Bob And The Monster

Bob And The Monster

****1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

A hugely popular, influential rock band who never quite make it to the top. Drink, drugs, parties, rich executives offering bribes. We've all seen this kind of rock n' roll tragedy before. Rags to riches to rags again. Formidable friendships collapse into fights; the pretty one dies. Except that Bob And The Monster is something unexpected. Because here's Bob, clean and sober, living a whole new life.

The trick, says Bob, is to keep on being mad for life. Living in that world of glorious self-destruction he always believed he was doomed. Now he realises he can have all that history and yet - perhaps the ultimate act of rebellion - not die.

An energetic, visually inventive documentary with a clear passion for its subject, Bob And The Monster takes an affectionate look at rock and a fresh look at drug addiction. Bob, whose life was once dominated by heroin and cocaine, now helps others to escape that life by listening to them, respecting them, yelling at them when they deserve it but never patronising them. He's cynical about a recovery industry that pushes thousands of addicts onto more addictive prescribed medication and then calls them sober. As passionate about this as he ever was about the music, he is essentially advocating that the voices of addicts be included in discussions of how to help them. He seems to get results.

The story is told from the start, with input from the likes of Courtney Love, Anthony Kiedis and Flea. Several of his friends remember him as 'the ultimate asshole' before his recovery. We hear about the idyllic childhood that fell apart when he was 13; we see the anger in his early performances and the yearning for a political voice his audiences really didn't want to hear. There are fights on stage. Nights spent in the gutter. A curious episode spent working in a greasy spoon cafe run by members of The Circle Jerks. The nitty gritty of rock n' roll life that never makes it into the magazines.

Animation helps to give us a sense of that other existence, of the different sensory world in which Bob lived for much of the time. He makes no secret of the pleasure drugs gave him - nor of the other, more poignant reason why he took them, the chance to escape into a world without worry. Perhaps the film runs the risk of lionising him too much, but this is nicely undercut by friends who, despite their admiration, reveal him in starkly human terms.

A rare happy ending every bit as punk, in its way, as all that dying young, this is something worthy of reflection. There are no beautiful corpses here, just a self-described geeky guy who wants to keep on burning.

Reviewed on: 21 Jan 2012
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Musician Bob Forrest talks about his days with Thelonius Monster and his struggle with heroin addiction.
Amazon link

Director: Keirda Bahruth

Starring: Bob Forrest, Steven Adler, Courtney Love, Flea, Iris Berry

Year: 2011

Runtime: 85 minutes

Country: US


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