Melbourne International Documentary Film Festival Review: Boom! is a rocking trip along some sonic highways

Boom! A Film about the Sonics is a documentary that is cut from the same cloth as Searching for Sugar Man and Waiting: The Van Duren Story. You may not have heard about American group, The Sonics but chances are you’ve heard their influence through other people’s music. This film is an overwhelmingly positive one that finally gives this band of five their due credit.

For filmmaker, Jordan Albertsen, this story was a passion project in every sense, because it was so many years in the making. At times this even feels a little like Almost Famous insofar as we have a huge fan of a group telling their story. In Albertsen’s case, he first developed a love for The Sonics after his father introduced him to them. Albertsen was listening to lots of Nirvana at the time and this sixties, garage rock band brought the pair closer together. This is capped off at the end when the two both attend The Sonics’ reunion show.

The band members of The Sonics are unlikely stars. They formed a group as teenagers because they had mutual tastes and interests. They released a couple of albums and had an ill-fated tour supporting The Shangri-Las. John “Buck” Ormsby was crucial in supporting their career, but then they broke-up and pursued separate interests. This could have been their final chapter but they went through a new resurgence in Europe after fans passed around their tapes.

The music in this film is fabulous. The group had trouble getting airplay during the sixties but these days the songs have aged really well. Tracks like “The Witch” and “Psycho” sound so fresh with those fuzzy guitars and hard-hitting drums. There is no question that this is a group of bad asses and that the music should be cranked loud, up past elven.

The five original members of The Sonics are interviewed here. Some of these guys are a little guarded and part of this is due to their dismay at someone wanting to tell their story. They are all so humble, they reckon people wouldn’t be interested in hearing from them. These artists do have some famous fans though, and some of these feature as talking head interviews here. Among the interviewees are: Glen Matlock (the Sex Pistols), Mike McCready (Pearl Jam), Mark Arm (Mudhoney), Nancy Wilson (Heart) and Chris Ballew (The Presidents of the United States of America). There is also a brief cameo from Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic.

The Sonic’s actual narrative is not an explosive one. People who come to this film expecting it to live up to the band’s name may be disappointed at how ordinary the narrative is. At the end of the day, the group made some great music and this thing had run its course, so they broke up. This film does have a hopeful theme though, because they recaptured that sense of creativity and wonder from their youths, so enjoy this for what it is. This documentary is ultimately a comprehensive look at five guys with a couple of fuzz chords and the truth. Pure and simple.

REVIEW SCORE: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE).

Boom! A Film about the Sonics plays as part of Melbourne’s International Documentary Film Festival. For more information and tickets head HERE.

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Natalie Salvo

My writing portfolio can be found at: https://nataliesalvo.wordpress.com/