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Dig!

by John Connolly

Gawd bless Film Four and their, ‘If It Looks and Smells Like Spinal Tap, Then It Probably Is Spinal Tap’ season – This months offering is the excellent Dig!

Directed by Ondi Timoner, starring Anton Newcombe, Courtney Taylor and members of The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols, the rockumentry (cringe) follows the fortunes of the two bands.

There's a saying that you can democratise everything except talent. Watching 'Dig!', Ondi Timoner's award-winning documentary, you know that its star, Anton Newcombe, would no doubt agree. As singer/visionary/leader of 1960s revivalists The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Newcombe has seen between 50 and 100 musicians share the stage with him. But no one was ever in doubt whose band it was. Courtney Taylor, singer with The Dandy Warhols, describes Newcombe as "the craziest and most talented musician I had ever met" and 'Dig!' tells the story of their bands over a seven-year period.

Forming a mutual admiration society, playing shows with each other and telling anyone who'd listen that the other band was the future of rock 'n' roll, the Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols went on to prove the theory that you make your own luck. The Dandy Warhols got signed to a major label, toughed it out in the corporate world and struck the big time when their song 'Bohemian Like You' was used in a mobile phone ad. The Brian Jonestown Massacre were the darlings of the underground, wrecked their industry showcase gig by having a full-on fight on stage (spectacularly captured here) and, when they finally got a high profile record deal after countless albums, watched it all fall apart as Newcombe descended deeper into heroin addiction.

Timoner was there to capture all of this and her film is a great addition to the 'rockumentary' genre. Consistently funny and brutally honest, 'Dig!' contrasts the rising fortunes of Taylor 's career-minded outfit (the self-proclaimed "most well-adjusted band in America ") with Newcombe's talent for self-sabotage at every possible opportunity. He reckons that The Dandy Warhols are sell-outs while he's the keeper of the flame. Both singers, as someone says on-screen, kind of want to be the other, but by the close you'll be convinced who the most talented one is.

The film is of course lopsided because Taylor and his cohorts can't compete with the rubbernecking which Newcombe and his minions inspire. But that fact only serves to make 'Dig!' an even more important lesson in how to and how not to have a music career. Many have said that the film is a real-life 'This Is Spinal Tap' and, echoing the David St Hubbins/Nigel Tufnel relationship from that film, apparently Newcombe and Taylor are on speaking terms once again, while the former has fallen out with the director. Whatever his feelings about her and this film, Timoner has shown that with the right idea and a lot of heart you don't need a lot of money. And that's a compliment that also applies to Newcombe himself.

 

 

    

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
   
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