Published Dec 01, 2002If you're square enough to need the exact meaning behind the phrase "Kick out the jams, motherfucker!" explained to you, then you're now in luck. MC5: A True Testimonial sets the record straight on that and every other aspect of this literally "rad" late 60s/early 70s Detroit band. The film is mainly comprised of recent and archival interview footage with the band, still photos, taped phone conversations and even some FBI surveillance footage.
As with most rockumentaries, the film follows the band chronologically through their inception, their high times and their eventual demise. What makes the MC5's story so worth telling, though, is their links to manager John Sinclair and his extreme leftist White Panther party, whose credo of dope, guns and fucking in the streets was just as menacing as the band's absolutely mind-bending proto-punk high decibel musical assault. The fire bombings, the heavy police harassment, the riots (Detroit and Chicago) and the blowing up of a CIA office are all detailed here with at least some type of footage making it all too startlingly clear.
At the end of the day though, as it is with any band, it's really all about the music, and what'll really have MC5 fans losing their minds is the extensive use of amazing live footage of the band. The highlight of the film is undoubtedly the black and white/synch-sound live footage of the classic "Looking At You," which is shown complete and uninterrupted with any voice-overs or cuts of any kind. This powerful sequence leaves one with the sense this is the closest thing most of us will ever get to seeing them live. Also of note to Motor City music heads is the director's decision to not include the MC5's "little brother band" the Stooges in the movie. In his own words, "that's a whole other movie."