BLANK GENERATION by Zbenek Suchey (1976)

The years 1974 through 1976 were important times in the rebirth of American rock music, and it was centered primarily at a roach-infested hole-in-the-wall in New York City called CBGB's. Hilly Kristal's club was the new home to a legion of then unsigned alternative bands, though that term had not yet been coined to describe the music of Talking Heads, Ramones, Television and The Patti Smith Group.

In 2001, Music Video Distributors compiled and released two separate, but thematically connected projects on one disc, both of which look back at a time when some of modern music's biggest names were just starting out. These were the bands that inspired the British punk movement, and though the footage is a bit rough, the music speaks volumes.

Blank Generation (53m:02s) It's hard to imagine that the only existing footage of the early days of bands like Talking Heads, Blondie and Ramones exists on shaky, grainy black & white 8mm stock. Blank Generation bypasses formal narration, and simply moves from one band to another, letting the images convey the message. Regardless of my initial disappointment at the poor video and audio quality, a second viewing helped me appreciate how Ivan Kral and Amos Poe put this feature together using the crude, soundless footage with intentionally out of synch audio. The effect is distracting, but effective in a disorienting kind of way.

This isn't a concert film as much as a video scrapbook, and if you look at it that way it has more raw appeal. Each group is focused on briefly for three or four minutes, and as a fan of these bands I found it somewhat exciting. Blank Generation highlights Patti Smith Group, Television, Ramones, Talking Heads, Tuff Darts, Wayne County, Blondie, Harry Toledo, Marbles, Shirts, Dolls and Heartbreakers.