In the documentary It’s Only Life After All, director Alexandria Bombach shows band members Amy Ray and Emily Saliers a comedy from Saturday Night Live that makes fun of the Indigo Girls. The sketch was written specifically for the band. As they watch the clip, there is still a sense of annoyance at the manner in which their duet has been reduced to little more than just two lesbians with a sense of social justice playing folk music.
This causes them to feel that they are being misrepresented. Indigo Girls eventually turned into a punchline, much like Lilith Fair, with whom the band was popularly identified but who is never addressed in the documentary. This occurred at a specific point in time. But the documentary by Bombach demonstrates that there is much more to the Indigo Girls.
It presents a magnificent duo who have not only meant the world to an innumerable number of people but have also used their music and platform to improve the world as much as possible.
It’s Only Life After All presents an extremely intimate perspective on the Indigo Girls as a band because the band members documented their careers through home movies, cassette recordings, and many other forms of media. On a particularly endearing recording, we can hear Amy and Emily, during one of the first times they played together, discussing how they will need to make excuses to practice together again. This was one of the first times that they had played together. They eventually conclude that there is no longer any purpose in attempting to justify their actions.
But Bombach can convince the audience to comprehend what it is about this band that makes them so outstanding even if they were previously uninterested in the Indigo Girls. Not only can we hear the band’s development for several decades, but Amy and Emily are the people who make it a true pleasure to be in their company by telling jokes, making fun of each other, and laughing over their histories. In one scene, we see a younger version of Emily Saliers performing a very earnest song, after which the present-day version of Emily Saliers watches the scene and cringes while remarking on the difficulties she currently has with the song.
Bombach also focuses on another aspect of the Indigo Girls that is almost as important—their involvement in activism—which is also treated with care throughout the book. Bombach demonstrates how the Indigo Girls took advantage of their success to advocate for causes about which they felt deeply, as well as how the fact that they existed benefited many individuals.
Outside of performances, we hear one person after another remark that the Indigo Girls had a significant role in them coming out, and some people even go so far as to declare that the Indigo Girls completely altered the course of their lives. The fact that the Indigo Girls were performing music that spoke to the experiences of people similar to themselves was enough to impact many people’s lives significantly.
However, perhaps the most amazing part of Its Only Life After All is the way in which the documentarian makes an effort to reframe the audience’s perception of this band by illuminating who they are. In one scene, Amy and Emily read a review of their music published in The New York Times. This criticism has been bothering them for quite some time. Even though they are laughing at the review, it is obvious that reviews of this nature have previously caused them emotional distress.
The assessment is replete of sexist assumptions and remarks — the kind of postulation that made the band an easy target for ridicule. Emily eventually says, “We were always accused of being earnest.” If there’s anything that It’s Only Life After All fully proves, this band is far more than just lesbian folk rock that takes itself seriously. If there’s anything else that It’s Only Life After All fully proves, this band is far more than just that.
It’s Only Life After All is an excellent investigation into the lives and careers of the Indigo Girls written by Bombach. This book dispels any preconceived notions that you may have about the Indigo Girls. It reveals them to be hilarious, reflective, and influential bands that ought to be even more popular than they already are.
However, even when viewed as a personal narrative, It’s Only Life After All demonstrates how this band and these two women are still works in progress, meaning they are still developing and changing in various exciting ways. After watching the documentary It’s Only Life After All, it will be difficult not to declare yourself a fan of the Indigo Girls if you already aren’t one. Fans of the Indigo Girls should find It’s Only Life After All to be a source of great pleasure.