Tuesday, 11 June 2013


(Shimmy Marcus, 2012)

LiR were one of the many Dublin bands who swarmed in the city's clubs and bars in the 1980s and '90s, hoping to be - in commercial terms at least - the next U2.
It never happened, and Shimmy Marcus' film is partly an attempt to explain why. It's composed of a mix of archive footage - much of it vintage camcorder stuff, some taken from Irish tv - and contemporary interviews with the band members, now mainly pudgy and middle-aged in sharp contrast to their skinny youthful faces in the old photographs and clips. They trace a familar narrative of young boredom on the streets of Dublin's Donaghmede, a few failed attempts at starting a band, and the gradual rise to competence and local popularity. Dublin then was rife with kids in bands; a few great, some good, most pretty shocking. But the majority got record deals and made albums in London or the States, only to limp back home a few years later when fame and fortune refused to come calling. LiR, despite an impressive fanbase and their reputation as an awesome live act, failed to do so, and they still can't quite understand why.
And so the undercurrent is pronounced early on - this will ultimately be a story of a band of naive young men who believe they were let down and even exploited by their older, cannier manager. Eventually they will travel to America, where a series of grinding, mentally and physically exhausting tours and a record deal coincide with members leaving, managers quitting, lots of stress, and no success.
This is a question Marcus' funny, interesting film never really successfully grapples with: were LiR ever good enough? For all that the band members talk about how it was only the music that really mattered, only two songs are really lingered over and identified, and much of the rest, while well-played and nicely sung, sound pretty dull, which is how this Dublin boy remembers them. The only allusions to this possibility are an acknowledgement that Irish critics were unusually damning about the band - rejected delusionally by one band member in a rant about how much hate there is in such a small country - and their American Label boss claiming that they hated the first LiR record (resulting in a vastly different American version).
None of this prevents their story from being quietly compelling. They mostly make for charming, articulate interviewees in a very Dublin way, mixing earnest homilies about the joy of rock with cynical jokes about life on the road, and there is something quite touching about two old childhood friends roaming the drab suburban streets of their youth and sharing reminiscences, wondering where it all went and why it never quite worked out. Marcus uses his footage nicely, keeping a rambling story and large cast tight and ordered throughout.

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