Scott Pilgrim vs. the World came out on DVD this week. (It rules -- go buy it, rent it, Netflix it, whatever). The film features Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim, Canadian slacker and bassist for Sex Bob-omb. The band's music is provided by Beck, and we couldn't help but wish that he'd put together a band and taken it on the road for a few dates. However, even though he hadn't, that got us to thinking about other fictional acts that broke the fourth wall and became legitimate live entertainers.
First and foremost is Spinal Tap. While the movie is hilarious, and a justifiable rock classic, the thing wouldn't work without good songs. There's nothing more interminable than a TV show or movie wherein the band being featured is supposed to be huge, yet the actual music sucks so hard. For examples of that sort of thing, see pretty much any episode of any teen program ever (I'm looking at you, Zach Attack). Spinal Tap plays note-perfect '70s metal, and there's no finer example of the bombast and ridiculousness of bands like Kiss than "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight."
Dan Akroyd and John Belushi's the Blues Brothers takes a whole lot of shit from blues purists for being a mostly white band taking songs and dumbing them down for mass consumption. That's an accusation not without merit, but the band's albums, especially Briefcase Full of Blues, introduced a whole lot of people to a whole lot of good blues. How many folks would've otherwise heard of Floyd Dixon? Plus, the band features former members of Stax powerhouses the Bar-Kays and Booker T & the M.G.'s. Given that every song is a cover, there's no way you can go wrong with any choice, but their version of the Chips' "Rubber Biscuit" actually one-ups the original.
We might be a little biased regarding Hedwig & the Angry Inch, given that John Cameron Mitchell based the portions of the musical when Hedwig meets Tommy Gnosis on his own experiences in Junction City, but that's only a little bit. Hedwig & the Angry Inch is not only the only "rock musical" that has a soundtrack worth blasting, the performances of the play are staged more like concerts than theatrical works. The songs range from quiet introspection to full-on ragers, such as "Exquisite Corpse."
Brendon Small's Metalocalypse brought death metal to the mainstream, courtesy of the show's protagonists in Dethklok. While the songs are presented in terms of over-the-top bombast, it's still difficult for Nathan Explosion and company to go beyond what's already been done by acts like King Diamond or Cannibal Corpse. "Briefcase Full of Guts" and "I Tamper with the Evidence at the Murder Site of Odin" are borderline ridiculous in terms of song titles, but when you consider that Nile's debut was entitled Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka, it puts everything in perspective. Dethklok's finest moment came with "Murmaider," a song that is about both killing and being killed by mermaids.
Lastly, we go to Laverne and Shirley. While a sitcom based in Milwaukee sounds like an odd place for a great rock band to begin, that's surprisingly the case. Laverne and Shirley's goofball upstairs neighbors, Lenny and Squiggy, had a band. That band was called Lenny & the Squigtones, and they recorded a live album at the Roxy in Hollywood. What really makes this band a little bit of awesomeness is that one Nigel Tufnel plays guitar, meaning this little piece of proto-Tap has brought our list back to where it began. Here's "Creature Without A Head."