October 21, 2019  (Web Review)

Anti-Nowhere League: We Are the League

(2019) 103 min. DVD: $19.95 (audio CD included). Music Video Distributors (avail. from most distributors). Closed captioned.

Reviewer rating: 2.0/4

Some things in life are perfect self-parodies. The British rock band Anti-Nowhere League offers a case in point—a clueless bunch of onetime louts who formed a noisy little ensemble in 1981 and decided that they made punk music. But they were about as punk as Margaret Thatcher, and their “I hate everything” persona and songs only briefly appealed to 1980s working class boy-men with a lot of frustrations. Filmmaker George Hencken’s documentary features contemporary interviews with the original members of the Anti-Nowhere League (all now in their 60s), which sheds light on how a bunch of mates who survived a hardscrabble childhood and various gangs made a leap into the unknown by forming a band. And that much is admittedly interesting. But the real meat of the film is what, predictably, came after the League’s first salvo as an angry troupe with a hit album and orgiastic tours. Sensing their sound and approach would eventually make them archaic in a changing rock music landscape, the League fumbled through the next few years seeking relevance and a broader audience. Personnel changes didn’t help, nor did brushing up against a top producer and at least one rock god (Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant) who patted them on the back. Tales of dismayed and even financially shattered boutique record labels that invested in the League are cruelly funny, as are sonic samples from the ridiculous records the band made before calling it quits (although the lead singer carries on today with an otherwise different lineup). A couple of outside, more bona fide musicians—Christopher John Millar (aka, Rat Scabies) of The Damned, and Stewart Copeland of the Police (unidentified, for some odd reason)—weigh in on the League’s unapologetic niche role, but the film ultimately wears out its welcome, becoming listless and anticlimactic, of interest only to diehard fans and lower-rung-cult-band scholars. Extras include bonus interview footage and a 19-track audio CD with live performances from 1982. Optional, at best. Aud: C, P. (T. Keogh)