|Beastie Boys – Alive
(***) The Beastie Boys ride down the
street on tiny designer motorcycles, each one a different primary color.
Each is wearing an outfit that consists entirely of that primary color.
A voice intones, "I have never been more ready in my entire life to do
this right now," and the song begins. It sounds like your typical Beastie
Boys track – bombass scratching, an engaging sample and traded-off rhyming.
But this is not your typical Beastie Boys song. This is their version of
that inevitable new-material single on an otherwise-regurgitated greatest
hits collection. As such, it’s destined to not be that special. It’s meat
and potatoes… primary colors, you could say. But it’s a lot better than
"Three MCs and One DJ," and it’s a solid Beastie effort. "Alive" plays
off the least costly but most interesting element of the Beasties’ videos:
their sense of humor. They wander around empty Manhattan on those motorcycles,
on a mock Army vehicle, on giant springs. They stare into a fishbowl lens.
They fantasize about riding horses. It’s not great, but it’s pretty damn
cool. –Andrew Hicks
Garbage – The World Is Not Enough
(***) The villain in the latest James
Bond movie? Robo-Shirley Manson, who is assembled piece by piece by the
greatest technicians in England during the video to "The World Is Not Enough."
In one sequence, she kisses a man and stomps out of the room as we see
his lifeless form hit the ground, a trickle of blood oozing from his mouth.
Later, she gives the real Shirley Manson the kiss of death, woos an audience
with her singing and then blows them to shit. This video is typical Garbage
– spooky, calculated imagery that is the furthest possible thing from subtle
yet strangely appealing. To me, anyway. I know a lot of people who hate
Garbage, and I can understand why. But their ballads are distinctive and
haunting (remember "Milk"?), and this does make a good Bond song. Add in
the unintentional humor factor and the merciful lack of clips from the
new Bond movie and I’m ready to just go ahead and slap this with a three-star
rating. I’ve praised worse. –AH
Jewel – What’s Simple Is True
(*½) God, where to begin with
the title to this one? It joins such classics of Jewel wisdom as "A Nickel
Is More Than a Penny" and "When Your Eyes Are Closed You Can’t See." The
chorus consists of the couplet, "What’s simple is true / I love you." This
is the songwriting that got her out of her car and into a fucking penthouse
suite? Excuse me if I’m bitter. And the video has imagery even more dismantled
of complexity. There are two Jewels here – one of them filmed through a
blue lens, standing in the snow and wearing repressive clothing and another
filmed through a warmed orange lens getting rogered roundly but tenderly
by a rental stud. So, let’s see, I guess there are two sides to her sexuality.
She’s an icy bitch but she likes to get laid. Simple and true. –AH
LFO – Girl on TV
(zero) Man, do these guys get another
hit? I thought things were finally improving. From the title, you’d expect
the poor man’s update to Duran Duran’s "Girls on Film." What you get is
"Summer Girls" rewritten with even worse lyrics. Yes, it’s possible. The
refrain, "Shoo-bee-doo-wop and Scooby Snacks / Met a fly girl and I can’t
relax," is uttered more than once. The video for "Girl on TV" (does every
song on their album have the word "girl" in the title?) is just plain hard
to take, featuring the three LFO boys clowning around their spacious bachelor
pad. Playing pool, watching TV, masturbating to the image of Jennifer Love
Hewitt. She’s the "girl" in question, it seems, and she’s from the city
of angels, like Bette Davis, James Dean and Gable. Beyond that, the video
defies comment. –AH
Methods of Mayhem with Lil’ Kim, Fred Durst and George
Clinton – Get Naked
(*½) Artists used to collaborate
on mass levels for charity and what-not. The purpose of this Methods of
Mayhem track is nothing more than the debasing celebration of sex. As the
song title suggests, most of the people in the video are naked, and the
collaboration is rough. From Tommy Lee, who does a hilariously bad rap
take in the first verse from the comfort of his own hotel bed (a remote
control pulls uncomfortable phallic duty, BTW), to Lil’ Kim, who rides
a giant mechanical chicken and dismisses the ill-equipped with the phrase,
"Under seven inches? Nnh, sorry." Fred Durst also forces out a verse, and
George Clinton appears in a stretch limo at one point, barely looking up
from his laptop. (You can just tell the man is embarrassed.) But somehow
Lee owns the show here, his bed writhing (nudity covered by strategic bursts
of bright light) getting more and more out of control as the video progresses.
Don’t ask me what this is all about. –AH
(zero) What the fuck is this? Look at
the damned credits, do I really even need to comment on this? Well, if
you insist... umm, the song is about getting naked. Let me tell you what
the video forces you to witness in order to accept this fact -- Tommy Lee
naked in a hotel room, rapping. No, perhaps you don't understand...he's
RAPPING! Tommy Lee. Yes, I swear. Lil' Kim rides the proverbial giant chicken,
and walks down the street dismissing everybody who doesn't meet her length
requirement. Personally, I think it's pretty unfair to assume that because
somebody is under seven inches, they couldn't take Kim to the chicken coop.
