What About Me: The Rise Of The Nihilist Spasm Band

Jessica Cassyle Carr
2 min read
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For nearly four decades the Nihilist Spasm Band has been either alienating or awing brave audiences with noise. From swingin' London, Ontario, they are the inventors of noise as art and claim that they are the uncles of punk rock. The members (who are actual nihilists) got together in 1966 using an amalgam of instruments and improvisation. Over the years, the band collected and fashioned relative oddities from customized intruments made from PVC pipe, kazoos (some attached to megaphones), violins, guitars and pots and pans. In appropriate nihilist form, the band regards none of the instruments as “precious.” Instead, they are sources of noise and are subsequently abused as such. What results is cacophony beyond comprehension. While admitting that it is and was sometimes terrible, the NSB became an entity that did not attempt to create music for enjoyment; rather, it created noise as an affront to order and society, its members seemingly taking delight in offending people.

What About Me tracks the evolution of this little-known but highly influential band and its often hilarious characters: sweater vest-wearing middle-aged men, some professionals, some artists, who all look as though they would abhor what their band does. Aside from footage of the NSB, there are no annoying cultural parallels drawn here—no shots of hippies protesting (lately what every documentary with a remote connection to the '60s is obliged to toss into the heap) and no mention of similar artists from the aforementioned decade. Instead, the documentary stays clearly focused on the Nihilist Spasm Band, what they created and where it took them. As they advise, you can decide whether this is important or not.

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