The only thing vinyl collectors enjoy more than searching for records is the opportunity to talk about their collections. The new documentary Records Collecting Dust has a simple mission. San Diego-based filmmaker Jason Blackmore took his camera into the living rooms of 30 or so punk and alternative musicians and label owners, including luminaries such as Mike Watt of the Minutemen, Jello Biafra of The Dead Kennedys, Keith Morris and Chuck Dukowski of Black Flag, and many more, and he asks them all to tell stories about their record collections.
Records Collecting Dust is a charmingly DIY affair. Shot on the cheap and with seemingly little to no crew, the film is made up almost entirely of interview footage, plus a few oddly placed interludes of live punk performance footage. With each interviewee sitting among their personal stacks and shelves of LPs, the film simply rolls from one geeky topic to the next: the first record each musician ever bought, the stores they frequented as kids, favorite 45s, and so on.
At first, the name-checked artists are unsurprising—with many of the subjects having grown up in the 60’s and 70’s, there’s repeated mention of early exposure to the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Kiss. But Blackmore digs deeper and finds several amusing stories behind the collections. As the film goes on, the records being discussed become more obscure, many leaning towards early hardcore punk titles from SST, Dischord and others.
It’s wonderful to see a profile of vinyl collecting that has no trace of elitism or snobbery. The film has a distinctly open-hearted attitude: this is the music we love, and this is the way we discovered it. Despite the interviewees’ punk backgrounds, these folks are relatable to anyone with a music collection. In one sequence, John “The Swami” Reis (Rocket From the Crypt, Drive Like Jehu) explains, without a trace of irony, how much he used to love “On Top of Spaghetti,” as he drops the needle on an old children’s turntable to play his favorite excerpts from the song. And any notion of pretension is dispelled by the sequence near the end where the subjects discuss their most recent vinyl purchases, some of which include Lana Del Rey and Kendrick Lamar.
Records Collecting Dust doesn’t bother to ask why its subjects love and collect vinyl. That idea is simply taken as a given. There’s thankfully no discussion of the rise of digital streaming or downloading or a plea to save or support independent record stores. Blackmore is simply interested in documenting these people and their record collections. His focus is narrow.
What comes out the film is a feeling that’s not specific to the individuals being interviewed, the particular records or genres they love, or even necessarily vinyl records. It’s about the idea of discovering and enjoying art that means something to you, and finding a way to share that enthusiasm with others.
As of this writing, Records Collecting Dust is available to stream on Amazon Prime, and for digital rental or purchase at iTunes, Amazon and on their website.
This piece was written by Matt Scott and is part of an ongoing documentary review series. New reviews will post on the 2nd Wednesday of every month. Catch the next review on November 11, 2015.
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