Kicks Out the Jams (A film by Leni Sinclair and Cary Loren)
July 12 (DVD)
Music Video Distributors, Inc
Out of the 1960s counterculture of anti-establishment and revolutionary prophesizing, came a band that freed up the politically hard-edged space needed for punk rock to occur. This was the one-and-only Motor City Five. The MC5 were a defiantly overindulgent counterpoint to the flower power of their peers, and embodied sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. Instead of sugarcoated slogans like “make babies not bombs,” they encouraged people to fuck in the streets.
The timing of the MC5’s arrival on the scene was perfect, as the revolution was reaching its helter-skelter, destructive climax. They were the official band of the White Panthers, and channeled that political philosophy into their musical message. They took to the stage draped in American flags and called out to the audience for a revolution. Their live shows were a lesson in anarchy with all manner of noise and intensity, feedback and distortion. Through an assembly of rare late-1960s film footage of the band shot by Leni Sinclair (their manager and the Motor City’s king of the hippies) the DVD gives you a swirling psychedelic art piece of live shows and radical liberation. It all starts off with vocalist Rob Tyner’s trademark “Kick out the jams motherfuckers!” Hell yeah.
Yet, for all the kaleidoscopic images, the DVD is only 35-minutes long, and some of the visuals are redundant and often times frustrating. The rare footage of live gigs is totally cool in its own right, but there’s barely enough of it to make a full experience as the clip show gives way to political placards and ridiculous effects applied to audience weirdos. I mean, I guess this all helps convey the sensibility of the era, but it’s hardly the “surreal mind-trip” it claims to be. If you can get past all that, what’s left in the gimmicky wake is some cool footage of a pure badass band who laid down the ground work for countless bands who went on to claim the same, if not more, notoriety.