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Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records
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by Jay Seaver

"That place someone else really liked to go."
2 stars

SCREENED AT BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL 21: "Industrial Accident" tests the limits of how far a documentary can get on large reserves of affection for its subjects, and it's no small distance, especially when the viewer shares it, or at least has the sort of overlapping fandom that can at least get them a head start. Without that, it can quickly become a string of different people asserting that they loved something more or less the same way, losing track of just exactly why it was so beloved.

Wax Trax! Records was spawned in Chicago from the Wax Trax! record store, which itself had moved to that city from Denver in 1978, after founders Jim Nash and Dannie Flesher found themselves pushing against the barriers of straight-laced Colorado. The store quickly develops a reputation as one of the premiere punk record stores in the country, bringing up-and-coming acts to Chicago and importing records from Europe. And as seems inevitable with any fan-started enterprise, it's hard to maintain when the founders get new interests or the business gets too large.

Wax Trax! was particularly noteworthy as one of the first places to bring industrial metal to the United States, and fans of that music will likely have a blast seeing its stars talk about their early days, how Jim & Dannie were instrumental in their success, and so on. There's talk about how the pair often seemed to have tastes too broad for the label to have a signature style but also of how they tended to see a sort of comedic absurdity beneath the grim and angsty surface industrial presents. It's likely interesting to fans, but also a fair amount of the same thing repeated over and over - several different people say something about the pair not actually signing contracts with bands, for instance, which isn't terribly helpful for either newcomers or fans who know the broad outline of the label's story.

The label itself is seldom the most interesting part of this sort of story, compared to the people behind it, and it's tough to shake the feeling that there should have been more of Jim and Dannie in this movie. Described as the heart and soul of the operation and coming off as an enjoyable odd couple whenever there's a little footage or a personal anecdote to be used - Jim is manic, Dannie more steady - it's very easy to grow fond of what we see, but the film seldom capitalizes on that. The label can often seem like a headless thing, with what the founders did presented as sort of a hasty explanation when the story takes a turn. The unbalanced nature of the available material - there is much more about Jim than Dannie - also becomes an issue that, perhaps, the filmmakers should have wrestled with more directly.

(It's worth noting that director Julia Nash is Jim's daughter, which is fine in and of itself - it gives her a direct emotional line to the story and a more interesting present-day narrative to frame the film with than the reunion concert featured later on. She doesn't hide this. It does not seem to be mentioned anywhere that she has reclaimed the name from the company that purchased the imprint and started a successor label, though, and while the film seldom plays like an ad, it seem like a thing that could have influenced the film that should have been mentioned.)

Fans of the bands that Jim and Dannie discovered may not agree, but for many their own story is much more interesting than that of the company they founded. If one isn't already a fan of the Wax Trax! roster, large portions of this movie can come across as someone going on about how the bands they love and the record store they used to visit were fantastic without necessarily spending a whole lot of time on just why someone else should love them too.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=32851&reviewer=371
originally posted: 04/30/19 13:20:36
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: Boston Underground Film Festival 21 For more in the Boston Underground Film Festival 21 series, click here.

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Directed by
  Julia Nash

Written by
  Mark Skillicorn

Cast
  (documentary)



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