Movie Review: The Other F Word (2011)
Two things I never tire of: Punk rock music and being a father. Therefore, The Other F Word, which combines the two, is the perfect documentary for me. Basically, a bunch of old-timey West Coast punks (Rancid, Blink 182, US Bombs, NOFX, The Vandals and Pennywise, amongst others) talk about what it’s like balancing their day jobs with parenthood. It’s one thing going up on stage singing “Fuck the Kids”; it’s completely another when your pre-teen daughter calls her sister “turdface.”
The Other F Word (as in Fatherhood) primarily concerns Jim Lindberg, lead singer of Pennywise, and father of three girls. He’s finding life tougher and tougher out on the road 200 days a year, missing his daughters’ first days at school, their Halloweens, their birthdays even. Thing is, he’s got to. At least, that is, if he wants them to have all the things we want for our kids. One of this documentary’s sub-explorations dips into how little music is actually sold these days thanks to online piracy and copying. If a band wants to make money, they need to go out on tour and charge as much as possible for their tatty t-shirts. This, to my mind, is the way it always should have been. Bands shouldn’t hole up in studios for months on end. You want a living out of music? Go out and earn it.
Lindberg comes across as a thoroughly decent bloke, as do most of the interviewees. I say most; NOFX’s Fat Mike, a man whose humor, politics and philanthropy I’ve admired up until now, doesn’t. He’s wondering how he can explain the tattoo on his left arm — that of a dominatrix bound up (including a ball gag) — to his four year old princess, later dropping her off at her “boring, hoity-toity” private school in his tweed jacket and shorts. Rancid’s Lars Frederiksen can clear a play area just by turning up; his tattooed forehead, leopard hair and bondage trousers sending parents scattering to all corners, leaving just Lars and nipper to themselves.
Yes, if this new bastardization of punk, Fat Wreck/Epitaph style, is your thing then this is the documentary for you. (You could argue that punk ended in 1977 on the day The Clash signed to CBS, but that’s another story.) You won’t learn much about parenting, but you’ll see your sleeve-tattooed heroes as you’ve never seen them before, revealing that touring’s a chore and that they’re not really that interested when they ask on-stage, “How y’all doin’ tonight?” The Other F Word basically splits its interviewees into two groups: Those that have grown up, and those that have grown old. Among the former, Black Flag frontman Ron Reyes is perhaps the best case. Archive footage shows him back in 1981, stoned out of his gourd, sleeping in a graffito-marked slum. Now, looking good, he’s got three teenagers, works in a print shop, and his shoulder-length hair is the only thing about him that doesn’t scream “normal.” Josh Freese, the most career-driven “punk” (and the second best drummer I’ve ever seen) has similarly set his priorities correctly. Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea, too, shows what I believe to be the right attitude towards his kids. Jim Lindberg, it seems, is heading down that route also. “We can change the world by raising better kids,” he says, “Not by writing a punk rock song.” And that’s the truth, Ruth.
My six-year old and I were out somewhere in the car the other day, when the Ween song, “Bananas and Blow” came on. I didn’t think about it until a little voice behind me asked, “Daddy, why do they have to blow on the bananas?”
“Because they overcooked them, darling,” I replied, tugging my collar a little. I’ve since realized that, for the time being, a fair chunk of my record collection is off-limits. If you’re having similar problems and you find yourself singing “The Wheels on the Bus” more often than you sing “Anarchy In the UK,” you’ll appreciate what the filmmakers are attempting here and you’ll agree with Lindberg’s ultimate decision.