From the director of acclaimed Big Gold Dream, a music documentary which is a love letter to the Edinburgh bands of the 1970s is his most recent work, Teenage Superstars. This time this love letter is to Glasgow and we are handed over to Stephen McRobbie, known to many as Stephen Pastel, and Kim Deal, who take us down a trip through Scotland’s rock and indie underground, exploring areas like Bellshill, which saw the emergence of musicians Duglas T Stewart and Normal Blake.
With narration, aforementioned from The Breeders and previous Pixies’ Kim Deal along with contributions from Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, The Vaseline’s Eugene Kelly, Stewart, Blake and Stephen Pastel himself, there is a great deal of talking head action to keep this documentary suitably interesting. And no, not that type of Talking Head action. Discussing bands such The Pastels, BMX Bandits, The Soup Dragons and Teenage Fanclub aside from The Vaselines, The Jesus and Mary Chain as well as Primal, there’s a real sense of the Glasgow 1980s music scene, delving back and forth from Bellshill to East Kilbride.
Teenage Superstars is a charismatic documentary that skims over the alternative music scene up north, just under two hours of archival footage, along with the entertaining persona, and founder of Creation Records Alan McGee. Focusing enough on Stephen Pastel and the boys from Bellshill for this to turn too much into Upside Down, Danny O’Connor’s exploration of the indie label that made movements in the Scottish scene, McPhee provides a different angle to the stories that surrounded names such as Bobby Gillespie.
Also focusing on Stephen’s label 53rd and 3rd as well McGee’s we are given a great sense of influence that Stephen McRobbie and The Pastels had on Glasgow’s successful music vista. Standardly incorporating John Peel, as he was a fan of The Soup Dragons, there were predictable elements to this love letter to 1980s Glasgow. What was a little more interesting was the insight that Martin St John or “Joogs” as he was known, who used to be in Primal Scream, was given ample interview time to focus on what it was like to work with Bobby and the guys, professing it was not for him after three years.
This documentary should be applauded for the quality of its contributions alone but this love letter at times feels somewhat cliquey, for those in that heyday who were playing with the likes of The Pretty Flowers, The Soup Dragons, and all other bands mentioned that are no longer around. However, there is also ample for the wider audience and music aficionado that has probably at some point been a member of the BMX Bandits. They are very much still going.