REVIEWS -- MAY 12, 2000



NOTE: I haven’t seen very much worthy or even interesting shit on MTV or VH1 lately, so it’s time to veer off to another theme week, this one a two-parter. While James was gone to St. Louis last weekend, my other roommate happened upon a video under James’ futon, one bare tape among many haphazardly scattered across the floor. The tape was labeled “John Lennon concert,” so we put it in. Indeed, there was about ten minutes of a Lennon concert, c. 1972, well after he’d turned over half his platform to Yoko Ono. (You have no idea how much it pains me to watch her scream guttural noises into the microphone while John does his cover of “Hound Dog.”) Then the better part of two episodes of “Rock and Roll Jeopardy” and five hours of M2. I honestly can’t tell what time period all this was taped from. Eight months ago? A year? I imagine, due to the token appearances of Macy Gray’s “Do Something,” Lucious Jackson’s “Ladyfingers” (yeah...) and the Goo Goo Dolls “Black Balloon,” that it’s from around August or September. Offscreen mention is made of an M2 third anniversary celebration, if that provides any context. Probably not. But I’ve decided to go through the tape, since its contents were far more fascinating than anything I’ve seen on MTV this week, and provide reviews for these videos as they occur. It may seem self-indulgent, but hey, it’s my site, and I’ll do with it as I see fit. (Hatas get dealt wit’ swift-like.) So here goes:


Modern English -- I Melt With You (1989)

      (**)  This video comes from the very tail-end of the “British art fag” period of the ‘80s. Not a very auspicious beginning to a concept week, but a beginning nonetheless. This comes from the “informed sorority girl” side of M2, which brings us kitsch favorites and art fag music. The video is filmed in Blind Melon’s backyard, camera wandering through a field of very yellow marigolds and such. There’s a quick-cut editing montage with shots of flowers upon flowers upon flowers, and a trip through space where (yeah) there are more flowers. It’s trippy in a Hallmark sort of way, I guess. And there’s the requisite shot of a tarantula coming up one of the band members’ arms, along with some token snake handling. And even though the snake handling performed by stunt doubles, I’m going to go ahead and give it two stars. --Andrew Hicks


Seal -- Don’t Cry (1995)

       (**)  “When we were young and the truth was paramount...” That’s the first line from Seal’s “Don’t Cry,” the highly adult-contemporary follow-up to “Kiss From a Rose.” Everyone’s pretty much forgotten about Seal, save a little-played soundtrack single from last year (I think for the Sean Connery vehicle Entrapment). This is the first time I’ve noticed, too, Seal would really be beautiful without those facial scars. Almost Tyrese-looking, in fact. That’s the essential paradox of Seal, that you want to look away out of surrogate shame. There’s nothing quite like the burn scar, I guess, for a look of webbed marring on a human being. The weather’s nice again, and I’ve actually seen a few burn scars come my way -- and you know there’s a story behind every one of those. The video for “Don’t Cry”? Well, basically, Seal is suspended in the middle of a crowd of people, all of whom are moving in all directions around him as he dares them to gaze upon his scarification. He’s tastefully dressed for once, no suit jacket open to reveal a bare chest or anything. I liked “Crazy,” I adored “Prayer For the Dying” and, for a time, “Kiss From a Rose,” but I’ve never really liked this one. It sounded so much like the single that preceded it that the entire affair was obsolete. --AH


Chocolate Genius -- My Mom (1999)

      (***)  You know, I’d be a lot less ashamed to admit I like this if the guy’s name wasn’t Chocolate Genius and if the name of his album wasn’t Black Music. Do the words “unsubtle presentation” ring a bell? “My Mom” is a very classy video, though, and it makes me want to know more about who the Genius is and what his album sounds like. CG’s singing voice is soulful, but in an odd way -- he’s like a black Bob Seger or something. (“Against da wind... yeah... keep runnin’ up ‘ginst da wind”) The Genius is made over to look homeless in this video -- out in the snow, hunched over and singing into the camera. It’s mostly one unbroken shot, with cars going by behind him, but your main view here is CG’s face. Every once in awhile, it fades to black, and the lyrics of the song pop up in white, with letterboxing on all four sides, setting the visuals in a little. And when we do see his mom (real? actress? I don’t know), she’s in a very loud dress, playing with what looks like a Polynesian Barbie doll. Oddly enough, that’s what Bob Seger’s mom is doing at this very moment. --AH


