REVIEWS -- JULY 28, 1999

Tori Amos – Raspberry Swirl
     (**)  I’m going to assume this is brand-new Tori Amos, since it eschews the piano and acoustic guitar ballad format in favor of what I can only call Ray of Light Tori. Hey, just because the techno Earth mother thing worked for Madonna doesn’t mean it can work for you, Tori Amos. The herky-jerky editing, the shots of you crawling through the ventilation shaft and tearing yourself out of a wall painting, the roomful of heroin dancers, the gluttonous children having a food fight at the dinner table and then turning to swine… it’s just not you, Tori. I didn’t like you to begin with, but come on. This is embarrassing. The part where you find yourself strangely attracted to the James Woods-figure across the room, that seems more familiar. Just take the beautiful fucked-up man, go home, put on the "Here comes naked little me" T-shirt, smoke a few cigarettes and wait for him to betray you. Then you can be yourself again. –Andrew Hicks

Beastie Boys – Three MC’s and One DJ
     (**½)  The Beastie Boys stand immobile in their basement as two empty turntables spin behind them. Outside, a Hispanic man wearing a Ghostbusters proton pack marches determinedly toward their house. He enters the building, goes down a couple dozen flights of stairs and sets up shop in their basement. It’s one of the oddest prologues in music video history. "Three MC’s" is also one of the lowest-budget videos in music video history. It has a real camcorder look to it, with the occasional off-kilter angle thrown in and standard editing. The only really interesting thing about the video is watching Mixmaster Mike do his thing on the turntables, which serve as the only musical accompaniment in the song. Plus, I’d almost always rather be watching a Beastie Boys video than most of the other crap on MTV, so two-and-a-half stars. –AH

Blur – Coffee and TV
     (***½)  I’m willing to bet this video is #1 right now on MTV Europe. It’s a messed-up, catchy short film about a cartoon milk carton that sets out on a trek to find the lost boy whose picture he bears. "Coffee and TV" spends most of its time showing the milk carton’s terror in the big city – getting bitched out by a pissed-off hooker, seeing a female milk carton murdered before his eyes and being chased by an angry Naya water bottle. Eventually, the carton finds the band, whose bassist is the missing child. Why am I not surprised to learn there are runaway children masquerading as members of Blur? This is a much better-crafted pop song than most stuff on the radio right now, and the video is already growing on me. Back when Blur was singing about girls who love boys who love boys like their girls who love girls like their boys, I never would have guessed they were capable of something like this. –AH

Def Leppard – Euphoria
     (*½)  How does the great Comeback God decide which bands get picked and which don’t? Which executive in the record industry decides that Def Leppard – one-armed drummer and all – gets to release an album in 1999 while Dokken remains homeless and destitute? It’s a sick sign that this is actually getting video-channel rotation, but I can see the time is ripe for a mini-hair metal comeback. James got me a ticket to a Poison concert as a gag graduation present, but we went to the concert – along with about 16,000 other people – and we had a good time. Nothing but a good time, in fact. Hair metal is fun music sometimes, especially during the summer when your blood alcohol is over .02, and music is so shitty in general right now that I wouldn’t be surprised if Def Leppard went somewhere with this comeback attempt. "Euphoria" is a radio-safe pop song, with a catchy hook and polished, quasi-boy band production. The video has plenty of by-the-numbers computer effects and shots where the camera pulls out of one band member’s eye to reveal another band member. It’s creepy but harmless, and ultimately forgettable. QUESTION: How many Hail Mary’s do I have to say for making fun of Def Leppard’s one-armed drummer again? --AH

Everlast – Ends
     (**)  I have yet to talk to anyone who’s bought the Everlast album, but I can’t imagine anyone would enjoy it much. Don’t get me wrong; I liked "What It’s Like" for all eight months of its radio cycle, but with the second single, I get the feeling that every song on that album follows the same three-chord, bad-rhyme, tales-of-woe formula, and that the singles are just going to go downhill from here. "Ends" sees Everlast as people’s advocate again, full of sympathy for girls who become desperate enough to whore themselves, kids who get shot, and I think there’s also a verse about dolphins caught in tuna nets. This is another bright Las Vegas video, complete with intercut shots of neon, boxers, strippers and burning trucks. The next time Meat Loaf and Patrick Swayze do a truck-chase movie, they’d better save room on the soundtrack for this guy. QUESTION: Why do I picture Everlast, every time he finishes playing this song at a concert, tossing his guitar aside and announcing, "And I’m spent…"? –AH

Fear Factory – Cars
     (**½)  When you’re an obscure band, there are a few tricks you can do to break through. You can land a song on the new I Know What You Did Last Summer soundtrack, you can pretend to be a Christian band and sell CDs to youth groups, or you can cover a song everyone likes. The latter approach is almost guaranteed – it worked for Save Ferris, it cemented Smash Mouth’s status as a two-album band, and it appears to be working for Fear Factory. This darker, more guitar-oriented cover of the Gary Numan new-wave classic is a decent update but has absolutely no danger of replacing the original in people’s memory. Still, it’s a pretty good homage to the early ‘80s, with a little computer animation, a car crash and, unless I’m mistaken, plenty of cameos by Numan himself. Good work, Fear Factory; you may even win a spot on next summer’s Ozzfest tour. –AH

Luscious Jackson – Ladyfingers
     (**½)  We all know Luscious Jackson isn’t exactly a household name. They had that hit off the Clueless soundtrack and everything, but they’re not exactly "Casey’s Top 40" material. Still, "Ladyfingers" is a breezy summer pop hit, and it’s the only video in rotation right now that takes place almost entirely on a city bus. Everyone pays their fare, gets on and gets down. (BUSDRIVER: Sit down back there! I’ll turn this bus around!) Ever seen the old "White Like Me" SNL sketch where Eddie Murphy paints himself white and lets himself in on a whole new world of privilege, where white people had bus parties when the black folks got off? This is that world, and it’s led by the girl from Luscious Jackson, perky flower behind her ear and all. Succumb. –AH

