Kick Out the Jams: The Story of XFM
London in the early 90s was a place where the indie music scene hadn’t yet gained a foothold on mainstream radio. The gap in the market was there, but the only way to capitalise on it was through pirate radio stations. Through a combination of circumstance, passion and perseverance, Sammy Jacobs and his ragtag team managed to get XFM off the ground. It was chaotic, cool and at the forefront of the emerging music scene. In this regard, the station was the zeitgeist of 90s youth culture, and the story of the rise and fall of this short-lived phenomenon is chronicled in Kick Out the Jams: The Story of XFM.
Taking its title from the first track played on the station, the documentary is directed by Ray Burdis and features the likes of former XFM employees Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, alongside various other DJs and industry insiders involved with the station. They spend their time regaling anecdotes about what it was like working in disorganised conditions and interactions with musical heavyweights like The Cure and Oasis. The combined tales paint the studio on Charlotte Street as any music lover’s dream job that could have only existed in this one space and time. Interviewees become teary-eyed as they talk about these happy memories. In fact, there are barely any bad ones to be told. Kick Out the Jams prides itself in romanticising XFM’s position in music history. The trouble is, though, the story of its rise and fall isn’t that interesting.
Hurtling through the station’s entire lifespan, the presentation is as frantic as the situations being described. No matter how it tries to dress up the story of this radio station, though, the tale is less exciting than the editing would suggest. Underneath the stylishly grainy archival footage and photographs between shots of the ensemble of talking heads, XFM’s story is that of a short-lived radio station that disappeared as fast as it arrived.
Kick Out the Jams is a film that seems to be tailor-made for those with fond memories of listening to XFM in 1997. It’s a loving homage to a point in youth culture as told by those who created it. For anyone else, though, it’s unlikely they’d get the hit of nostalgia this film offers.
Kick Out the Jams: The Story of XFM is released digitally on demand on 2nd September 2022.
Watch the trailer for Kick Out the Jams: The Story of XFM here: