'The Greatest Story Ever Told'
Directed by Lewis Ingham And The Briefs
Produced by Lance Romance and Hugo Bellafontaine.
BYO Records 2007
Running time 85 minutes
Having just got hold of a much sought after addition to my humble punk rock collection. This
copy of the Briefs 2007 DVD documentary is another tick off my ‘most wanted’ list. The film is
modestly called 'The Greatest Story Ever Told'. It comes wrapped in a Steve E. Nix creation on
the front sleeve and is such a captivating piece of footage, I been inspired to write a rare DVD
review. Although I’m not quite sure about 'greatest' as some of the footage looks its age the
band themselves bring this documentary to life. Although they don’t seem to have any beef with
anyone, apart from the major label they signed to? Or at least are affable
enough not to admit it on camera. So don't expect any outrage, bitchin' or
animosity here. This is pure and utter Briefs up close and personal. Just
how we like em! Young punk filmmaker Lewis Ingham has captured a
whirlwind of footage on stage, on the road, in the studio and in the bands
practise pad where it all got created. His style of film making reminds me of
Julian Temple in the way he’s edited and sown all the video together. And
like their attitude its addictive watching, apart from the nauseous road
manager intrusions. But hey, it certainly registered time to get excited again!
The Briefs were one of the most vital punk bands around during the last
decade. And this film just underlines their hyperactive lifestyle and offers
great insight into the songs. Maybe they are a bunch of American fuck ups who
were once poor and still are weird. But you have to admire their stamina coz
they never once let up on touring or playing and enjoying their punk rock! Their
obvious natural ability to entertain us with ease overrides all aspects of their
bands existence. They're also a very interesting combination of personalities
and an important punk band who should not be dismissed as jokers or
throwaway pop, compared to some of punks more serious contenders. Their
tongue in cheek delivery is so utterly addictive, you just have to give it to the
Briefs for being so affable when their demand become almost global. Well
certainly European and Japan. Another admirable feature you notice as we
stalk the streets of Seattle is there is not an ego in sight? From either my
personal recollection, or on film. They were undoubtedly the hottest property in
punk since the likes of say Rancid or Green Day. Maybe their record sales
didn’t reflect that claim or come even close, but the real punks knew these
Seattle snot buckets were very special! Especially when you have the likes of Lars Frederiksen from Rancid
whose obviously a big fan and appears in this doc interviewing them as they discuss some of the more
unsavoury details you pick up on the road with girls called Megan tee hee. Punk Rock talent is few and far
between in this day and age, but the Briefs owned it in spades. I can't emphasise more how the band oozed
charisma and understood pop sensibilities that were punk rock induced. They had a shocking amount of
anthems bursting to get airplay from under those knotted ties and dayglo shades. They toured the arse outta
the bands engine in all but a brief existence. Even I managed to catch them live 3 times between 2004 -2007,
both here and in the States. And on every occasion blew off the headliners like Real McKenzies, the
levellers and the Misfits respectively. They touched most punks psyche with their ultra addictive attitude and
performance, which is all captured here through various states and stages of their career. They left us with
easily a handful of punk classics to secure their space in punk rock history. And looked sharp enough to earn
credit in punk rock lore, especially in the first decade of the 21st century. An era when punk was awash with
bland, hairy and screamy cunts who proclaimed to be punk but just looked like shit, and in most cases
sounded like it too. The Briefs however were cool and fresh without really trying. And the lean and mean
footage on display here proves they were smart too. Although giving their road manager more air time than
was needed or truly wanted was maybe an in band joke
none of the viewers will get. Falcon was obviously an
integral part of their live situation even if it only meant
getting some Burritos in for the band, so he did have his
As the film rolls on you notice from that Daniel J.
Tranvanti on guitar/vocals and particularly Lance
Romance on bass/vocals were the original
provocateurs in this band. They were the founding
members and seem older and wiser than the rest. It seems the
Lance 'romance' relationship is still classed in awe with the rest
of the band. As he is still involved with band decisions and
writing, he even co produced this DVD well after he left them in
2003 after eventually declining the tours to take his GED. I did
think the handing of his bass to Steve Kicks footage on his last
show was a bit awkward to watch, but thats the yanks for ya!