Alanis Morissette – So Pure
     (zero)  Alanis has passed the realm of ego and entered oblivious megalomania. She’s in Barbara Streisand territory now. In her new video, she opens her usual ode to a complicated lover by noting, "You from New York, you are so relevant. You reduce me to cosmic tears." If someone had written that in my high school yearbook, I would have smacked her, and I’m not a violent person by nature. "So Pure" makes history in the Alanis timeline by being her first choreographed video since her early sugar-pop videos. Maybe she's finally come to grips with her poppy past, but the dance moves of "So Pure" are appropriate, because her man-ranting this time almost merits a demented off-off-Broadway musical. Alanis does tap dances, "Ray of Light" rave dances, chorus-line dances. Basically, it’s a four-minute version of a nightmare I frequently have when I eat too many sausages before bedtime. I never thought I’d say this, but I want the old Alanis back, and if it takes tasteless darts to destroy her megalomania, so be it. I still think there’s hope. –AH

The Offspring – The Kids Aren’t Alright
     (**)  It’s not good when an Offspring video reminds me of a George Michael video. But this one does – remember the sex-with-anyone track "Fastlove" George infected us with three summers ago? Its video had men morphing into women, girls into boys, Twiggy into Roseanne and so on. "The Kids Are Alright" is about the same, with band members morphing into each other, parents morphing into their children and mothers smoking pot and zipping themselves into giant plastic bags. All of this takes place in one hardwood-floored loft, and you can bet the neighbors want to know what the hell is going on in there. This is the Offspring’s first attempt at a real music single from Americana, not just sing-along novelty material. It’s real weak, uninspired rock, and the social commentary on the nuclear family just doesn’t work. As sad as it is, the Offspring works best when they’re releasing bubble-gum music. –AH

Z-Music Video of the Week
(By way of M2)

Grits – They All Fall Down
     (***)  Grits is a Christian rap group that have been around for a few years and haven’t really caught on. Obviously, someone at M2 has been feeling guilty about leading a life of sin and playing too many blasphemous XTC videos, so here comes a Grits video at 3 a.m. It’s wholesome and all, but it has the usual boasting and arm flailing gangsta shots, even a couple fly girls. Unless you’re listening closely, though, you’ll probably never even notice it’s a Christian video. A few words like "righteous," "destiny" and "Apocalypse" fly by, but otherwise it has the same conspiracy-theory feel to it as the Wu-Tang and Canibus raps of one-world governments and Illuminatis. I will admit, though, "They All Fall Down" doesn’t have the usual Christian music element to it – that quality you can’t put your finger on that makes it obvious you’re not listening to The World’s music. No, this is legit, and pretty damn cool. –AH

Classic Videos

The Fugees (Translator Crew) – Vocab (1994)
     (***)  This is from The Fugees’ first album, which I’ve heard wasn’t that good. If this song is any indication, however, the hip-hop band had a rawer, completely different sound, much more rap-driven. It also comes from the mid-90s, so it suffers from "Whatta Man" syndrome – when Lauryn Hill raps (SAMPLE LYRIC: "The devils wish they could send me back to Mogadishu"), you expect her to say she wants a body like Arnold with a Denzel face. "Vocab" has a hell of a bass line, though, and some borderline-hardcore raps from Pras and Wyclef. The video is badass, without all the glitz and ego that’s permeated all three Fugees’ solo videos; the band members are deep in the ‘hood here, angry and ready to pop caps in all our asses. All the housewives who bought The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill the day after this year’s Grammies were handed out would shit their pants if they saw this. –AH

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – Do You Wanna Touch Me (1982)
     (**½)  This video is primitive (it even steals the Olivia Newton-John gratuitous oiled pecs camera shot from "Physical"), so I can’t give it three stars on principle alone, but "Do You Wanna Touch Me" is still watchable just because of Joan. She exuded carefree sexuality and nihilism in a way most rock stars only hope for. Sure, Jett was trapped in a rather cartoonish career, but to paraphrase my roommate Jeremy, it was the ‘80s, and everyone was queer in the ‘80s. Her bandmates, on the other hand, all look like they answered a classified ad that asked, "Like the Stray Cats? Enjoy the Romantics? Fond of headbands? Play with Joan." It took me a couple viewings of this video, but I’ve realized Joan successfully pulled off the angry/sexy look that Courtney Love has been trying to achieve for years. Witness the look of indignation Joan gives as she throws her trenchcoat open, revealing a skimpy bikini. To further emphasize the contrast, after M2 played this video last week, they played a Hole video. I knew I wasn’t crazy. –AH

Cyndi Lauper – Time After Time (1984)
     (***)  Cyndi sits in front of her TV with her porcelain dog, watching a Bette Davis movie and mouthing the dialogue silently. Then she lies down next to her sleeping boyfriend, and the flashbacks begin. We see how pissed off he was when she showed up at the diner with half her head shaved in a criss-cross pattern and the other half dyed red. He doesn’t go for it, but then what guy would who didn’t have a safety pin stuck through his cheek? Really, wouldn’t we all have found Cyndi Lauper easier to swallow without that crazy hair? I’m sure it’s what got her a contract in the first place (65-YEAR-OLD RECORD EXEC: Look at that hair. She must be hip and happenin’.) It’s enough to send Cyndi out of his trailer park and onto a train to another town, where people are more free about Archie hair. Fly free, Cyndi. Fly free. –AH

Copyright 1999 Apartment Y Productions