Thursday, February 25, 2010

Anvil: The Story of Anvil

Heavy Metal is one form of music I have never understood. I like a bit of Zeppelin or even some early Deep Purple, but the rest of it just seems like total sh*t: Iron Maiden, Whitesnake, Twisted Sister, Anthrax, Megadeath, Stryker  et al.

That was until I saw 'Anvil'.

I had seen some great reviews of this DVD, a documentary following a real-life scraggy-haired Canadian metal band who unconciously act like Spinal Tap, as they struggle to release their 13th unrecognised album.

At one point, we even get to see a guitar amplifier that has volume going all the way up to 11. Then a rocking workout where the lead guitarist is wearing bondage gear and using a dildo to play slide guitar.
It took me a good 20 minutes to realise that the whole thing was not an elaborate hoax - A Spinal Tap Part 2, if you will.

As the movie develops,  the band squabble over the most petty of matters and we cringe as it is revealed that the core members have both recently turned 50 and have never really made it, after 30 years on the road.

Brings to mind Robbie Robertson's 'to-camera' speech in Scorcese's The Last Waltz where he is explaining why The Band has called it a day, commenting something like "16 years on the road was long enough - anything more than that and... (pause as he looks reflectively off into the distance); The Road has taken a lot of the great ones... (deep pause) 'Jimi, Janis, Otis, Jim Morrison';  It's just a god-damned impossible way of life... No 2 ways about it..."

Back to the movie, lots of interviews with parents, family members, wives and girlfriends expressing their exasperation at these innocent idiots, trying to fulfill some stupid childhood dream, and some scenes of the guys trying to keep their mortgages paid by working temporarily in call centres or as delivery men.

As it continues, we realise that, despite all of the heavy-metal posturing, these are genuinely nice, decent people, albeit living in a dreamworld. Not the types who base their lives on booze/cocaine and luring teenage girls into their LA hotel rooms (ahem, Led Zeppelin).

They can play their instruments well and the drummer turns out to be an exceptionally talented artistic painter, as we see when he gives a tour of his home, but they just don't seem to be able to write a decent tune. "Thumb Hang"  an ode to the Spanish Inquisition, "Barenaked Ladies" and "Metal Metal" are outstandingly bad.

The thing that makes this most poignant is that the 2 founding members of the band, when not fighting, seem to be in a right old Bromance.  They had created the band in their teens and stuck together for 35 years and genuinely seem, when not arguing, to really like, and depend on, each other. 

All in all, it's a bit like Brokeback Mountain, except swapping the cowboy hats for poodle haircuts and filthy leather jackets (and without the sex scenes), but with an uplifting ending.

Anyhoo, this movie is one to definitely watch more than once.

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