REVIEWS -- MAY 19, 2000



NOTE: This is the conclusion of my makeshift M2 theme week. I’d seen so little new stuff of any importance on MTV and VH1 and was so enamored of a random M2 tape I found under James’ bed that I decided to devote two weeks to its contents, both old and fairly new. Next week we’ll be back to the same old grind. There’s a new Backstreet Boys video and everything!


Beastie Boys -- So What’cha Want (1992)

      (***)  I’m only very slowly coming to appreciate the full canon of the Beastie Boys. Via a borrowed copy, I’ve finally gotten into Paul’s Boutique (what a raucous fucking masterpiece), and I still don’t own Check Your Head. A geek best friend turned me off of it years ago, and I haven’t been able to come back since. The video for “So What’cha Want,” which I used to consider a major cliché, is incredibly stylish. I don’t know if it comes from Spike Jonze or not – it predates the days when MTV actually started listing director names. The Beasties are walking through the woods (somewhere near Burkittsville, Maryland), playing to the camera, which is pointed up at them from the ground. They’re being their usual cool but dorky selves, and their charm, charisma, whatever allows them to carry it off. –Andrew Hicks


A Tribe Called Quest – Jazz / Buggin’ Out (1991)

      (***½)  Slowly but surely, I’m building my Tribe Called Quest library. Took me long enough. I guess it never sank it for me how fucking awesome this hip-hop group was, even in the lameass days of Hammer’s 2 Legit 2 Quit and Paula Abdul’s Spellbound. So, yeah, there was some cool rap music in 1991, and this is it. I’ll admit, this video wasn’t on the M2 tape, but Tribe’s “Award Tour” was, and I only reviewed it like three weeks ago. So I’m substituting “Jazz (We’ve Got),” which is hands-down the smoothest song from The Low-End Theory. The video, typically, is low-budget but highly effective. In black-and-white, Q-Tip, Abstract and Phife wander the streets of New York as a shaky camera chronicles it. Then, just as its “strictly hardcore tracks, not New Jack Swing” have lulled you into a head-bobbing stupor, the video switches to a Phife verse from “Buggin’ Out.” He has an odd white eye implant, and the editing switches manically from one primary color background to another, with Phife’s sweatshirt changing each time as a complement. As one of my roommates observed, “Damn, this is a stoner rap video!” –AH


Prince f/Sheena Easton – U Got the Look (1987)

      (**)  Oh, by the way, The Artist is now Prince again. I saw a bullshit MTV News press conference last night where he announced that, yeah, Warner Bros. pretty much owned the name Prince through 1999, so now it’s 2000 and he’s taking his damn name back. I knew the superficial name-change was just a half-assed means of getting out of his contract and not some sweeping artistic statement. Hopefully, Prince now has his head out of his ass and can get back on track for the Santana-like comeback we all know he has in him. Anyway, “U Got the Look” comes from the Purple One’s concert movie for Sign O’ the Times, his best album. It’s the only actual video in the movie, popping up somewhere around the middle, and it’s probably his most sickly ‘80s song on the album. It’s just as staged as the rest of the movie, although I rather like the extended-mix video intro, which shows Prince and Sheena (ever-glamorous, as was his shtick) slowly making their way to the stage. And it’s still mostly just neon-soundstage lip-synching from our favorite engineer on the gravy train of ‘80s gayness. God, it must have sucked to be in Prince’s band. “Oh, great, I get to wear a silver leotard in the new video. Hoop earrings and a feather boa, too? Wow, Prince, you’re just too stylish.” –AH


Blur – The Universal (c. 1993)

      (**½)  From The Great Escape, this is Blur in the “girls who love boys who like girls who do girls like their boys who do boys like their girls” period. In other words, there’s a lot of makeup happening here, more than the members of Vixen ever had on at any given time. The band is in a designer-moody, padded white room, as an elite audience watches and judges them, making snide comments via subtitles. (You later find out the entire room is a giant golf ball hovering over the city, but I’m not going to go into it.) A Brit Gap commercial this is, dripping with homosexuality but still artistic enough that I don’t hate it. And it makes you think, in just two years, they’d be a legitimate band. It’s interesting, though – people may belittle the music video as a medium, but it was one incredible, funny Blur video last summer that made me start taking them seriously. If not for M2’s constant airings of “Coffee and TV,” I wouldn’t have tracked down their latest two albums. –AH


The Urge – All Washed Up (1996)

      (***)  You know, I didn’t really watch a lot of “120 Minutes” in my college prime, so I probably missed the era when you could actually see Urge videos on TV. With the exception of “Jump Right In,” shown once during “Video Cliches” for some odd, random reason, this is the only Urge video I’ve come across. (Oh, if you don’t know, The Urge is the only real St. Louis band with a chance of breaking through with their clever, energetic mix of ska, punk, funk and rock. And I love the horn section.) “All Washed Up” is incredibly bright and happy, and they’ve made the lead singer look a little too much like Corey Glover from Living Colour. There is a lot of Adidas in the video – let’s be honest, The Urge is a frat band – but the clothing serves as decent contrast later in the video, when they head out into the blue-grey woods a la the Beastie Boys. Nothing too special, but a solid three-star video. –AH


Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers – Jammin’ Me

      (**½)  The time has come for me to admit I’m pretty much a Tom Petty poseur. I love his Greatest Hits compilation so much that I’ve turned it into a canon of sorts and mentally ruled out the possibility of buying any other albums from him. I realize that doesn’t make sense, but the bottom line is, “Jammin’ Me” isn’t on his greatest hits, so I haven’t heard of it. It’s from the album Let Me Up, I’ve Had Enough, which also includes… well, nothing I’ve heard of. It’s from the late years of the first Reagan administration, with Petty and the boys playing in front of blue screens, which show a lot of static and white noise. They also include shots of satellites and bad media commentary clips – an NBC Nightly News montage. The only worthy piece of the video is when Tom reaches into a TV and starts grabbing handfuls of static and glopping them around. (Has to be seen to be fully understood, I guess.) I’m now considering this as a flagship study for my eventual USC dissertation topic, “Music Video News Montages: Social Commentary or Stock Footage?” –AH


Us3 – Come on Everybody (Get Down) (1999)

      (**)  You remember Us3. I know you do. They came out of nowhere in early 1994 with a novelty rap hit (“Cantaloop”) built around an old jazz sample. It was A Tribe Called Quest without any of the credibility, basically. And it seems they’re still around. “Come on Everybody (Get Down)” (really, is there any more generic title for a dance song?) is a flashy video, in the wig-hop McG sense, with piano and trumpet loops similar to “Cantaloop.” There’s no real hook, and the guest rapper here isn’t even as good as guest rapper Rashaan Patterson. Much cooler is the girl, whoever she is, who’s rapping and lip synching the chorus sample with him. Oh, and it has last year’s big “Ghetto Superstar”/Q-Tip cliché – booty girls dancing in front of rows and rows of colored lights. Okay, so maybe “colored” isn’t the right word… --AH


Stereo MC’s – Elevate My Mind (1999)

      (*½)  You remember the Stereo MC’s. I know you do. They came out of nowhere (Britain, actually) in early 1993 with a novelty dance hit (“Connected”) and a superior, lesser-played follow-up. And, yeah, I bought the album from a comic book store that sold used CDs for cheap. But I had no idea the act was still around with their dance-pop badselves. Apparently so. The frontman has since turned Fred Schneider gay, and he now looks like a cross between Peter “Robocop” Weller, Lyle Lovett and Vanilla Ice, minus the hair of all three. (And, in some strange sci-fi universe, you can imagine a demented scientist crossing the DNA of all three men.) So Vanilla Lyle Weller wanders around a red soundstage where girls dance, and everywhere you look, there’s a sea of horizontal metal bars that look like the exit turnstiles at the St. Louis Zoo. Anyway, it takes a pretty boring video for me to start talking about turnstiles. “Elevate My Mind” would be a fucking waste of X at a rave. This would come on, and I’d get the cold sweats. –AH


Motley Crue – Looks That Kill (1983)

      (*)  Cheesy, rotten and hilarious, no six-hour stretch of M2 would be complete without a Shout at the Devil-era Motley Crue video. This hits every mark of the drunken-fodder checklist – big hair, spikes and chains, leather, ugly women, unkempt tiki torches, smoke machine and spinning pentagrams. It’s all-around Hell’s Bells awfulness, and to delve any further into it would be to justify its existence. –AH


Prozzac – Sucks to Be You (1999)

      (**)  “That girl really hurt me, but now I know just how Tamara felt when I treated her the exact-same way. I’m a bastard.” “Don’t be so hard on yourself, Simon. Come on, let me buy you a milkshake.” Every M2 tape James brought back to the apartment last summer had this godawful but oddly addictive Euro-pop novelty video on it. It’s done in bad student cartoon style, set in a bar, as Simon and his supportive friend get accosted by cartoon women, all of whom tell him that – indeed – it sucks to be him. Each time, he replies, “I know, I know,” then slams his head into the bar. Finally, when a girl actually does pay attention to Simon and his strange, “South Park” head that’s separated from his torso, her brute boyfriend comes along and kicks the crap out of him. Not to worry, Simon. I hear there’s this company called ACME that sells some of the perfect revenge utilities. For a few easy payments of $39.99, you can arrange to have a safe dropped on the fucker’s head. –AH


Fastball – Out of My Head (1999)

      (**½)  Okay, here’s the scenario. You’ve had one breakthrough pop hit that’s been force fed to MTV, VH1 and pop radio. Everyone’s sick of it, but the stations are all playing your first hit into the ground when you release the follow-up. It’s time for a third single, and the backlash is well in sway. What do you do? Well, if you’re Fastball, you release a less-than-three-minute folk rock ballad that liberally borrows from the Black Crowes. And you wait for people like me who, admittedly, liked “The Way” at one time to let the song grow on them. Eventually, even some of your harshest critics have to admit “Out of My Head” is a pretty cool quick-fix pop song. That still didn’t convince me to run right out and buy All the Pain Money Can Buy, but – hey – thanks for playing, Fastball. Anyway, this is a simple brown-and-white studio performance video set in a nicely decorated ballroom but still absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. And it may well be the last we hear of Fastball. Like I said, thanks for playing, guys. –AH




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