Review by Sean Boelman
Although the days of print journalism are unfortunately coming to an end, there was a time in which arts criticism was an integral piece of the discovery of exciting new talents. Scott Crawford’s documentary CREEM: America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine tells the story of a fan-favorite publication that had tremendous influence despite a shorter run than many of its competitors.
The film takes a look at the history of CREEM, the music magazine which would come to represent the voice of a generation’s counterculture. Like any nostalgia-driven documentary, this likely works best if you were around to actually witness the heyday of the magazine, but it will still be an interesting watch even for those who connect with the movie in other ways.
At a mere hour and fifteen minutes, the film is mighty short, and the fact that it covers more than a decade of rock-and-roll history means that it is filled to the brim with information. At times, viewers will be left wishing that Crawford would have gone into a bit more depth about some of the topics, particularly when it comes to the discussion of some of the stories that CREEM ran over the years.
Still, the movie does a very good job of establishing the need for different voices to be heard in the media. At the time, this group of people felt alienated within society and CREEM provided an outlet for them to express themselves. Now, as niche magazines are struggling to keep up subscribership for their paper editions, this serves as an important reminder of how print journalism serves the community.
Crawford does struggle to tread the line between nostalgia and adulation, and it is crossed a few times. The portions of the film which look back not at the impact the magazine and its writers had are great, but those which explore how its founder built the publication from the ground up shower a bit too much praise to feel substantial.
That said, the interviews in the movie are absolutely phenomenal. The people interviewed can be divided into three categories: the magazine’s staff, rock musicians, and fans who reminisce about reading the magazine. Obviously, there’s some overlap between those groups, but there’s enough of a range of voices to appeal to everyone, from the casual rock fan to the CREEM devotee.
Crawford also makes extensive use of archive materials, namely covers and images from editions of CREEM magazines. With editing that is consistently kinetic and a soundtrack that is packed with some of the greatest hits from the era in which rock-and-roll was at its height, there’s an undeniable level of fun to this film.
CREEM: America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine manages to cover a lot of material despite its brief runtime. While some of that material is more enlightening than the rest, it’s an altogether entertaining watch.
CREEM: America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine screens online in partnership with indie theaters beginning August 7. A list of participating locations can be found here.