'Dig!' was made over seven years from the mid to late 1990s and focuses on eclectic cult heroes The Brian Jonestown Massacre and friends/peers The Dandy Warhols - the latter would have fair to middle success with material from 'Come On Down' & 'Welcome to the Monkey House'and cellphone ad-hit single 'Bohemian Like You.' The general story is that there is a friendship/rivalry around the two bands - 'The Dandys Rule OK' closer to the sound explored by the Brian Jonestown Massacre, blending psychedelia, shoegazing, space-rock & Sonic Youth...
The documentary advances as the Dandys' sign to Capitol and begin to find an international audience with songs like 'Boys Better', 'Everyday is a Holiday' & 'Heroin is so Passe'- amusingly the latter has it ripped out of it by the Brian Jonestown Crew (oblivious to the irony). The film-maker's gist is that Anton Newcombe and his band (which includes future members of the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club & The Warlocks)are prolific geniuses on the cusp of being as significant as Nirvana. There is a hint of self-destruction with Newcombe's erratic behaviour - fighting with his band, fighting with the audience, signing a major-label deal (& screwing it up), becoming a bit too chemical, getting busted by the cops & dressing like Arthur Lee on rollerboots while stalking the Dandys! The Dandys meanwhile are presented as a more savvy, knowing alt-pop outfit - the notion here that Courtney Taylor (who narrates after the fact) wants to be the Artist that Newcombe is, and that conversely, Newcombe would like the pop-savvy or ambitious streak that lead the Dandy Warhols to play to large crowds in Europa and have a few hit singles to flog an LP or three off.
'Dig!' is extremely entertaining, a bit car crash reality TV (the section showing a smack-addled Newcombe similar to the scenes in the Flaming Lips 'Fearless Freaks' DVD that showed Steve Drozd shooting up), frequently amusing, wonderfully edited and manages to find a story that will entertain all. How true this story is though...Newcombe has complained that elements here are played up - the police bust for drug possession didn't relate to him (his licence was out of date), the rivalry between the two bands isn't that malicious (Newcombe's recommendation of 'Dandys Rule OK' made me buy it - while Taylor clearly still admires Newcombe's art) and there is an impression Newcombe is a washed up junky loser who gets arrested by the police for kicking people in the head and doesn't see his son. Come on, his prolific output, touring and non-heroin use in the last five years put paid to that. I think it's a bit like Julian Cope, whose seen as a messed up freak for years when he's straight'n'savvy and on the case.
There are many great moments - the Jonestown turning up at the Warhols pad, Newcombe deliberately blowing an industry moment (ending with the immortal line "broke my ****ing sitar man!"), sights of true alternative bohemia (perhaps in threat in these corporate times-'The Culture Show'just had We Start Fires on who talked about South By South West and being big like Oasis. All seemed a bit like a job), Newcombe's troubled background, an interview with fan Genesis P-Orridge (Throbbing Gristle/Psychic TV), Zia McCabe's rather pleasant breasts, the amusing/irritating tambourine player/disciple of the Newcombe, the 10 hour gig in a Communist party headquarters and the real rock'n'roll deal.
Watching this I came to realise the Dandys' were nice folks and a good band with an occaisonal great moment or several. & I realised that I had missed out by not being exposed to the Brian Jonestown Massacre earlier - clearly they are one of the great bands and everything that is fantastic about rock'n'roll, sounding like the greatest band(s) ever. The excellent two-disc retrospective 'Tepid Peppermint Wonderland' was the next stop after 'Dig' - really this is what the film's about the most. THE MUSIC...the soap opera/rivalry moments are there, and fit alongside 'Some Kind of Monster' & 'Spinal Tap'...but really - listen to the music. & if you don't think the Brian Jonestown Massacre are the greatest...suppose it's good that the BJM have got exposure out of this - personally I can't wait to see them in Oxford and Birmingham. DIG!!!