Cinema Review: Soul Boys of the Western World | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Sunday, July 25th, 2021  

Soul Boys of the Western World

Studio: Sundance Selects
Directed by George Hencken

Apr 28, 2015 Web Exclusive
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While the British pop group Spandau Ballet had only one top ten hit in the U.S.—the ‘80s neo-soul classic “True”—they were absolutely massive in their native U.K., where they had ten songs in the Top 10 and five Platinum records. Soul Boys of the Western World tracks their story from childhood through superstardom, to their messy breakup in the 1990s and beyond, ending with the band’s triumphant reunion after a hiatus of almost 20 years.

One important thing that Soul Boys doesn’t forget is that nearly every musical trend is born out of a specific cultural scene. The documentary does a fantastic job explaining the youth movement that birthed the New Romantic genre: Spandau Ballet, alongside other bands such as Duran Duran and Culture Club. These were kids who grew up on glam rock and had just missed the punk explosion, who formed their own scene around outlandish, dandy fashion in exclusive nightclubs during the late ‘70s and early 1980s. Beyond the vintage footage shot in and outside these clubs, there are plenty of old news clips and TV interviews with the scene’s tastemakers and trendsetters. Soul Boys also plainly lays out the country’s social and political climate during those years, which is helpful for stateside viewers whose knowledge of contemporary U.K. history is mostly limited to its musical artists.

A handful more performances could have gone a long way—save for one full, reunion-era rendition of “Gold,” we’re mostly shown concert snippets—but the sheer amount of vintage material crammed into Soul Boys is impressive. (It’s clear the band opened up their archives to the filmmaker.) Unfortunately, the documentary feels like it tiptoes around the band’s dirtiest laundry—the 1999 lawsuit where three of the band’s original members sued songwriter Gary Kemp for unpaid royalties. While the happy footage shot following the band’s 2009 reunion makes it appear that Spandau’s moved past the issue, more of an explanation of how they put it all behind them would have helped the ending feel less truncated.

Author rating: 6/10

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Average reader rating: 10/10


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