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Peddle to the Metal

May 21, 2009 By:
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This is not your grandma's Robb Reiner.

Well, in a way, maybe it is ...

After all, Reiner's in his 50s, and the rock musician's been lifting heavy metal since Grandma was clanging chains against the steam radiator.

Meet not Meathead, but Headbanger Robb Reiner, whose own version of all in the family focuses on his band of almost-blood bros, Anvil, dropping on you at the Ritz at the Bourse and on cable this summer, as well as on DVD this fall.

This is arch, not Archie, art as Robb Reiner -- two "b"s or not two "b"s? One for TV/film's Reiner, two for rock's bad boy -- drums up interest once more in a band that never fully reached its metal potential while other headbangers, whose praise for their competition was lavish and loving, took the next ring -- even if it was in their nose.

Anvil's chorus of huzzahs hits a high note in "Anvil: The Story of Anvil," a daring documentary by former roadie Sacha Gervasi who proves how the path to power can be unplugged by someone simply stepping on the wrong chord.

Give this band a spinal tap and watch the real juices flow. Indeed, this may very well be the first documentary in which the Holocaust and heavy metal get wired together. "Well, that's the background," offers Reiner, riffing on the past and present as we talk.

"I'm not the most Jewish" person in the world, says the son of survivors, who'd rather lay some tracks on ya than tefillin. "But that's my home, that's my background."

Back up for a minute: "My father gave me choices," he says. "It's all about being happy. Choose the path you want."

But the Holocaust history and heritage, as well as other elements of Jewish life, rip and roar through the movie, with Steve "Lips" Kudlow -- the other band member spotlighted in the flick -- giving more than lip service to it.

Indeed, the two Jewish Canadians have connected for decades, slamming and whamming since they were high school buds, then banding together 36 years ago. This is no country for old men, but it may very well be for old rockers.

"We said we're always going to rock, until we're old men and beyond."

But don't get all senti-metal on Reiner. If the two wouldn't have met early, would he still be the dude with the 'tude he is today?

"I'd still be where I am," he answers nearly defiantly. "I'd still be a rocker."

Between that rock and a hard place is where the film occasionally focuses on the face time between "Lips" and his Anvil link, arguing -- Reiner is mouthier than Lips; but Robb's more explosive rants don't derail the rock but make it more electric; battling; fighting for their paychecks from promoters whose checks have just as much bounce as Anvil's music; and, ultimately reconciling.

Love means never having to say you're ... sordid?

Well, there are some scenes in which the band, strutting on stage, is shown enhancing more than their music.

All in the Family
But the ante in "Anvil" is raised not during the rock scenes, but in the relationship scenarios: Lips and Reiner are just two Jews jivin' -- and acting like any brothers would, even if all that connects them is their relative cool over heavy metal.

"Yes, a lot of people call it a love story," relates Reiner. "I don't see it like that; I just see it as about two true buddies."

But baddies? As flinty as a heavy-metal mien is supposed to be, these two -- who haven't quit their daze jobs, which includes delivering school lunches -- have soft hearts under those heavy-leather duds that give the metalist dudes the image of being chain smokin' hot.

"Call it a romance," if you want, rails Reiner, whose social life off-stage revolves around his wife and family, not his music mate, "but I'd call it a beacon of hope, a slice-of-life movie, that's inspirational."

That it is. Indeed, it transcends trash charges -- which metal has been called -- and empties the bin on preconceived notions of what it takes to be happy. And if this film cleans up the way headbangers are seen getting their bangs out of life, all to the good, roars Reiner. "It's too bad when people only see the things that p-- on our image."

Never too old to dream, never too old to drum: Rock of ages?

"Age is irrelevant," says the irreverent rocker. "It's never too late, and I'm realizing that even as we speak."

The flick speaks to the heart and hurt of a band that, concedes Reiner, "had some bad management back then," back in its hell-days.

These are its hay-days. Anvil, forged in fire?

"Well, it all could have happened earlier; but we're rockin' now."

And will be; the band, thanks in part to their parts in what may be one of the best films of the year, is on a rockin' roll, what with the film out; tour -- "We'll be revisiting cities," he says of their schedule, which had stopped in Philly -- and planned extended DVD release, as well as new CD.

Pedal to the metal? Peddlin' their mettle: "These are the best of times."

And as for that name ... How does he untangle any confusion when someone asks him how it feels to go through life meeting snickers as Meathead?

"Easy," responds the rocker. "I'm the real Robb Reiner!"  

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