This Winter, the BBC aired Bros: After the Screaming Stops. For those of us in the United States — like me — “Bros” probably doesn’t mean anything. They never broke out over here. If an American knows Matt and/or Luke Goss, it’s probably from Matt’s Vegas residency or Luke’s acting career. But before that, they were one of the biggest boy bands in Europe during the late ’80s. But even if you don’t know Bros (as I didn’t), After the Screaming Stops is well worth the watch. Even though the Goss brothers don’t exactly look the best.
Back in the 1980s, Bros, pronounced “Bross,” were huge in the United Kingdom. The band’s gimmick was that it features a pair of identical twins. They released three albums, and had a string of massive singles like “When Will I Be Famous?,” “I Owe You Nothing,” and “I Quit.” Originally a three-piece, the non-brother, Craig Logan, quit after the first album. When they started to falter in the charts — their single “Chocolate Box” going to a mere #9 on the top singles chart (oh no!) — Luke Goss quit the band, ending Bros for good.
Bros: After the Screaming Stops is a bit of a tricky piece for Kittysneezes. The unofficial rule here is that we only do generally positive reviews. And, though the film is excellent, neither Goss brother comes off particularly well. Matt, the lead singer, comes off as a vapid douchebag, and Luke, the drummer, acts like a bully. But it’s also pretty clear where the Goss Brothers’ personality flaws come from. Matt was “the good looking one” (due to a minor plastic surgery he had which pinned his ears back), and Luke was written off as the untalented, unimportant one. Their manager even referred to Luke as “an illiterate.” Luke obviously has a chip on his shoulder about his treatment in the past, and it manifests in constantly hectoring and bullying his brother Matt.
On the other hand, Matt Goss is the golden child — but doesn’t realize that he is. In Matt’s mind, Matt and Luke are equals, and Luke’s needlessly antagonistic. But to Luke, he’s had to fight for recognition on his own terms, and Matt just blunders through life with everything handed to him. As it turns out: they’re both right?
Throughout Bros: After the Screaming Stops, Matt says all sorts of silly things like “I made a conscious decision because of Stevie Wonder not to be superstitious,” or “One of my songs is called ‘We’re All Kings’. Which is about a man sweeping the road – he’s one of my kings because I’m thankful I don’t have to sweep the road.” Luke, however, despite not playing drums for 25 years — where Matt’s remained a working musician — ends up taking over the sessions, and belittling Matt at every turn.
One fascinating thing is the way the documentary subverts expectations. The film opens with a clip where Matt and Luke are in the green room before an appearance on This Morning With Richard And Judy (not to be confused with This Morning With Richard Not Judy) where Matt confronts Luke about what a jerk he’s been. At this point in the film, we’ve only been exposed to Matt’s empty platitudes, so we see the scene and Matt comes off as a primadonna and the audience is aimed to align themselves with Luke.
But when this scene plays again, in context, we see that Matt’s been beaten up throughout the entire ordeal, and has finally reached his breaking point. This time, Luke’s the clear bad guy. And it doesn’t let up. There’s a cringeworthy scene later when they’re doing a small acoustic performance of the song Bros wrote for the Goss Brothers’ sister who died in a car crash and Matt’s having trouble getting through it emotionally.
Luke says that he feels it too, and that the emotion is so powerful — and that, if this happens at the concert the next night, the big-time reunion concert at the O2 arena, Luke will make Matt repeatedly start the song until he can get through it. It’s such a cruel moment, particularly because, from everything we’ve seen so far, it’s not hard to believe that Luke’s not lying and is fully prepared to torture his brother in front of thousands of people.
When I started Bros: After the Screaming Stops, I’d never heard of Bros. As I said, they didn’t really make a dent in the US. They had no charting singles in the States, and only the first two albums were even released here. And, truthfully, the documentary didn’t make me a fan of their music. But the film is downright fascinating. It starts out as if it’s going to be a real-life version of This Is Spinal Tap with Matt’s malapropisms and Luke’s prickliness, but it soon becomes a look at a dysfunctional relationship between two brothers made all the worse by intense media scrutiny.
As big a bully as Luke is, it’s easy to see how it could have done a number on his state. Not only were national newspapers comparing him unfavorably to his brother — his brother was an identical twin. And his identical brother was, somehow, The Hot One to boot. It’s hard to tell how their lives would have been different had Bros not actually happened, but it’s easy to wonder if that alternate universe version of Luke isn’t such an asshole. Matt may come off as a bit of a dim-bulb, but at least he seems nice. I’d rather spend time with him any day.