MADE IN SHEFFIELD REVIEWS

 

The Yorkshire Post July 2002

….A combination of rare archive footage and revealing interviews with the famous and not-so-famous makes this not just an evocative film for the rock anorak, but also a social document of a time when Sheffield music conquered the scene….

 

www.brainwashed.com July 2002 new

Jon Whitney

This documentary chronicles a time in Sheffield, UK between 1977 and 1982, the time when adventurous bands like Cabaret Voltaire, Human League, and ABC were making local names for themselves, creating their own noise machines, twisting and turning sounds into ordered chaotic electro punk. While this only focuses on the time between most bands inceptions until the time when all of them seem to break big in the mainstream, there's a certain lack of material collected to really make this really complete. Appropriate 25 year-old city footage is absent. In it's place is current footage of a cosmopolitan town completely unlike the Sheffield described by a number of the interviewed musicians. In addition, only a small handful of people were actually interviewed: quite noticably missing are Sheffield resident Richard H. Kirk and any member of Def Leppard! Die-hard fans of these bands would probably want something like this for their collections, but for the moderates on the fence, I honestly feel this film really could be a lot more than a 52-minute VH1 Behind the Music-esque short.

 

Night Waves Magazine September 2002

….This film is an absolute must-see for anyone who has a serious interest in the early 80s British new wave scene. It captures the spirit of that time flawlessly, primarily through interviews, archival photos and ultra rare video footage. What’s most intriguing is how the interviewees seemingly have not changed. The majority of them still seem to retain the youthful spark of creativity that was sp omnipresent in their work twenty years ago…

….Indeed those being interviewed provide the elements that really makes this documentary so special. Phil Oakey comments about the Human League being “the punkiest band in Sheffield”….

….Another great facet of this film is the extremely rare footage, particularly…….the Human League performing “The Path Of Least Resistance” on BBC TV….

 

www.rollingstone.com May 2005 new
Peter Relic

Did the grim clanging of a blast furnace provide the rhythmic inspiration for new music? Eve Wood's documentary on the emergence of electro-pop from industrial Sheffield, England, suggests so. Combining late-Seventies footage and new interviews with members of the Human League, ABC, Cabaret Voltaire and Pulp, Wood presents an endearing portrayal of young people desperate to forge their own future in a town that somehow also gave us Def Leppard.

***
 

www.popmatters.com May 2005 new
Hunter Felt

It's the same old story in a lot of respects. A town filled with disaffected youth facing miserable futures discovers a new sound through a visiting artist, and, overnight, becomes a vibrant music scene. Some of the local bands become worldwide artists, others at least have one or two moments where they briefly realize a dream of musical success, while many simply burn out and rejoin the real world after their youthful energy dissipates. The story told in director Eva Wood's documentary
Made in Sheffield could be told about dozens of towns at different times in musical history, yet it is also a very specific story that makes a valid argument that what happened in Sheffield during the late seventies and early eighties was a dramatic change in rock and roll.

The film opens with a few brief shots of the industrial town of Sheffield, a thoroughly monotonous and miserable looking place. If there's one constant through the dozens of interviewees featured on the film, it's that they continually remind the listener that the one goal of every young person in Sheffield was to escape from Sheffield, and from the stultifying labor they were seemingly doomed to endure. This unique combination of hopelessness, a sense of "we're doomed anyways, why don't we try it", and the machine-oriented society that the young were brought up in, made Sheffield the ideal harvesting ground for what eventually became known as synth-pop.

The list of bands that came from this "forgotten portion of the world" as Sheffield's first zinester Martin Liliker states at one point, is a phenomenal roll call of some of the more innovative bands in new wave: The Human League (who get the most screen time), Heaven 17, ABC, Cabaret Voltaire, and (much later) Pulp. Don't come to Made in Sheffield for an in-depth exploration of the glory days of new wave or its repercussions. Wood is interested in the story of the local scene, when the bands were hand-pressing their own records and, (in the case of Cabaret Voltaire), advertising by playing their own records out of their own vehicles while slowly driving through Sheffield. Wood gives equal time to the people who made it, and those who didn't. Most importantly, she lets them tell the story of Sheffield's brief moment where it was the most experimental music scene in the country.

Apparently, the gig that set Sheffield ablaze was not, as in so many other English towns at the time, a Sex Pistols gig. Few of the bands featured on the movie are straightforward punk acts. Instead it was Kraftwerk who inspired countless people to go build their own synthesizers and see what kind of sounds they could make. Nearly every other musician goes out of his way to claim that they did not ever consider themselves musicians. The punk spirit was there, but they one-upped the challenge to the status quo. While the Sex Pistols were tying to destroy everything with the instruments of their parents, the Sheffield bands, as the film shows, were trying to move way beyond all rock clichés. "We thought we were killing off rock and roll," Ian Craig Marsh of the Human League and Heaven 17 says, and he is only half-joking. The sheer hopelessness of the Sheffield conditions gave the youth in the area a sense of "why not?". So, instead of loud angry guys with guitars playing songs that all sound the same, bands would come on playing things that looked like props from B-level sci-fi films while glammed-out lead singers would mutter and scream at various intervals. While many of the lesser acts are, to be honest, more interesting than "good", the film focuses on how great it was that these acts were able to explore new ground.

