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Movie Review: 'Hype!'

Posted on


Current Status:
In Season
84 minutes
Chris De Garmo, Matt Cameron, Scott Rockenfield, Geoff Tate, Michael Wilton
Doug Pray
Documentary, musical

We gave it a B+

When a local pop-music scene gets big (Liverpool; Athens, Ga.), the folks who were there tend to get snotty and possessive, as if their children had grown up and betrayed them. That’s just one bit of fallout captured in Doug Pray’s brisk, funny, scrupulously well-researched documentary Hype!, about the rise of the Seattle grunge scene. Pray has unearthed a treasure trove of clips from the mid- to late ’80s, when the city was already home to a thriving collection of noise bands. Most of these bands were so-so, but their collective mediocrity sets the stage for a revelatory moment: a video clip of Nirvana’s first live club performance of ”Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Kurt Cobain’s druggy singsong gives you a shiver — it rises above the thrash we’ve been listening to like a wail from the heart. As fascinating as Hype! is, though, the film buys rather naively into the you-had-to-be-there ethos of all those obnoxious local scenesters. Pray implies that grunge was somehow compromised when it was marketed by Sub Pop into a youth-cult myth. Yet the essence of the Seattle revolution was that bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden became huge sellers without in any way softening their rust-bucket rawness. B+