B-Rock and The Biz -- My Baby Daddy (1996)

      (zero)  I think this video, more than any other on the tape, made me decide to take the plunge and turn James’ discarded under-bed tape into a two-part concept week. This is the value of M2, shit that turns up unannounced and completely out of context, shit that challenges you to utter that one simple word, “Why?” Sometimes that utterance is prefaced with “For the love of God...” as in this video from B-Rock and The Biz. It begins with a Ricki Lake parody (“Sharika is Ray Ray’s baby momma”) watched in the home of a Jabba-sized pimp who’s filling out the easy chair and munching on Lay’s potato chips. (As he proves, you can’t eat just one hundred.) The song itself opens with a sample from The Emotions’ “Best of My Love” and quickly disintegrates to the level of 69 Boyz hoochie party music. And, yes, I’m sure you can find this on some Booty Bass compilation CD. It’s the kind of music that exists solely for black women to squeeze their ass muscles in unison. I’d have to be considerably drunker to find any value in this or anything from the Hot Five at 9:00 trash-rap subgenre... and, you know, there are a lot of cell phones in this video. “Who dat is?” “That’s just my baby daddy.” --AH


Dire Straits -- Brothers in Arms (1985)

      (***)  I didn’t even know there was a video for this song. I purchased the Brothers in Arms cassette many years ago from the dollar bin at a comic book store that’s since gone under -- and I purchased it solely for the obnoxious radio hits “Money For Nothing” and “Walk of Life.” It was James who finally convinced me there was much more to Dire Straits than that and, really, if you’re looking for meandering, trippy folk-rock that sounds at times like an Americanized version of Pink Floyd, you should give it a try. The video for “Brothers in Arms” is almost sophisticated in its simplicity -- namely, it takes the a-ha “Take on Me” black-and-white charcoal-pencil animation format and combines real and animated footage. There are plenty of panoramic shots of the mountains, oceans and, naturally, Mark Knopfler’s headband. And the song itself quite compliments it. If you’re in the right mood for this (translation: high as fuck) and can come across a copy, you’ll definitely enjoy this. --AH


The Kinks -- Come Dancing (c. 1980)

      (**)  It’s going to take a little research for me to discover what era this is from. I mean, were the Kinks still making what we’d call first-run music when MTV debuted? It appears to be from the early ‘80s, very primitive visually, and it opens in a nightclub. The Kinks’ singer is quite dapper in what I’d consider an uncool way -- hair slicked back, Mafia pinstripe suit and a weasly Gale Gordon moustache. (Yeah, I know who Gale Gordon is. Do you?) He pulls a woman out onto the dance floor for a cheap ballroom scene, and we cut to the next day as Gale catches a woman’s eye at a street merchant’s shop and chases her down. The rest of the Kinks, God rest their souls, are made up as part of a big band during most of this. It’s humiliating in a mid-’80s Van Halen sort of way. The song itself? It sounds like old Kinks crossed with Blondie’s “The Tide is High” or something. And, as always, any video with a guy playing a guitar solo on a fucking tennis racket isn’t worth yours or M2’s time. --AH


Red Hot Chili Peppers -- Breaking the Girl (1992)

      (***)  Remind me to tell you sometime the story of seeing the Foo Fighters and Chili Peppers at the Hearnes Center here in Columbia. I can’t go too far into it, but about eight of us went, and I had to charge three tickets to my Discover Card. Those three tickets were for general admission, since James told me the floor tickets had long since sold out, but when we got there, we found out all the tickets but my three were for floor after all. So my roommates and a couple friends got close enough to shoot up with Anthony Kiedis, and those remaining of us got to view the show from another zip code. It’s like that Chance card in Monopoly: “A James error in your favor. Collect $30.” Anyway, this is the first I’ve come across of the Peppers’ “Breaking the Girl” video, from Blood Sugar Sex Magik. I have to come clean and confess I don’t even own the album; I was one of those poseurs who listened to too much pop and alternative radio at the time and got sick of “Give it Away,” “Suck My Kiss” and “Under the Bridge” and never gave the rest of the album a chance. “Breaking the Girl” is visually superior to all those, too, in all shades of red, orange and yellow. The Chili Peppers are out in the desert, all wearing primary-colored sarongs or genie pants, I can’t decide which. They’re perched on one big rock, presided over by Kiedis, who sports Princess Leia buns. This video is kind of gay, yeah, but it’s oh-so-heroin-beautiful. Jeremy swears you can see all the band members with hard-ons at one point, but I’m really not going to break out the frame-advance slow motion to check out that rumor. --AH


