Picks and Pans Review: Music on Video

updated 05/30/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/30/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

>ATHENS, GA. INSIDE/OUT Athens, GA, became celebrated as a rock and roll Athens after the campy B-52's and brooding R.E.M. vaulted to national attention from the campus town's coffee shops and barnlike clubs in the late '70s and early '80s. In director Tony Gayton's affectionate documentary, Pete Buck of R.E.M. explains why he moved to Athens: "Nice weather, nice people, good record stores...great barbecue." Add to that, cheap rents and the sweet flypaper of a hip University of Georgia art school. The age of innocence began and perhaps ended with the B-52's, whose nerdy-hip '50s sensibility caught the New Wave as it crested. Self-expression and a pointed antiprofessionalism ("We believe in cheap equipment," says one of the Flat Duo Jets) still typify the Athens sound. Amid this 82-minute tape's interviews and performances, though, a feeling of burnout comes through. The group Pylon, for example, broke up after rejecting a chance to open for U2 on tour because the band members didn't want to sacrifice their quality of life. But the tape's most affecting character is "Ort," who speaks reflectively in an orotund voice and Southern intellectual manner. William Orten Carlton is, or was, the soul of the scene. He used to sell records by Athens bands from his car as he traveled to beer-can collectors' conventions. But as Athens became self-conscious, Ort became a local legend, stopped constantly on the street. "It was getting to the point that I really felt that I wasn't a person," Ort says. "I was like a single-dimensional comic strip character, and I felt as if every day I was getting up to be inked into my own panels." The beat and bohemian life-style go on, but as Ort recognizes, "In effect, an era has ended." (PolyGram, $29.95)

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