Tuesday, February 8, 2011

FTT Off-Topic: Movie Review, Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten

This is a biography of the lead singer and songwriter for The Clash, perhaps the most influential punk band of the '70s and '80s. Its a loving oral history of the people that knew and worked with the man, who comes off as a legitimately fascinating and conflicted artist. A product of a more or less abandoned parental situation, he lives the life of a true revolutionary and borderline homeless man, only to find his talent as a musician. Never seeking wealth or falling to true druggie excess, Strummer still wants to be famous, but without compromise or, seemingly, a plan. It's absolutely brilliant.

If you like this man's music at all, you need to see this: it's just the definitive document of their work, the times, and the incredible influence they exerted. (Put it this way: you don't get U2 or the Chili Peppers, among others, and on some level, you probably don't have U2 stay together, since they had the Clash's negative example to rail against.)

For the record, I'm not that huge of a Clash fan. The idea is better than the execution, and Strummer could be a bit thick to wade through lyrically. As good as they were at their peak, that peak didn't last that long, because the band really had no ability to deal with success, and when you are singing about a lack of career opportunities in front of 100,000 peope, it's just a cognitive disconnect. They also were in the wrong era for personnel management. Instead of taking time off, rehabbing fallen members or taking extra hours to make the best possible music, it was all straight line speed to nowhere. But on some level, it's all OK, because seeing Strummer go through life changes, become a father, and retain his honesty, if not his essence...

Well, it's all fascinating. Seeing the world's foremost punk fully embrace a rave, weep over his music being the soundtrack for desert warfare, apepar in movies with legendary actors who seem legitmately terrified of being on screen with him, completely reinvent his music and self late in life rather than do the easy thing of a Clash reunion... well, damn.

Life well lived, Joe. Life well lived.

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