Major Malfunkshun 

Of Grunge, Death, and Mediocrity

dir. Barbour
Opens Fri Sept 2
Clinton St. Theater

When rock music fans fondly recall Seattle's absurdly celebrated early-'90s grunge explosion, what they're really remembering is a brief hiccup of five bands: Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, and—most prominently—Nirvana. What many people forget was that the passable quality of the major-label figureheads was hardly the norm: For every good band vying for a Sub Pop deal, there were at least two dozen Tads, Cat Butts, and Love Batteries clogging up the grunge works with sludging, bone-headed mediocrity. One such band—a borderline glam metal outfit called Mother Love Bone—figures more historically prominent for a number of reasons, none of which have to do with their largely uninteresting music.

The first "grunge" band with a major label deal—this way back in 1989—Mother Love Bone featured a KISS-influenced junkie vocalist named Andrew Wood, as well as the early arena rock aspirations of Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard. Following the singer's death in 1990, the latter two would go on to co-found the equally poorly named Pearl Jam, as well as record a tribute album to Wood with Soundgarden vocalist (and former Wood roommate) Chris Cornell called Temple Of the Dog—posthumously lionizing Wood and his mediocre former group from footnote to forefather.

Malfunkshun—a documentary by first-time director Scot Barbour—traces Wood's troubled life through heartfelt interviews with friends (including Cornell, Kim Thayil, Gossard, and Ament) and family, and a hefty amount of fuzzy archival video. But in spite of the participants' tender, powerful recollections, Malfunkshun is a wreck of a documentary—with Barbour relying heavily on long segments of staggeringly cheesy digital collage effects to tie scenes together, all set to Wood's largely middling poetry. Ultimately, Malfunkshun should serve as a lesson for all aspiring music documentarians—if the music of your subject matter isn't inherently interesting, you better make damn sure you know what you're doing.

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