Anvil, the band, was born before MTV, before the Internet, and before the movie This Is Spinal Tap, to which the documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil is often unfairly compared. One of the best reviewed docs of the year, the Anvil! DVD (VH1 Films, $24.99) came out earlier this month, and the movie is a pleasure--only Tap-ish in certain moments, but more reminiscent of The Wrestler. Pushing into their 50s, guitarist Steve "Lips" Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner aren't so deluded--unlike the fictive rockers in Spinal Tap--about their talent or standing in the world.
Like Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, our heroes know they're old; they've got families and disapproving/supportive family members; they know their 13th album--financed by a family member--may be their last, unlikely shot at metal stardom. For a day job, Steve works in catering, not unlike Rourke manning the deli counter in The Wrestler. Robb, also married and with kids, comes from a more middle-class background, and paints Edward Hopper-style oils in his spare time. But unlike Rourke, these two are Canadian Jews, like the progenitors of Judd Apatow bromances. They love each other. They love metal. And yet the music industry doesn't love them back.
No one, watching this documentary, is going to argue that Anvil's music is great. Why aren't they up there with Metallica, Megadeth, and '80s company? Lars Ulrich of Metallica blames "the Canadian element or whatever." From Guns 'n' Roses, says the half-Jewish Slash, "Everybody sort of ripped them off and left them for dead." So perhaps we'll never know if the metal world wasn't ready for Semitic rockers, or if Anvil itself wasn't ready for '80s radio. (See this nice account in New York Jewish Week.)
The group is still touring. And, after this documentary, work is underway for Anvil's 14th album. Let's hope they come back to Seattle next year.