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1991: The Year Punk Broke

Formless, endless and technically crude, "The Year Punk Broke" is the sloppiest rock-doc to win actual release in some time. Only the alternative-market popularity of headliners Sonic Youth and massive success (subsequent to this shoot) of Nirvana will keep it from instant vid oblivion. Negative fan word-of-mouth should insure urban playdates stay short.

Formless, endless and technically crude, “The Year Punk Broke” is the sloppiest rock-doc to win actual release in some time. Only the alternative-market popularity of headliners Sonic Youth and massive success (subsequent to this shoot) of Nirvana will keep it from instant vid oblivion. Negative fan word-of-mouth should insure urban playdates stay short.

Following veteran NYC noise band Sonic Youth around Europe for a two-week tour, director Dave Markey manages an amazing level of tedium. The non-stop stage performances are padded with largely non-synched, clumsy, fast-mo/quick-cut zoom shots, all shakily hand-held.

Audio qualities aren’t much better than visuals. The all-female Babes in Toyland sink themselves with generic late-’70s garage punk; genre pioneers the Ramones can barely be heard in a dreadful sound mix.

Well-regarded indie units Dinosaur Jr. and Gumball barely make an impression. A vocally ragged version of Seattle unit Nirvana’s eventual monster hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is hardly definitive.

Title implies some overview of how and why such alternative, and often raucous, bands have finally broken from underground to mainstream status. But film offers no insight.

Onstage hijinks (knocking over drum sets–wow!) are none too charismatic here , nor is aimless footage of members goofing off, making fun of hospitality suite food and so on. While some of these musicians have been fairly articulate in print interviews, they come off as moronic here.

This depressing snore comes as a surprise from Markey, whose 1980s fiction featurettes “Desperate Teenage Lovedolls” and “Lovedoll Superstar” were hilarious punk parodies of rock mythology.

1991: The Year Punk Broke

  • Production: A Tara release of a Geffen//DGC presentation of a Sonic Life/We Got Power production. Directed, edited by Dave Markey.
  • Crew: Camera (color/B&W Super 8mm to 16 mm), Markey; Sonic Youth live sound, Terry Parson; Nirvana live sound, Craig Montgomery. Reviewed at Red Vic Movie House, San Francisco, Nov. 20, 1992. Running time: 99 min.
  • With: <B>With:</B> Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr., Babes in Toyland, Gumball, the Ramones.
  • Music By: