Film Review: “Good Vibrations”
Much has been written and filmed about the birth of the punk scenes in New York and London, but a lot less has been said about punk as it exploded in Northern Ireland. The late 1970s was the height of The Troubles, and if you wanted to be pissed off about something, then the city of Belfast was certainly the place to do it, torn apart as it was by sectarian violence between Loyalists and Unionists, and with the heavy hand of the British Army a constant oppressive force on the streets.
This film tells some of that story, using as its focus record shop owner and small time label boss Terri Hooley. Starting out with his roots in reggae and the CND movement of the 1960s, Hooley was soon captivated by the energy and possibilities of the growing punk movement and started putting out records by fledgling local bands like Rudi, The Outcasts and a little beat combo called The Undertones.
It’s a remarkably heartwarming film given the daily miseries and tragedies of life in Belfast at the time, but then that was a key factor in pushing bands and the people around them to do what they did, to unite together to do something else other than fight each other, and I guess it’s that defiant spirit that really gives the film its charm. It’s far from a happy family story, with some brutal lows (and beatings) to offset the highs, for the bands and for Hooley personally, but the overall message is a quite wonderful and positive one.
It’s a film about the music, so it quite rightly focuses on that – if you want to understand the Northern Ireland situation better, look somewhere else – and takes care not to take sides, treating both sides of the divide with equal distaste. But if you want a great telling of a lesser-told punk story (Hooley himself has said that, whilst much of the content seems unbelievable, it is all true) with a great soundtrack, then this is certainly one worth watching.
Their John Peel character was terrible though (don’t worry, he’s only got a few lines).
Good Vibrations is released on DVD and Blu-Ray on August 5th