The 2nd film in this week’s Music film week is about early ’80s music scene in Athens, Georgia. It came out at the moment when the most famous band to come out of the scene R.E.M. were on the cusp of becoming massive rock stars, in only a couple of years they would be playing stadiums and be signed to Warner Bros. However the documentary doesn’t just focus on R.E.M. but the entire scene which was sparked by the B-52s in the late ’70s to bands nobody has heard of since.
Usually with a town full of interesting independent music if it’s in the US or UK is a college town and Athens was no exception. The type of music these bands made would later be dubbed the awful tag “college rock” which was a catch-all phase for any music that came out of punk from the early ’80s onwards in the US. The film not only touches on the music but also the outsider art of Howard Finster who made album covers for R.E.M. and Talking Heads.
The film takes an unpretentious scrappy look at this close kit group of musicians who even the ones who had “made it” R.E.M. and The B-52’s don’t show any of the hallmarks of being egotistical rock stars. The band all the other bands point to as the greatest band of the scene are Pylon who sounded like a more jangly Gang of Four and at the time of filming they were inactive simply because “we just decided to quit while we were still having a good time.”. R.E.M. took a similar easy-going approach to their eventual break up nearly 30 years later.
Athens, GA: Inside/Out remains one of the most interesting documents of the American underground scene of the ’80s at the point when it was starting to go overground. It has the feeling of being homemade with a lot of love for the music, it’s chock-a-block full of great music from bands you may know to more obscure bands like the instrumental Love Tractor. One of the many highlights besides the obvious musical ones is R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck giving you a tour of his Elvis themed bathroom which of course includes a velvet painting of The King.