Monday, February 22, 2016

Vinyl Is Bad



I won't pretend to be a television or film critic, so I will keep this very basic. I hate the new HBO series "Vinyl." I hated the second episode less, but the two hour Scorsese pilot was garbage.

I tossed out some reasons elsewhere and was swiftly berated by one person who all-capped me with a "YOU WEREN'T THERE!" Well, I was kind of there, maybe not in the A&R room of Warner Brothers, or in the Mercer Arts Center when the building collapsed on the New York Dolls, but then, no one was, as the building did not collapse on the Dolls. But I did see Led Zeppelin at Madison Square Garden in 1975. I even played Max's Kansas City, though long after anyone cared. My point really isn't about my credentials. I never worked on the docks, but I loved "On The Waterfront." That's my point.

The two-hour pilot felt like "Casino" without the card tables. It had all the gratuituous Scorsese tricks and grotesque violence that stopped being exciting after "Good Fellas," only this time, the music and references felt forced, even hokey at times. I guess this is how Marty sees things. (I wonder if there is a Director's Cut of "Kundun," with a Buddhist being garrotted to the tune of "I Ain't Superstitious.")

I'm also not enjoying the part fact/part fiction approach. You've got actors playing the members of Led Zeppelin, Ian Hart as fat Peter Grant, but fake Led Zeppelin music. Obviously, Jimmy Page did not sign off. I mentioned the Mercer Arts Center collapse already. And then there are the Nasty Bits who might very well be Richard Hell's pre-Voidoids band, but certainly didn't exist as the Nasty Bits. And speaking of not exisiting, what about Lester Grimes? Most likely a composite of every R&B artist who got the shaft. All of this with true-ish references to Donny Osmond, Abba, Velvet Underground and of course, England Dan & John Ford Coley. What a mess.

And speaking of Richard Hell, his review of the first episode really nailed it with this paragraph:

"You come to the series looking for music and what do you get? Bulky Italian-American peacocks so crazed by craving for coke that one of them tears the rear-view mirror off his luxury car for a surface to snort from; or two of them excitedly bashing in the head of a vulgar ally before wrapping his corpse in a table cloth and driving it in a car trunk to a dump spot; a prolonged extreme close-up of a fizzingly dynamic cigarette lighter flame against darkness; nonstop soundtrack of rock and roll, soul, funk, blues, punk, and disco pop music. It’s all routine Scorsese shtick, but cheaper."


I'll stick with it for a bit longer, but "Vinyl" has been woefully unpleasant so far. I am neither enthralled nor entertained. When I am not bored, I am repulsed.

23 comments:

William Repsher said...

Over at Positively Catherine Street, I'm having a Vinyl roast. I'm going to put up my second review tonight, although I think that's where I'll draw the line as I could do the same every week. As I note in this next review, it's bad, really bad, but not as bad as the CBGB's movie!

Wrong song choice for the proposed garroting of the Buddhist monk in Kundun ... Scorcese would have chosen something like "Reflections of My Life" by Marmalade or "Brand New Key" by Melanie. The level of violence with Scorcese is always directlly proportionally to the frilliness of the 70's pop reference.

Richard Hell held back with his review. You can tell. I can't stand the guy, but I recognize he's a good writer. I'd wish all those people around from that time would chime in on what a travesty the show is!

You weren't there? I got news for you ... no one was there. This is fiction. Which I wouldn't mind if it presented itself as such. But there's this queasy mix of revisionist rock history, totally off base fictional recreations of what bands were doing at the time and the sort of stock degradation that worked so well in The Sopranos, a little less well in Boardwalk Empire, and is getting really tired here.

I remember how it felt to be in NYC mid-80s, when I first showed up here, walking down St. Marks Place, that wonderful vibe that was the tail end of all the punk/new wave history that had just passed through the city. You could still feel it, probably into the early 90's. Suffice to say, I don't feel anything approaching that with this show.

soundsource said...

Your a better man than I. I thought the first episode was beyond bad and being the kind of a guy I am I wanted to give it a chance but couldn't take the eight minutes of episode 2 I turned on before exiting. God awful. Your to nice to even mention it in the Sam breath as Casino. Yeeeeeeccccccchhhhhhhh. And I didn't like it either.

Rob said...

Ok, so I haven't actually watched any of this, so I may be speaking out of turn, but I looked at the cast list on IMDB and there is, no lie, a character called Jeff Starship. Such are the minor details that send my overly sensitive bullshit detector a-twitching toward the red zone...

A walk in the woods said...

Well, that sucks. I'm no Scorsese fan, but I am a Jagger afficianado... so I wanted it to be good. Sounds like the made silly putty out of a great era.

Peter Ames Carlin said...

You guys.

I've only seen the pilot so far, and I thought the murder part was about two bridges too far given that the coke-and-sex-and-money-and-rock 'n' roll milieu can hold its own w/o peoples' heads getting bashed in for no apparent reason other than they were sorta obnoxious and more than a little psycho. Guys like that are stock material in the music biz and most of them live long and rich lives and etc.

I think Bobby Cannavale is great in his role and most of the scenes played okay and there was enough truth beneath the scenes to put your disbelief on temporary suspension and even if the pilot wasn't perfect, or close to it, I felt perfectly happy to watch it. It's not great (yet) but it's perfectly fine and fun to watch, I think. And isn't Ray Romano's performance just so beautifully understated and sweet-but-squirrelly? Took me an hour to really trust my suspicious that it was him beneath the beard and passive-cheerful amorality.

