Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

{Kill All Redneck Pricks: A documentary about a band called Karp opens in Seattle on Friday, 11/25 at the Grand Illusion Cinema}

Once upon a time there was a band named KARP. Three boys with a gleam in their eyes and a shared love of the Olympia WA music scene. Forming a band and chasing the dream. Playing louder and darker than their peers as they toured the country in the back of a beat up old van. With fungible jobs at theaters and bars to scratch by. Kill All Redneck Pricks: A documentary about a band called Karp is a story of comitted friendships crossed with a classic story of demons, adulthood drugs and incredibly bad luck tearing a promising thing apart. It's also a snapshot of a local music scene and it's ups and downs. KARP is a film that probably rewards how much intensity for the subject matter the viewer arrives with. And their personal tolerance for footage that sometimes would make the Blair Witch Project feel like it was shot on rails.
After a brief overview of the music scene in Olympia WA the story of KARP begins. Attending school together the band members were not the cool kids. But they were musically inclined. With the familiar "hey – let's start a band" moment KARP was born. Their own personal fanzine version of a high school newsletter provided the moniker for the group and a message as to where they were coming from. It's an unsubtle and direct title for a band, and I plead guilty to loving it, K.A.R.P = Kill All Redneck Pricks.  Slightly less confrontational than the earlier acronym titled band MDC but still most excellent.  As portrayed in the documentary less inclined to play with variations of the acronym than MDC. Which is sort of too bad in some ways.

Anyways … the story goes as these stories often do. Moving up the talent scale as their proficiency increased their improved skills allowing them to briefly realize the potential of their ambitions. Originals in style and sound we're told they stood out both in intensity and darkness of of sound. We see where they lived, where they worked and the scams they ran to make ends meet. If you learn one important thing from the film it just may be to look more closely at what you're being served at the local movie house. A common theme of the talking head interviews throughout is references to KARP in the past tense. Only a remarkably unobservant viewer wouldn't pick up on this … and the lack of present day footage of the band. Things seem to be going well for the group in the stories, but that past tense thing looms throughout. 

Around 50 minutes in, the ball begins to drop as one of the three begins a struggle with drugs. Their ascent was incomplete and short lived and the film explains how and the where are they now.  It's a sad story, getting into the details of which I'm sure will appeal to fans of the band. My interest began to cool after the first third of the film. While every such story is individual the story of KARP while sad just didn't really grab me, at least as told through the film. After a point I'd have loved the picture into some of the events or stories vs ticking through the history. Visually director William Badgley paints most of the pictures with grainy footage of the band and hi-fi video of NW scenery. It makes sense to give the vibe of the era and build a consistent look around what I assume was limited source footage.  Though there was a point where a more stable camera base or less grainy feel would have been appreciated.
With full knowledge that this will cause any NW coolness I've somehow accrued to be revoked I must admit a complete lack of knowledge of KARP prior to seeing this film. Interest in keeping my string of music documentary reviews going and a passionate love for acronym named bands led me to watch. Meaning I'm not really the target audience for the film. While it doesn't sound so at first, there's a criticism of the picture in that statement. A great music documentary should get you to care about the place, the people or the time. Even if you didn't enter knowing or liking the music of the subjects. Rock, country or rap, punk or blues – hooking the viewer into a fascinating world is the measure I hold the music genre doc should be held to. Even while there's clearly a place for straighter retrospective works that explain the trajectory of a band and throw in some archival footage of them playing.  Kill All Redneck Pricks: A documentary about a band called Karp falls squarely into that latter category. If you're a fan of the band or can't wait to learn every last bit about the Northwest music scene this is must see. If only for completeness. All others – I wouldn't say this is something you need to prioritize. Especially in contrast with the Fishbone doc Grand Illusion had last week.

One thing I did take away was an interest in listening to KARP's music. Doing such is part of my new Thanksgiving weekend plan. So at least the film did move me in that respect.