Saturday, 20 August 2011

Anvil! The Story of Anvil (2008) - Sacha Gervasi

Second viewing for me of this great little documentary about long forgotten METAL group Anvil. Back in the early to mid eighties Anvil were it seems swimming along and playing on the same bills as a whole stack of bands, whose names fall off your tongue at the merest thought of the M word, such as Metallica, Anthrax and Slayer. Then for reasons unknown they dropped off the map while their contemporaries stock rose and rose. Well I write reasons unknown but to me it feels like Anvil's peers changed and developed, whereas Anvil seemed to stick to their guns, and so the music scene they were a part of moved on without them. Also once you get to know the members of the band a little you realise pretty quickly that they're too damn nice to make it in the back stabbing, shit slinging world of big bucks music.

Anyway when we catch up with Anvil there are only two original members left;- Steve "Lips" Kudlow (guitar hero, lead screamer and driving force behind the band) and Robb Reiner (drums, grumbling, awful paintings and old faithful). They're about to embark on a dismal 40 day European tour, highlights of which include a piss poor 174 punters turning up in an arena that holds 10,000, and not getting paid for a gig in Czechoslovakia after playing the gig. The tour is a shambles right from the off, for a start the tour manager is going out with the one of the members of the band (who she eventually marries), and doesn't really have all that good a grasp on the English language. It feels like Lips is just happy to be away from his meals on wheels job back home in Canada, and be back on stage and living some sort of semblance of the rock star life. Which in a way he is, kind of, if you squint your eyes and look into the sun, maybe. After said tour we get to see them record their thirteenth album, after Lips borrows $13,000 from his sister to cover the recording costs. Reiner constantly seems to be at the end of his tether and on the verge of quitting once and for all. He's the 'too old for this shit' Murtaugh to Lips' Riggs.

Both Lips and Reiner live in a bit of fantasy world, since they've had a taste of the high life (as seen in the opening montage of them playing at some huge Japanese Metal fest in the mid 80's), and seen everyone around them go on to sell more records, earn more money and get more tattoos than them. The thing is it's difficult to be hard on either of them since if they want to chase their dreams then that's fine. As long as they enjoy it and aren't causing anyone any harm, what's the problem? Well the problem is mainly that these are two middle aged guys, who both have families that suffer due to them not wanting to accept what everyone else accepted years back. IT'S OVER, you've had your shot and you didn't make it, now concentrate on the here and now and look back on those days as something you can tell your kids about. The sad thing is no one seems to be willing to tell either of them that. Which might have saved a lot of heartache, but not given us the chance to spend a few months with Anvil feeling both happy and embarrassed for them in equal measure.

Director Gervasi obviously has a love not only for Anvil (he was one of their roadies), but also for the whole scene that spawned them. Which is something that is lacking from my music collection, I was never all that into metal as a young lad. My rebellious jukebox was Hip Hop, so metal has always been a bit of a mystery to me. I love the things that inspired it, such as Sabbath and Purple and all the rest of it, but you won't find any Slayer, Metallica, Megadeath or Judas Priest in my collection. I do own two Iron Maiden LP's though, does that count? The point I'm trying to make here is that just like the Metallica documentary before it, a love of the music isn't essential.

Now if you're thinking this is all a bit This is Spinal Tap then you are on the right track. There's even a tears running down your face funny moment, where they talk about an early unrecorded song called Thumb Hang, all that's missing is the 'Shit Sandwich' review. So in a way this is equally for fans of Tap or even Tap's far better British brother Bad News, as much as for Kerrang! heads. Gotta love the circular structure to the documentary too, and the fact that this has managed to give Anvil a new lease of life, since they've managed to squeeze another album out since this films release. If you haven't seen it then do, it's a great life affirming hilariously sad documentary. And you don't get many of them nowadays do you?

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