Cure For Pain: The Mark Sandman Story
Boston-based trio Morphine had their '90s heyday tragically truncated when main man Mark Sandman dropped dead of a heart attack onstage at an Italian rock festival in 1999. Cure For Pain: The Mark Sandman Story is a compelling documentary portrait of one of the most distinctive talents in American rock of the past 25 years. The footage of Morphine appearing in front of huge crowds at different European festivals is a touch misleading, suggesting a stature larger than they achieved in North America. Sure, they were college radio faves for a while, and their moody material was in-demand for film soundtracks, but they were simply too different to reach the mass acceptance enjoyed by inferior peers like Pearl Jam. However, few bands of the time enjoyed their level of peer respect, which is confirmed here. Those eulogizing Sandman's talents in interviews include fellow bassist Mike Watt, Josh Homme, Les Claypool, John Medeski and Ben Harper. The DVD jumps around chronologically, and more factual information regarding individual Morphine albums would have been useful. The primary focus is to probe the oft-troubled and tragic life of Sandman. Always a very private figure, he withheld details of his personal pain and family history, even from close friends, but they're explored in-depth here via interviews with his parents, sister and long-time girlfriend. The loss of his two younger brothers seemingly drove Sandman to immerse himself in his music as a cure for pain. This background information helps account for the dark intensity of his songs and voice, something accentuated by the truly revolutionary line-up and sound of his band: the two-string slide bass playing of Sandman, the dual saxophones of Dana Colley and the fluid drumming of Jerome Deupree and then Billy Conway. As pointed out in the film, the resulting sound had a genuine beat culture vibe. That reference makes extra sense after we learn of Sandman's pre-music exploits, from fishing off the BC coast to living in an abandoned mining camp in Colorado and existing in a drug-filled haze in Latin America for a long period of time. He first made a musical impact in superb, but underrated Boston blues-rock band Treat Her Right in the late '80s, prior to forming Morphine. The pacing of the DVD sags a little in the middle, and then increases in intensity as Sandman's death approaches. The fact that he died in the stunningly beautiful and historic setting of Palestrina, rather than some banal Midwest arena, is suitably poetic, but, at age 46, it still came far too early. Special features on the DVD include extended interviews with the likes of Homme, Watt and Harper, and a look at the town of Palestrina. A bonus CD including ten previously unreleased Sandman recordings will also please fans.
May 27, 2013@ChuckLaChinga19034