Rockers are often prisoners in the Walter Reade’s music doc fest. Martin Scorsese’s 2005 Dylan special for PBS, No Direction Home, gets a big-screen reprise, reminding us once again how totally ’60s the ’60s were, while Bob gives us rare glimpses into his fame cage. Stewart Copeland’s memoir of life in the Police, Everybody Stares, is also about the rock star trap, though the avowed new wave cynic didn’t seem to have had much faith that the music could free his soul in the first place. He gives bemused ho-hum narration to Super-8 footage he shot as the Po-po bestrode the globe. “[Sting’s] ideas are brilliant and more and more we’re stuck with them,” he shrugs, savoring an alienation more intoxicating than swarms of Japanese teenagers or recording holidays in Montserrat. (A biopic of mythically troubled Texas rocker Roky Erickson explores a guy who would have loved the luxury of apathy.)
The Pixies strive for it, and the detachment documented on their 2004 reunion tour in loudQUIETloud is indeed quite homey. “We don’t talk,” Frank Black says during a pre-tour phone interview, setting the tone for a quiet study in the zero-sum personal economics of the life-sustaining cash-in. Drug problems, family ups and downs, and actual open sores barely stimulate empathy within a band whose passive- aggressive sonic dynamic certainly came from a real place. Conversely, Not a Photograph, a look at the 2002 reunion shows by Pixies’ fellow Bostonians Mission of Burma, is all about community as a substitute for success. Burma aren’t just you-had-to-be-there ’80s indie titans, they’re enduring local heroes whose re-formation, like their 1983 breakup, is covered on the local news, world be damned. Informed that the band helped set the table for Nirvana, bassist Clint Conley’s wife asks, “When were they around?”
Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey goes global as amiably doofusy Canadian director- narrator Sam Dunn interviews dozens of his hard-rock heroes in mounting a who-is-this-for defense of a music no one’s been oppressing since Tipper Gore went off her Zoloft. Noise, Olivier Assayas’s bare-bones footage of 2005’s Festival Art Rock in Saint-Brieuc, France, doesn’t present le vivre de roc as a cause or a jail—just a job (a contrast to Julien Temple’s celebratory history of Glastonbury). The director of 2003’s theory-dunked demonlover continues that film’s theme of cultural labor as agency-stripping slog; performances by acts as diverse as pep-punky Metric, two metallurgical Sonic Youth spin-offs, and earthy Malian guitarist Afel Bocoum roll by like interchangeable parts on an assembly line. A perspective that might’ve brought a smirk-snarl-scowl-smile to the young Dylan’s face.