Electric Frankenstein – Camden Underworld, London: 17 December 2000 – Review

Electric Frankenstein

Camden Underworld, London: 17 December 2000 (Punkervision)
by Brian Varney

I’m a fan of the DVD format when it comes to movies, and though I hadn’t seen a music DVD before these two, the format promises to be a significant improvement over VHS, which always sucked in the same way cassettes suck (bad sound, quality degradation with repeated use, having to fast forward and rewind).

The Motörhead disc is the kind of DVD that makes me wish I had a better TV. Recorded live at the Brixton Academy on October 22, 2000 on the band’s 25th anniversary, this DVD preserves the evening’s entire 23-song set, complete with oodles of special guests including Fast Eddie Clark, Brian May, and Doro Pesch, plus the usual bevy of extras including interviews, music videos, and even an acoustic performance of “Ain’t No Nice Guy.” I’ve only seen the band live once, so I don’t know if their setlist is usually this packed with goodies from the band’s long history (though I kinda doubt it), but this show is particularly stacked. Not only do you get the usual hits (“Killed by Death,” “Bomber,” “Ace of Spades,” and “Overkill” closes the show), but you also get personal favorites like “The Chase Is Better than the Catch,” “Orgasmatron,” “I’m So Bad (Baby I Don’t Care),” and “Sacrifice,” and you get the whole thing in beautiful, burning clarity. The professional nature of the presentation is almost at odds with the band’s ruffian image, except it makes the band look and sound so good that you don’t care.

The Electric Frankenstein disc, though obviously shot on a much smaller budget, is almost as compelling and exciting. I say “almost” because, well, I’m not really much of an Electric Frankenstein fan, though I gotta give ’em props and say they do this particular style a lot better than most of their peers. The show appears to be a one or two camera deal shot on the cheap, and though the picture quality is a lot muddier than Motörhead, it crackles with an energy that’s not as prominent at the Motörhead show, a lot of which is probably due to this being recorded in a small club, whereas Motörhead was in a large theater. The shots of the frantic headbanging and slamming on the floor in front of the stage, singer Steve Miller’s repeated requests for “more monitors,” and the occasional crowd shots from behind the drummer beautifully capture the club atmosphere. There isn’t really much in the way of extras on here, but as I said, this was obviously made on a tight budget, so that’s to be expected. In fact, it’s a pleasant surprise that a DVD of a live performance exists at all, let alone one as nicely shot and recorded as this one. Live performances of these sorts of bands are usually limited to crappily-recorded videotapes shot by someone standing in the middle of the pit with a camcorder, the sort of thing that sounds like shit and gives you motion sickness when you try to watch it.

Though I’d still pick the Motörhead DVD over the Electric Frankenstein, they both definitely have their place within the rock’n’roll canon. In fact, if I was feeling really high falutin’, I’d go so far as to say these two DVDs show different points on the rock show trajectory. After all, Motörhead were once where Electric Frankenstein is now. And they were making better music at that point. It’d be nice to have a Motörhead DVD shot in a club like the EF show was, but I suppose you can’t have it all.
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