Teenage Superstars (4 stars)

Teenage Superstars

EIFF 2017: Lucid and entertaining exploration of the 90s Scottish music scene, from Grant McPhee

'Artful desperation' is how Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore neatly characterises the Scottish music scene of the early 90s in one of the key interviews featured in Grant McPhee's documentary. Teenage Superstars is McPhee and co-writer Angela Slaven's follow up to 2015's Big Gold Dream, with some of the nostalgic 'clip-show' weaknesses of the earlier film, but doubling down on interviews and archive footage to provide a more lucid and entertaining account of a seminal period of Scottish music history.

Teenage Superstars relates the conception and incubation of several Scottish bands, including The Pastels, BMX Bandits, The Vaselines, Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub, The Soup Dragons and The Jesus & Mary Chain. The sound is what would now be termed 'lo-fi', and the accompanying visuals are equally raw. Recent interviews with most of the protagonists weave a complex narrative of fame, failure and fatigue, narrated in a very un-Scottish drawl by Kim Deal from The Breeders / Pixies.

As with Big Gold Dream, McPhee misses out on a few crucial interviews (Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie is among those discussed but not present) and there's frustratingly absent footage; a story about a chaotic TV-am interview for The Soup Dragons is one of several archive clips tantalisingly described but not illustrated. But Teenage Superstars has a far larger and more articulate cast to play with, with Duglas T Stewart, Stephen McRobbie, Eugene Kelly and Norman Blake able to provide real insight into where their Scottish swagger came from.

Many of the bands involved deserve a feature documentary of their own, and McPhee concludes by making a case for Teenage Fanclub as the most successful by dint of being the least interested in success. But all the artists featured in Teenage Superstars are success stories; they put Scotland on the map in idiosyncratic style, and McPhee's film tells their story in granular detail.

Screening on Thu 22 Jun and Sat 1 Jul as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2017. General release TBC.

Teenage Superstars

  • 4 stars
  • 2017
  • UK
  • 1h 32min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Grant McPhee
  • Written by: Grant McPhee, Erik Sandberg
  • Cast: Edwyn Collins, Jim Reid, Bobby Gillespie

Documentary about the Scottish music scene of the early 90s, relating the conception and incubation of bands like Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub, etc. More lucid and entertaining than McPhee and Slaven’s 2015 Big Gold Dream, it tells these bands’ stories in granular detail and has a larger and more articulate cast.

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