Film Review: Blang – 16 Years of Outsider Music

It’s a question familiar to everyone involved with the DIY end of the music business – the promoters putting on nights at their local venue, the people who run those venues and the bands who play those nights, the independent labels putting out their records and yes, the bloggers who review them, all in whatever spare time work and life allows (and often a little more). It screams at us from our overflowing inboxes, ever-growing to do lists and depleted bank balances, from the cardboard boxes of unsold CDs under the bed and the half-empty gigs: Why the fuck do I do this?

Thankfully I now know what to do the next time that particular demon comes to whisper into my ear – just stick on this warm-hearted documentary about the ever wonderful Blang Records and feel the enthusiasm and love pour out of the screen, for from the surfy spaghetti western twang that opens this 45 minute film to its closing titles, Blang: 16 Years of Outsider Music exemplifies an independent spirit, a deep love of music and the bonds that these help us all to form.

The film, which they’ve of course done themselves (it wouldn’t seem right any othe way), tracks the label’s development from an antifolk night at the sadly missed 12 Bar Club on Denmark Street through sixteen years and around a hundred releases to the present day. Made in a fittingly cut and paste style by director La Staunton and producer Beth Soan (both members of the Blang team) from archive photography, live footage, music video excerpts and talking head interviews, it centres around label founder Joe Murphy, Jules Dakin and Paul Finley who run Blang with him and many of the musicians that the label have worked with over the years. It’s an impressive roster of cult heroes, eccentric geniuses and boundary pushers – amongst those featured in the film are Joyzine favourites The Awkward Silences, David Cronenberg’s Wife, Milk Kan and Joe’s own band Sergeant Buzfuz.

Highlights include a band member being arrested on the way to video shoot in which they were due to be playing the role of God, a musical two fingered salute to Brexit and a marriage, though the real heart of the film is always the music and the love which everyone involved has for it, which shines out from every frame. There is no Hollywood moment where the plucky underdogs storm to an unlikely number one – this is music that exists outside of the mainstream and is very happy to inhabit its own strange little corner of the musical map. As Finley puts it, Blang is “a home for people who didn’t have any other home,” and one thing this film amply demonstrates is that they’ve always got room for one more.

By the time the credits roll, you’re likely to be left with one of two feelings:
1) An immense gratitude to these people who give up their time, money and energy to support outsider music, coupled with a relief that you don’t have to go through it all yourself
2) An overwhelming urge to immediately start your own label/night/band/blog

If you fall into the first camp, head over to the Blang store and show them some appreciation. If you’re in the second, I’d suggest you get to work straight away – the work is hard and the hours are long, but you just need to listen to the warmth in every voice in this film to see how massive the rewards can be.

Blang: 16 Years of Outsider Music is available on demand via Vimeo priced at £5 – watch it here

Find out more about Blang Records on their official website

Review by Paul Maps

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