This well-made film about Lir, the Dublin band who struggled with bad management and media hostility, provides great insights into the music industy and the power of music itself
For Lir it started in a park in Donaghmede and nearly ended in the High Court. The five piece were "the hottest band in Dublin" nearly 20 years ago - fans queued to see their gigs while music critics queued up to deliver withering dismissals of their proudly unfashionable sound but there was no doubting Lir's status as a thunderous live act in a scene still reeling after the cruel sucker punch of raggle taggle.
Lir grew their hair out, and played a fusion of funky progressive rock, folky mysticism and savvy pop where melodies and meaning ruled. They had a Shamanic lead singer. They wore flares embrodiered with Celtic filigree. The critics hated them; the fans loved them; the music industry, well the music industry just never knew what to do with them.
That was then and this is the cold light of now. Lir, of course, became one of the many nearly men of Irish rock, despite or maybe because of the many blandishments heaped on their young shoulders by their parade of managers and American reps. It all seems so quaint in today's risk-adverse music business and Shimmy Marcus brilliantly captures the sights, sounds and smells of the capital’s incestuous '90s scene in this perfectly-formed film about Lir's struggle for world domination.
A long-time friend of the band, Marcus has form in the rock biopic genre having already delivered a great film about cosmic wanderer Aiden Walsh and Soulboy, a drama set during the Northern Soul scene of the seventies. For Good Cake, Bad Cake - the title of a Lir song - he has boiled down hours of archive material, tour footage, TV appearances, and numerous interviews with the band, their management, and friends (a vocal Bronagh Gallagher is particularly good value) to make a touching and funny film about one of the oldest stories in music - youthful passion soured by harsh reality.
Nobody can stand being told they’re going to be the next U2 for very long and Lir were subject to an unfair degree of bullshit during their ten-year struggle. But there is little recrimination and anger from these now 40-something road warriors as they trade memories of mammoth tours, near hits, and at least one near death experience. These days, Lir grin in the face of failure.
If you liked Anvil: The Story of Anvil, Sacha Geravsi’s moving documentary about a gang of hangdog Canadian metallers, you will enjoy Good Cake Bad Cake. Lir may not have faced the kind of Wagnerian bad luck endured by those poor blokes but like Anvil, they did learn that the music is more important than the music industry.
Good Cake Bad Cake The Story of Lir premieres at 7.30pm on March 20th in The Sugar Club, Dublin. The film will then be screened from March 21st to March 24th in The Factory, 35a Barrow Street, Grand Canal Dock.
Watch interview with Shimmy Marcus and Lir and a live performance by clicking on the links above.