The Milkshakes

Genius of Billy Childish With Thee Headcoats & Thee Milkshakes [DVD]

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Most of this 80-minute DVD is devoted to two live performances, separated by nearly a decade, of Billy Childish-fronted bands. The first and shorter portion, filmed in Nottingham in April 1984, presents a set of a dozen songs by Thee Milkshakes; the second part has a 20-song set by Thee Headcoats in Liverpool in September 1993. None of this is going to light the hearts of the unconverted afire, but for committed fans, they're decently shot records of the groups in action. Childish wasn't nearly as well known as he would become by the 1990s when Thee Milkshakes were performing in 1984, offering a then-unfashionable brand of indie rock that sounded like a mongrel blend of Link Wray, psychobilly, early-'60s British Invasion bands during their embryonic Hamburg residencies, and the Troggs. Though the camera work is basic on this segment (and the stage rather garishly lit), the image is clear and the pacing good. Thee Milkshakes divide their set between covers of oldies by Link Wray, Vince Taylor, the Troggs, Chuck Berry, and Bo Diddley with originals in the same vein (albeit punkier and trashier than their inspirations). Childish tries too hard to be cool in the between-song patter, however, cheerfully admonishing punters to "shut yer face" ad nauseum, and the effect is that of forced lameness rather than funny hipness. Not much had changed by the time of the Thee Headcoats segment, filmed in Liverpool in September 1993, except Childish was heading a trio rather than a quartet, and relying more on original material. Unfortunately, the audio on the lead vocals during this portion isn't very clear, and though the harsh tinny indecipherableness might be typical of what you actually hear at such live events, it doesn't make it any more enjoyable to watch on the home video screen. About halfway through the set, Thee Headcoats are joined by four "girlfriends" -- dubbed Thee Headcoatees -- on-stage (though there are only three Thee Headcoats), who supply both lead and backing vocals without changing the tenor of the music too much. As a bonus, the DVD also includes a clip of Thee Headcoats performing "Beach Bums Must Die" in the movie Pervirella; this clip is pretty incomprehensible outside of the context of that film, though it seems like it might be a simultaneous satire of surf movies and beer commercials.