Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Let Them Know – The Story of Youth Brigade and BYO Records DVD

(BYO) My first thought on seeing that there is a documentary on this veteran SoCal hardcore punk band is that it seems unnecessary: they were the subject of the greatest hardcore punk documentary of all time, Another State of Mind. Of course, it’s fair to want to know what happened to the Stern brothers over the last 28 years, so I’ll give this a pass. The second thing that occurs when watching this is that it seems a little weird for BYO to release a documentary about themselves where the praise of the Sterns brilliance is so effusive. This at times feels like the episode of WKRP where everyone feels compelled to say nice things about Herb to the TV crew. And even when they get critical (like the coverage of Youth Brigade’s brief rebirth as non-punk The Brigade, which had the singing Stern doing his best Nick Cave art rock impersonation) it always ends with someone convincing you that everything was awesome and perfect. That said, I really liked this film. While the fluffy, in-house industrial quality might not make it a masterpiece, I can’t think of any reason not to be super positive about BYO and Youth Brigade. I am not a fan of Orange County/pop punk/post-Masque SoCal punk in general, but Youth Brigade, Seven Seconds, and the BYO comps are as good as that got, and anyone who’s seen Another State (which is dissected, revisited, and at moments, re-staged here) has to be a fan of the band that didn’t pussy out like Social Distortion. Because the Sterns were so ambitious, so resourceful, and such good organizers, you get an overview of a label/family/collective with so many chapters it stays compelling. They coexist with the early L.A. punk bands, they start what they see as an actual commune/organization, they open their own club, they book the biggest punk shows the region has ever seen, they oversee riots, they film a documentary, they start the swing revival, they capitalize on the corporate punk resurgence, they keep it real…there’s a lot to cover here and it’s all interesting. Highlights include the always authoritative Ian Mackaye being interviewed on the same Dischord House steps seen in Another State, and the consistently funny Fat Mike from NOFX sharing really good anecdotes (director Jeff Alusis did the NOFX reality show). Even all the 90s bands reflecting on BYO is not a turnoff to old schoolers because they are so sincere. This comes packaged with a double LP and book, and I was a little surprised how little actual Youth Brigade (as opposed to cover versions, and 7 Seconds' "Sink with California" is pretty good) is included on the comp, but so it goes.

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