Sunday, February 6, 2011

Movie review: Lemmy

Motorhead make music that moves forward regardless of trend. Much like AC/DC, they just play 60's rock n' roll heavier and faster. Beneath the thrashy aesthetics and rasping vocals lies the beating heart of Elvis, Little Richard and Chuck Berry. Lemmy says as much in this movie and if you've had more than a casual listen to Motorhead you can hear these influences in spades (ace of spades HAHA - ahh what a jerk). But they have been a constant since their formation, churning out proto-punk thrash rock n' roll for anyone who cares for such things. At the centre of this phenomenon, Lemmy has stood tall as the ugliest and most irresponsible diabetic in rock.

For a long time, the imagery of Motorhead (along with AC/DC, the Ramones and the Sex Pistols) was embraced by inner-city hipsters as some kind of retro-rock irony fest. I'm sure if any of these people had listened to say, Overkill, they wouldn't be all that impressed. The hipsters didn't really know the music, they just liked the shiny surfaces and this is how I feel about this film - it doesn't get to the heart of Lemmy, it merely loves the popular idea of Lemmy.

This is not to say the film is not entertaining (Lemmy tells great jokes - who knew?) and seeing Lemmy hanging out at the Rainbow, being on tour and recording is all good fun. However, the best rock documentaries (and in metal that would be Some kind of monster and Anvil) push past the mythology and explore the very human realities of being in a band. This is merely skirted around and almost alluded to here when there is ample time given to talking heads of the hard rock community and images of Lemmy hanging out. I think this is in part down to the editing - I think this film could have been a lot tighter and re-ordered some what. The more poignant material here is when he speaks of his family and upbringing which have been pivotal in his development as a musician and human being but this all seems to as a footnote to the aggrandising tales of booze, drugs and women. The mythology is important but the camera and interviews linger too long on talking about it rather than showing it. Any film about Lemmy shouldn't be a bunch of talking heads, it should be visceral like the music. And if it is going to be talking heads, it should be more personal than cult of personality.

That said, Lemmy is funny and engaging - his compassion and straight forward attitude to life is very reminiscent of the people I know from the Midlands (my people are from Staffordshire - my mum was born in the same place as Lemmy). I guess this is why I wanted more from this - a hard living rocker raised by his mother and grandmother after his father walked out. He fathered a son who Lemmy admits on camera is the most precious thing to him - the first time his son had heard him talk like that. He owns a slightly disturbing collection of Nazi artifacts as part of his obsession and encyclopedic knowledge of the first and second world wars. That Lemmy may not have been willing to talk more about this may have been why the movie is the way it is but when you call the movie Lemmy I'd expect it to dig a little deeper. I could have seen more exploration of that and less of Ice T reciting the lyrics to Ace of Spades.


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