Director: Video Rahim
Wild Eye Releasing
Release date: November 24, 2015
Is music a lifeboat or a death trap? Is it the soul of a community, or the cause of its demise? These are the overarching themes in this documentary chronicling over two years in the life of southern punk band The Dirty Works. Based in the Bible belt, The Dirty Works, led by self-harming, methadone addict singer Christopher Scum are a white trash outcry against the conservative values that surround them. These four hard drinking, hard living men take the stage and Scum, with a set of brass knuckles taped to his microphone, beats himself bloody as he staggers about the stage as if caught up in a seizure. The outcome is a lot like G. G. Allin fronting Nashville Pussy. If that interests you, read on.
While the entire band is included in this film, Scum is definitely the focal point. Guitarist Steven Crime, a functional alcoholic, shares his views on the rise of The Dirty Words, as does drummer Bernard, the only member to seem to live a normal adult life. As the film opens with Scum setting his hair on fire in a hotel room, it becomes clear that his is the personality which will garner the most camera time. Christopher Scum is, in many ways, a white trash stereotype. He is both mentally and emotionally unstable, and both looks and speaks like someone who has suffered a traumatic head injury (which he has). He alternately sings about atheism and “drinkin’ beer and shootin’ drugs with Jesus.” Through the course of Rebel Scum, his life goes downhill into alcoholism, shooting morphine, and depression.
As Scum spirals out of control, the rest of the band struggles to keep the enterprise moving forward. Bernard attempts to step in to manage the band, only to arouse Scum’s paranoia. Bassist Shaggy leaves to join another band. At one point The Dirty Works implodes, leaving Scum on the brink of self-destruction. Holed up in a hotel room due to domestic violence and keeping himself continually intoxicated, the film crew has to remove Scum from the hotel as the management has called the police due to the chaos he has caused. In the end, armed with a new bassist, Scum manages to rise from his funk to get The Dirty Works back on the road. In this case, music is probably the only thing that saves him from an early grave.
Around all the drama revolving about Scum are tales of Crime’s constant alcoholism, tense times in studios, and a lot of shows with few in attendance. While the world around The Dirty Works seems to feel that The Dirty Works are an example of the very lowest of southern culture, it’s hard to feel that these four misfits would still be alive if not for their dedication to the band. Each one is on a path of self-destruction to a varying extent, with Scum being the most blatant in his disregard for even his own well-being. In that sense, Rebel Scum is an interesting tale, as it shows how a group of rebels, shunned by all but their own, find community and purpose that keeps them striving for something more than the day to day life of an addict.
Reviewed by Jim 1340