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The rise and fall of James Lavelle, the record label founder and DJ, is the subject of this celebratory music documentary by Matthew Jones. In the 1990s, Lavelle was music’s Damien Hirst – a cocky upstart with a genius for A&R matched only by a gift for self-promotion. At 18, he opened the hip label Mo’Wax and helped to popularise trip-hop (though signing Tricky and Portishead evaded him). Everything he touched turned to gold, until it didn’t.
Ego, money, drugs: Lavelle’s story has the makings of an entertaining account of the music business. But this film feels too much like a promo for a comeback attempt. Its greatest strength is archive from the personal collections of Lavelle and Josh Davis, AKA DJ Shadow, whose groundbreaking sample album Endtroducing marked Mo’Wax’s high point. The clubbing footage brings back a chemical rush of the 90s London dance scene.
The problem is that Lavelle is unreflective about his journey to failure. The roots of his downfall seem to stem, in part, from a disastrous decision to sell the back catalogue to a big label and Lavelle’s cocaine-fuelled fantasy of becoming a rock star. To that end, he formed Unkle, a group with a revolving door of collaborators and celebrity appearances from the likes of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker.
Two albums in, Lavelle went from coolest kid on the block to stadium rock bore. Unkle will perhaps be the least interesting of Lavelle’s work to music fans, yet a sizeable chunk of the film is devoted it. There is some unintentionally hilarious footage of Lavelle recording Unkle’s third album, when the “slebs” are clearly not picking up the phone. This really is Spinal Rap.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: The Man from Mo’Wax review – from superstar DJ to rock bore | Film