REVIEWS -- AUGUST 4, 1999
 
 
                               
 
Fiona Apple Ė Across the Universe 
     (***)  I know, I know. Iím starting off this week with a huge credibility gap because Iím giving a thumbs-up to a pretentious Fiona Apple remake of an absolutely beautiful and untouchable Beatles song. I was just as enraged as anyone when I first heard this, too, because itís obvious Fiona thought she was recording the definitive version of the song and that an entire nation of 14-year-old girls would think she wrote it herself. But Iíd always leave it on, even when I hated it, because her voice is just perfect for the song Ė sheís sultry, curious and optimistic all at once. It took me months of hypnotic therapy, but I can now freely admit I like this song. Her "Across the Universe" is no substitute for the original, but itís a damn good remake. And the video is pretty decent, too. Itís set in a 1950s diner, with Fiona wandering around in a hunger-induced stupor, wearing bigass headphones and singing while a band of angry youths destroys the place. The same thing happens wherever she goes, Iím afraid. They all want their $16.99 back for Tidal. ĖAndrew Hicks
     (***)  God help me, I like this. I really do. It took me a long time to accept it, but I really have no problem with Fiona doing this particular Beatles song. In fact, it's probably the only one she could get away with. I wonder if Fiona really knew what she was singing about? I wonder if John really knew what he was singing about? In any event, if we must have remakes, Iíd prefer that they add a new dimension to the song. Fiona gets away with this by making it damned sexy. Of course, damn her to hell if she ever tries it again. The video features a black-and-white Fiona singing in the midst of Pleasantville's Krystallnacht rip-off scene, which is made to seem a lot trippier and a lot less cliché than it appears in the movie. Of course, like it as I may, I can't help hoping that she gets clocked by a flying crowbar at some point in the video. I bet that would change her world. WARNING: The preceding review could be seen as a bitter diatribe against the opposite sex. Please consider that the critic owns no less than three Sarah McLachlan CD's, and pay him no more mind. ĖJames Wallace

Bob Dylan -- Not Dark Yet
     (**)  Man, Iím sorry. I know Iím supposed to like Bob Dylan, and I really try, but thereís something about the manís voice that gets under my skin. Itís probably the way he breaks down just like a little girl; I donít know. By this point, Dylanís voice has been so corroded by decades of drug abuse that he sounds like that stock Old Guy character in the Western of your choice. He should be jumping up and down, yelling about how thereís gold in them thar hills, or singing "Jimmy Cracked Corn And I Donít Care." The video? Itís standard VH1 "Crossroads" stuff, with lingering shots of old houses, Dylanís shadow and that big fucking microphone. And, Bob, give Tom Petty his hat back. Iím sure he misses it. NOTE: I know the e-mails are coming. Iím expecting the "How could you not like Bob Dylan?" missives to pour in almost immediately. Just donít ask the question, how could I give a thumbs-up to a Fiona Apple video and then trash this one. I know what good taste dictates that Iím supposed to like and not supposed to like, but it doesnít always work out that way. ĖAH
     (**)  I think this is Bob's assertion that he is indeed still alive. I can believe it, but only just barely. I'm a huge Dylan fan and consider him one of the top three songwriters of the century, but man... Bob, just retire. I wish he would hand off to Tom Petty and just let it go. On that subject, why were both of them in the Traveling Willburys? Was there any point to that? The shame of it is that Bob has gotten better musically, even as his voice has deteriorated to the point of near collapse. Seriously, I love the man's work, but his voice sounds worse than Bill Clinton after 9 months of campaigning. The video isn't much to speak of either: soft-lensed shots of Bob's band playing interlaced with scenes of Americana. Yawn. I think the game is up. --JW

Eve 6 Ė Open Road Song
     (*½)  At last, the concert video. Thatís when you know the band is out of ideas and the record company just doesnít give a damn. "Open Road Song" is purely auto-pilot, beginning with the wistful black-and-white shots of the audience burning with anticipation, waiting for Eve 6 to come out and open for Cracker. Hey, thereís the lead singer, and heís wearing an untucked shirt and tie. How quaint. Now itís time to go through the concert video checklist. Shot of singer autographing a girlís chest? Check. Shot of a guy crowd surfing? Check. Contemplative black-and-white shot of the singer looking out into an empty auditorium, a la "Every Rose Has Its Thorn"? Double-check. ĖAH
     (*)  Once upon a time, I wrote a review saying I thought Eve 6 might develop into a good band. I grant you, this is the same album, and scantly less than 7 months later, but I take it all back. A million times over, I take it all back. Please forgive me, I knew not what I did. This is a concert video (meaning they've run out of ideas awfully early) featuring the band trying to play but being drowned out by 13 year old girls who have been waiting weeks to see Tony Fagenson live on stage, in all his sexual glory. Isn't it ironic? Don't ya think? I've asked my 14-year-old brother, and he has promised me he'd never take his girlfriend to see Eve 6, no matter how hard she begged. There's hope for him yet. --JW

