REVIEWS -- MAY 3, 2000



AC/DC – Still Upper Lip
     (*)  I’m going to tell you right now thanks to the benefit of hindsight – this entire week is riddled with artists you never wanted to see again making videos that should rightfully ensure you never see them again. The last time AC/DC had a comeback was in 1986, with “Who Made Who” from the frickin’ Maximum Overdrive soundtrack. You’d think after a 14-year hiatus (that is three-and-a-half presidential administrations or, more accurately, the average age of a “TRL” viewer), the redneck rockers would be able to come up with something dynamite. Well, no, let’s be honest – best-case scenario here is something you can sing along to while stinking drunk. That’s all AC/DC has ever been good for, and it’s apparently more than can be expected from Angus and Co. in the new millennium. Let’s just ignore the godawful sex pun in the song title – this is a mediocre approximation of the band’s album tracks from 20 years ago. The video is embarrassing, plain and simple. If I wanted to see a half-century-old man in a school boy outfit, I’d rent diaper-fetish gay porn (not that I don’t already have a formidable library of that, but let’s not go into it). The band interrupts rush-hour traffic in NY to play their latest, and it attracts everyone from cabbies to rented heroin models, all of whom seem to be only moderately interested. I don’t buy it, of course, but I’m what’s known in the industry as a cynical fuck. –Andrew Hicks

Eminem – The Real Slim Shady
     (***)  Well, Dr. Dre and his Caucasian product are back, and the question we self-appointed pundits have been asking has been answered – yeah, the post-fame Eminem has gone from bitching about poverty and psychosis to bitching about TRL, boy bands and, yeah, psychosis. “I’m only giving you things you joke about with your friends in the living room / The only difference is I’ve got the balls to say it,” he complains after noting (and accurately so, I think) that there shouldn’t be so much fuss about the lyrics if Tom Green can hump a dead moose on-air in the name of comedy. So, yeah, this is our introductory glimpse into the mind of the Slim Shady who’s 3 million albums – and who wants to bet his new LP is full of these media ministrations, probably as many as Dr. Dre had “I didn’t go nowhere / I still rule the roost / How dare you dis the Aftermath compilation?” on Dre 2001. It’ll get old fast, but for now it’s an interesting novelty to watch him dis Green, the Bloodhound Gang, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Will Smith, Carson Daly and a host of others. The video opens at a mental hospital so twisted that Kathy Griffin is the nurse – from there, we see Em’s Tom Green / Buttman outfit, a host of look-alike Shadies, Tommy Lee about to kick the shit out of Pam and, of course, the Grammies sequence that put a pout on Aguilera’s perky, tanning-booth face. For that reason alone, I recommend this video. It may be just around the corner, but let the record show I’m not sick of Eminem yet. -AH

Goodie Mob f/TLC – What It Ain’t
     (**)  I’m trying to decide which is more obsolete, the Goodie Mob or the slang phrase “What it is.” Well, we’ll learn here – through all the credibility of a TLC cameo – what the proverbial “it,” in fact, ain’t. Whatever that propaganda-sounding crap actually means. The video takes place in a multi-colored (I’m referring to the interior decoration and clientele) all-night Waffle House, where T-Boz is having her hash browns covered, smothered, diced, dribbled and slathered. The Cher-vox effects on Chilli’s voice don’t even compare to the nasally shit we get from the first Goodie Mob rapper. Otherwise, this seems to be a serious attempt at hardcore rap, complete with inauthentic kung-fu. That’s okay, though – it’s just another of my Box diversions in case I can’t find any real shit to review this week. Just wait until you get to the Don Henley. –AH 

Don Henley – Taking You Home
     (*)  Last I looked at the calendar, I’d swear the bastard read “2000” and not “1985.” I’d lose all fucking pretense of sanity if I woke up tomorrow and found out Wham! was still together, Reagan was in office and the “Facts of Life” two-part Paris jewel-thief episode still lie ahead. These are the nightmare thoughts that come to mind when you see a new Don Henley video on VH1 at 2:05 a.m. “Taking You Home” bears strong resemblance to Eric Clapton’s “Blue Eyes Blue” from Runaway Bride – it’s got that same muted-pastels old-fart color scheme, not to mention the obligatory down-home, train station setting. It looks like Henley’s finally reached that point where he’s writing love song not to his girlfriend but his daughter who – wouldja believe it? – is growing up too fast. Poor thing wasn’t even born the last time Henley had a hit. “No, Daddy’s not the man who sings ‘Butterfly Kisses.’” –AH

