Mc5: A True Testimonial

  • 2004
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Documentary

Punks who know their pedigree and metalheads worth their mettle know all about the MC5, one of the loudest, most ferocious rock bands ever to emerge from Detroit, but this exhaustive, bracing biopic is still required viewing. And it's a guaranteed eye-opener for neophytes with no idea who screamed "Kick out the jams, motherf****s" from the stage of Detroit's...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Punks who know their pedigree and metalheads worth their mettle know all about the MC5, one of the loudest, most ferocious rock bands ever to emerge from Detroit, but this exhaustive, bracing biopic is still required viewing. And it's a guaranteed eye-opener for neophytes with no idea who screamed "Kick out the jams, motherf****s" from the stage of Detroit's famed Grande Ballroom. Thundering out of working-class Detroit suburb Lincoln Park like a Pontiac GTO with 400 horsepower under the hood, the band honed their sonic assault at countless V.F.W. halls around Michigan before taking up residency at the Grande (pronounced "grandee"), Motor City's answer to the Fillmore West. Against the backdrop of an ironically unfurled American flag and Grande's lysergic light shows, the MC5 perfected an image that encapsulated every bourgeois parent's worst nightmare: long hair, sweat, star-spangled guitars, crazed revolutionary rhetoric, heavy drugs, more hair and Marshall speaker stacks turned up way past 11. Pounding tracks like "Motor City's Burning," "Rocket Reducer No. 62" and, of course, "Kick Out the Jams" proved the perfect soundtrack for America's collapse. No strangers to police harassment — the band's involvement with the somewhat bogus "White Panthers Party" caught the attention of both local law enforcement and the FBI — the MC5 were routinely charged with obscenity, public indecency and disturbing the peace — but their live shows became legendary and record rep Danny Fields soon signed the band and their equally dangerous "baby brothers," the Stooges, to Elektra Records. Accompanied by inflammatory liner notes penned by the band's manager, Detroit-area psychedelic guru John Sinclair, the MC5's vigorously profane debut album was banned by one of Detroit's largest department-store chains; the band's own retaliatory antics got them dropped from their label. They were snapped up by Atlantic, but drug busts, heroin addiction, ego and the usual rock-and-roll burn out continued shoveling dirt on the band's grave. Director David C. Thomas conducts extensive interviews with the three surviving band members — guitarist Wayne Kramer, bassist Michael Davis and drummer Dennis Thompson (lead singer Rob Tyner died in 1991; guitarist Fred "Sonic" Smith three years later) — and captures the look and feel of the band through an avalanche of stills, posters, promo material and film clips, including a bit of live footage shot by FBI surveillance cameras. The music continues to speak for itself. Play loud.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Punks who know their pedigree and metalheads worth their mettle know all about the MC5, one of the loudest, most ferocious rock bands ever to emerge from Detroit, but this exhaustive, bracing biopic is still required viewing. And it's a guaranteed eye-open… (more)

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