MC5 MC5: Kick Out The Jams

Take the audio from the legendary Kick Out the Jams album and other MC5 performances, some lo-fi films by Leni Sinclair of the band playing live and the MC5:Kick Out the Jams DVD should be riding the buzz of an amphetamine-induced cardiac arrest due to empathetic rock'n'roll glory. Instead, it's like being trapped in the chill-out tent eating fresh oranges to calm the trip down and, in lucid moments, catching the coolest band the universe ever birthed through a flap in the tent. Credited with editing and shaping this disappointing mess is Cary Loren of Destroy all Monsters. Armed with a very limited amount of what looks like 15-minute rolls of Super 8 footage of MC5, Loren seems content to loop, colourise and use enough bad video effects to make SCTV's Jerry Todd blush. This footage is stretched to the limits of its 30-minute playing time. As if that wasn't enough, it's inter-spliced with psychedelic patterns and protest footage likely derived from activist/MC5 manager John Sinclair's political days. Lower the volume on the music and you could easily narrate it with: "The '60s were a turbulent time of drugs, protest and youth culture explosions…" Despite its weaknesses, Kick Out the Jams allows anyone who is a fan to enjoy the rare intimacy of footage showing the band at work. And it is beautiful. The MC5 were not among the "beautiful people" of the '60s, and watching snippets of the undeniable power of a band that smashes their limitations and engages with the intensity of their sheer will is absolutely endearing. So when the aforementioned John Sinclair talks about their early exploits in the accompanying bonus interview, the real treat of this DVD is exposed. Marred by a rambling pseudo-jazz opus, which mostly distracts from the interview, the first few minutes show Sinclair finishing a burger, burping and lighting a smoke. When it seems like this DVD is completely lost he begins to talk about the band. He shares anecdotes of pulling the plug on them the first time they met at his prison release party, making Clapton's Cream look like posers when they followed them, and, best of all, exposing the meaning of "Kick Out the Jams." Sinclair claims this is the expression the band used as they stood on the wings of the stage watching the band they opened for and waiting for the closer to "kick out the jams, motherfucker." As the vigil continues for the faithful awaiting the DVD release of the documentary on the band, A True Testimonial, Kick Out the Jams will have to suffice as the only possible placebo. Its unfortunate that the film maker of this Creem magazine branded DVD took so much time elongating this into a film about being stoned and listening to the band in that time frame instead of showing most of what today's MC5 fans could have never been able to see: the MC5.