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ANOTHER STATE OF MIND (1984).

There are plenty of cool punk documentaries out there, but this hardcore, no-budget pic doesn't get mentioned nearly enough. Instead of focusing on some hot, spiky-headed punk du jour, it follows a pair of young L.A. bands -- Youth Brigade and Social Distortion -- on a ramshackle tour across North America in the summer of '82. On one side, it's a nostalgic trip back to a pre-'alternative' age of bad dye-jobs and slamming the shit out of each other in the pit. It's also a surprisingly deft and well-edited work, with much of the credit going to stalwart directors Adam Small and Peter Stuart, who went along for the ride...Hoping to prove that punks aren't "mindless morons," the boys (the oldest musician is 21) buy an old school bus and plan on hitting 30 cities in only 5 weeks; starting in San Francisco, and moving through Seattle, Canada, and onto NYC. It sure looks good at first, as they play shitty little dives (which are probably Starbucks nowadays), and drop in on friendly crash pads, complete with scary chili and a skateboard ramp. Their optimism doesn't last long though, especially when the bus breaks down, they're dicked around by fat old club owners, the money runs out, and they tire of their close quarters. Soon pissed-off band members begin ditching this Tour From Hell and Greyhounding it back home ("If you're hungry, nobody's unified."), as the remnants push their bus into Washington D.C... In addition to the band interviews (mostly Distortion's Mike Ness and Brigade's Shawn Stern -- who won't shut up), this is packed with choice moments. Meet Marcel, a messed-up punk in a wheelchair, and a buzz-cut Montreal punkette who brags about "beating up faggots" for fast cash. See 'em run into Minor Threat while in D.C., with future Fugazi frontman Ian MacKaye working his day job, at a Haagen Daz. Plus, there are laughs aplenty when they stay at NYC's "P.U.N.X. House" -- a Christian youth hostel which forces these very confused kids to sing church gospels. This is great footage! Despite all their problems, Youth Brigade saw this as a punk victory, while the abandoned Ness planned to put together a new version of Social Distortion (and unlike most musicians, who simply shoot their mouth off, he actually went out and did it). Shot on 16mm and video, it's loaded with raw and often unintelligible music (hence the occasional subtitles), and is a fast-paced, invaluable portrait of a lost era... On an additional note, footage from the movie was cannibalized in the RIPLEY'S BELIEVE IT OR NOT television show, as an example of bizarre cultural behavior.

© 1997 by Steven Puchalski.