London Town

dvd_londontownComing of age in the punk rock ‘70s

Forty years after punk rock exploded on the UK scene, many listeners have lost the visceral sources of its creation. It’s surface style rejected the excesses of mainstream rock, but deeper anti-establishment and nihilistic currents were rooted in societal ills that dwarfed the bombast of popular entertainment. The clothing and hairstyles provided tribal badges, but it was the economic brutality of a mid-70s recession, crippling unemployment and the specter of Thatcherism that bound the scene together in hopelessness, anger and idealism. It’s in this milieu that Derrick Borte’s film is set, with music, politics and social upheaval providing the backdrop to a coming-of-age story.

While the Ramones and Sex Pistols lit the fuses of a thousand bands, the wider punk rock scene lit the fuses of a million personal awakenings. One such fuse is attached to the film’s teenage protagonist, Shay, who’s estranged mother, overworked father and young sister require him to quickly outgrow his childhood. A cassette of the Clash and a serendipitous meeting with 15-year-old punk rocker Vivian open Shay’s eyes to a world beyond his working class suburb, a wide open and often contradictory world of skinheads and progressives, police riots and squats, love and preternatural maturity. All of that might be enough to permanently bend a teenager’s trajectory, but a chance encounter with Joe Strummer, and the unlikely friendship they form, proves an even bigger catalyst.

The film’s music scenes – a club date, a rehearsal and a concert – will remind you why the Clash was called “the only band that matters.” More importantly, they’ll will remind you that the right music at the right time can utterly liberate and completely transform a life. The soundtrack features music by the Clash, Stranglers, Buzzcocks, 101ers, Stiff Little Fingers and Toots & The Maytals, and playing the role of Joe Strummer, actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers gives passionate performances of “Clash City Rockers,” “White Riot” and “Clampdown.” Shay’s coming-of-age story is one we’ve seen before, but set in the transitional late-70s, it will take older viewers back, and give younger viewers a taste of the times. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

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