Umm, of course that doesn't affect me in any way... quickly moving on,
we get quick testimonials from Fred Durst and George Clinton that, yes,
it is indeed good to be naked. I guess they were on a lunch break or something.
Back to Tommy Lee, the video ends with a naked Pamela hopping into the
bed with him. No, you don't get to see him ring the bell. Anyway, I have
to stop reviewing this now, my nervous system in shutting down in protest.
Rage Against the Machine – Guerilla Radio
(***) Well, I’ll give these guys credit.
Everyone else who has been around more than three years has softened up.
Don’t be surprised if you hear the new Foo Fighters single playing in Wal-Mart
before the year’s out. (I like it, but you can’t deny it’s even poppier
than anything the Archies could dream up.) Rage, meanwhile, is still pissed,
still disenfranchised and still ready to raise hell. That they’re doing
it in a video that parodies Gap commercials (how, uh, timely) is incidental.
The video opens on a white soundstage, quiet. The song begins, and everything’s
nicely subdued – no twirling dreadlocks here. It almost reminds you of
the Nirvana "In Bloom" video until Zach de la Rocha (translation: "Zach
of the Rage") breaks loose and we begin our intercut story. A picture-perfect
WASP boyfriend and girlfriend home from shopping turn into plastic mannequins.
The system has bought them, I suppose, and they start falling apart piece
by piece during a disastrous racquetball match. Yeah, racquetball definitely
symbolizes everything that’s wrong with the privileged class. Always has.
We also get a scene set in a sweatshop (how, uh, timely) and what might
be the most kickass, funky guitar solo of the year. "It has to start sometime,"
Tom whispers. "It has to start somewhere. Why not here? Why not now?" Gap
commercials, racquetball and sweatshops in a video directed by "Honey"?
Call me crazy, but I don’t think it’s going to prompt The Revolution. –AH
(***) Rage seems to have this weird
ability. The first time you hear one of their songs, it sounds just like
every other Rage song you've ever heard. Then you hear it for a few weeks,
and you start to notice the subtle differences that make it unique. Tom
Morello's guitar playing is so raw that sometimes it all seems to blend
together, but each screaming riff has it's own shape that eventually your
ears will pick up. And once you hear it, you can't go back. "Guerilla Radio"
is another great example of this. The sonic noise and Zach de la Rocha's
screaming raps actually make you believe that The Revolution is coming,
and trumped-up elitists like us will be the first up against the wall.
Umm, wait a minute. Forget I said that. Anyway, on to the video... it's
a parody of a Gap video that shows poor foreign workers in a sweatshop
toiling over sowing machines for no doubt outrageously low wages while
their rich capitalist manager lords over them. But, hey guys, Kathy Lee
Gifford has to make a living somehow! I appreciate the sentiment, guys,
but it's a little over the top. When you're making videos that the Ministry
of Propaganda at the heart of the Stalin era would have approved of, it's
time to lighten up just a bit. --JW
Redman and Method Man – Da Rockwilder
(**½) Method Man brightened up
a fucking Limp Bizkit remix, which officially earned my respect. The first
I remember of Redman is a remix of a Kris Kross song. Didn’t earn my respect.
But the collaborations of these men are just fine by me, not outstanding
but competent. "Da Rockwilder" is a near-triumph of style over substance,
almost too short to deserve its own video. There are three segments strung
together; in the first, Method Man and Redman make their way down a darkened
neo-gangplank, random chains connecting it to the ceiling and strobe lights
going crazy. Then comes the now-expected Gap commercial parody (for Stank
Butt Jeans, of all things) which lasts all of twenty seconds. Then they
wander down the darkened streets with jumper cables hanging off them, firing
off balls of energy and confounding the cops. Not much to speak of, but
there’s a lot worse out there. --AH
Stone Temple Pilots – Down
(**½) I’m officially ready to
split 1999 into two waves of music. The first was that horrible and unavoidable
surge of teen sugar pop that built steadily during the early months of
the year. The second was the reaction from the established groups; people
who wouldn’t have been allowed comebacks in better periods had hits again.
Def Leppard was even in rotation for awhile. By October, much of the modern-rock
rotation list could have come from five years ago. Bush, Live, the Chili
Peppers, Counting Crows, Chris Cornell, nine inch nails, and everyone’s
favorite hypodermic rock band, STP. "Down" was released at a bad time for
the band (Scott Weiland is back in rehab dealing with the shakes), and
the video appears to have been made without his participation. This approach
can work – the Ol’ Dirty Bastard Dolemite outing, for example –
or it can scrape by, as it does in "Down." Two giant television screens
project murky, blue-tinted concert clips of the band, ambiguous shots of
a female model and printed onscreen words. All the while, strobe lights
flash and large confetti chunks drop from the ceiling. It’s enough to distract
from the missing Weiland, but "Down," the song and video, are nothing great.
