The Damned: Don't You Wish That We Were Dead Movie Review: Behind the Punk Music

This movie should have more rocking and less talking.
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When you hear the words "punk music," the first names that pop up are usually The Sex Pistols, The Clash, or The Ramones.  In recent years, there were bands like My Chemical Romance, Good Charlotte, and Fall Out Boy joining the ranks.  I’m sorry, but it’s hard to consider these bands as punk.  There are way better bands that don’t get any exposure but should, groups like Catbath, Fuzzy Machete, Rapedoor, Breed, and TsuShiMaMiRe.  One band that helped start the punk movement and the one that recorded the very first album was The Dammed.  However, they never got much credit or were even known by most music fans.  In the documentary The Damned: Don’t You Wish That Were Dead, filmmaker Wes Orshoski chronicles the band’s recent tour while also looking back at their formation and how certain members joined and then left.

In 1976, The Damned were started by vocalist Dave Vanian, guitarist Brian James, bassist Captain Sensible (Raymond Ian Burns), and drummer Rat Scabies (Christopher John Milar).  Sid Vicious of The Sex Pistols was invited to audition as the band's lead singer but Dave Vanian arrived first.  Other musicians who helped out with The Damned included Nick Mason of Pink Floyd, Lemmy from Motorhead, and Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders.  Throughout the years, The Damned themselves went through a lot of changes with only Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible as the two remaining members. Not only did their lineup change, their style of music went through some transformation with genres ranging from punk to goth to basically a combo of the two.  The documentary shows a band whose members are way into their golden years can still rock out as well as the ongoing argument between Rat Scabies and Captain Sensible about royalty issues. 

My only knowledge of The Damned is through the band I play with called Victory Riot.  We have covered both "Neat Neat Neat" and "New Rose" at various gigs and getting to play drums on those tracks was a lot of fun.  If you are familiar with this group and have followed them from the start, this will speak to you more than it did for me.  The live performances were a lot of fun, and if this was more of a concert feature, I would have enjoyed it slightly more. 

However, it just plays out like all other docs about rock bands I have seen before.  Friends get together because they love the music and want to play.  Money and fame comes along and breaks them up, but they soon prevail and hopefully can continue to play. In other rock docs, members relate stories of how wild they got back in their early days. It’s sort of played as a reflection of something that is both exciting and damaging.  In this movie, it feels like it’s more a disappointment that they are not as rowdy as they were before.  

This documentary reminded me of Behind The Music.  Both feature interviews with the band, then and now.  They both show the highs and lows of fame.  Near the end, one member has a confession, and there ends up being usually a good resolution.  In The Damned: Don’t You Wish That We Were Dead, I got all the behind stuff on how the band was formed and their disputes, but not enough of the actual music.  They play snippets of a few songs but never the full versions, which is why a concert movie would have worked so much better.  You could still put in the drama but you wouldn't leave out the best part.  The rocking.

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