So beat me up and tell me I have no standards and how can I call myself a mammal and so on. I've thought that for years. But life is great. Marijuana is legal in Oregon now. People are friendly. 'Vinyl' is no 'Mad Men' or a million other things but I can think of a billion other things I'd rather not be doing than watching it. I subscribed on my DVR. Can't wait to watch the rest.

Chris Collins said...

I am 100% with you.

I am sick to death of the Scorsese's schtick - the drug scenes, the violence, but mostly the lead character narrating his own hedonistic rise in his given field. "Goodfellas", "Casino", "Wolf of wall Street" and now "Vinyl", i have to listen to obnoxious, tedious characters tell me how they were too smart and too good to be a sucker like me and that they made their own rules, blah blah blah. zzzzzzzzzz

And the scene of kids walking across cars to go to a NY Dolls Show made me laugh out loud. It looked like something that should have been thrown out of Les Mis.

Sal Nunziato said...

"I can think of a billion other things I'd rather not be doing than watching it."

This is how I feel about Adele. But then by Side 1, Track 4, laundry seems more satisfying. I'm giving it a few more episodes. And even if it makes a brilliant turnaround, I don't expect I'll get the Scorsese debacle out of my memory any time soon.

buzzbabyjesus said...

They never get this shit right. The only good Rock n Roll Movie I know is "Spinal Tap".

Peter Ames Carlin said...

I'm always walking over cars when I go to shows. Always. I only ever got busted once when I was taking the kids to the Wiggles but I got off with a warning and a few glow sticks and boxes of candy kept the kids from telling their mom. It's just a very cool thing to do. I did it on my way to the Oregon Symphony last night. They were playing Rachmaninov you lame bitches.

hpunch said...

Bo Dietl better win an Emmy

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to see the "walking over cars" mentioned. It was at about that point that I knew the end of my watching was near. I *maybe* made it ten more minutes, but finally came to my senses and stopped watching. Next day I *really* came to my senses and deleted it from my DVR list. What. Were. They. Thinking? I had such high hopes for the series. I'm not sure when the last time was that I've been so disappointed in a show. And it's already been renewed? Oy! Let me end by mentioning my *favorite* scene: the "stewardesses" discussing poetry and literature on the plane back from Germany. Oy! Oy! Oy!

peabody nobis said...

Are we sure they didn't just use the name "Martin Scorsese", but used a fake one instead?

Sal Nunziato said...

Really great stuff here from William Repsher about the first two episodes.
http://poscathst.blogspot.com/

buzzbabyjesus said...

Yes, Williams piece is definitely worth reading. He gets it as right as vinyl gets it wrong.

Charlie Carr said...

Two best lines - the Three Sisters throwaway on the plane and "Where are we with the Good Rats?" But I got kinda unhinged with Bo Dietl killing Andrew Dice Clay (did I even just type that?!?) and the Lester Grimes beating was gratuitous and way too overdone. I think someone already mentioned Almost Famous but if you want to see this done right - Inside Llewyn Davis nails it, with about 1/10th of the effort. Hell - this makes Taking Woodstock seem like the genuine article! [kicking myself for missing the 'Jeff Starship' thing . . .]

William Repsher said...

Thanks for the promo! But as I stated over there, trying to kill this thing would be like going after a vampire with a cap gun. You can't kill what's already dead!

I'll say this: the second episode wasn't as bad as the first. Much as falling down a small flight stairs isn't as bad as getting kicked directly in the nuts.

soundsource said...

I was thinking Fame.

soundsource said...

That Thing You Do

Anything Should Happen said...

I wanted it to be good, expected it not to be and wasn't disappointed.

Most music TV and Film drama is it's the drugs, rip off manager or let's do the show right here. It's all formulaic.

Slade In Flame is the best Music Film ever. The two David Essex films are decent entertainment. although Stardust, the second, does get a bit cliched.

Still Crazy is a 1998 film you may not have heard of. It's not that original, but really well acted with a decent cast. If you like Spinal Tap, it's similar, less musical references, more character driven.


buzzbabyjesus said...

"Slade In Flame"! That is a good one. I have a copy, bought from Sal. I love that first long wedding sequence.

William Repsher said...

Two votes for Still Crazy: I love the movie despite it's somewhat formulaic plot line. A bunch of aging former rock stars from a Bad Company-like 70's band decide to reform in the late 90's and the movie details all the same old issues they dealt with then, and the newer issue of being middle-aged men still playing rock and roll. Bill Nagy and Jimmy Nail, in particular, are brilliant as the feuding lead singer and bass player. It helps that Nagy has a singing background and Nail is a musician/singer. Chris Difford wrote the lyrics for all the original music, and Mick Jones (Foreigner, not CLash) the music, with an eye towards recreating that 70s type of music, which they did brilliantly.

It's nowhere near as good as Roddy Doyle's book, but The Commitments did a fine job of showing how bands form, the synergy pushes the musicians to another level, and they split apart due to ego and immaturity.

And Almost Famous is dead accurate for that time period. Cameron Crowe was there and did a meticulous job of recreating that era. You see, that's the difference between the above three movies and Vinyl: they get the FEEL of the time via having all their ducks in a row in terms of all the elements that need to fall into place. When you have schmoes like me who were basically children at the time sensing in their bones that something is way off ... that's a real bad sign!

Anonymous said...

No judgement just a note the name bothered me too but I noticed in the credits they noted the character introduced in the club nasty bits as "Jeff Starship" lead singer of "Sniper" was also known as Joey Ramone. Joey Ramone was the lead singer in a band called Sniper.

JD Seid said...

New to your amazing site, but agree with every word you wrote about Vinyl. Maybe my expectations were too high.