Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Written by Fantasma el Rey
The Black Crowes hit as hard as ever here on their first music movie, now finally making its appearance on DVD. Who Killed That Bird Out On Your Window Sill was filmed way back in 1992, as a young Fantasma was entering high school and being turned on to these Kats via my brother in-law Rob. Released sometime after their second album, The Southern Harmony And Musical Companion, the movie lets us into the world of the wild young Crowes, as they do some touring and radio interviews.
The title for the movie is lifted out of the lyrics of the hit song “Remedy”, found on Southern Harmony. The sound for the music tracks is outstanding even at a low volume this thing screams, which is perfectly all right, the louder the better when it comes to The Black Crowes. The DVD consists of videos the band made for their first two albums, live performances from concerts and in the studio. Laced throughout the film are montages and excerpts from radio interviews, most of which are very humorous.
The core of The Black Crowes and focal point of the film are the Robinson brothers, Chris, vocals, and Rich, guitar. The interviews seem to be, for the most part, all Chris; his answers contain a hint of truth but are mostly made up tales that provide laughs and keep the mood light while preserving the mystery of who the Crowes really are. Some of the questions that are repeatedly asked, such as “Why do brothers in music fight so much?”, “Do you guys fight?”, and “How did the band start?” are shown together and we are given a few of Chris’ best responses. As to how the band started, according to Chris, his parents kept a chart and as they grew they were allowed to consume more alcohol and handed instruments to play. The best snippet is from a Japanese show, where Chris, Rich, and guitarist Mark Ford look so lost and confused its hilarious. They do their best to stay with it, giving shy little smiles and trying to keep focused. You can pick out key words, such as the title of the new album, number one and big success.
The meat and potatoes of this disk are the videos and live footage, captured at various spots, the farthest off being Moscow. There are seven videos here, including “Jealous Again,” the jumping “Hard To Handle,” “She Talks To Angels,” and “Remedy”. Most of these are taken from concerts or are really no more than the band wandering around and playing on a sound stage while Chris dances. “She Talks To Angels” is the one that stands apart; filmed in sepia tone and set in such a way that shadows abound and light seems to shine on the band up-ward from the floor. A great way to express one of the bands more serious songs in film form.
The live portions are highlighted by the footage taken from The Crowes European tour; of particular interest is the concert in Moscow. For reasons unknown, some of the Russian police as well as fans are bloodied. There was a clash between the two, no doubt. “Why?” is the question that goes unanswered. Yet as the scene rolls on we find people walking though and around the police line, so alls well that begins bloody, I guess? All this as the boys belt out the rollicking, guitar-driven “Stare It Cold” as Chris sings “we just want you to have a good time”. As they continue we get more average outdoor concert shots of the crowd and everyone having a blast as The Crowes perform; you can even see that some of the younger police officers are enjoying themselves. The montages are mostly more footage from the radio shows or films of the photo sessions that were done for publicity stills and or The Southern Harmony cover.
The movie provides a great opportunity to see The Black Crowes at their young, wild best and at what is the beginning of the fame that would take them to smoke-filled, hazy heights. A very entertaining 83 minutes of them having fun and doing things the way that they see fit. Watching Chris spin his “Fumo Verde” inspired tales to the questions that he has heard way too many times, is a hoot and will make you laugh. Note the closing scene and how a very tired and high Chris mixes up his words and slowly catches himself with the help of his brother Rich and bass player Johnny Colt. It is very interesting to see him now that he has mellowed nearly fifteen years later. Seeing the band jive together and play around is a fun trip as well.
To view The Black Crowes in a full live, rip-roarin’ performance, check out Freak ‘N’ Roll Into The Fog, the DVD taped live in 2005 at the legendary Fillmore auditorium in San Francisco. It captures the sound and feel of the band perfectly. To paraphrase Chris “the music knows…when theatrics become more important” and so do The Black Crowes. That is what they’ve managed to avoid all these years and why they still rock hard live.