J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

DWF ’14: Skum Rocks

If anyone is entitled to laugh at the garage metal band Skum, it is Alice Cooper. He participated in even crazier shenanigans during the early stages of his career, yet he made it to the top and stayed on top. Fittingly, he serves as the subtly acerbic narrator for their shoulda-coulda story. A group of William & Mary soccer players very well might have formed an appallingly untalented hard rock band, but when Clay Westervelt brought them together for a reunion, they kept their tongues firmly planted in their cheeks. The emphasis is on mock and rock when Westervelt’s Skum Rocks (trailer here) screens as a legit doc at the 17th annual Dances With Films in Hollywood, USA.

Skum were almost profiled on Behind the Music style program for “Disaster Bands,” but they turned out to be too disastrous. Nonetheless, Westervelt and a pick-up crew kept following the story. Founding members Hart Baur, Todd Mittlebrook, and Scott Bell had no musical aptitude, but they did not let that dissuade them. Eventually, they recruited some band-members with genuine chops, but quickly fired them when they provided too much competition for their admiring lady fans. Somehow they built up a cult reputation in Miami after graduation, partly because of their success in battle-of-the-bands. Again, this was not due to talent, but the extra credit Baur (now a high school teacher) offered his classes.

Even though they never really made it, Skum lived the rock & roll lifestyle to the fullest, leaving everyone who ever tried to do business with them reeling in bankruptcy. Like an inadvertent Max Bialystock, they oversold shares of their long promised debut album, but fortunately their sole masters were stolen under appropriately bizarre circumstances. That temporarily spelled the end of Skum—and the music industry was grateful. Oh, but there has to be a comeback.

While not Spinal Tap or the real life Super Duper Alice Cooper, Skum Rocks is still pretty funny stuff. It hits all the rockumentary bases, including the band’s revolving door for drummers and one member’s pornstar obsession. Sure, they are “playing themselves,” but the dudes from Skum nail the aging un-self-aware hedonist rocker vibe, particularly Baur and John Eaton. Of course, Cooper sells it perfectly with his stranger-than-fiction voiceovers. Following Super Duper, Supermensch, and An Honest Liar, Skum Rocks represents the fourth “documentary” he appears in this year. It is quite a body of work that makes for entertaining binge viewing.

Whether hand-on-the-Bible true or somewhat enhanced, Skum Rocks is a lot of mischievous fun, which nobody should take too seriously regardless. At least the rock & roll attitude is certainly genuine. Recommended for Skum fans and those who appreciate their milieu, Skum Rocks screens this Friday (5/30) during the 2014 Dances With Films.

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