On the Precipice of a Movement

The Year Punk Broke

The best music documentary of all time is 1991: The Year Punk Broke. It documented Sonic Youth’s two-week European summer festival tour of 1991 as they brought along Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr., Gumball and Babes in Toyland. Shot by Dave Markey on Super 8 it was most notable of showing Nirvana in all their youthful exuberance just moments before “Smells Like Teen Spirit” blew up and changed pop culture.

Of course I’m biased since this was the music that sustained me through junior high and early high school. I wore the uniform screaming my individuality along with every other fan. Old fucks have the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Slightly younger old fucks have T Rex and Alice Cooper. Slightly younger than slightly younger old fucks have Motley Crue and Whitesnake. I have Nirvana, Babes in Toyland and Sonic Youth.

Well the film is finally getting a DVD release on Sept. 13. Also notable on the site is the tour diary from Markey. Okay, it’s no Steve Albini’s Big Black final tour diary of 1987, but it’s hard to overcome the power of a cock ring.

On Spin.com, Markey reflected on those months including the circus show that was Courtney Love and Billy Corgan (Love makes only a brief appearance in the film.) Even Kim Gordon does vocal’s for Nirvana’s “School”.

What always hits me is the freedom on the film. Granted the bands are confined to back stages and hotels that, despite common romantic misgivings, are claustrophobic and boring. The drunk and stoned antics to alleviate this are plain silly and amusing, but you can see that these people are emancipated during those several weeks.

The freedom was short lived. Of course Nirvana would go on to be super big culminating in Kurt’s suicide in 2004. Babes in Toyland also signed to a major label and made two more albums before calling it quits. Gumball went away in a blink of an eye. Dinosaur Jr. went away and came back. And Sonic Youth somehow remains. Like cockroaches and Cher, Sonic Youth will be eternal.

Here’s the movie with French subtitles. It’s not the best quality, but remember the film was shot on Super 8.