Macy Gray Ė Do Something
     (**½)  What hath Erykah Badu wrought? Are we in for a revolution of black Ď40s-style crooners and songstresses? Macy Gray seems like the crucial second step in the revolution, mixing Ella Fitzgerald vocals with hip-hop stylings. Itís a cool song, but the video doesnít quite have the stuff crossovers are made of Ė thereís the same shot of the smiling pregnant woman clutching her belly, of the happy old couple, of balloons and flowers. Itís an overly perky rendering of the song, and the production is just a tad too hip. I mean, "Do Something" could have stood on its own without the Jermaine Dupri-style shoutout from the DJ at the beginning. That brings back too many harsh memories of Da Brat. ĖAH

Aimee Mann Ė I Shouldíve Known
     (**)  Aimee Mann still looks more or less like she did when she was just the girl from ĎTil Tuesday. Same shock-white bleached hair, same freaky eyes, same nondescript, bony body. "I Shouldíve Known" has probably already exhausted its VH1 cycle, Iím betting, because itís just as nondescript as Aimee herself. The video shows her wandering around the hardwood floors of her poorly-furnished apartment, playing her own copy of Angry Bitch Monopoly (she buys a house on Venting Avenue; no kidding) and frolicking in front of the ocean. Oh, and she just pretended to shoot a couple of ventriloquist dummies. This video just feels too manufactured Ė I say this because the words "Dot, dot, dot" are in the chorus and, every time she sings those words, the words appear on the screen in cute new ways. That, and she plays air guitar. Nice try, Aimee, but the time just isnít ripe for your comeback. Itís Def Leppardís year. ĖAH

Public Enemy Ė Do You Wanna Go Our Way??
     (**)  "Who killed Biggie?? Who got 2Pac??" Who killed rap music?? Weíll never know for sure, but now is not the time for us to be bombarded with new Public Enemy. The Buffalo Springfield swipe in "He Got Game" last year was one thing, but these guys definitely had their place in 1989. "Do You Wanna Go Our Way??" is middle-of-the-road rap, the kind of thing that would turn up on the Bulworth soundtrack in the middle of the second side. Itís not bad, itís just commonplace. Public Enemy hasnít grown in ten years Ė theyíre still wearing clocks, for Godís sake. The video is pure computer manipulation, cutting between the down-to-earth preaching of Chuck D. and the incoherent crack ramblings of Flavor Flav. I could do without this. ĖAH
     (**½)  It's 1999, Chuck D still hates white people, and Flava Flav is still wearing that damned clock and making Willie McGee facial gestures at the camera. I'm glad some things in life are still consistent. This video is apparently commentary on the plight of the black man at the end of the millennium and an angry outrage against the white devil's murder of 2Pac and the Notorious B.I.G., which hasn't kept either of them from releasing several multi-platinum albums in the past year. Actually, you think Public Enemy be happy they were killed. Otherwise, their services would not be required. All that said, it's really not a bad effort from a group that was written off around the same time as Spike Lee's credibility. --JW

