Music

Kid Dynamite: Cheap Shots, Youth Anthems

Kevin Jagernauth

Kid Dynamite

Cheap Shots, Youth Anthems

Label: Jade Tree
US Release Date: 2003-09-16
UK Release Date: 2003-10-06
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Three chord, under three-minute punk rock was never really my thing. Minor Threat was a fun listen as an angry, anarchic teenager but listening to them seriously is a bit more difficult now. Though the intent is endearing and the historic value is important, the anger is adolescent and the music fairly uninteresting. Kid Dynamite took their musical cues from the '80s punk scenes in Los Angeles, California, and Washington, D.C., threw in a dash of (refreshing) positivity and tackle box full of pop hooks. For this weary, cynical listener, Kid Dynamite, while not the most innovative band on the block, were certainly a step ahead of the other pimply-faced kids on the street banging out punk rock anthems in their garages.

Kid Dynamite was formed in 1997 out of the ashes of the beloved Lifetime. Ex-guitarist Dan Yemin would ride the coattails of his former band, but produce something in Kid Dynamite that was a little fiercer, and with a harder edge. Based on the popularity of Lifetime, the band formed a rabid following and quickly issued two full lengths, a split EP with 88 Fingers Louie, along with handful of compilation appearances before dissolving three years later. Cheap Shots, Youth Anthems collects their scattered compilation appearances, demo outtakes, live recordings, and more, making a fine bookend for the career of this vibrant band.

On the twenty-nine tracks presented here, Kid Dynamite never take things over the three-minute mark, and often keep things under a minute, making it tight, terse, and to the point. Guitar solos, pre-choruses, and even bridges rarely have a place in these songs, as the band tears it up, playing each track as if it was the only moment they had to commit it to tape. It is this ferocious, determined energy that kept Cheap Shots, Youth Anthems spinning on my stereo, daring me to take it off.

Divided into five sections -- The Classics, The Covers, Six Songs with Jay Singing, Demo Outtakes, Live Radio -- Cheap Shots, Youth Anthems presents a great overview of Kid Dynamite's output. The Classics collects tracks from the aforementioned split with 88 Fingers Louie as well as a song from one of many compilation appearances. The Covers finds the band paying tribute to Black Flag, Circle Jerks, the Clash, Minor Threat, and the Dead Kennedys. While none of these tracks are particularly illuminating, they do give a good indication of the influences coursing through the Kid Dynamite catalog. Six Songs with Jay Singing, is a crudely recorded, yet passionate early demo that offers up no surprises, but lays its cards on the table, setting the musical course the band would follow on their "official" releases. The Demo Outtakes showcase seven tracks that didn't make the cut for the demo, but not for lack of quality. These tracks are as adequately inspired and performed as the cuts from the same sessions, and are a nice addition to the collection. Rounding out the disc is Live Radio. Captured live on 94WYSP Philadelphia, this would be the last Kid Dynamite performance before singer Jason Shevchuk left the group. Though suffering from a manhandled radio mix, the tracks are a fitting farewell for the group, and still finds at them at the top of their game.

Jade Tree, who usually have fantastic packaging for their releases, have outdone themselves with Cheap Shots, Youth Anthems. A DVD accompanies the CD, filled with live performances and still photos, and the booklet is nicely detailed with track-by-track notes from the band. While Kid Dynamite's place in punk rock history remains to be seen, they were certainly enthusiastic performers and offered up some of the best old school punk rock for their time. For the diehard fan, or the punk rocker looking for an introduction to this fiery group, Cheap Shots, Youth Anthems is a must have.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

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If The Prince of Nothingwood will popularly be remembered for celebrating the creative spirit of its star Salim Shaheen, it is equally an important communication on Afghanistan, it's culture and its people.

"Now I am just more tired and poor. So no, I haven't changed. I'm just older and more tired," says French radio journalist and documentarian Sonia Kronlund, as she looks back on the experience of making The Prince of Nothingwood (2017).

Joining Salim Shaheen, the most popular and prolific actor-director-producer in Afghanistan on his 111th no budget feature, Kronlund documents the week-long shoot and the events surrounding it. She crafts an insight into a larger than life persona, yet amidst the comedy and theatricality of Shaheen and his troupe of collaborators, she uncovers the heavier tones of the everyday reality of war and patriarchal oppression. If The Prince of Nothingwood will popularly be remembered for celebrating the creative spirit of its star, it is equally an important communication on Afghanistan, it's culture and its people. Alongside the awareness of the country cultivated by mainstream media news outlets, Kronlund's film offers an insight into a country that can humanise the prejudice and xenophobic tendencies of a western perspective towards Afghanistan.

In October of this year at the UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival, Kronlund spoke with PopMatters about being driven by questions rather than inspiration. She also reflected on the subjective nature of documentary filmmaking, the necessary artistic compromises of filming in Afghanistan, and feeling a satisfaction with imperfections.

Why filmmaking as a means of expression? Was there an inspirational or defining moment?

