Dude, tell me why Judge Daryl Loomis shouldn't have an American heavy metal weekend.
Ha ha ha,
Director David Markey (1991: The Year Punk Broke) returns to his punk roots in a new documentary, this time focusing on the history and present of influential Los Angeles hardcore punk outfit, the Circle Jerks. Circle Jerks: My Life as a Jerk doesn't have the same kind of immediacy as Markey's seminal piece on early '90s punk music, but the guy clearly cares about the subject and has put together a high quality piece on a band that never really made it, but never really went away, either.
Through archival footage and interviews with four of the main members of this ever-evolving group of musicians, Markey gives the full history of the Circle Jerks, from their origins with members of Black Flag and Redd Kross in the late 1970s to their initial success a few years later, subsequent breakups and reformations with new members, drug abuse, member expulsions, and new life in the heady days of punk money-making as a result of fake punk bands like Green Day. It's an interesting story, one that matches many bands of the era, though few were as great as Circle Jerks.
The band had a couple things going for them. First, like a lot of bands from the time and place, they were overtly political, directly addressing their leaders and the issues that they care about and doing their best to make a statement to their young and rowdy fans. Second, and much rarer, a few of the people in the band over the years were quite proficient with their instruments. This allowed them to have a sound that wasn't always just a jumble of sounds and screaming. It was partly this, sure, and they were fast, but you could make out the notes coming from the instruments. It's a different sound than came out of most hardcore acts from the era.
Markey always produces clear, solid work in his punk documentaries, and Circle Jerks: My Career as a Jerk is no exception. It's a little overlong, but it's comprehensive and very likable. The subjects are older now, and some have had more than their share of problems, but they have remarkable memories of the events that went down, both the times of relative glory and the painful moments. We even get a glimpse of the ultra-hokey video that they made when they thought they could break out in light of lesser punk bands. Altogether, this is a simple, but worthwhile piece that is a good reminder of a band that isn't remembered as fondly as they should be.
Circle Jerks: My Career as a Jerk comes to DVD from MVD in a decent edition. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image is mixed, with the modern interview footage looking quite good and the archival material understandably very rough. The transfer is strong across the board, though. The sound mix is equally good, with a solid stereo mix that keeps the music nice and loud and the interviews perfectly clear. For extras, we get half an hour of deleted footage that is interesting, but more of the same, and a pair of long-form trailers.
Whether you're a longtime fan of the Circle Jerks or a punk fan who has somehow never heard of them, Circle Jerks: My Career as a Jerk serves as both a good primer on the band and an excellent reminder of why they were so fun. This is a solid documentary and the band continues to be interesting. Up until very recently, there were still lingering questions about whether they'd get together to record another album, but after all this time, they still can't get along well enough to go through with it. Some things never change.
Not guilty, punk.
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