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World movie premiere review
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: April 13, 2007
Directed by Chris Suchorsky
Featuring: Alex Dezen, Ted Hudson,
Steven Terry, David Chernis, Wes Kidd
Movie review by David MalschSo you want to be a rock and roll star? If dreams of sex, drugs and rock and roll have taken flight with you perhaps seeing the new documentary, "Golden Days", might just bring you back down to solid ground. It is no secret that the entertainment business is one of the cruelest and most heartbreaking out there, but when a film like this one comes around it drives home a stark reminder for those wanting to take this risk-filled plunge.
"Golden Days" is the story of an upstart band from New York City called The Damnwells and the opportunity they had in 2005 to finally hit the big time. The film is a bit reminiscent of the 2002 film "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" which told the story of the rock band Wilco. In that movie, Wilco was trying to record the biggest album of their career. In "Golden Days", The Damnwells merely attempting to make the biggest move of their lives.
The Damnwells had scored a major label record deal with Epic Records, a branch of the Sony Music empire. Already having a couple of albums out on their own with some relative success, they begin work in April, 2005 on what would become their most important album to date, Air Stereo. With an October deadline and a $90,000 advance, they hole-up in a recording studio and attempt to make the perfect record. The leader of the band, singer Alex Dezen, started out his career at the age of 8 touring with the off-Broadway production of Les Miserables. He even landed a cameo in the Luc Besson film "The Professional" with an equally young Natalie Portman. But feeling the need to connect with his first love--music--Alex and a couple friends, Ted Hudson (bass) and Steven Terry (drums), form a band. Eventually, they add a lead guitarist by the name of David Chernis and The Damnwells would be officially born.
Through much hard work, they tear through the New York music scene and land the coveted prize of a big-name label record contract--or so they thought. For six months they slave away and end up making the record Epic wanted more than the album they really wanted. Nearly a year after they started this creative process, out of nowhere, Epic Records shelves their new work and drops the band before anyone can ever hear the album. And, as if to add insult to injury, after the entire ordeal is over, the band will end up owing Epic $350,000. They become known as the greatest band that nobody knew and are now up to their necks in debt.
In the beginning of the film The Damnwells are a band and thankfully by the end of the film they remain a band. Where most groups might have succumbed to the intense pressure, these guys stuck together, picked up the pieces and vowed to play on. The "Golden Days" for The Damnwells, I hope, still lie ahead.
Fortunately, in today's music business the major labels are not the end of the line. There is a light at the end of the tunnel for new bands that aren't considered "cash cows" by the record industry. Technology and the internet have made producing and distributing quality music much easier today than ever before. Through self-distribution or small independent labels, the opportunity for global exposure is at an all-time high. With the "American Idol" model in which we unfortunately live in today, bands not poised to be the next glittery pop star--from standards imposed upon them by the music industry--now have the ability to forge their own way with these new media outlets. And it usually comes with a greater likelihood that it's on their terms.
The music business today has become so much more about the money than it is about the music. The Grammy's are a joke and mainstream radio is an even bigger joke, especially since it plays the same 18 songs over and over again. MTV doesn't even play music videos anymore. I'm not quite sure what the M stands for today--perhaps Money? When the best music being heard today is from a 30 second commercial spot selling sports cars or cell phones or seen on the last five minutes of Conan O'Brien, then the dreams of musicians using the traditional model for success are turned into nightmares.
"Golden Days" was directed by Chris Suchorsky. In 2003, his debut film "Failure" played at festivals around the country and was recently acquired by the Independent Film Channel (IFC). After "Failure", he directed a music video for The Damnwells that eventually led to what would become "Golden Days." He has crafted an amazing story about a terrific band on the verge of greatness that had the rug literally pulled out from under them. "Golden Days" is a terrific film and it deserves to be seen as much as its music deserves to be heard and not only by wannabe rock and roll stars but by a public starved for something new and real.
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