What do you think of when you read the words ‘punk rock’? When you close your eyes, do visions of spiky-haired goons pogo in your head? Perhaps your imaginary miscreants are slam-dancing in the pit or doing fakie ollies down at the local skate park. They may even be partaking of some good old-fashioned sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, but what you probably won’t imagine them doing is raising a family.
It’s true that two members of the punk Holy Trinity — Johnny Ramone and Johnny Rotten — begat no offspring, but the third and arguably most irresponsible, Johnny (Thunders), blessed the world with four. It’s unclear whether members of Johnny Moped have since settled into lives of parental domesticity, but it’s also undeniable that a child sprang forth from the loins of cult punk icon Johnny Straightjacket. Despite Mr. Rotten’s assertion that sex is “two minutes of squelching noises”, it seems that some male punk rockers have engaged in the activity without taking precautions.
Can men with polka dots dyed in their hair, piercings in multiple body parts, and a penchant for the F word possibly pass muster as parents? Andrea Nevins’ new documentary The Other F Word (opening this coming Friday, November 18th at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas) loudly asserts: fuck, yeah!
The film’s focal point is Jim Lindberg, a forty-something Manhattan Beach homeowner with a wife and three daughters. The lead singer in third-generation punk band Pennywise for almost twenty years, he’s a funny, intelligent, and self-aware guy who believes that being in a band extends your adolescence, that special time in life when you either want to throw rocks through windows or make music that sounds like rocks being thrown through windows. It’s also a job, however, and Lindberg brings home the bacon by playing more than a hundred shows a year.
Jim’s stories of dyeing his goatee on tour and wearing a baseball cap onstage to hide his receding hairline are amusing, as are the tales of other “establishment punks” like TSOL’s Jack Grisham, who relates how he once took his daughter to school wearing a ‘fuck the police’ tee-shirt. Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus says expectations of his parenting abilities “couldn’t be any lower”, while Rancid’s Lars Fredericksen ponders whether or not tattooing his forehead was a good decision from a child-rearing perspective.
As becomes crystal clear during the film’s second half, though, there’s a more serious side to it all. The amusing and oft hysterical “fish out of water” stories give way to tales of deeply unhappy childhoods and of homes where Dad had left, or — if he were still around — spent his spare time drinking, beating the wife and kids, or worse.
As I took notes throughout the film’s first 30 minutes, I thought this review would ultimately offer a mild thumbs-up to an insignificant but entertaining documentary. By the time U.S. Bombs singer Duane Peters relates his dalliance with suicide after his son’s death in an auto accident I was dabbing my eyes. The Other F Word is a surprisingly draining experience.
Punk rock has changed drastically since the mid-70s — indeed, few of the musicians featured in this film would have been considered ‘real’ punks back in the day (Ron Reyes of Black Flag and Tony Adolescent of The Adolescents excepted). Once considered socially deviant, punk is now just another lifestyle choice, another item on the musical menu. What hasn’t changed, though, is its basic attraction for those who don’t “fit in”: punk offers an alternative space for kids trying to figure out who they are and where they’re going.
Live fast, die young is no longer an option for the gentlemen of The Other F Word. They’re now part of the system, their youthful hankerings for anarchy and rebellion replaced by hopes for professional and personal stability. They’re also dedicated to the task of not repeating the mistakes their own fathers made: as Everclear’s Art Alexakis puts it, the only yelling he’s going to do is on stage. It may not be the best way to establish punk rock street cred, but it strikes me as being a somewhat worthier goal.
Berkeleyside’s film writer John Seal writes a weekly movie recommendation column at Box Office Prophets, as well as a column in The Phantom of the Movies’ Videoscope, an old-fashioned paper magazine, published quarterly.
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