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DIG! (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Director Interview UK Exclusive; Film Notes; Original Theatrical Trailer; Tartan Trailer Reel; Scene Selection.

THE music industry is rife with tales of talented bands who hit the self destruct button at every opportunity, yet I doubt any did so more spectacularly than The Brian Jonestown Massacre.

Headed by the outrageously talented yet completely unstable Anton Newcombe, the band was often credited with being the most naturally gifted and exciting prospect this side of The Beatles and The Stones.

Thanks to Newcombe's increasingly unstable mental state, however, the BJM, as they became known, imploded amid a tidal wave of drug abuse, alcohol and fighting.

In Ondi Timoner's compelling documentary, DIG!, their rise and fall unfolds in tandem with the rise and rise of their biggest friends and rivals, The Dandy Warhols, the band best-known for hits such as Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth and Bohemian Like You.

Dandy's lead singer, Courtney Taylor, serves as narrator, describing Newcombe as his biggest inspiration and his worst regret.

The ensuing tale of rock and roll excess is one of the most vibrant, compelling and hysterically funny you are likely to see, driven by the great music of both bands and the mind-blowing ineptitude of the BJMs.

Beginning in the mid-90s, DIG! picks up as Newcombe sets out on a mission to revolutionise the music industry, setting himself up as some sort of musical Messiah who will rid the industry of corporate politics.

Determined to let his music do the talking, Newcombe wins plenty of friends - and the early support of the Dandys - only to have his inner demons pull the rug out from under him any time he comes close to success.

Hence, while the Dandys went on to record a successful album and shoot $400,000 videos with celebrated photographer, David LaChapelle, the BJMs continually flirted with success only to be let down by the antics of Newcombe.

There is something of a cruel fun to be had, therefore, in watching the fallout that results, as the BJMs get up to all sorts of antics, including playing at the Communist Party headquarters in Cleveland for 10 straight hours and fighting with each other on-stage at an industry gig set up for them at The Viper Room.

A US tour is similarly ill-fated, with Newcombe threatening to walk home to California from Chicago after one argument with his manager, and then being stopped by some redneck police in the Deep South while clearly suffering from the effects of drugs.

Further laughs are generated in watching the outrageous antics of fellow band member, Joel Gion (the Bez of his generation), who exists in a perpetually stoned state, and who was even sent to clinch a record deal in Newcombe's place.

Yet the fun is offset by a certain tragedy given Newcombe's obvious talent, and the knowledge that much of his torment was born out of a difficult childhood, during which he was abandoned by his schizophrenic, alcoholic father and institutionalized after a series of teenage arrests.

Courtney Taylor, too, is obviously torn-up by Newcombe's tale, hailing him as a genius throughout, yet frequently stung by the bitter rivalry and Newcombe's capacity for self-destruction.

He aspires to his friend's prolific talent but is unable to let himself go in the same way, no matter how great the frustrations of playing the industry game.

By the time the Dandys had delivered their latest album, Welcome To The Monkeyhouse, the BJMs had all but faded, with Newcombe hopelessly addicted to heroin and continually thwarted by his inner torment.

One of the last shots of Newcombe sees him being arrested by police after he has kicked an abusive concert-goer in the head for daring to suggest he was having sexual relations with his sister.

Although still singing and touring, Newcombe has since spoken out on the band's website against his vilification in DIG!, insisting that in no way does he support the film.

It's typical of the man given the newfound success the documentary looks set to bring him.

For no matter how he appears - and much of the footage speaks for itself - it does have the ability to bring a whole new wave of listeners to the BJM and is likely to have many viewers rushing to their nearest record shop to buy one of their records.

I'm already a fan of the Dandy Warhols, but I have since added the Brian Jonestown Massacre to my record collection.

 

 

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