Not really, no. I have always done documentary. I used to write scripts and TV series but I only make documentaries myself for radio and television. For this story, I figured out after a while that it deserved a bigger ambition and a bigger screen and that's why I don't very much believe in inspiration. To be honest, I made this film because I had to do something. I didn't have a big project where I thought: I want to make this. I went there and I found a little money and at the end the ambition and the inspiration came along the way. But there was not an urgent necessity to make this film. It fits with a lot of things that I'm interested in, like popular culture -- What does art stand for and why do we go to the cinema? What is the purpose? This is a question I'm interested in, but inspiration, not so much.

Has The Prince of Nothingwood provided you with the answers to those questions?

It has, and I hope it helps people to think about this question. It tells you that there is an urgent need to make images, to make films, even during war,and even if you don't have the money. And even if the films are not very good, they will find somebody who will like them. So something is going to happen, and I think that's very touching. I don't like Shaheen's films, I hardly watched them -- I paid somebody to watch them. But I'm very moved by all these people that do like his films, and it makes you think about the value of art and the purpose of why we make cinema. I used to study aesthetics in London, so it was one of the questions I had and while the film is lighter than this, that's what was in mind.

The film uses Shaheen as a doorway, beginning as a story about one man which becomes a story about Afghanistan, its people and culture.

Yeah, but it's not so much about Afghanistan and it's not my purpose is to say things about the country. There's one guy like him in Iran who makes cowboy movies in the Iranian desert and there's also a guy like that in Tunisia. I mean you have this person with an urgent need to film whatever they have under their hand and since it's war, then it tells you something about the war. But it's not so much interested in him.

There was a lot of editing, 148 hours that you haven't seen [laughs]. Making a documentary is really telling a story and I don't have any idea of objectivity -- it is my point of view on Shaheen. Some people say to me that they would like to show his films, that they really want to see his films, and I say: "You don't see how much I have edited. I show you the very nice parts of his films." People think he's a great filmmaker and that's the story I wanted to tell -- but I could have told another story.

To my mind, objectivity is a human construct, a falsity that does not exist.

Except mathematics maybe, and sometimes physics.

The purist opinion of documentary as objective is therein built on a faulty premise. From the subjective choices of the filmmakers that bleed into the film to the subjectivity of the subjects, it's not purely objective. Hence, it calls into question the traditional dividing line of the objectivity of documentary and the subjectivity of narrative fiction.

Totally! It's the editing, and why you chose this guy, how you film it and what you show, or what you don't show. It's not only subjectivity, it's storytelling. Not many people ask me about this, they take it for granted that it's the real Shaheen. But I'm not lying, I'm not saying things that aren't true, but I am telling a story, a fictional story out of what I filmed. I took scenes that happened one day and I put them with another story that happened three months later and that's why we had seven months of editing with three editors. So it was a lot of work.

One of the striking aspects of the film are the light and comedic moments offset by a darker and heavier sensibility, which include moments when, for example, Shaheen talks about arranged marriages.

We made 70rough cuts and there was one version we tested and you couldn't believe you were in Afghanistan. People would say: "Oh this is too funny. You don't see Afghanistan, it's just a bunch of crazy guys." I then said: "Let's put in a little more darkness." You then have to strike a balance and to me, if it's not perfect, I'm happy.

Shooting the film in a dangerous and volatile part of the world, was the approach that once you had enough footage you then looked to shaping the film in the edit?

It's not when you feel you have enough, it's finding a balance between security and artistic concerns. That's it. You have a plan and you have an agenda. There are things you want to do, but it has to be balanced with security concerns. The real story I was going to tell about Shaheen I found in the editing room and in the end, I only kept five days of the shoot. The whole film takes place in Bamyan (Province), nothing in Kabul, although I had weeks and weeks of footage there that I had to take away.

There's a moment when Shaheen asks if you are scared, which sees him verbalise our silent recognition of your boldness and courage to bring this story to the screen.

It's very difficult and it's not like you are walking in the street and there's a bomb. This is not what's difficult. The difficulty is to cope with your fear and to have rules and to follow or to not follow those rules. There are many foreign people that never go out at all in Kabul -- it is forbidden. You have British diplomats who do not even drive their car from the airport to the embassy -- they will take an helicopter that costs £2,000 each way. Then you have foreign people who walk in the street without a scarf -- these girls get kidnapped.

In between these you have Shaheen, who is telling me all the time that I'm too scared, because it's a man's value to be brave and he's a brave guy, there's no question about that. He was in an attack two weeks ago. There was a bomb in a Shia Mosque and he helped to carry out the bodies. So there's no kidding about the fact that he's a brave guy and he has to be because he's been fighting to make his films. But you are in the middle of this and I'm not a brave person at all and I don't think being brave is a very important question. It is, but I'm not brave, I'm very scared and so in the middle of all of this stress it's enough just to manage to not go crazy, or to not drink too much [laughs].

Salim Shaheen and Sonia Kronlund (courtesy of Pyramide Films)

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