DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Welcome To The Machine (2013)

Wanna be a rock and roll star?... well, check this out!

Published on September 26, 2013

Welcome To The Machine (2013)

Welcome To The Machine (2013)

Cast: The New Vitamin; Fatboy Slim, Cypress Hill, Otis Taylor, Bloodhound Gang, Kool And The Gang, Kim Wilde, and many others
Director: Andreas Steinkogler
Chapters: Lesson 1: The Beginning; Lesson 2: The Image; Lesson 3: Making Music; Lesson 4: First Live Gigs; Interlude; Lesson 5: The Promotions; Lesson 6: The Label; Lesson 7: The Contest; Interlude; Lesson 9: Roving Pictures; Lesson 10: The Digital Age; Lesson 11: The Awards/Charts; Lesson 12: Success/Fame?
Studio: MVD Visual MVD5776D [8/6/2013]
Video: 16×9 HD color
Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround
Languages: English or German
Subtitles: English
Length: 90 minutes
Rating: ****

The troublesome culture of the music business is well documented. Artists have been at odds with their label, attorneys, management and concert impresarios for as long as anyone cares to remember. In America, legendary blues musicians have been eviscerated by the industry. This dynamic reached to super groups like The Beatles and Rolling Stones. Clearly there is a dichotomy between the innate love of the art and its business consequences.

In a documentary style, Welcome To The Machine examines the sequence of becoming a musician. Partly tutorial, and cautionary satire, a fledgling band (The New Vitamin) becomes the flashpoint for an attempt to reconcile music with finance. Using color photography, various musicians are interviewed, and the emerging band is introduced.  Most are nostalgic about the genesis for putting together a band and playing music. The simplicity of “just wanting to make music”, impress girls, etc. is a rallying point. Told in lesson chapters, the film recounts with humor and cynicism the breakdown of the process that started out with simple intentions. At the same time, The New Vitamin attempt to navigate their way to stardom, following the lesson plans.

There are no spectacular revelations. Marketing conflicts with labels (or for that matter, whether to record for a major or independent), career turns and inner band conflicts are recounted with tenuous reflection. The documentary captures the spirit of musicians as they reminisce about early performances. On the other hand, hostility and dismissive attitudes toward critics are prevalent. There are lots of random shots, including a hilarious boogie down by President George W. Bush. Snippets of pretentious 80’s videos are either nostalgic or downright silly.  Of course, illegal and quasi-legal downloading is a unifying theme among the interviewees. Despite the harsh realities of the “biz” (as stated in the Pink Floyd-inspired title), an innate love for music comes through.

The directorial style is interesting, with split-screen photography and some animated graphics. The images are crisp and the 5.1 sound mix is excellent. There are a lot of subtitles, but the narrative flow is not interrupted.

—Robbie Gerson




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