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Misc. Reviews 

Half-Cocked's ode to indie rock

Wednesday, Jan 31 2007
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The early '90s are often extolled as the golden era of indie rock, when burgeoning scenes in Louisville, Memphis, and other American heartland towns spawned seminal bands like Slint, Rodan, and the Grifters. This was a time before Nick Drake and Sam Prekop hawked VW and Tylenol, when living in a post-college flophouse, drinking Lucky Lager, and having no further aspirations than working in the local copy shop felt just fine. Filmmakers Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky created an accurate snapshot of this scene in their 1994 film, Half-Cocked. Now out on DVD for the first time, the movie plays like a grainy, black-and-white episode of My So-Called Indie Rock Life with a soundtrack that's a who's who of '90s college rock, including Unwound, Helium, and Polvo. The cast is also largely made up of scenemakers and musical luminaries, including Tara Jane O'Neil, James Canty, and Ian Svenonius.

Half-Cocked's plot loosely revolves around a bored girl named Tara (O'Neil), who, on a whim, decides to steal the van belonging to her asshole brother's band, the Guilloteens. She and her friends proceed to travel around Kentucky and Tennessee, pretending to be musicians and scamming shows. Half-Cocked is a simple yet evocative work created by a duo who knew this world well, and crucial details are captured here — hanging out at the local diner, shoplifting vegan treats, and patronizing sparsely attended shows consisting of a few kids standing around with arms folded. Half-Cocked may be a "big romantic adventure that won't end," as one character proclaims, but more to the point, the film is a sentimental gem that aging indie rockers will appreciate in the same way that thirtysomething hip-hop heads search YouTube for episodes of Yo! MTV Raps. The idea is to recapture the pleasures of music and youth, which, in retrospect, feel untainted and innocent.

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Jonah Flicker

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