It seems every month I see a great little music documentary about some band or scene or style of music. August’s entry is the English documentary Made In Sheffield that is on the short side (slightly under an hour) but one that I really enjoyed.
I think the post-punk period from say, 1977-1984 was perhaps the most creative and vibrant period in sheer diversity and newness in rock n roll history. Sheffield was known for their collection of bands in the late 1970s and those bands are chronicled in Made In Sheffield.
What makes this film really timely is that post-punk music has seen a massive “re-birth” in the past few years as every hipster band on the planet it seems has suddenly discovered albums and bands from this era. The kids seem to like all these new bands but the fact is they are largely mimicking a lot of these post-punk bands from 20-30 years ago.
Born in the frenzy of punk rock, post-punk is a much more interesting form of rock music from this era. Punk rock may have kicked down doors and limitations but it quickly became music of stasis, frozen by the rigid narrow mindedness of those writing the so-called rules. To me, punk rock quickly became a reactionary style of music and most of it hasn’t held up artistically in the passing years.
Post-punk though, it is a completely different animal with a wildly diverse collection of groups that relied on guitars AND synthesizers AND anything else that pushed the boundaries of sound and music. The goal was to create new sounds and there were no rules. While punk rock bands were too busy in creating rules that limited what they could do and who could be in the club, post-punk bands were busy making far, far superior music that holds up much better over time.
One reason I'm so into this is I love analogue synthesizers. The synthesizer is the most revolutionary instrument created in the past 40 years, as it’s the only modern, futuristic instrument not based on some string instrument of the past. I have a long running love affair with music made with synthesizers and the zenith is the 1978-83 period that sees a lot of attention in this documentary. So, any film with early Human League footage is going to be adored by me and Made In Sheffield has that and so much more.
Here’s the bands you see and hear about in the film: The Human League, Heaven 17, ABC, Caberet Voltaire, Pulp, Artery, The Future, Vice Versa, 2.3, The Extras, I’m So Hollow, Comsat Angels, Clock DVA and even Def Leopard (!). That’s an incredible list—a few of them I’d never heard of but was blown away by footage I saw in the film—Artery and I’m So Hollow were great and I’m going to look for records by them the first chance I can.
Made In Sheffield is a short look into a city who had a brief explosion of musical creativity in the late ‘70s and whose bands were influential at the time and that influence is still felt thirty years later. Highly recommended for music lovers.