No Police State

Review: No Police State, Film the Madness (Indie, 2002)

When the founding members of No Police State trashed a squad car in Memphis last year, some fans wondered if they’d gone too far. It’s all very well and good to make songs protesting the protesters of depleted uranium shells (“Clean Bombs are Still Bombs, for Fuck’s Sake”) or pissing off the IRS with  the unplugged title track from their first album,.released on April 15th, 1999… “Pay Your Taxes Tomorrow”…

“It was all for the video,” says Dee Lishus, lead singer of the band. “We wanted to make a film documentary. What’s the point of doing that if you don’t have some kind visual symbol of your theme? We payed for the squad car with the gambling money our drummer’d won, illegally mind you, from the car’s driver the night before.” Camcorder footage of the band attacking the police vehicle with drumsticks, a microphone stand, and lengths of amplifier cable, with Dee’s voiceover explaining that art somtimes means challenging our sacred cows, fails to be trite when you realize that they’re beating the squad car to the rhythm of their recent song “Black and White, Blue and Everybody Else”.

There’s a lot of the traditional thing that one’d expect in a video about NPS, including concert and festival footage, casual chatter on the tour bus, mosh pits… But what’s really satisfying are the deeply personal interviews, especially the one with bassist Buck Authority. Buck tells of how he watched
his older brothers “go off to kill people in Desert Storm, in Serbia… one is still in Afghanistan. And back here we’re kicking in doors and killing the spirit that we say we’re fighting for.” The video cuts to a familiar scene at one of NPS’s concerts, a door having been brought up on stage, and Buck is
kicking it in during their song “Hands up Tonto”. In this particular clip there are tears in his eyes. It’s very moving.

You won’t find an indie documentary like “No Police State” at your local Barnes and Noble, Borders, or other major retailer. The band encourages people (on the inside liner notes) to bug them about it anyway. “If nothing else, the phrase may stick in their CNN-stunted heads.” The band’s website has been having some problems lately, so this may actually be the best bet for getting the DVD ordered.

Incidentally, inside the liner of each DVD case there’s an extremely realistic (unlaminated) law enforcement ID card. Asked about this in the documentary, Dee Lishus said “If everyone is a cop, ya know. I’m a cop, you’re a cop, he’s a cop… big deal. Then we can all go back to policing ourselves, and we won’t be glorifying as some sort of cultural saint whoever happens to have a shiny badge or a uniform or official identification. Besides, it’s fun.”

The DVD is not really a music DVD. If you buy this one, it’s for the biography, the history of the band, the apolitical commentary, and to assuage curiosity about why police cars are getting “banded” in Memphis. It satisfies all of these interests quite well. I’m going to go watch it again, now. And then go down to Borders and order a copy for a friend.

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