Not unlike Sharpling & Wurster‘s Air Mix-loving Music Scholar, I had almost completely eschewed rock music when Arab on Rador was a working band, so even despite the fact that my girlfriend’s best friend was dating one of the guys in the band, I never bothered to check them out. All I knew was what my girlfriend told me: they’re really noisy.
Fast forward a number of years and I had come out of the woods and moved to the big city of Montreal where I was lucky enough to check out a White Mice/Athletic Automaton/To Live and Shave In LA/Hamborghini show at Friendship Cove. Athletic Automaton were brilliant - just two guys - Stephen Mattos from Arab on Radar on guitar and lap-steeel and a totally insane drummer by the name of Patrick Crump who played so hard he put his foot through his frigging bass pedal. The music was from another planet - I couldn’t discern any influences on the band myself at least - not from the noise or post-punk music scenes that they were ostenibly a part of. But then again, I hadn’t heard Arab on Radar, so I wasn’t entirely informed. And it did turn out that their sound did bear a certain resemblance to Arab on Radar, who in turn perhaps bore a certain resemblance to Providence noise forefathers Six Finger Satellite. So maybe the sound of both bands wasn’t totally alien, but orignal enough in both cases to be immediately recognizable and positively unforgettable.
Mattos, like most, if not all, of his former bandmates, went on to form other projects: Chinese Stars, Made In Mexico and Athletic Automaton are the names generally bandied about as the fallout of Arab’s breakup. As these bands and the noise rock scene in general continue to pick up steam it seems fitting, then, for a look back at the band that spawned these others, and that continues to be a name heard a fair bit in noisy circles.
The Arab on Radar DVD fills the void for that retrospective. Like the band itself, the documentary has the good sense to get in, hit hard, make it’s point and then end abruptly while still at it’s peak. Made up of live footage, band and fan interviews and random video footage from the band’s countless tours, the movie paints an interesting picture of Arab on Radar and their sound. Beyond that, the film manages to capture the romance of life in a touring group, the appeal of growing up blue collar, putting together a band, seeing all of the continental United States, touring the world, having a lot of fun and blowing some minds and eardrums along the way.
In addition to the thoroughly enjoyable, excellently edited and well-paced documentary, the DVD also includes a ton of concert footage from various venues, a slideshow of posters, and band photos.
This DVD has made me want to do two things: (1) start a band and hit the road, and (2) check out the Arab on Radar albums. What more could you ask from a rock documentary? Highly recommended for fans of the band or any of their subsequent projects, but enjoyable enough regardless of whether or not you’re already a fan of the sound to warrant checking out. Assuming you’re not immune to the charm of screechy noise-rock, it’s doubtless that you’ll have become a fan by the time the film is over.