Review: Underground Inc

Written and directed by Shaun Katz, co-written by Jb Sapienza, the story of the rise and fall of 90’s alt-rock, in the wake of Nirvana’s success. Starring: Joey Castillo, Martin Atkins, Marston Daley, Jim Coleman, Aimee Echo, Tim Cronin, Aaron Beam, Steve Albini, Chris Connelly, Jon Bunch and more.

This film’s style hugely matches its subject, it’s not messing around, it jumps straight in and doesn’t really stop to take its breath. The opening has a very rock edge, throwing in a big energy right from the start. While that sounds like a perfect fit, it’s a double-edged sword because while it works and has a certain fast styled pace, it’s trying to fit too much in too quickly, causing it to struggle to make an actual impression. There are too many talking heads, it’s constantly throwing itself around from one to the other, never sitting still long enough to determine a clear path or direction.

Its overall story doesn’t become entirely apparent or smoothly flowing until the latter stages of the film. Exploring how bands were chewed up and spit out by the industry; a sincere example of how genuine talent can be so utterly and irrevocably wasted. There’s a touch of pretention to it with the classic band attitude of ‘we want to be a success without losing our exclusivity’, despite the fact that you simply can’t have it both ways, it’s not surprising but it is extremely clichéd. It doesn’t necessarily feel like it’s providing any new information for the majority, but its peek behind the curtain style anecdotes do hold a certain charm which pushes the film forward.

The very personal, passionate nature to these stories is by far the film’s strongest element. It’s easy to see the commitment that these musicians have and the hurt and frustration from their unpleasant experiences with execs and labels. It’s not just making it apparent how many bands were mishandled and tossed aside, it’s showing the real toll that took on them as people and their careers.

Underground Inc is a documentary that very much knows what it’s about and translates that into its experience, the style, tone and pace all keenly reflect its subject. It’s both an advantage and disadvantage in that it has a distinct energy and passion but it moves around too fast and lacks a more solid focus to create a cohesive, flowing story. The anecdotes and experiences explored by these musicians and their impressions of the evolution of the music industry are interesting but it’s missing something to elevate it beyond that.

Verdict: ✯✯✯

Out now on Digital & DVD in the US

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