Punk In London + Punk In England + Reggae In A Babylon

January 01, 1970







In the late-’70s, young German filmmaker Wolfgang Buld followed
his passion for the British underground music scene and made three
sharp-shooting documentaries that are finally getting the full DVD treatment
three decades later. The first, Punk in
, took aim at the world of ripped T-shirts, bondage pants, and
three-chord cries of outrage just as it was reaching its apex. In a style he’d
follow with his subsequent films, Buld keeps the production values and
presentation minimal and low-tech, in sympathy with the gritty feel of his
subject matter. Live footage of the expected icons like the Clash shares space
with that of lesser-known names like The Lurkers and The Adverts, achieving a
balance that would be near-impossible if the same film were being assembled
retrospectively today.


A short time later, but a century’s difference in punk years,
Buld delivered the somewhat misleadingly titled Punk in England, documenting the first flowerings of post-punk and
new wave. This isn’t post-punk of the Joy Division-descended variety that
revisionist history identifies as the genre’s be-all and end-all, but rather a
very literal interpretation of the term, very simply the next steps taken by
the kids who were swept up in punk. Stirring onstage scenes from neo-mod
masters like The Jam and Secret Affair lives alongside live footage of ska
scenemakers The Specials and Madness, while also-ran oddities like Spizz Energi
provide some color, and a young Pretenders foreshadow new wave’s commercial
potential (an endearingly clumsy moment comes when the narrator mispronounces
Chrissie Hynde’s last name). An invaluable extra on this disc is the bonus Buld
feature Women in Rock, a half-hour
film featuring the likes of the Slits and Liliput.


The most interesting entry in the trilogy, though, is Reggae In A Babylon, which covers the
British reggae scene of the period. Part of the appeal is that the subject matter
is so comparatively underexposed. Never mind Steel Pulse, where else are you
going to see Dennis Bovell’s band Matumbi on film, much less names lost to time
like reggae girl group 15-16-17, a sort of distaff Musical Youth named for the
ages of the band members? With a minimum amount of flash but a maximum amount
of passion, Buld truly captures what he sticks his camera in front of
throughout this entrancing trilogy.


Special Features: Reggae In A Babylon, none (80 mins); Punk In London, Clash Live in Munich,
Trailers & interview with Wolfgang Buld (45 mins); Punk in England, Women in Rock documentary, The Adverts live
footage, Trailers (90 mins).


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