Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Review: Cheap Sex - "Dead Today: Five Years of Cheap Sex" DVD
From 2002 to 2007, Cheap Sex was one of the best, most incisive and uncompromising hardcore street punk bands in the scene. At a time when street punk was booming and the look and attitude was becoming more important than the music and dissent, Cheap Sex put forth hard-nosed leftist political anthems through the heart of the Bush administration and military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. This DVD tells the tale of Cheap Sex, from the van crashes and heroin addiction to struggles in the studio and constant lineup changes, with a smattering of live footage and fan interviews interlacing the documentary.
The story picks up with frontman Mike Virus leaving New York and his old band the Virus and heading out to San Diego to pursue a job offer. Initially imagining the band as a ’77 pogo-style act, Cheap Sex immediately morphed into an all-out hardcore street punk band upon writing their first song “Eyes See All.” In the documentary, the band credits their ability to get on big shows with bands like Slaughter and the Dogs, 999 and the Virus with the nearly instant success they were met with.
Described on the back of the DVD as a turbulent existence, Cheap Sex endured more tribulations in their five years of existence than most acts of 20 years encounter. On their first coast-to-coast tour, a truck full of cinder blocks collided with their van, tearing it apart and smashing the chest of guitarist Johnny O. and putting him in the hospital for three months. Later, guitarist Chris Wick lost his mother and aunt before committing suicide himself at the age of 23 after struggling with heroin abuse. In the retrospective interviews, the band devotes some five to ten minutes confronting drug use and depression, topics that still seems to burn in their minds following the death of Wick.
Aside from the band history and interviews, the clips of fans (some of whom traveled enormous distances) outside the last show are funny and enjoyable. A German fan who flew 17 hours (and whose green hair is no longer spiky by the time the footage is shot) talks about his love for Cheap Sex, while girls from Canada and Orlando make the long haul out to San Diego to see one of their favorite bands. The live footage ranges from pretty good to pretty bad depending on audio quality, while it’s still surprising Cheap Sex was such a live draw based on how lifeless and how little stage presence the band ever commanded.
Packaged with the DVD is a bonus CD that includes four unreleased studio tracks from the band. The first, “Hot Topic” is the only original (and kind of ironic since the band’s label Punk Core distributed music at the store), with an excellent cover of GBH’s “No Survivors,” Motörhead’s “Bomber,” and a nice take on “Nothing” by Negative Approach. Also included is an insert that credits each of the 10 members of the band throughout its existence.
Following Cheap Sex, members went on to such a diverse set of acts such as Evacuate and the Muslims. But Cheap Sex won’t be left behind, and thanks to this DVD, certainly won’t be forgotten.