I didn't have my hopes too high for A Band Called Death. I figured it would be an entertaining hour and a half out of the crippling Florida heat, and I could eat some nachos.
But man, was it good.
Death was an early '70s proto-punk band consisting of three African-American brothers in Detroit influenced by Alice Cooper and the Who. Black people didn't want to hear them. White people didn't really want to hear them, either. Actually, that's not really fair, they could have had a record contract with Clive Davis if they changed their name, but the band stuck to their guns, pressed a forgotten 7" single and eventually broke up.
35 years after the band broke up, they were rediscovered by record nerds and reunited and repressed a full album.
In between is a fascinating story about family, dedication, the power of creating against indifference, and the rediscovery of long-forgotten music. While I think the music is more hard rock than punk (not that there's anything wrong with that), the vibe is definitely punk in the creativity, drive, and stubbornness, seeing worth in music that was ignored or mocked by 99 percent of the world. (and in the funny/offensive name).
The second part of the movie lags a bit when it gets into the record nerds rediscovering the band (I never did figure out the story of the guy who saw the $800 single on ebay. Did he buy it? And why was Jello Biafra in there talking about weird records if he wasn't going to talk about the band/record in the movie? Do Henry Rollins and ?uestlove pass each other in the parking lot constantly as they get filmed for yet another music documentary? Do they carpool now?), but the ending of the reunited band playing to enthusiastic crowds more than makes up for confusing record nerds yakking.
Funny, touching, and rocking, A Band Called Death gets five stars, two thumbs up. Now I feel bad that I ripped my copy of the album from the library instead of buying it.