When they’re amazing, music docs are the most powerful art form

More than just extended pop videos

Have you ever got out of the cinema and wanted to form a band, dye your hair bright pink and time-travel to a scuzzy, cider-soaked festival field at some point in 1992 (not necessarily in that order)? Well if you haven’t, you might just after watching ‘L7: Pretend That We’re Dead’. A fun, funny and endlessly entertaining rock doc full of vintage camcorder footage shot by the band, it tells the story of one of the most important guitar groups of the 1990s. Now, 25 years after their peak, L7 might not be spoken about in such reverential tones as the likes of Nirvana, but their hard-riffing sounds and hard-living lifestyle were as crucial to the story of rock’n’roll as anything Kurt Cobain ever did.

When L7 are remembered now it’s usually for the time vocalist Donita Sparks chucked her used tampon into the crowd at Reading Festival in retaliation for the audience pelting them with mud. Though an iconic moment in itself, ‘L7: Pretend That We’re Dead’ shows there was so much more to the four-piece than competitive Tampax-slinging, not least the tunes, which were heavy, sludgy and powerfully political. “Got so much clit / She don’t need no balls,” went 1990’s anthemic ‘Fast And Frightening’, a female-led kick in the testosterone-heavy scrotum of rock and metal, genres which were as macho then as they remain in 2017.

The film was screened as part of the Doc’n Roll Festival which shows mostly crowd-funded music films, passion projects by fans and first-time filmmakers. This year I got to indulge my inner movie geek as well as my music nerd, acting as a jury member and sifting through hours of films to pick my fave. Of the movies that were eligible, my own personal winner was The Allins, which tells the very strange tale of the family of original shock rocker GG Allin – the punk frontman who guzzled drugs like they were Haribo, got fully naked onstage and regularly smeared himself with his own s**te during gigs. Michael Bublé he was most certainly not.

The film, though, which looks at the lives of his mother and brother almost a quarter of a century after his death, showed a broken family trying to repair itself after the loss of a brother and a son. Tender, tragic and sometimes quite hilarious, it’s one of those films that’ll make you feel all warm inside, while you simultaneously reach for the hand sanitiser. Like all the best music documentaries, such as ‘Searching For Sugar Man’, ‘Anvil!’, ‘Kurt & Courtney’, ‘Supersonic’ and ‘20,000 Days On Earth’, it’s the focus on the human story behind the music that makes these films not just extended pop videos but seriously powerful works of art.