(Kill Rock Stars)
BY JOE WARMINSKY
When Kill Rock Stars released Kleenex/LiLiPUT
(The Complete Recordings) in 2001, the two-CD set truly was a gift: Until
then, the Swiss band’s music — minimalist and womanly, odd but accessible —
was legendary to the Robert Christgaus and Greil Marcuses of the world, but it
was virtually inaccessible to average record-shoppin’ Americans. You either
could hunt down the mega-rare late-’70s/early-’80s vinyl (good luck with that),
or you could send $30 to an obscure mail-order label in Switzerland for an
earlier version of the compilation CD. Anecdotal evidence suggests that most
people waited for the Kill Rock Stars release.
A decade later, Kleenex/ LiLiPUT may be less of an enigma — there
are clips on YouTube, natch — but the oft-changing, mostly female band is just
as important: If it once was a riot-grrrl totem, it’s now a valuable example of
how to be, in the broadest sense, indie as hell. (They were big enough,
however, that the tissue company pressured them to change their name in
1980.) Live Recordings, TV-Clips & Roadmovie, a new self-explanatory
DVD/CD combo from KRS, compiles two live shows, six great TV clips (three as
Kleenex, three as LiLiPUT), and their 30-minute film, Roadmovie, which documents a 1982 European tour.
The CD’s live shows, both remastered, are for die-hards and
completists. The 1979 Kleenex show in Biel is scrappy and intimate, and the
1983 LiLiPUT show in Zurich confirms that the group had become an art-punk
powerhouse by then. If the goal is a fresh look at things, however, then Roadmovie, is the real selling point
here. There are no performances, and the Super 8 footage is typical
band-on-the-run fare: rest stops, cigarette breaks, friendly dogs, highway
signs, snacks, blurry headlights, tourist traps, people mugging for the camera,
and so on. But it has an undeniable timelessness: The editing is snappy; the
soundtrack is nothing but the band’s songs; and everybody looks eternally cool,
as if you could’ve dropped them comfortably into any watershed indie scene in
the nearly 30 intervening years. It’s slightly hypnotic.
And there’s the lesson for any band with a van, an ever-present
Flip camera and a documentary jones: Look good, have fun, leave a little
mystery, and let your music do the talking.