Wyclef Jean – Thug Angel
     (*)  So he’s finally succumbed. (Or is it “succame”?) Wyclef has finally released a song that sounds less like warmed-over reggae rap than all the other Timbaland-ripoff, syncopated Master P. bullshit. I don’t know the circumstances surrounding this one – new album, soundtrack, charity crap – but they can’t be too bright considering that this one’s all over The Box and MTV has so far offered naught but a thanks-but-no-thanks. This is some low-budget, camcorder shit, too, with Wyclef taking to the streets to sermonize directly to the Haitians and Americans who want to be thugs. Not surprisingly, he takes the “con” stance – by “con,” I mean “against,” not “convict.” It all disintegrates into a street party at the end, with confetti falling and hands waving. Special effects? Well, no, unless you count a very awkwardly imposed shot of some street youths being held in Wyclef’s capable hands like the Earth father he is. I’d really like to know what he plans to do for the underprivileged children of the world. Sample them some food from George Clinton’s pantry, maybe? –AH

Nine Days – Absolutely (Story of a Girl)
     (**)  Is that the band name or the shelf life of its debut single? Hmm. Sorry, it gives me an boost to dismiss someone else’s life work in 15 words or less. In this case, though, there’s no telling whether the video will sink into “120 Minutes” oblivion or become a smash hit. It’s non-descript but in a catchy way, so I’m leaving the decision to the fickle gods of fate. Either way, this is two-star product that screams “college music with crossover potential,” even down to the cutesy video. “Absolutely” takes place in – what is that, a hollowed-out storefront? A loft apartment? Regardless, the titular “girl” is upstairs, taking a bath (though, unfortunately, we don’t get to see her titulars) and splashing so much the ceiling leaks. When it’s raining indoors, that spells party, and there’s no party quite like that thrown by a college band with crossover potential. –AH

Notorious B.I.G. f/Junior M.A.F.I.A. – Biggie Would You Die For Me
     (*)  It’s been three years. I swear to Christ, there haven’t been this many heartfelt memorials since the Holocaust. I mean, the guy was big, but not six-million big. Nonetheless, Der Fuhrer Puff Daddy won’t quit until all of Her Majesty’s airwaves are saturated with mediocre tribute videos. Well, here’s #9 or #10, “Biggie Would You Die For Me,” a video which prompts the obvious response. “Um, no, I’m already dead, genius.” The whole affair is set up as a posthumous creation, with the members of Junior M.A.F.I.A. strolling around town while the occasional still photo of B.I.G. pops up. (I like the childhood one where a young Biggie creates a diversion at Old Country Buffet so his mom can shovel pieces of fried chicken in her cellophane-lined purse.) All the while, a dubbed chorus chimes “Biggie” every fourth to eighth measure. The effect Puffy was probably trying for was haunting – at least, that’s what the button on the synthesizer demo probably said – but it’s all rather pathetic. Biggie’s only appearance comes at the end, when the song changes to a fast tempo, unrelated rap. I honestly think Biggie would smack Puffy upside his damn-fool head if he even sensed the hotshot producer would still be putting together half-assed tributes three years past his untimely demise. –AH 

Q-Tip – Let’s Ride
     (**)  This is the first of the Q-Tip solo singles that sounds like it actually might have come from someone who used to be in A Tribe Called Quest. The sample, instead of being wackass, drum-loop R+B, is a soulful albeit ridiculously unvaried jazz-guitar lick punctuated with the occasional “Vivrant Thang” keyboard effect. Q-Tip spends the duration of the video behind the wheel, jerky and quick-cut camera work devouring him and mingling the requisite shots of booties shaking outside the car and occasional van’s-a-rockin’ action from the back seat. For a relatively simple video, the camera angles, psychedelic effects and blue-party lens spice up the proceedings a little bit. It’s not quite on par with Tribe, but “Let’s Ride” is an improvement. I doubt MTV even gives it half the airplay of “Breathe and Stop.” -AH

