Teenage Kicks - The Story Of The Undertones Review
Or, to give this its alternative title Teenage Kicks -The Story Of The John Peel, With Some Contributions From The Undertones for it was he who was there at pretty much every step of the The Undertones career to push and cajole them into the major act they became. Good old John Peel, though his presence on this film is, at times, enough to irritate the most forgiving viewer. He is smugness personified, but that's a personal note. The best thing about this documentary is it's ability to take the viewer into another world, a simpler time when bands formed out of boredom and for not wanting to get a real job. It's a world of oppression, both political and cultural, and a world where you really could form a band with your mates from school (not even stage school), get signed and then go on tour with The Clash. For real, man.
The Undertones are not the greatest band in the world, that much is clear from this, but what they do have is attitude and innocence in almost equal measures. There's a sweetness to them that was absent from other punk bands of the day, and this film is at its best when it captures and highlights the line between the aggression in the music and the purity of the emotions behind it. This is achieved simply by letting the band do the talking, and explaining the motives behind some of their early career moves.
The Story of the Undertones is a very evocative piece of film making. It combines some truly superb archive shots of Derry in the seventies and intersperses it with contemporary shots of the band in the old locations. Combine this with several candid interviews and library footage from such things as Top Of The Pops and you have a winning combination that's at once nostalgic and sometimes quite heartbreaking. One thing that stands out is Feargal Sharkey's continued schism with the band. They are never photographed or interviewed together avery evocative piece of film making. It combines some truly superb archive shots, including the eye opening performance of It's Going To Happen from TOTP, broadcast on the day that Bobby Sands (IRA hunger striker) died, and shows the band sporting black armbands. It's a strength of the film that it deals candidly with the political situation of the time, and amply shows why The Undertones were often victims of simply coming from the wrong place at the wrong time.
It's slightly short as well, running for just over an hour, so it never really outstays it's welcome. Rather like the songs themselves, you could argue. The appeal of this DVD is quite limited, really. It never attempts to place The Undertones in context of the wider punk movement, and chooses instead to focus on the minutiae of the band. Fair enough, really, though and if you are a fan, you'll love this. All together now "1, 2, 3, 4 Teenage Dreams/So hard to beat/Every time she walks down the street..."
You know, it really is one of the best singles ever made.
Mostly shot on digital video, it looks, so picture quality is very good indeed. Colours are strong and clear, and there is no sign of any bleed. An excellent transfer. Of course, some of the stock footage reveals the limitations of the source material, but then, you'd hardly complain about that. If the Super-8 footage taken from one of their early gigs at some toilet venue has deteriorated somewhat, just be thankful you can see it at all. Anamorphic 16:9/1
Good, solid soundtrack. 2.0 Stereo only, but workmanlike and captures the raw essence of the music contained quite adequately.
Mystifyingly, the bulk of the extras consists of Extended Interviews, which is 45 minutes of stuff cut from the main feature. It's understandable that some of this stuff might be cut from a TV showing, but there's no excuse from chopping it out of the main feature here, when you consider that this is most likely to be bought by a rabid fan. Still, it's nice to have it at all, and it fleshes out some of the sequences from the film quite well. An option to play the whole thing, with these put back into context would have been nice, though.
Also, of course, you get some promos. Presented 4.3/1, picture quality is variable, but the sound is still very strong and has been remixed into 5.1 stereo which is a bit pointless, really, as they sound just as good, arguably better in 2.0/ The best thing about these is their time capsule quality. The video for My Perfect Cousin instantly transports you back to the days when kids played a thing called Subbuteo. For those too young, it was a sort of green carpet upon which little footballers played football with a ball many times bigger than they were. You played it by flicking the player at the ball it with your finger. No, really, we did. These videos capture a pre-MTV innocence that is quite delightful to watch.
Anyway, you get in total -
Teenage Kicks (of course)
My Perfect Cousin
There Goes Norman (You'd never get away with a song like this now, a ditty about the local pervert)
It's Going To Happen
The Love Parade
Got To Have You Back