Anvil! The Story of Anvil!

Much has been made of the fact that the drummer of Canuk rockers Anvil! is named Robb Reiner and this documentary is being touted as some sort of real life Spinal Tap. And with lines like

I’ll tell you what happened to us, in one word. Two word…THREE words: We. Had. Bad. Management.

you can see where they’re coming from.

But of course, truth is often stranger than fiction* and thankfully there’s a damned site more to Anvil! The Story of Anvil! than simply pointing and laughing (which is OK with the Tap, becasue we know that they know that we know…and, we all arch our eyebrows together). In 1982, the band were poised for world rockdom domination. The opening sequence of the film sees the likes of Lemmy (ALL HAIL!), Scott Ian, and Lars friggin’ Ulrich (*spit*) recalling how great they were and that the fame was a done deal. Cut to present day and lead singer Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow traipsing through the snow delivering school meals. But, the band are still a going concern. And, I mean still, not some nostalgia reformation. These guys have been slogging for 30 years, with the constant belief that IT’s just sound the corner for them. Rock On!

I’ve heard that Sach Gervasi (co-writer of The Big Tease and father of Geri Halliwell‘s children – weird) was once a roady for the band. I can’t find confirmation of this anywhere, but one thing is for certain he is most definitely a fan. Not only would no-one other than a fan have such a crazy idea as making this, but they would never have resisted the urge to make this the horredous stitch-up job it could’ve been (yes, I’m looking at you Theroux). Neither is is some simpering whitewash job, though. As the quote above shows, this is what’s great about metalists; they are inherently hilarious enough without any encouragement.

I’m trying not to call this a ‘warm and affectionate study’ but it’s the only way I can really phrase it. But, it is so much more than that. You will find yourself willing these guys to succeed. You’ll even contemplate picking up a copy of their album (before remembering even the successful thrash bands were pretty sucky). And, you’ll laugh your head off. Another fine addition to the welcome trend of excellent documentary making that’s frequenting our cinema screens.

Now, I’ve been in a band. And, there’s so much in this to recognise and cringe about. But, what I found strange was the singularity of vision that these guys have. It’s all about maing it big. (I find myself wondering if this a metal thing. A metal-leaning friend recently mentioned getting a band together, I assumed it was for the craic. A hobby. An outlet. Nope. Turns out he meant to get a major recording contract, play stadia and pick up groupies.) They seem to not be able to sit back and look at what they have. TBH, had I been able to put out over a dozen albums, be guaranteed 100 folk at a gig (maybe this is the indie-kid in me, but I found the derisive way that’s mentioned really confusing), and given the opportunity to do flea-pit tours across the atlantic I’d be the proverbial double appendaged canine. [CHUNK EXCISED FOR THE SAKE OF NO SPOILERS] Towards the end of the film there’s grudging mention made of being able to sell their stuff on the web and keep in touch with the fans that way. As if the realisation that there may be another way with this than the major deal is beginning to dawn. Let’s hope so, as thirty years of failure in your own eyes can’t be good. The fact that these guys just love to (and live to?) play is what ultimately saves this from being fatally tragic.

* As will all cliche: Bollocks! I’m rather fond of Borges. Or, maybe I’m just doing something wrong in life.


Written by Tony Kiernan

26 February 2009 at 11:47 pm

Posted in Film

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