R.E.M. Ė Electrolite
     (*)  Itís all over for these guys. Theyíve collapsed under their own egos, their own obnoxious imagery and, yes, that feather boa around Michael Stipeís neck, strangling him like the harshest of music critics. I get the feeling the other band members have just given up the fight. ("Okay, Mike, Iíll wear the furry yellow chaps. Just leave me alone.") "Electrolite," the latest in a five-year string of extinction-level pretentiousness, sees the band as Vegas lounge singers, Stipe with a lot of face makeup and the others with silk and polyester. Meanwhile, people wander the streets of a large metropolitan area, all wearing chains. Theyíre chained down to their jobs, to their routines and to their partners. The metaphor is transparent, and I was pleased to notice Mikeís chain had two nice smooth balls to go along with it. ĖAH
     (*)  Michael Stipe is super, thanks for asking! REM, once upon a time my favorite band, just gets lamer with each and every passing year. Remember when Michael Stipe was longhaired and camera-shy? I miss those days. I bet their drummer didn't really leave for medical reasons; I bet he just didn't want to wear any more fruit-assed costumes. The video features one of my worst nightmares: I'm walking out of my favorite grocery store, and from the concrete out pops Michael Stipe singing and prancing around me. Everybody else in the video is forced to wear chains. These are the chains we forged in life by watching REM videos. But these images need not come to pass. You will be visited by two reviewers. Expect the first when you leave the house unlocked. Don't bother hiding the cookies, we know exactly where you put them. --JW

Robyn Ė Do You Know (What It Takes)
     (**)  In the eight-year interim between the death of Paula Abdul and New Kids on the Block and the birth of the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears, Top 40 radio had this tripe to live on. I like this song a little more than the stuff thatís out now just because it came out at a time when we werenít saturated with sugar pop. Robyn isnít even really that hot, as far as teen idols go Ė sheís a nondescript blond with a lot of eye makeup who sings from Sheryl Crowís red velvet egg chair in the plush coziness of her van. Around the beginning of the second verse, her roadie stops the van in the middle of an intersection, and Robyn climbs out to sing to the pissed-off pedestrians. I have a feeling this is the only way she could guarantee herself an audience at that point. ĖAH

The Roots Ė Next Movement
     (***)  I like these guys. They donít like me because Iím white, but Iím not going to complain. Rap artists who play instruments; Iím almost obligated to like them. This seven-man band spends the entire video in a huge, empty room while two Vegas chorus girls pull a giant velvet curtain open and shut. Every time the curtain pulls back, it reveals the band in a different formation. By the end of the video, weíve seen the human pyramid, the drummer playing upside down and the biggest damn 69 Iíve ever seen. Or maybe I wasnít paying close enough attention; I donít know. "Next Movement" is a good sign, I think. Things have become too Puffified. Itís good to hear sample-free hip hop that fuses funk and R+B. If it has to come from scrubs like these guys, so be it. Someone needs to revolutionize rap music. ĖAH
    (**½)  Hmm, how many solo careers do you suppose this will spawn? And a better question Ė could they take out The Fugees in the fair fight? The drummer looks like Ice Cube when he gets stoned for the first time in Friday. And really, who keeps picks in their Afros anymore? I mean, I stopped doing that in 1994, for God's sake. Seriously though, watch this video just to see how stoned their drummer is. He can't keep a beat, and definitely can't handle the concept in the video that he's supposed to be upside down playing. Remember how stoned Ringo looked in "Hello, Goodbye"? Forget that, because this guy is tore up! That aside, I think The Roots may end up being cool. They just seem to need some kind of hook. Kind of like this review, but hopefully they won't just bail out like I'm doing. --JW
 

Classic Videos

Elastica Ė Connection (1995)
     (***½)  This came out at the end of our senior year in high school, and I liked it then. Itís just catchy girl rock, and the fact that itís only two minutes long helps it immensely. If it went on any longer than that, weíd start to notice its flaws. As it is, "Connection" is a fun, washed-out video whose gimmick is mainly editing the same footage to repeat itself at one-second intervals. Itís kind of like the exploding house in the Lethal Weapon movie of your choice. Oh, and there are a bunch of naked men sitting humbly around them, legs crossed to protect their fragile genitalia from being stomped by the grrrls. Okay, I know the three-and-a-half star rating is a stretch, but I canít help it. At least I never bought the album. ĖAH
     (**½)  Oh boy, Chick Rock. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Chick Rock, but did you ever notice how it almost always falls into two categories Ė flowers and sunshine or bitch rock? Now, before you start with the hate mail, let me explain myself. I'm not saying that men don't do touchy-feely stuff. (See Shawn Mullins, Eagle Eye Cherry, or the Cat Stevens' of the world) Also, I'm not saying women can't be angry and hardcore. After all, who changes the channel during your average Lita Ford video? Mmm mmm. What I'm talking about are the Paula Cole-esque man-hating diatribes that seem to dominate most everything female and hard-edged these days. Of course, there is a third category, now that I think about it, and that's college art rock. That group dominated by girls who met their freshmen year of college in the dorms, started hanging out at coffeeshops while making fun of sorority chicks, and decided to start a band. See: The Breeders, Luscious Jackson, and oh yes, Elastica. The band plays surrounded by naked men, and is framed by bad lighting and weird camera angles. Yes, there are men in the band, but we all know who's in charge. I know exactly what went through their minds: "Hey, let's put lots of naked men in the video, to show how ridiculous it is to have naked women in videos. We'll turn the industry on its head." Trust me, these people live next door, I know how their minds work. Of course, it doesn't mean I don't like it. --JW

