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Kittie - Origins/Evolutions

Label: Lightyear
Format: DVD/CD/Blu-Ray
Released: 2018
Reviewed By: Jack Mangan
Rating: 8.5/10


“Origins/Evolutions” is a fascinating 2018 documentary, celebrating the 20th anniversary of 90s Metal powerhouse, Kittie. The movie captivates - - in spite of itself, and in spite of the low-key, unremarkable (this is not an insult) offstage demeanor of the band - - mainly due to the casual, good-natured magnetism of the band and everyone involved in their success. They all come across as nice, weird-but-not-too-weird, suburban Canadian kids, who found some success in a kickass Metal band, but avoided transforming into tattooed millionaires (a la Lars Ulrich). They remind me of girls and women I’ve known in the real world, who you might joke with at the supermarket checkout line, or while getting your coffee at Tim Horton’s.

 

While telling their story through interviews and old film clips, the movie touches on the major events for the band and in its members’ lives across the years. The problems and challenges they come across are very real, but are decidedly familiar, recognizable problems, like dealing with death in the family, day jobs, marriages and visa issues, etc., i.e.; things most of us can relate to. Band challenges, but not rockstar issues, like crashing their private planes landing in swimming pools filled with cocaine. Even with twenty years in action and millions of fans and albums sold, the ladies in the band still show humility and awe in the light of their own success. The refreshingly down-to-earth, ego-lite demeanor of every girl/woman who appeared in this documentary is one of the biggest takeaways for me.

The movie, like the band, acknowledges fully that Kittie is a brutal Metal/Hardcore/Death Metal/Nu Metal outfit with exclusively female members (male guitarist Jeff Phillips is the lone exception, with the band from 2001-2004), but never makes their femaleness or attractiveness the focus. In a field where female musicians have always been expected to use their bodies to sell, Kittie have maintained their integrity and kept it about the music. Their outfits onstage and in videos and pictures are flattering, but not salacious. They’ve never used their skin to sell their image (I’m sorry we even had to address this, but this is the reality female musicians have to deal with. “Origins/Evolutions” handles the subject perfectly).

The main focus of the film is on the Landers sisters, singer/guitarist Morgan and drummer Mercedes, who were there from the beginning, and who’ve always occupied the heart and soul and executive boardroom (metaphorically) of the band. Their mother gets a fair bit of screen time too; she and the girls’ father seem to have been a positive, supporting influence throughout Kittie’s career.

The lead guitar and bass spots in the band have been a bit of a revolving door. Some of those women declined to participate, but Tara McLeod, Fallon Bowman, and Trish Doan give a fair bit of interview time, along with some of the producers and friends of Kittie from across the decades.

The target audience is clearly the Kittie diehards, but I think casual and devout fans alike would have preferred more segments of uninterrupted music. There are plenty of clips of Kittie in the studio, either dicking around or laying down official tracks, plus a few shots from official MTV videos, but none of that runs for long, or without chatter-overlay. Aside from these brief blasts of Kittie tunes, the film is very interview-heavy, chock full of first-hand stories and reminiscences. Some of these could have been trimmed or cut completely. No, I don’t really care about the DVDs in Morgan’s living room.

What’s most fascinating about “Origins/Evolution” is watching these girls grow up, quite literally before your eyes, during the 90-minute span of the film. The present-day interviews with thirtysomething Kittie personnel are there throughout, but the early clips show these playful kids, clowning around, being teenagers, mostly unscathed from the spotlight and their fast ascent to stardom. On the same track, the movie really puts their musical growth into perspective. Their songs and songwriting chops grow from simple, effective, brutal ‘90s Metal/Nu Metal jams, informed by Silverchair, Korn, Deftones, and Nirvana, into songs and riffs with more complexity, melody, and emotion.

There’s also an accompanying live CD, with a “best of” track listing. The songs sound as lively and great as ever. The Landers and Co. may be twenty years older, but they bring it with every bit as much energy and intensity as they did when they were kids of the '90s. This compilation is an excellent intro to the band for latecomers, and a must for Kittie fans.

 
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