Hype! (Doug Pray)

Rating: *** (out of ****)

Say, doesn't this feature-length retrospective documentary about the media's obsession with the Seattle rock music scene during the late '80s and early '90s constitute additional hype? Well, sure it does, but it's also a welcome corrective; while you'd expect such a film to devote most of its running time to the bands that hit the big time -- Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, et al. -- director Doug Pray focuses instead on the plethora of Seattle groups that never found a spot on Billboard's charts. Unless you're a rabid rock music fan who makes an effort to seek out lesser-known bands on independent labels, odds are you're unfamiliar with names like Mudhoney, Seven Year Bitch, and The Melvins, but they're the heart and soul of Hype!, which is much less sycophantic than I'd expected. Well-organized and thorough but surprisingly staid (given the subject matter), the film is worth seeing primarily because its talking heads are both articulate and hilarious. ("Remember, folks, this is only a movie," one says directly to the lens, in the middle of an absurdly tedious argument with his fellow band members about whether So-and-So was ever in Such-and-Such a group. "You're free to leave the theater at any time.") Included is a shaky camcorder recording of Nirvana's first public performance of "Smells Like Teen Spirit," in which Kurt Cobain, who apparently hadn't written the lyrics for the verses yet, simply mutters nonsense syllables to the vocal melody line.