Full Title: The Shield Around the K
Director: Heather Rose Dominic
The title says it all. The metaphorical shield truly represented K’s mythical way of battling the corporate ogre in a unique and highly confrontational manner. For those sad souls out there that are unfamiliar with K, here’s a brief breakdown. K was and still is a defiantly and charismatically independent label; one of the greatest models for how an indepedent label can successfully operate. Calvin Johnson (K founder and Beat Happening frontman) challenged his audience and contemporaries by creating and documenting music that was unabashedly simple, coy, and as far away as possible from the mainstream. These kids challenged the mold of expecation of what a Punk band should look, sound, or act like. By making poppy, “twee,” love rock (as some call it), artists like Beat Happening distanced themselves from not only the corporate world, but also the oft-macho hardcore scene, which was dominating underground music at the time. All in all, this doc does a great job of articulating this important aspect of K Records as well as offering some great archive footage, interviews, and music videos and ultimately a detailed, informative backgound of said topic. One thing I (sorta) didn’t like was the fact that the film focused too much on Beat Happening; after all it was supposed to be about the K label and not about Beat Happening solely. Then again, they and their history are obviously vital to the K tale and since they are one of my all time favorite bands, I don’t mind seeing them on screen. Lastly, this doc features various key figures including, Ian Mackaye, Gerad Cosloy, Slim Moon, John Foster, amongst others. So, if you dig cutting edge (well, then cutting edge) Punk Rock or want to learn more about seminal, underground music then grab some black candy and check it out.
2 thoughts on “Classic Film Review: Shield Around the K”
great review: i liked the film but it could have een a lot longer and more in depth. I just finished writing a piece on Calvin Johnson myself:
Thanks man and I agree. Interesting story about meeting Calvin. I am a huge Beat Happening fan, but I haven’t heard much of his other material, but I’ll have to check it out sometime. K is certainly one of the most important labels of all time; I’ve always appreciated their unique, anti-corporate stance. It’s like Calvin and the others simply want to make music for pure reasons and have control over their art. I just find it fascinating to see artists care about making music outside the Corporate Ogre, so to speak, and not just for explicit political reasons. Not that there is anything wrong with having an ideology or anything like that, but at the same time you don’t have to be a Marxist to hate the mainstream music industry and want to have nothing to do with it.