[22 March 2006]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
There are two prevailing schools of thought regarding the legacy of GG Allin. The first, held by his modest, albeit loyal fan base, remembers Allin as a fiery performance artist, melding his conflicted inner demons with the punk rock aesthetic. The second more widely held view, is that Allin was a degenerate sociopath, obsessed with offending society’s sensibilities while careening down a path of self-destruction. As it often does, the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and Terror in America - Live 1993 helps to define all that Allin was and was not.
Featuring three performances from April and May of 1993, the DVD captures Allin in his furiously demented glory. The intensity he displays on stage is reminiscent of Black Flag-era Henry Rollins, but Allin casts a larger shadow than merely one of rage and rebellion. He is a dervish of manic madness, alternately abusing himself and his audiences. But unlike the legions of musical poseurs who talk the talk yet fail to walk the walk, Allin personifies danger, as his behavior is frighteningly unpredictable.
The trio of included gigs can be easily categorized by their respective themes: Asbury Park, New Jersey is a bloody mess, with Allin looking like he survived a fight with a chainsaw; Austin, Texas is debauched insanity, highlighted by Allin clad only in a discreetly placed flag loincloth and sticking a microphone up his ass; Atlanta, Georgia is unmitigated violence, with Allin brandishing his mic stand and brawling with the unruly crowd. For the uninitiated, this footage is as disturbing as it is fascinating, chronically a man committed to his art but obviously out of control.
An interesting, and somewhat ironic, revelation from the concert sequences is that Allin and his cohorts were fairly solid as a band. Granted, the music is primitive, but it is no worse than much of the thrash punk from the ‘80s and ‘90s, and actually better than most of it. Taking away the alarming visual component, Allin’s demonic growl and bludgeoning musical accompaniment fit in perfectly with anything on the Repo Man soundtrack from a decade earlier. For better or worse however, Allin’s music will always take a backseat to his savage behavior and histrionics.
In addition to the concert performances, the DVD includes four unusual bits of offstage footage with Allin in decidedly less venomous form. The studio segment is unspectacular, as is the glance of Allin getting his head tattooed, but seeing Allin frolicking poolside and at a record store signing gives a completely different perspective to the man and monster. These snippets evidence that beneath the troubled exterior, Allin had the capacity to comport himself normally, even for brief moments.
Terror in America - Live 1993 will not be for everyone, as Allin’s appeal was limited. Yet as his mystique grows with every passing year since his death, his fans and assorted curiosity seekers will enjoy the roughly two hours of Allin highlights and lowlights. If nothing else, GG Allin was committed to, and probably should have been committed for, crimes against the senses. He was no holds barred in his words and actions, and that by itself made him someone to be respected… and feared…
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/allingg-terrordvd/