Songs for Cassavetes

The breadcrumb trail

“There is no right way to do it. There’s just doing it.”—Calvin Johnson (on making music)

Justin Mitchell’s documentary establishes itself as a remarkable time capsule on underground musicians in the ’90s, where the word community works as conceptual glue to bolster a band of outsiders against an encroaching commerce-minded mainstream. Mitchell mixes live performances with interviews reflecting the artists’ DIY values. Interviews include Calvin Johnson, founder of K Records and former member of Beat Happening, and Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney. Ian Sevonious secretes the Beatnik jive speak, insisting the Make-Up were a gospel band, using their oration to hypnotize so that they could then deliver their righteous stance on topical issues. All the more compelling, footage of Unwound’s “Hexenzsene” fearlessly performed between record racks in a small San Diego record store effectively encapsulates the magnetic spontaneity of the underground movement.