Enigma Ė Return to Innocence (1994)
     (***)  Itís 4:34 in the morning, the windows are open and weíre blasting this video through our stereo. Weíre hoping that if we play this loud enough, our art-student neighbors will come over and make love to us. But it probably wonít happen. "Return to Innocence" is one of the signature videos of the mid-Ď90s Ė if not for this and a string of Melissa Etheridge singles, the "new" VH1 wouldnít have had an identity to build itself around. The video has one gimmick, and one gimmick only, but it always holds my attention. It takes tender scenes of Italians going about their business, and it plays them backward. You get to see the waves crash, the water go back onto the dog, the spider unspin his web and, if you look closely, Robert Benigniís character in Life is Beautiful come back to life. In some countries, this song is known simply as "Hi-O-Hi-O-Hi-Hi-Hi, Hi-O-Hi-Hi." ĖAH
     (**½)  Yag si siht nmad. --JW

Kansas -- Dust in the Wind (1977)
     (zero) or (***)  Stop laughing, I'm serious. Yes, this is a review of the video for "Dust in the Wind," by Ď70s progressive superstars Kansas. Keep an open mind. From a certain perspective, this may be the worst video I've ever seen. It features the band playing their megahit, framed in a circle surrounded by white, like some kind of weird montage at a Pink Floyd concert. Keep in mind that this was probably filmed for some Dick Clarke-esque television project. This video... completely and totally blows. However, there's another way to view it, and it doesn't even require mind-altering substances, although that probably wouldn't hurt. Let me describe things to watch for, and you'll be able to properly enjoy the video should it ever pop up again.
     * The Lead Singer, wearing a lovely Jerry Seinfeld Puffy Print Shirt, also known as a Prince/Middle-Aged Black Woman's Business Suit Shirt. 
     * The Rhythm Guitarist, wearing a simply stunning blue Ď70s-era sequined rented tux, complete with bow tie. 
     * The Lead Guitarist: Completely decked out in that Steppenwolf/ Ď70s Longhaired Pimp look. He's your pusher, baby.
     * Finally, there appears to be a shaggy biker playing the fiddle. Yes, the fiddle. 
     You are not ready. --JW

The Laís Ė There She Goes (1990)
      (**)  Mike Myers must have thought this was a pretty good song. It was in So I Married an Axe Murderer about a dozen times. I still think itís pretty catchy in small doses, which is convenient because itís only about three minutes long. The video wasnít exactly meant to happen, though. The Laís are a very unaesthetic group. Like, them and The Proclaimers could headline the Big Dork Reunion Tour í99 if the price was right. The singer, who looks like one of the Gallagher brothers run over by a truck, opens his mouth wide, revealing a sea of uneven teeth. He strums an acoustic guitar, stares into the camera and sings to us about this girl, who isnít even that pretty herself. I guess itís the best those guys could hope for. Oh, and donít get me started on that band name. Please donít get me started on the band nameÖ --AH

Tears For Fears Ė Shout (1985)
     (**½)  I get the feeling Tears For Fears was trying to make an epic video here. It has a title card and everythingÖ of course, in 1985, an "epic" was defined as a video that had more than one set. This video makes use of the great outdoors, dumping Roland Orzabal and The Other Guy From Tears For Fears first in the middle of the desert, then on what Iím sure is the British coast, which has huge jutting rocks that represent the unevenness and turbulence of everyday life. Yeah. Later, the video moves indoors for lots of silhouette shots of synthesizer keyboards, guitars and a shot of Roland and The Other Guy drumming on the floor of a white staircase. And out comes the "Hey Jude" choir, which has kids, old ladies and regular British townfolk belting out the chorus. For those reasons alone, I canít give this a full thumbs-up. ĖAH

 
 
 
Copyright 1999 Apartment Y Productions