Sunday, April 5, 2015

DVD Review: Cosmic Psychos – Blokes You Can Trust

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2015
Images from the Internet

Cosmic Psychos – Blokes You Can Trust
Directed by Matt Weston
Umbrella Entertainment / Syndicate Films
MVD Visuals
91 minutes, 2013

Yep, I have to admit it, I never heard of this Australian band before. But they certainly have their fans in the U.S., such as members of the Seattle Grunge scene from the ‘90s, like – dare I say it – Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain was said to be one. Hence the call for this “doco,” as they say down there in Oz, but more on that later.

There are lots of amazingly good bands that have come out of that part of the world, including the Saints, AC/DC, Radio Birdmen, Split Enz and the Divinyls, and so many more, even some boring ones that hit it big, like Midnight Oil. But that’s hardly a surprise considering the size of the place. Hell, it’s big enough not just to be called an island, but rather a continent.

Of course, the tale starts with a history of the band, all of its living members happy to share anecdotes. This is especially true for lead singer and bassist Ross Knight, who started out as a farmer, and well, continues as a farmer. As of this filming, he’s living out in a shed as he’s separated from his wife. Just before their first tour, fellow bandmate Bill Walsh describes Ross as parochial and conservative, and a bit homophobic; this comment is overlaid by photos of Ross “in the day” humping a statue of a saint and trying to kiss other band members.

However, what I really found odd with this description is his affair with New York photographer Whitney Ward (also interviewed here), and their delving into the 1990s S&M scene, which certainly led to their song “Whip Me.” According to this it was quite the thing to do, though I never saw a hint of it (though, to be honest, not a focal point of interest for me; perhaps that is why?). And then there’s his appearing on stage starkers with a beer can hanging from a string by his Prince Albert (yes, we see the clip). Perhaps Walsh was being sarcastic?

While the influence of the Cosmic Psychos was felt throughout Australia and Europe, it was also one of the defining factors in the formation of the grunge movement in Seattle in the early late 1980s-early 1990s. Members of various bands of the era, such as Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, the Melvins, and all of Mudhoney are interviewed, along with many others, and tell stories of fabled times touring, and especially drinking with the CP (amazingly enough, no Dave Grohl, who usually will appear in anything music related to get his face recorded).

One of the funniest stories is when Donita Sparks of L7, who all befriended the band and even visited them in Australia, lifted the Cosmic Psychos’ chorus to “She’s a Lost Cause” for their song “Fuel My Fire.” They play both bands performing their own songs one after the other, and yeah, it’s basically the same in their own way. Then there’s a clip of Prodigy covering the L7 song, for which they had a major hit (though I’d take the original bands over those poseur overrated wankers).

Never really the grunge fan, I still found this documentary interesting all the way through, with the use of interviews, lots of live music clips, and period footage and photos. Also, I liked the way director Weston uses cartoons to fill in the missing pieces when pictures don’t exist, such as when Ross waves at Whitney upon their meeting, or when Ross tells the story of how one of the members had a fish shoved up his ass when he passed out from drinking.

While all the members are represented here, this really is Ross’ story, and he is the centerpiece of both the band and the documentary. His on and off stage antics, his devotion to his two young sons, and his world champion/record setting weight lifting competitions all make for a charming story.

Their lyrics may be silly, but they still have a power to them that is undeniable, and Weston has done Cosmic Psychos and their fans justice.



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