Sells like teen spirit

Hype! dreams and other bull about grunge, Seattle, and Sub Pop

Hype! skips over much in its 85-minute rush to judgment: Cobain's suicide is treated glancingly, as is the overdose of Mother Love Bone's Andrew Wood, and the murder of The Gits' Mia Zapata is never mentioned despite their appearance in concert footage. But the film is by no means a failure; indeed, part of its charm is that it could have been made in 1975 or tomorrow, so timeless are its themes (especially when the members of Tad reference Spinal Tap to make a point). And the two dozen or so performances sprinkled liberally through the film energize it, even when the bands all start to sound like Soundgarden.

But Hype! and its participants--including the wonderfully articulate Jack Endino, who engineered so much of Sub Pop's output, and photographer Charles Peterson--are struggling with the concept of what it means to be popular in an age of instant stardom. Does credibility disappear with success? Do copycats lessen the value of the originals? Can you ever go home again when your house has been subleased to David Geffen? If nothing else, Hype! is like rock and roll itself--completely contradictory at every turn, not so different from the kid with the earplugs up his nose and the backwards baseball cap who condemns the millions of record buyers who think of his music as a soundtrack to a photo shoot: "It pisses me off," he sneers. "I liked 'em first." But maybe it only means something if you like it last too.

Charles Peterson, Jack Endino, Dawn Anderson; Soundgarden, Screaming Trees, the Melvins, Mudhoney, Pearl Jam, Seaweed, Tad, Supersuckers, Gas Huffer. Directed by Doug Pray.

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