16 Horsepower DVD reviews

Film / Video Reviews
16 Horsepower DVD reviews
May 25, 2006, 20:36


Two double-disc collections try and lasso the spirit of one of the past decade's most enigmatic bands. But once captured, is the religious mystery surrounding singer David Eugene Edwards and his cussed, spiritually snakebitten lyrics any closer to comprehension? That's the question you might find yourself asking after a viewing of either or both.

Live's first disc finds the band in its waning days, with most of the songs coming from 16HP's unfinished-feeling last album, Folklore. Thus the 2002 set seems somber and sedate, never quite catching the hellbound steed that carried 16HP through the previous tours (especially its triumphant Secret South tour, which was sonically—but not visually—documented as Hoarse). The second disc gazes back to a short 1996 German TV concert, plus adds a Denver rehearsal and clips from the band's final 2004 show in Belgium, which suffers from distant sound and a limited one-camera perspective.

The self-titled DVD set (edited by drummer Jean-Yves Tola) tries to glue a patchwork of scraps into a cohesive whole: thematic videos (including one by the Brothers Quay), a first-response pop-psychology Q&A in a museum, an amateur basement interview, ancient-history chit-chat, tour snippets, etc. There are flares of genius here but, truth be told, only hardcore fans will feel it a necessary collection for the rec-room shelves.

Both DVD sets do give glimpses into the strange and compelling glory of 16HP, however. “Horse Head Fiddle,” the 2002 show's slow and eerie closer, is a haunting, minimal exorcism, with Edwards bowing his distorted acoustic guitar and calling up black squawks while his eyes flutter with possessed intent. And each collection treats us to a sample of 16 Horsepower's trademark Joy Division covers: 16HP offers up a tantalizing snippet of “Twenty Four Hours,” while both sets show the band twisting the dry and cynical chill of “Heart & Soul” into a tremulous, riveting acoustic gallop which delivers on the lyrical promise that, regardless of vain attempts at morality, “one will burn.” Looking into Edwards' eyes, it's easy to believe. [Glitterhouse (Live) / Smooch Records (16HP)]

-J Graham

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