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Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Sonic Revolution — A Celebration Of The MC5

Posted By on Wed, Aug 4, 2004 at 12:00 AM

Reunions are too often a knotty proposition; nearly impossible when crucial members are dead. You can never recapture the past. Having said that, reunions work if the intent is to experience the moment, which in its own flawed way can be perfection (which is, after all, the nature of rock ’n’ roll). As Yogi Berra once said, “If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.”

So leave the MC5’s past where it belongs — with the dearly departed Rob Tyner and Fred “Sonic” Smith — and rejoice with those remaining the immediacy of the band’s bowel-agitating ruckus. For 60 minutes, the three MC5ers left standing (Michael Davis, Wayne Kramer and Dennis Thompson) and a guest list of infamous shouters covering Tyner — rip open London’s 100 Club in this 2003 cinematic document, reprising old glories with a din that’s none the worse for wear. Though the singer karaoke idea can suck, as Cult man and Lizard King stand-in Ian Astbury (see “Kick Out The Jams”) demonstrates, the Damned’s Dave Vanian prances and preens commendably through “Tonight” and “Looking At You” while Motorhead’s indelible Lemmy Kilmister (“Sister Anne”) steals the frontman show, bringing the nostalgic Motor City grit to light.

With a mix of crisp takes and faded saturation, the camera shots frequently switch from movie-house to home-movie quality, fashioning an unusual reminder of the band’s archival nature while simultaneously evoking a you-were-there immediacy. The DVD’s special features include glorious footage of the original band lip-synching “Looking at You” and “American Ruse” for a television broadcast, an 11-minute psych-punk “Back to Comm” (with Nehru jackets and mod haircuts), and a priceless “Kick Out The Jams” promo film by John and Leni Sinclair that hints at the MC5’s rare mix of combustible energy, theater and solidarity. There are conversations with the band, as well as pro-MC5 commentary from musicians (Jack White, natch!), critics and fans. It’s impossible to go back, sure, but this disc is an enticing up-to-the-moment take of one of the most important acts ever to plug in.

E-mail Chris Parker at


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