Stone Temple Pilots – Sour Girl
     (**)  Do they offer interpretive dance classes in the joint? If the video for “Some Girl” is any indication, Scott Weiland now has his Penal Equivalency Degree (P.E.D.) in it. He writhes around shirtless, showing off his tattoos and track marks and attracting the Sarah Michelle Gellar, who’s already got plenty of experience dealing with the undead. The two grind against a starving-artist M.C. Esher background while the other STP band members frolic with knockoff Teletubbies. Raw deal for those guys – they’re out of work every time Scott gets sentenced to slap-on-the-wrist rehab for being caught with a needle in his arm, then when Scott is released, he gets to make sweet love to a Teen People cover girl… and they get stuck with the goddamned Teletubbies. (I pity the fool that gets the purple one.) “Sour Girl,” absurd as it is, isn’t a strictly bad video, although the song just sounds like an R.E.M. power-pop version of “Pretty Penny.” And that one was pretty fucking absurd in its own right. –AH

3 Doors Down – Kryptonite
     (**)  This is another college band with crossover potential, actually enough crossover potential that I wouldn’t call 3 Doors a college band. This is more like frat boy power pop along the lines of 3rd Eye Blind. (It falls into that ever-narrowing subgenre known as “3” rock.) The bulk of the video, aside from the usual lip-synch performance shit, involves an old man wandering around town in a lime-green superhero costume cut to reveal his flabby pecs. Is it supposed to be cute? Funny? Creepy? Oddly compelling? I don’t know – all we have to go on is the question from the lead singer, “If I go crazy, will you still call me Superman?” Looking at this guy, I’m wondering who would call him Superman in the first place. It’s “Kryptonite,” ladies and gentlemen, and he’s got a pocket full of it. I, for one, fail to be impressed. –AH

VH1 – The List
     (***)  As I’ve previously asserted, VH1 has an odd predilection toward bringing music and pop-culture aficionados original programming they can get into. That includes “The List,” a panel show with revolving-door hosts, guests and topics, the combination of which almost always manages to be interesting. I write this at this particular point in time because I just witness a panel hosted by Meat Loaf (this after watching him in Fight Club a mere two hours ago) with guests George Thorogood, Leif Garrett and – making his first appearance on VH1, to be sure – Rob Zombie. His choices for baddest bad boy in rock, for the most part, were shot down, but I was eternally grateful to bear witness to Meat Loaf break up Zombie’s dissertation on the obvious sucking-slash-fucking going on during the Bowie/Jagger “Dancing in the Streets” sessions. It’s more than you usually expect to come across at 1:45 in the morning on basic cable. -AH

Vitamin C – Graduation (Friends Forever)
     (*)  Oh, God, she’s back, and it’s not even summer yet. The rainbow-haired teen one-hit wonder is trying to chart again with this absurd, sing-song midtempo track. It’s her wistful graduation track, you see, and we accompany C as she strolls down the halls of her local high school (be sure not to trip over *N Sync and Gloria Estefan in the gym) and hits every spot of note except the girls’ locker room. You’re making a video about the highlights of high school, you want me to watch it and you’re not including scenes in the locker room? No shit this one’s going to be relegated to Box-exclusive status. She’s got a nice midriff, broadly exposed (as is the teen-lust standard), but it’s not enough to make me ignore lyrics like, “So if we get the big jobs and we make the big money / When we look back now will the jokes still be funny.” –AH


Classic Videos

Billy Joel – The Downeaster Alexa (1990)
     (**)  Any time we run a shortage, physically or creatively, on classic videos for the week, James and I can always settle on a selection from the annals (and sometimes that word definitely applies) of the Billy Joel catalog. Among the least circulated of those, until VH1 Classic Rock came along, was this accordion ballad from Storm Front. “The Downeaster Alexa” is Joel’s tender tale of a fisherman who’s having a hard time making ends meet “since they told me I can’t sell no stripers.” There’s plenty of black-and-white footage of Actual Ships to augment Joel and his accordion, but needless to say, nothing much exciting takes place. And the entire time, you’re thinking, No wonder you can’t catch any fish, Billy. You’ve got that damned accordion attached to your hands. –AH

Three Dog Night – One (1971)
     (*)  Thanks to Paul Thomas Anderson and Aimee Mann’s efforts in Magnolia, I’ll probably never be able to listen to this song without cringing for the rest of my time on planet Earth. The ancient black-and-white non-video accompanying the Three Dog Night original doesn’t help matters much, either. The help matters much, either. The band, relegated to the bottom third of the screen, lip synchs in front of a blue screen while the Zappa-looking lead singer’s mug is projected to eight or ten times magnification, hovering above them in demented glee. Thank our recently resurrected Savior it only lasts for two-and-a-half minutes. –AH




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