Documentary Review — A band that never quite got there inspires “Parallel Love: The Story of a Band Called Luxury”

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The arc of your typical “Band that should’ve made it, but didn’t” documentary leans heavily on some outstanding conflict, some provoking incident, that got in their way.

Think “Anvil!: The Story of Anvil” or “The Best Band You’ve Never Heard” (about The Samples).

Filmmaker Matt Hinton, or maybe it was just the people marketing “Parallel Love: The Story of a Band Called Luxury,” point to that one traumatic incident that kept this indie alt rock “Christian” band from Toccoa College in Georgia from breaking out.

It was a horrific van accident, and knowing what we all know about start-up bands, the hard travel and the road unworthiness of vans, we get it. It’s a wonder any performing ensemble survives the years before it can afford safer wheels.

But the band members healed, continued playing and taking a whack at cutting records. The actual break-up/drift apart was some time later.

The real hook to “Parallel Love” is the odd fact that three members of this quartet headed into the clergy after giving up their hopes that Luxury, their band, would ever break out. Even odder? They’re Eastern Orthodox, men who abandoned a post-Grunge punk rock ethos for the rituals and icons of a very conservative, tiny (85,000 members nationwide) Christian sect.

And I’m not sure the assorted band members adequately put into words why that happened, either.

Still, the film is a fascinating time capsule and account of the evolution of Luxury, which signed with a Christian music label and then set out, almost by design, to make records that Christian bookstores, where such LPs were sold, would ban.

Hinton secures testimonials from promoters, an NPR producer, music contemporaries and writers from Vice and Paste Magazine who marvel at this “explosive, stunning” quartet, with its handsome, gender-bending and soulful lead singer backed by close vocal harmonies, thrashing guitars and drums.

“Why didn’t Luxury make it?”

The bandmates all came off as “sensitive,” a word many use to describe this well-dressed, haircut-ahead-of-its-time mid-90s band from Northeastern Georgia, seemingly built to stand out from the post-Cobain white boy music of the day.

Members of rival bands from their era and their area noted that “pretty girls” showed up for their shows, which set them apart. Lead singer Lee Bozeman was a fan of The Smiths and fancied himself a new Morrissey.

He and his brother, the guitarist Jamey Bozeman, were sons of an evangelical pastor, which is a big reason they ended up at Christian Toccoa College, where they rolled their eyes at the squares they were surrounded by, and where Jamey would play his Fender until his fingers bled — literally.

Drummer Glenn Black fell for KISS, Alice Cooper and Queen, and found an escape from his traumatic childhood by pounding away at his kit.

And college newcomer Chris Foley decided in an instant that he just had to play bass with these guys.

Old footage reveals Lee Bozeman’s “high and tight” haircut, pretty voice  and Michael Stipe-ish stage mannerisms that came off as feminine.

Contemporaries speak of his “ambiguous sexuality” as being part of the band’s appeal. And how a group with songs titled “Pink Revenge” and “Flaming Youth” ever agreed to sign with a Christian music label (Tooth & Nail) makes for interesting on-screen speculation.

But they did, and despite rocking local and regional clubs and a big Christian music festival, they pushed back at being categorized. A member of a rival band refers to Lee’s love of “taking the piss out of” the mores of the college and the Christian community they lived and performed in.

A big question around town? “Are they or aren’t they?”

For Lee, it wasn’t about sexuality or anything all that deep. It was just, “If I say that (in a song), that’ll be fun.” “Fun” being code for “provocative.”

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Benefiting from the tensions built into that church/band conflict, and their guitar-rock sound fronted by Rick Astley: The Next Generation, Luxury was on the brink of something big. Maybe.

The sound, look, energetic performances and songs suggest that might very well have been the case, although no expert witness here was in a position to know that or help make it happen, for that matter.

The van wreck may have stopped them cold, or their self-imposed/self-regretting “Christian music” labeling might have limited their potential.

In any event, they never did “make it.” But their music’s good and Hinton gives us an interesting, if not particularly deep look at their lives and what led them to where each member is now.

“Why didn’t they make it?” is perhaps more interesting than “Why’d they become priests?” Perhaps not. I’m just not sure “Parallel Love” ever really answers either question.

2half-star6

MPAA Rating: unrated, squeaky clean

Cast: Lee Bozeman, Glenn Black, Chris Foley, Jamey Bozeman

Credits: Directed by Matt Hinton. An Abramorama release.

Running time: 1:39

 

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