This film takes us right back to the beginning prior to youngest
member Chris Brief on drums/vocals joining (who they describe
as crusty and small). They then set about stealing the photogenic
Steve E. Nix from a local new wave outfit called Green Apple
Quickstep in '99, who Dan had also played in. It was good to have a one to one journey of the bands
progression during interview segments with each band member. Complete with footage from early shows,
interviews with producers and promoters and managers. Steve E. Nix nonchalantly takes us round on his
Skooter to early venues like Gibsons in Seattle, where they played to ten people. But live outings
persevered and the band became more popular as the weeks rolled on. Their debut 45 'Poor And Weird'
b/w 'Rotten Love' video is fantastic to watch as Stevie E. Nix falls over. Once their popularity skyrocketed with the release of 2000's 'Hit After Hit' on Dirtnap
records. It was just a matter of time before they attracted the attention of majors. They are particularly honest about signing to major label Interscope who are part
of the Universal family. The band wanted a new van and lots of records and tours. Interscope threw some money at the band, but tried to market them and subtlely
change direction, which failed resolutely when the band stuck to their punk guns. They did concede to record an album along with an expensive producer, but as
the band point out it didn’t feel right. Lots of money meant decent support slots and a dream one came on the Damned’s 8 week US tour in 2003 which produced
another funny segment of footage. Captain Sensible of The Damned takes great pleasure in berating the Briefs outside one of the venues to an audience of
amused fans in only his underwear and dog collar covered with foam lol. Life on the road was busier than ever with more concerts and non stop footage. They also
toured Europe for the first time which was caught on camera playing
with Europe's answer to the Briefs, the underrated Shocks.
Despite all this, with no new product from the label, the bands artistic
integrity was getting more and more frustrated. Interscope
infuriatingly dragged their expensive Cuban heels on a release date
for their 'classy punk rock record' they seemingly wanted the band to
produce. So the Briefs being the Briefs took matters into their own
hands and released on Dirtnap Records the rabid 'Off The Charts'
in 2003, which included lots of tracks not included on the album. They
then returned to Europe with an album and a massive major tour
support to German punk legends Die Toten Hosen playing to the
biggest audiences of their career. One gig alone had 16,000
Germans. They return to the US victorious in conquering Europe but
with still with no major label release gnawing at the back of their
minds. Being a smart band after reading the small print for legal loopholes in their contract, they eventually got
themselves dropped from Interscope with the money in the bank but more importantly no debt. Not being signed to a major wass no big deal for the band because
California’s BYO records were already waiting in the wings to sign 'em which they did. And this relationship produced the brilliant and long awaited 'Sex Objects'
album in 2004 which was great news for the fans. But internally things wre not so rosy. Lance Romance could not face another gruelling 2 month tour which the
band were now committed to play. So they quickly with Lance's blessing, drafted in Steve Kicks on bass from Vancouver's New Town Animals, whom Steve E.
Nix was a big fan of. Kicks was literally thrown in at the deep end. Lance now took a backstage role as a collaborator on songwriter duties. 2005's 'Steal Your
Heart' which would eventually be the band's last studio album is caught on film being made here. Its amazing how each of the bands pivotal moments seem to be
captured on film or audio in this doc, which is brilliant for us the viewer and brings us bang up to date with how technology has progressed and of course the
Briefs recorded output. We finally end with a selection of veteran punks from the US scene giving the band the thumbs up, including Jack Grisham from TSOL
with a puppet. The documentary footage concludes with a mass stage invasion by fans as the band run through a cover of the Boys 'First Time'.
As a bonus special feature, you get pristine copies of some of their best video shoots, including 'Poor And Weird', 'Aint It The Truth' and 'Getting Stuck On At The
Bank' amongst others. There's also a gallery of all their recorded artwork, plus interviews with record producers Johnny Sangster and Martin Feveryear at their
desks as they give us a producers view of the band in creative mode. Meanwhile Lance Romance shows us his eclectic collection of zany shades while Steve E.
Nix and Dan takes us on a tour of the bands practice room, which is a labyrinth of punk ephemera. And if that wasn't enough we conclude Disc 1 with a 13 track
live video sequence of footage taken from various gigs between 2001 and 2005 both in Europe and the USA.
Disc 2 Is audio only and sparse in comparison to disc 1. But features ultra rare live recordings made at the BBC in the UK in 2002, so guaranteed audio clarity.
However unlike other BBC radio sessions these include all the uncut fluffed intros, mistakes and song breakdowns as the band banter with each other while
frustrated sound engineers ask for another take as the red light flickers. They perform 8 songs in all with ‘Shoes', 'My Baby Is A Communist' , 'Knife', 'Medication',
'Naughty Naughty', 'Sylvia' , 'This Age', and finally 'Gary Glitters Eyes' getting the BBC treatment.
The band went on a prolonged hiatus in 2007 when this documentary was originally released. Various members went on to form other bands, most notably Steve
E. NIx Cute Lepars. However they never did quite capture that snotty essence they unleashed with the Briefs. I think they all needed to spread their wings. Fast
forward to 2013 and news hits me the Briefs are once more gigging again as the Briefs. So more material will undoubtedly develop and i'm sure more chapters
will be added to their story...can't wait!
PETER DON'T CARE - 15th April 2013