5 Must-See Music Docs

Every year, dozens of music documentaries pop up in various forms: bonus content on deluxe CD’s, made-for-TV movies, and once in awhile, in theaters and film festivals. One such movie is the Liberace documentary Behind the Candelabra, which aired earlier this year on HBO. Another is Metallica’s concert doc Through the Never which hits IMAX screens next month in an attempt to blow the wax completely out of your ears. So how do you know which ones are worth your time and which ones deserve a trip straight to the junk pile? Although there are so many amazing music docs to seek out (Hoop Dreams, anyone?), we’ve attempted to pick a few from (mostly) recent memory to get you started on your rock ‘n’ roll journey.

Name: Anvil: The Story of Anvil
Year: 2008
Why it Rocks: It’s the real life equivalent of 1984’s phony rockumentary Spinal Tap. Over the last 30 years, Anvil, one of the world’s most exciting metal acts, faded into obscurity through a series of bad record deals, tour disasters, and repeated general career mismanagement. It’s hard to believe that any band would suffer so much and continue to march on unscathed, but Anvil is that band. You can argue all day about how relevant their music is or isn’t to today’s youth, but this movies proves that die-hard metal fans are a hungry bunch that will always stick around to the bitter end. If that’s not enough reason to keep on truckin’, then I don’t know what is. Rock on!

Name: Searching For Sugar Man
Year: 2012
Why it Rocks: Searching For Sugar Man is a fantastic feature about Sixto Rodriguez, a long-forgotten ‘70s folk artist who stunned critics with his Dylan-esq croons and lonely guitar strums. Rodriguez never got his due in America but over the years became a superstar in South America (unbeknownst to him, of course). The first half is about the mystery surrounding the elusive singer, while the second half celebrates his much-deserved return to glory. Searching for Sugar Man won the Oscar for Best Documentary back in January and it’s probably the most inspiring movie you’ll see this year. Do yourself a favour and check it out today.

Name: RiP! A Remix Manifesto
Year: 2008
Why it Rocks: Copyright law has become an extremely hot issue in music over the last few years. RiP!: A Remix Manifesto argues that music sharing should be embraced and completely legal, citing Pittsburgh DJ Greg Gillis (aka Girl Talk) as a positive example of how music can be ripped and reinterpreted for the common good. As a former biomedical engineer in his day job, Gillis was constantly frustrated by the similar copyright issues. He argues that potential medical breakthroughs were often hindered by decades-old copyright laws that prevented scientists from building on earlier work. Sometimes the legality discussions run a bit dry, but RiP! always does a great job of circling back to the heart of the issue: that artistic freedom has merit in our lives and therefore it should never be muzzled by the technicalities of corporate culture.

Name: 1991: The Year Punk Broke
Year: 1993
Why it Rocks: In 1991, a little Seattle band called Nirvana released Nevermind and unintentionally ended out changing the landscape of punk music forever. Just before they skyrocketed to superstardom, Nirvana toured Europe for two weeks with another band you may have heard of called Sonic Youth. 1991: The Year Punk Broke takes us on the road with these two bands during that trek overseas. Eerily, the film features roadie Joe Cole, who died in a robbery attempt just three months after the tour ended. The movie also features interviews with basically every alternative band you listened to on cassette tapes growing up: Mudhoney, Dinosaur Jr., Hole, Babes in Toyland, The Ramones, and Husker Du, among others.

Name: Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
Year: 2004
Why it Rocks: Before you check out Metallica’s new IMAX/feature film Through the Never this August, go back and discover Some Kind of Monster. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the band’s world and watching it will make you realize how dysfunctional life in a band can be, even after more than two decades in the spotlight. Some Kind of Monster chronicles Metallica’s (failed) experience with a group therapist, singer James Hetfield’s ongoing battle with alcoholism, and the band’s search for a new bassist after Jason Newstead’s departure. You’ll feel dizzier at the end than you did at the beginning, but even non-Metallica fans will enjoy this ride.

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