Sunday, August 2, 2009

THIS IS SPINAL TAP (Marti DiBirgi, 1984, USA) Headaches and nausea are the most common risks involving a lumbar puncture, and remaining in a supine position often alleviates suffering: just don’t choke on your own vomit or, like “Stumpy Joe”…someone else’s. SPINAL TAP is one of the most influential rock bands of all time: from their early days as the Thamesmen where they created a tsunami of sea change, inspiring such legends as the Yardbirds and Kinks, to the 1970’s and 80’s where their three chord riptide encouraged bands such as Cheap Trick, Led Zeppelin, ELP, Alice Cooper and Metallica. Though TAP has drowned in relative obscurity, Nigel Tufnel’s virtuoso multiple guitar solos have been mimicked by Jimmy Page and Rick Nielsen, while David St. Hubbin’s sensual vocals and stunning blonde locks have been imitated by Robin Zander and countless others. While songs like “Gimme Some Money” and “Flower People” were psychedelic reflections of the Acid Generation, TAP was able to expand into the following decades with classics like “Stonehenge”, “Sex farm” and “Big Bottom”. The songwriting team of Tufnel/Hubbins often transcends the historical duos of Lennon/McCartney and Jagger/Richards, their deeply political and personal poeticism hidden beneath hypnotizing melodies and sublime verse. Derek Smalls is a giant; his talent redefining the image of bass player as a nearly invisible band component, his double bass reverberating like a sonic earthquake. Director Marty DiBergi is able to film the ups and downs of the band as they embark upon their first US tour in six years to support the now classic Smell The Glove album. DiBergi’s Rockumentary focuses upon each band member in turn while capturing behind the scene dramatics and TAP’S powerful onstage performances. Like any creative tidal force, the Tufnel and Hubbins relationship recedes and advances with Smalls offering his lukewarm mediation to keep the band afloat during the tumultuous storm. As Hubbin’s girlfriend joins the tour, a Yoko Ono-like division occurs and TAP is left spineless: without Tufnel’s material they descend into a jazz-fusion funk that nearly destroys their career. Finally, they chart in Japan and with Nigel’s fortuitous return, Budokan is no longer a daydream but a very real possibility. Hopefully their return to Cleveland will be inclusion into the Rock’n Roll Hall of Fame…and not lost backstage at some forgotten auditorium. (A)

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