In fact, the stories of these almost-were bands are perhaps the most captivating parts of the film. Dressed in the clothing of their hipster youth, these middle aged men look back at an exciting although brief moment of their lives, and look back with a little sadness at the moment when their dreams died. Members of such forgotten bands as the Joy Division-inspired Artery and 2.3 (who released the first Sheffield record), recollect the moments when they realized that they dream was dying right about when bands like ABC (formed from the ashes of freak-out, experimental group Vice Versa) and the Human League were appearing on Top of the Pops. Most moving of all is the story of the Extras, who were the biggest band in Sheffield, a pub-band that distinguished itself from the rash of experimental bands: "They were avant garde, we were avant-a-clue". The two main members of the Extras, drinking hard liquor early in the morning, drop their joking around towards the end of the interview. Noting that they lost their fanbase in an attempt to relocate to London and strike it big, they begin to break down into a discussion about how you never really live down failure. It is their story that is really the tragicomic lynchpin of the whole film.

Oddly enough, the film presents the whole Sheffield scene as something of a beautiful failure by de-emphasizing the later successes of influential bands like Cabaret Voltaire and the Human League, and limiting Pulp's Jarvis Cocker's input into discussions of what the Sheffield scene affected to his teenaged shelf. (He provides fascinating insight into the birth of Pulp, however, on the plethora of extended interviews in the DVD's special features.) With the high profile bands skipping town and touring the world, and the lesser bands are forced to break up and face adult living, the scene effectively dies. Despite its bold attempt to kill rock and roll, the Sheffield scene's most popular turned out to be the slick mainstream heavy metal of Def Leppard. Made in Sheffield, in pointing attention back to one of the strangest musical scenes in modern history, at least transforms this failure into a pyrrhic victory.

 

www.digitallyobsessed.com June 2005 new
Rich Rosell

There is a defining visual in Eve Wood's documentary about the post-punk Sheffield, England music scene in the late 1970s, and it shows a man climbing the stairs of an overpass of some sort to dramatically hurl a guitar over the edge. Plexifilm wisely uses that striking image on the cover for this release, as that act of dramatic defiance was the underlying thesis for a group of musicians who formed various bands in the industrial shadows of Sheffield during the post-punk days to not just make music, but to reinvent rock and roll by killing it, or at least preconceived notions of what it should be.
A number of bands that came out of Sheffield—Human League, ABC, Heaven 17—eventually achieved a modicum of success outside of England, but there were other groups—Pulp, Cabaret Voltaire, The Extras, Artery, Vice Versa—that were part of the same electronic musical uprising, and whose frenetically inventive catalog remains known to a very small number of people. Such is the case with revolution, music or otherwise, that sometimes the pioneers never get their just rewards, and though the radio-friendly danceclub works of Human League were an eventual evolution of their early incarnations, Wood lets Made in Sheffield trace the history only up through 1982, just before the fragments finally took root in more accessible, less eclectic directions.
The doc is built around the detailed recollections of many of the leading players, including Chris Watson (Cabaret Voltaire), Martyn Ware (Human League/Heaven 17), Ian Craig Marsh (Heaven 17), Paul Bower (2.3), Jarvis Cocker (Pulp), and Phil Oakey (Human League), as well as John Lake and Robin Markin (The Extras). It may seem slightly Heaven 17/Human League-centric, but the stories are not the typical "boy, we were great and that was a time", and Ware especially is an eloquent speaker, tracing the history and the various band off-shoots into a logical evolutionary tree...
...This is definitely niche alternative music, and Wood makes good use of the 52-minute runtime to tell as much of the story as possible. Some of it moves rather quick, and if you're new to the genre it may take some time to connect the dots between bands. The influence of Kraftwerk on the movement was unquestionable, and musicians like Martyn Ware and Chris Watson did their damndest to retool the constructs of rock into something new and exciting, and just because their not as well known as Mick Jagger or Bono does not mean that they didn't succeed...

...It's difficult to say how relatable a documentary like Made in Sheffield: The Birth of Electronic Pop is unless this was the music that actually pulled you through the late 1970s and early 1980s. Running just under an hour, the surface is barely scratched, but there is a hell of a lot of history here as director Eve Wood collects a large assortment of key musicians from the movement to recall what it was like in post-punk Sheffield as a new wave of electronic bands attempted to overthrow the very order of rock and roll.
Highly recommended.