16 Horsepower are, or were, one of my three favourite, fall over gasping, bands of adoration. I say were because one month ago, after thirteen years and latterly, a series of smouldering but now irreconcilable artistic differences, they have decided to call it a day.
The post-split, dust-settling follows preordained lay lines with the rhythm section Jean-Yves Tola and Pascal Humbert closing ranks around their Lilium project, and dramatically impressive front man David Eugene Edwards now embarking full time on Woven Hand (with, as coincidence would have it, a rare show next Thursday at The Borderline.)
Having known for some time that the band were compiling a double DVD full of interviews, surround sound workouts, behind the scenes footage and music videos, the already scheduled release of '16HP' appearing so soon after the split, suddenly turned a cache of curios into an obituary, so giving one more reason for fans to treasure the contents of this particular black box.
But after the wait, I have to say that I find it a bit of a disappointment. Whereas any fan of the band will readily admit that 16 Horsepower's major trump card has always been their scalding live performances, for reasons better know to Tola, the band's drummer, and curator and editor for the DVD, there's very little in the way of concert footage included in this two disc set. Interviews are rather insubstantial too, with an Edwards one being presided over by a laid back white haired, lion maned local Denver record store owner and psychiatrist type, who reveals a deep seated fixation with all things Bob Dylan. But to this segment's credit, there are two fine live portions where Edwards takes up his banjo to play the traditional folk spiritual 'Wayfaring Stranger', and a Dylan penned song, '(Nobody) 'Cept You' (performed perhaps, by special request?)
Helping to launch the argument that a more satisfying single disc DVD might have been an option, the band's five music video clips are very worth their inclusion. All have a related spooky, Ol' Time indulgence about them, with 'Black Soul Choir', being the rather special stop-motion handiwork of The Brothers Quay. Built from black and white film clips of genuine dust bowl and post hurricane mayhem, 'Splinters' is the one visual that accords well with its soundtrack.
During one back stage interview, with Edwards, Tola and Humbert awkwardly perched on a rickety sofa, the inquisitor broaches the subject of both satellite projects, Woven Hand and Lilium, and it's not difficult to notice seeds of the band's future "divorce" in the body language of all three.
The most engaging film segment is Coulisses, which constructively spends time with the band during one of their European tours and it's amazing to see excerpts of the band playing sell out shows to hoards of fans. Somehow the UK could never summon up anything like that level of warmth for the band. Their loss.
With this package, it's good to see the guys up close and personal, and the videos are very worth having for their own alluring merit, but if the notion of a band DVD conjures up in the mind something slick and professional looking, then you're definitely in the wrong place. (But then again, "Slick" has never tended to be a word that comes readily to mind with anything 16 Horsepower!)
Best treat it like a scrapbook full of bits and bobs that jog memories, rather than makes them.
5Jane Oriel's Score