Alice in Chains -- Get Born Again (1998)

      (**)  <beavis voice>Oh, God, here we go again…</beavis voice> It’s last-gasp Alice in Chains from Nothing Safe: Best of the Box. “Get Born Again” is all murky images and, of course, the same maddening, atonal Alice in Chains vocals. (You know the sound I’m talking about – it’s all that separates the band from the rest of the early ‘90s grunge scene.) This one is more influenced by the sci-fi rock videos of the last two years, Korn and such (i.e. there’s plenty of Marilyn Manson headgear). The only holdover from the alternative era is the creepy old man stereotype, popularized by R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” and Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” videos. He’s got the headgear on and is twirling around in a silvery, calculatedly disturbing landscape. The song isn’t bad, but it has no vigor to it, like these guys knew they were at the last trolley stop before the train twirled on its tracks, faced a different direction and made the same journey with some other band who’d just been signed for a run on the ding-ding rock trolley. If that makes any sense. “Get Born Again” isn’t nearly as fucked-up as it thinks it is. –AH


Everclear -- Heroin Girl (1996)

      (**)  This, of course, is an ode to the only female who got invited backstage at every one of Everclear’s concerts, back in the days when Art Lekakis (or whatever his name is) would do every drug on the table. “She had two pierced nipples and a black tattoo,” Art informs us, and doesn’t that make her as alternative as these guys? Sad to say, Everclear hadn’t sold out nearly as much at this point. You can tell they still have a little bit of punk in them here. Art has that strange look in his eyes that means, yeah, he’s on the junk, and his community service sentence won’t get the better of him for two more years, at least. This video? All about kinetic motion – it’s engineered to be jerky the whole time, with dancers and the band bouncing around and the camera unable to light on any one person. “Heroin Girl” is set up as an impromptu performance with the audience milling around and behind them. It’s the only one of Everclear’s singles that doesn’t have the exact-same two-chord intro as every other Everclear song. –AH


Radiohead -- Fake Plastic Trees (performance from 120 Minutes) (1997)

      (***)  I finally own a Radiohead album, thanks to BMG’s liberal 12 CDs for the price of one policy. The only hitch was they sent me the cassette by mistake, so it’s banished to car-airplay status for now. But “Fake Plastic Trees” is, no way around it, a beautiful, beautiful song, and this performance from “120 Minutes” is the most subdued I’ve ever seen Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke. The most normal, too, actually. His eyes – both of the normal and defective variety – are closed, and Yorke just leans into the microphone and sings, almost whispers, the song. There’s a moment toward the end where the band, pretty much hunched over their instruments, too, go completely soft and scaled-down and let Thom quietly emote into the microphone. It’s the best unplugged-type performance I’ve ever seen, much better than those damned Nirvana videos, which almost surprises me because I’ve never seen it pop up before. I’m still not fanatical about them, but I’m sold on Radiohead and recommend The Bends and OK Computer to anyone who loves music. –AH


Nick Lowe -- Cruel to Be Kind (c. 1982)

      (*)  This is from the album Labor of Lust, of course, and it’s cheesy as hell but also catchy as hell. It has the perfect balance of the two to be in a movie, either for a romance-comedy montage or ironic use in a movie. Catchy and kitschy. The video doesn’t benefit too much from it, though, since it comes from the early ‘80s. The shag factor of Nick Lowe’s hair alone (I’m not seeing any eyes under those bangs), not to mention the banana-yellow guitar in his hands, ensures that. The plot? Some kind of Greg Kihn thing; Nick’s getting married in a Hawaiian shirt, and there’s a part where everyone goes “Whoo whoo whoo,” and the band cups their hands to their mouths and whoo’s right along. If this wasn’t the perfect movie song, I’d be pissed. –AH


So this is Book One of my spontaneous “M2 Video Found Under James’ Bed” theme week. Be back next week – same Bat-time, same Bat-channel, for reviews of vintage videos from Blur, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Prince, Motley Crue and (again) the Beastie Boys. And be sure to send all your comments and questions to Maybe one of these days, I’ll actually respond within a year of the e-mail. 




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