Monday, May 4, 2009

What's Behind The Music?: Arturo v. Anvil: The Story Of Anvil!

As easy as it could be to compare Anvil! The Story Of Anvil to This Is Spinal Tap, it's really more like a more acclaimed movie, The Wrestler, than you might imagine.

Like Randy "The Ram" Robinson, band founders Steve "Lipps" Kudlow and Robb Reiner were big in the '80s, until they somehow lost their way, resulting in them playing Toronto-area bars and, in Lipps' case, making do working for a school-lunch catering company.

Quite unlike Randy, though, Lipps and Robb are living in more understandable circumstances. Their band is still playing and recording, and each of them is supported by a loving, if at times seemingly bemused, family. Not only are the Anvil boys more real than The Ram, they're more sympathetic. As we see each of them -- Lipps, especially -- ping-pong between optimism and fear, friendship and frustration, and a steady, if underwhelming, stream of gigs across Europe, it's not hard to feel for them as they keep reaching for a level of success that, going by the sentiments of the array of stars interviewed for the film, they should already have reached.

The problem with the movie -- and it's not necessarily the band's fault -- is that we never learn why they never made it big. There's allusions to mismanagement throughout the movie, and the band meets a guy on tour who seemingly volunteers to help remedy that, but we never find out what comes of that encounter. Furthermore, it's surprising to find that Anvil isn't able to capitalize on the '80s nostalgia wave and book itself into smaller halls closer to home. Put it this way: if Enuff Z'nuff can still tour, there's seemingly no reason why Anvil -- who, judging by the tracks we hear in the movie, is actually good -- shouldn't be, either. At least, none that's shared in the film.

In the end, though, Anvil does its' duty as a feel-good story, culminating in the group's return to Japan, which was the nadir of their initial run toward the big leagues. Whatever the hell had happened to deny them further triumphs, the joy in Lipps' face as he sees the crowd is genuine. And if the positive press this movie and their accompanying tour is getting Anvil some of that long overdue recognition, I won't fault them for that.

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