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CBGB: Punk From The Bowery
featuring: UK Subs, The Vibrators, Chaos UK, H20, and Adrenaline OD

hosted by Hilly Kristal

97 minutes (15) 2003
MVD/Wienerworld DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Tom Matic
This could be called 'the Slow, the Fast and the Tattooed'. The fast bit is the medley of live hardcore punk that is the main feature of this DVD. The tattoos cover a large proportion of the performers' bodies. The slow bit is the rambling, guided tour, hosted by Hilly Crystal, of the legendary CBGB club he founded in December 1973 among the flophouses of New York's infamous Bowery. As he informs us, this was a time of economic gloom, but intense musical ferment, when the CBGB helped to launch the careers of such legendary names as the Ramones, Patti Smith, Pere Ubu, Television, Talking Heads, Blondie, the list is endless...
   Unfortunately Hilly's stream of anecdotes about CBGB as the cradle of punk only serves to underline the absence of any archive footage of the aforementioned bands on this DVD. Instead there is an endless succession of hardcore bands, which may leave devotees of the CBGB early days disappointed - especially as many of those early 'punk' luminaries weren't really punk at all, but might more properly be called 'art rock' (that's if you're into labels). There are a couple of blasts from the past in the shape of ageing British punk bands the UK Subs and The Vibrators. The Subs sing a song called Emotional Blackmail, which provided an appropriate soundtrack to a row I was having with my partner. The Vibrators mention that it's their 25th anniversary, and pay tribute to the recently deceased Joey Ramone. It was Joey's adenoidal delivery of horror comic lyrics, backed by the Ramones' pounding rhythms, which helped to launch a thousand three-chord tricks. How apt that the third song in the Vibrators' set is a piece of sub-Ramones bubblegum punk, called Baby Baby Baby.
   The rest of the bands are fine if you like that sort of thing. The trouble is, if you've heard one hardcore song, you've heard them all. The filmmakers don't help by shooting the gigs as unimaginatively as possible, which is also a problem with Hilly's guided tour. The first two sound too nu-metal for my taste, but things start to improve by the third band H20. My favourite was a band called Kraut. But other awards go to:

  • lead singer of Chaos UK: for the No.1 fashion victim, in a very fetching black crop top, that while emphasising his pale bald head and pot belly, was somehow at odds with his aggressive stance.
  • the fat lead singer of Poison Idea, for the quote of the DVD: "this music's so delicate, we gotta be in toon, we don't wanna come off like bunch of fat punk rockers."
  • the lead singer of Even Worse, for underlining what a male dominated scene this is, by being the only woman in any of the bands - whatever happened to Riot Grrrl?
  • fastest band: Adrenaline OD.
  • and the prize for funniest security guard goes to... The big one with black hair extensions, who really gets down to the 'toons', when he's not throwing people off the stage!

  • Bands and songs featured: Agnostic Front: Something's Gotta Give, Believe; Cro-Mags: Malfunction, Hard Times; Madball: Lockdown, True To The Game; H20: Faster Than the World, Guilty By Association; Poison Idea: Lifestyles, Just Get Away; Harley's War: Malfunction, The Regulator; UK Subs: I Live In A Car, Emotional Blackmail; The Varukers: Murder, Don't Want To Be A Victim; Chaos UK: Selfish Few, King 4 A Day; The Vibrators: Pure Mania, Baby Baby Baby; Molotov Cocktail: Kop Party, Alcohol; Kraut: Unemployed, Kill For Cash; Adrenaline OD: Suburbia, Old People Talk Loud; Even Worse: Major Headache; Furious George: Redrum.
       DVD extras: audio setup with Dolby digital surround 2.0 or 5.1 options, Hilly's guided tour.
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