I saw this last night at the ICA. It was billed as “an oral history of Jungle music and an affectionate, touching, and, at times, incredibly funny, tale of bedroom obsessiveness.”
The film consists of London pirate radio taper Michael Finch running through a carrier bag of cassette tapes in his flat. It is so simple, it’s quite brilliant. The film is completely carried by two elements:
1) The awesome music and MC-ing on the tapes (covering late ‘ardkore in around 1993, through a lot of jungle and drum ‘n’ bass, ending with a dip into garage and proto grime circa 2000).
2) Michael’s awesomely life-affirming enthusiasm and knowledge about the stations, MCs, DJs and music.
I was worried by the “incredibly funny” billing in the blurb because it’s all too easy to mock obsessives (and I feel a bit defensive, being one myself!) but the humour and the film itself are both blissfully free of ironic piss-taking. People laugh when Michael gets distracted from his commentary because he has to nod his head and smile a lot when a bassline comes in because they know exactly what that feels like.
Some of us in the audience burst out laughing at his run-down of old school cassettes with metal screws in, because we remember that too. It’s that basic level of empathy that seems lacking in so much music criticism and coverage these days.
During the Q&A afterwards (hosted by Derek Walmsley from The Wire) Rollo made the point that he is often disappointed by the standard BBC4 music documentary format in which former stars relive their youth. He made the point that talking to punters with a broader overview of the scene (and their love for it intact) was perhaps a more effective way to go about showing the history. On the evidence of “Tape Crackers” he certainly has a point.