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Sunday, February 03, 2008

DVD Review: Flipper - Live Target Video - 1980-81

Flipper - Live Target Video - 1980-81
2008 Target Video/MVD Visual
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

True punk rock is about the attitude versus overt playing skills, which allows a band of marginal talent such as the legendary Flipper to not only get away with the screechy minimalist sound that seldom came into full cohesion during their cacophonous run through the underground, but to be unanimaously praised for it, to boot.

Flipper was the Andy Warhol punk band that Warhol never assembled himself. Footloose, manic, distortion-addicted and subtly brilliant, only the true punks (those who didn't need to dress the part to be real) and lovers of avant garde music could hack these guys, and that was the whole intent behind Flipper. If you could roll with Flipper, then that made you a de facto punker without needing to cite other in-the-loop names like Straw Dogs, The Germs, Cheetah Chrome Motherfuckers, Dr. Know and the Adolescents. Granted, all of these bands were superior to Flipper in terms of genuine song structure (well, maybe not The Germs so much), but Flipper contained something real and honest amidst their deliberate chop and slop that was strictly for mutants and no one else. Mostly if anyone outside of the small circle of warped individuals that sustained Flipper's legacy dared take a listen, they cringed in absolute horror.

Perhaps it was the intent to be positively dreadful with paradoxical care and attention to their abruptly-slowed disorder that has endeared Flipper to many underground fans, but certainly no one was ready for the seven-minute garbage grunge of "Sex Bomb," which has since become Flipper's calling card. Prior to 1982, it was nearly unheard of (except maybe in The Stooges) to drone out a singular note with the spin cycled lyric of "She's a sex baby...yeah," as Flipper seemingly grow bored with themselves with their one-shot fuzz-drained note wearing down in seemingly hackneyed fashion, but this was the method to Flipper's madness: issuing a game of Can You Take It? to their listeners, particularly in their zany live setting.

Flipper's notoriously bizarre form of junk punk is captured in hilarious fashion on Live Target Video - 1980-81, a 70-minute endurance test that will give you a screaming headache, even if you're a fan...especially if you're a fan, and that's alright by you, I'm sure.

Capturing performances in Berkeley and San Francisco, the striking difference between Flipper's aptitude is noticeable between the years these events went down, but if there's any real telling of what Flipper was about, it's the 1980 performance in a Berkeley new wave club, when they deliberately fuck things up and act like basement morons screwing around instead of performing to a modest-sized crowd filled with trendies, butchies, druggies, journalists and possible future Hollywooders (given their flashy club nouveau attire). As Bruce Loose and the late Will Shatter take turns passing the bass like a few roach clips and bongs get passed around the club (enjoy a great laugh as the camera repeatedly catches a mullethead toking on his hash pipe in the front row while dancing stupidly around), Flipper just pours on the nonsense without a funnel, going to such drastic lengths as to (literally) pound out chum bucket bass reverb on "One By One," then to rave like committed loons on "Ha Ha Ha" and "Oh, Oh, Ay Oh," followed by a prescribed torture of their audience in an endless barrage of repeat on "The Wheel."

Of course, the audience is so shitbombed they play along with Flipper and those who aren't laced up are somehow transfixed by Flipper's sheer disregard for cohesion as each band component is a little microcosm, with Bruce and Will pointing out chords to one another on the bass frets as if learning how to play on-the-job, while Vietnam vet Ted Falconi rapes his guitar with possessed shrieking that probably showed Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and The Pixies' Joey Santiago a few tricks or two. What's truly nutty is watching Steve DePace attempt to glue the whole freakin' mess together by playing serious and orderly beat lines (for what he had in his possession at the time) and it's all to no avail... A random trash ball whizzes past the band and so they play even ruder than before, refusing to let up as if inflicting punishment, to cease only when they feel like calling it a night. That's the heritage of Flipper...

With reunification plans to bring Flipper back to the masses with none other than Nirvana's Krist Noveselic assuming bass duties amidst the remaining three original members for a brand new album following the reissue of Flipper's entire catalog including the much-sought-after Blowin' Chunks, Gone Fishin' and Generic, consider this DVD an introduction if you're unfamiliar, a rare glance back at Flipper's weird cosmos of abstract clunk blasting. If this is your first time coming to Flipper, I recommend you premedicate. You won't ever forget the subsequent head throb if you don't...

Rating: ***1/2


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