not very far removed from the other view.

Par for the course of all music documentaries is commentary from writers. With this film, Jessica Hopper and AP's Jonah Bayer have some really good things to say, providing an observer's perspective that is useful and understandable. As easy as it could be to act all bitter and crotchety about this topic, that's not the case here. Instead, their comments aren't one from a cheerleading perspective nor are they from a devil's advocate perspective.

When I heard about the making of Bastards of Young from Nick a year or two ago, I got excited. I had no certain expectations about how the film would turn out, but I was glad that the topic (no matter how commercialized and popular it's become) would get the documentary treatment. Seeing the full project come to life inspires me in a good way to finish Post. So that's why I spent two and half hours working on the Dischord Records chapter last night . . .

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