(**) Perhaps I should begin by explaining
that I own the new Stone Temple Pilots album. It was a whim, and I can't
really explain it, especially after that whole Songs from the Vatican
Gift Shop fiasco. However, the album has turned out to be a proper
successor to Purple. That said, I can't understand why this was
the first single. There are several other songs on the album with far greater
melody, lyrical content and an atmosphere that at times reminds me of '90s
version of The Doors. Of course, I guess MTV can only accommodate two types
of video right now: mindless pop or distorted metal. It's like the late
'80s never left, or something. The video tries to capture the essence of
a live performance of STP, with plenty of metal cliches thrown in. Of course,
the reason they had to resort to this is because Scott Weiland is back
in jail for getting hopped up on goofballs again. It was necessary to make
the video so MTV could give the band some exposure, but I'm not really
prepared to give it much credit. --JW
Sugar Ray – Falls Apart
(*½) They’re begging to
be cut down with that song title. Begging. I’m not going to bite because,
yes, Sugar Ray is falling apart and, yes, if luck is a lady, this may be
the last we hear from them save the inevitable last-gasp soundtrack video
that appears a few times on VH1 really late at night. "Falls Apart," if
nothing else, will go down in history as Sugar Ray’s attempt to rock. That
said because the usual understated vocals and obnoxious sing-song melodies
("Run away, ru-u-u-n awa-a-a-a-ay") here are accompanied by driving guitar
chords. In the video, Sugar Ray plays a spacious, nicely lit party (get
used to it) where the wine flows and tattoo artists decorate unsuspecting
patrons. And, in true continuity-error fashion, Mark McGrath wanders the
same party he is at that very moment playing for. It’s only a matter of
time before Good Mark and Evil Mark have it out in the bathtub while Snoop
Dogg looks on bemusedly. –AH
Rob Zombie – Superbeast (Girl on a Motorcycle Mix)
(*½) Rob Zombie videos usually
only come in one variety, with shots of Zombie standing on a dark soundstage
trying his best to gesture maniacally while strobe light effects, freaky
chicks and manufactured "dark imagery" fill in the blanks. The "Living
Dead Girl" video was a rare, entertaining exception. The best you can say
about "Superbeast" is, at least it has a hilarious intro from Japanese
TV, a green-rhinestone-covered Japanese cowboy introducing Zombie, who
is standing next to men in zebra and chicken suits. Hey, at least he knows
he’s a caricature. Rob Zombie definitely has a sense of humor, but he’s
starting to remind me of George Thorogood. He’s just a 40-year-old man
trying his hardest to play out the badass persona he’s adopted, even though
you know after six beers your Uncle Ernie could take him out. "Superbeast"
is from his remix album (!) and also appears on the Schwarzenegger End
of Days soundtrack. Oh yeah, look at all the responsibility on those
Bryan Adams – Cuts Like a Knife (1983)
(**) See, in 1983, you could build an
entire video around the fact that you had access to a drained YMCA pool.
At the beginning, Bryan sits on the ledge and laments this lost love of
his before throwing a knife across the room (it lodges in bare wood, emphasizing
raw emotional pain, of course). Then he jumps into the empty pool and grabs
his guitar, joining the band. All the while, the bitch in question is getting
dressed in the locker room, in what I’m sure were very provocative shots
for the time. She emerges in a bathing suit, poises herself at the ledge
and dives in, somehow emerging wet. A confused Bryan Adams scratches his
temple. All very basic stuff – they were going to do some more work on
the video, but the Seniors Aquarobics class needed the pool at 3:30. –AH
The Beatles – Hey Bulldog (1969)
(***) I’ve always said the Yellow
Submarine movie would be a lot cooler if it was split into music video
segments on MTV or VH1. Hell, it would even improve the "All Together Now"
sequence. This track, the token Lennon original from the movie, aired as
a video last weekend on M2 with a mercifully short intro. The "video" has
the Beatles hiding in a living player piano and scaring the bejesus out
of a four-headed Blue Meanie bulldog. A Tom and Jerry moment follows, with
Lennon luring them over with a bone and giving them a firecracker instead.
It was a trick he always used to play on the religious right. At later
junctions, Lennon fires a gun that turns out to be a flower and the cartoon
Beatles run around the countryside with arms flailing. LSD turned the greatest
musical minds of our time into little children in need of quick placation,
and in small doses it can be a lot of fun to watch. –AH
DNA f/Suzanne Vega – Tom’s Diner (1990)
(**) Suzanne Vega probably rues the
day DNA went and remixed "Tom’s Diner" about as much as Herbie Hancock
regrets "Rockit." Both of them traded in integrity for state-of-the-moment
synthesizer effects that fueled quickly fading hits. And both of them have
pretty embarrassing videos. "Tom’s Diner" was basically made without Vega’s
participation, so it relies on backlit, black-soundstage dancers and the
video equivalent of clip-art. "Kissing their hellos…" Two people kissing.
"Shaking her umbrella…" A disembodied umbrella twirling. "Instead I pour
the milk…" A bottle of milk smashes against a stone. "I open up the paper."
Shot of a newspaper burning. You see, video directors like to dress up
ordinary things like opening the paper and drinking milk with more exciting
things like fire and broken glass. Take notes; you might learn something.