Big Gold Dream (2 stars)

Big Gold Dream

EIFF 2015: Grant McPhee's sentimental look at the Scottish post-punk / indie scene

The words ‘famously’ and ‘legendary’ crop up repeatedly in the interviews featured in Grant McPhee’s documentary about the Scottish post-punk / indie scene. Such effusive sentimentality seems ill-fitting for a consideration of anarchic music; the underlying message of Big Gold Dream is that old rockers don't die, they just lose their edge.

Big Gold Dream starts, as many documentaries about punk and its influences do, with breathless interviewees describing their reactions to the Sex Pistols, attesting to the influence of Rotten, Vicious and co on the Scottish music scene of the late 70s. McPhee’s film frames this as a preface to a consideration of the entrepreneurial skills of Bob Last and his Edinburgh-based Fast Product label, and their rivals at Alan Horne's Postcard Records in Glasgow.

The story behind bands like Scars and Josef K comes up freshly, with quaint anecdotes about cups of tea served and toasties consumed while plans for musical revolt were hatched. But with many key figures (Horne, Edwyn Collins) not participating, Big Gold Dream settles into a groove of talking heads mixed with appropriately raw gig footage and endless ‘archive’ shots of city streets (unless Domino’s and Santander were popular brands in the early 80s, this constitutes careless padding instead of atmosphere).

Anecdotes are presented as facts, with no questions asked about the veracity of the information conveyed; one description of how Win’s 'You’ve Got the Power' outsold Simple Minds’ 'Belfast Child', for instance, doesn't sound accurate. Such apparent inattention to detail makes Big Gold Dream a venture that’s likely to be of interest to fans only. And, given its premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, McPhee’s documentary plays more like a cheerleading promotional film for departing EIFF chair Bob Last.

Screening on Fri 19, Tue 23 and Sat 27 Jun as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2015. General release TBC.

Big Gold Dream: Scottish Post-Punk and Infiltrating the Mainstream

  • 2 stars
  • 2015
  • 1h 34min
  • Directed by: Grant McPhee
  • Cast: Norman Blake/Bobby Bluebell/Jo Callis/Allan Campbell/Edwyn Collins

Sentimental documentary about the Scottish post-punk/indie scene, marred by inattention to detail, the absence of many key figures mentioned (Alan Horne, Edwyn Collins) and relying too much on anecdote presented as fact.