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Thursday, November 3, 2011

"They Call It Acid", house music & the right to party

They Call It Acid- A Dance Music Documentary
In-Edit Beefeater Festival 2011, chapter IV

The last film at the music documentary Festival (on a cinema without air-conditioning that became a sauna) was, unexpectedly, a fine ending of four days of music documentaries for us. Unexpectedly because of the interest and quality of the movie itself, very remarkable considering I kind of hate house/dance music myself, and because after two films on folk music and the Newport Festival, "They Call It Acid" closes the "circle" on a high note.

Director Gordon Mason (who devoted over 10 years to the project, totally self-financed) takes a fantastic challenge: explain what was the acid house culture, from their origin, its cenit, and its downfall (or at least struggle against authorities). From being born as an underground movement to collapse the centre of London with the demand of "the right to party". And it does with a smile. The yellow, famous smile that became the most recognisable icon associated with acid house.

The film offers almost all explanations about this peculiar movement. Names (Paul Oakenfold, Carl Cox among many others), places, dynamics, evolutions, influences... inviting us to a trip that includes Chicago, Detroit, NY, grows in the Balearic Islands and gets full form in England. For the fans of this electronic music style, the documentary must be unique. For the "non-believers" is intriguing and very curious. Particularly absorbing is how an initial style of music, hedonistic and let's say it, completely empty (in what refers to lyrics, message, etc) develops into a countercultural, anti-establishment movement. Its quite amazing if we compare with the Newport Festival, 30 years before acid house. Folk music, with the people seated while they listen carefully the meaningful lyrics of the artist, who exposes his/her serious tribulations on mankind, war, rights of the people, became the soundtrack of a committed generation. But three decades after, a music that can only be danced (better with  drugs) achieves the same results. Noel Gallagher, also interviewed on the documentary nails it: "Acid House is thanks to Margaret Thatcher, she fucked England so much there was nothing else to do". Unbeatable historical and social comment.

But I wrote before "They Call It Acid" almost provides all the explanations. Almost, because misses a big one. The drug thing. Except the police/politics, everyone in the film talks about the peace, the community, the great vibes, and how the little pill made people connect with each other... That's great, we can believe that.. but there's zero mention to addiction, drug abuse and violence associated to house. Even more, there's no questioning at all of the quality of a music style that must be enjoyed under the effects of a drug. That's being partial, and harms the credibility of the film, missing the chance of having two potentially engaging debates. Aligned with that, there's also little blame on the commercialization of the acid house by the people who saw a lot of money could be earned from that, making the movement huge, for good and bad.

That made me feel a bit frustrated with the film at the end. It could have been a masterpiece, a detailed and very dynamic documentary, but the lack of willing to explore its obvious contradictions takes away some of its value. Anyway, a very remarkable work.

SCORE: 7/10

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