At the time of Bruce McDonald’s “Hard Core Logo” being commercially released, the phenomena of 2nd generation punk bands doing reunion tours no one had asked for was not nearly the common practice it is today (let alone fully institutionalized to the point where the Fun Fun Fun Festival might feature a half dozen or more any given year). And we’re all painfully familiar with such endeavors ; they’re rarely cash grabs. Most of the time, they run the gamut from a fun trip down memory lane for a handful of fans and friends, to something slightly more desperate in terms of being unable to get off the fucking treadmill. Every so often, there’s a transcendent musical moment or an inspiring reinvention years after the fact. In the case of the fictional Canadian quartet Hard Core Logo, there’s precious little in the way of transcendence or reinvention.
Reassembled by frontguy/founder Joe Dick (Hugh Dillon) for a “Rock Against Guns” benefit in Vancouver, Hard Core Logo take the good reception as an excuse to embark on an ill-fated tour of Western Canada. Musically, they’re not super memorable. The mimed performances look, well, mimed. And the songs are lousy, aside from a faithful cover of “Sonic Reducer”. These guys are so meat & potatoes, DOA seem almost avant by comparison (and of course, there’s a cameo from DOA). But this isn’t about how great Hard Core Logo were supposed to be or even how they were so terrible “you’ve got to hear them” (one acquaintance likened the phony doc to “a Canadian ‘Spinal Tap'”, which I don’t get in the slightest). “Hard Core Logo” might be the only film I’ve seen that really captures the boredom, the abject sadness of what it’s like to be a below-average touring band that’s still clinging to some delusion of relevancy. That it takes place in Canada and the band in question is ostensibly punk is besides the point. I am willing to bet you know someone just like this, no matter where you’re from or what genre we’re talking about.
The crux of the story revolves around the late-hate relationship between Dick and guitarist Billy Talent (capably played by non-rocker Callum Keith Rennie, most recently of basic cable’s “The Killing”). Dick is the annoying, arrested adolescent, doomed to keep-it-real until death ; Talent the Mick Jones archetype (more trad rock star, upwardly mobile, with a paid gig waiting for him with some stateside sub-Hole ensemble). That their band kind of stinks and the actors in question look as comfortable wielding guitars as Al Leiter swinging a bat doesn’t make Dick and Talent’s banter any less compelling or reminiscent of numerous other partnerships. I’m sure someone could fashion a decent comedy out of the Carl Barat and Pete Doherty duo, but cracks tend to appear faster when a band is playing in front of 20 people when they’re pushing 40. Or at least they’re a different type of cracks. When they’re not pretending to play, Dillon and Rennie are pretty convincing as lifelong friends heading for yet another, (final) falling out.
“Hard Core Logo” is being screened this November 19 as part of the Alamo’s Music Mondays series. Tickets are $5 ; metered parking in the neighborhood is free that night.