So my “instant” Grammy column hasn’t yet materialized. It’s been a long week and, let’s face it, that was one puzzling awards ceremony. Just when you think it’s going to be Let’s Suck Eminem’s Dick Night, the codgers from Steely Dan come out to claim their Album of the Year trophy. It will hang on the wall of the Pasadena old folks’ home with pride, I’m sure. Anyway, I turn 23 tomorrow, and I’m on one of those Damn, has it really been eight years since ‘Rumpshaker’ by Wreck-N-Effect came out? kicks, and I’m thinking it’s cool to actually be proud of this site again. I was phoning in my performance there for awhile, but the music video medium and my participation on the sidelines thereof has been a genuine pleasure for me lately. And I’m getting more letters as time goes on from people who are right there with me. Be sure to e-mail your comments, positive, negative and trivial, to I may not reply within the week, month or decade, but I promise to read and ruminate on every single e-mail. On to the reviews…
Badly Drawn Boy – Once Around the Block
     (***)  I’ve got a friend back in Columbia who stays on top of the modern-rock scene in a way I could only aspire to. Besides, when it comes to new music, I’m a lot better at keeping up with the hip-hop and soul side of things. (Which can seem totally dead for up to a year at a time and then surprise you with a burst of new, bombass shit.) So Eli tells me about the new one from Blur or Oasis or the Smashing Pumpkins album you can only get on the Internet, and he plays cuts from Coldplay and Badly Drawn Boy that I don’t hear about through my usual channels for another few weeks or months. Eli played me the entire Badly Drawn Boy album around Thanksgiving, during a weekend some friends and I spent at a vacant, enormous family farmhouse, and MTV2 is only just now lighting on its single, “Once Around the Block,” as a candidate for heavy rotation. It’s good – they’re good, the song and video both. They both have that light, playful quality you don’t see enough of in music videos. Most of “Once Around” is spent in the car, where two young lovers joyride and flirt in a 1991 Camry or Corolla or something. And, in the era of thongs and borderline-pornographic booty shots, the protagonists actually create sexual energy through their G-rated actions. Until they pull off the road and fuck. But the innocent qualities are fun while they last. –Andrew Hicks

Bowling For Fish – The Bitch Song
     (**½)  I taped most of this video from MTV2 a couple weeks ago and haven’t seen it since. I assume it’s a newly released single, but I can’t say for sure, since the channel’s veejays have the tendency to pull out obscure music that’s several years old from time to time. (Though, sadly, not as much as they used to back in the day. M2 follows a more rotation-heavy regimen than it was established with.) I’m guessing “The Bitch Song” is fairly new, though, because it seems like some record company’s second-generation reaction to Blink 182. But it’s a hell of a lot more entertaining, with a chorus every redblooded American male can relate to (“You’re a bitch, but I love you anyway”) and a comic video borne of the cliché assumption that, in prison, you have to become somebody’s bitch to thrive and survive. So we get shots of the individual band members coming under the submission of their kinky cellmates, one of whom is the midget from Friday and Me, Myself and Irene and another of whom sports a tied-off t-shirt and forces the 450-pound bass player to dance in a tutu for him. Meanwhile, directors Smith N’ Beth (don’t ask, I don’t know) cut to flashback shots of the lead singer lewdly making out with his girlfriend. If this doesn’t sound like your comedic cup of tea, by all means, spare yourself any involuntary loss of dignity, but if not… hey, this entry from Bowling For Fish is short, and it’s pretty funny. –AH

Dick Dale – Nitro
     (**)  I have no idea how old or new this video is, and I don’t even want to attempt at guessing its year of origin, so I’m putting it in with the reviews of new videos. It’s new to me, anyway, this comeback attempt from the king of instrumental surf rock. With the Deltones, Dick Dale brought the world “Misirlou,” the badass opening theme from Pulp Fiction, and I’m guessing what happened was, that song thrust Dick out of the Holiday Inn lounge gigs and back into the public life for a time, and some merciful bastard at the record company allowed him back into the studio for another album. Which promptly tanked. (Picture me now inquiring, in an obnoxious voice lifted directly from Sam Kinison, Am I gettin’ WARM HERE ASSHOLE?!) All I have to go on, timeline-wise, is the patchwork video for “Nitro,” which lasts less than three minutes and inserts second-unit social clip art like shots of unpaved country roads, windmills and a black-and-white room full of rented models boogeying to his shit. It’s not a bad song, “Nitro” – it just sounds like your typical instrumental surf rock number – and it’s certainly fascinating to watch Dale’s fingers slide up and down the electric guitar with such fierce precision. But, damn, how about a little more creative effort next time? Looks like the director and the record company both knew this one would get nothing more than the scant VH1 airplay of any unmuscled comeback-type curiosity. Some ‘blast from the past,’ if you will. If none of this makes any sense to you, blame Quentin Tarantino. –AH

The Doors f/Ian Astbury – Whiskey Bar/Backdoor Man Medley (from “VH1 Storytellers”)
     (**)  No, this isn’t currently being rotated as a video on VH1 or VH1 Classic, but I happened upon the “Storytellers” special with the surviving members of The Doors teaming up with the vocal likes of Scott Weiland and Astbury, lead singer of The Cult. Some of the performances were embarrassingly unnecessary, the type of self-indulgent shit that doesn’t do the ghost of Jim Morrison justice, but all of them seemed somehow fascinating to me. Astbury, with his wraparound shades and gel-shiny hair, struts around the stage and shows off his leather jacket. He’s all wrong for the assignment, but it’s hard to ruin “Whiskey Bar,” a 1929 German folk song the Doors covered back in the day (how can you deny any song with the lyric, “Show me the way to the next little girl / Oh, don’t ask why”?) or Willie Dixon’s “Backdoor Man.” And the Doors themselves, mercifully, are allowed plenty of time to jam on the instrumental side of these old favorites. When the camera and the focus shift away from Astbury and toward the surviving members of the venerable band, things get good. But – pity – it only happens a few times. –AH

Incubus – Drive
     (***)  This is video three from Incubus, and I’m still nothing short of impressed with the group. Though I haven’t yet bought the band’s album – it’s been the second tier of my mental list for a few months and doesn’t seem to be edging its way up to the surface. But you’ve got to admire the video for “Drive,” which begins with a burst of classy sepia-toned animation that has the lead singer literally drawing himself in charcoal pencil. Then we get the live-action segments, which take place in a vast loft with hardwood floors and high ceilings. The band is simply hanging out, the singer drawing in his sketch book and spending most of the time with his shirt off like his last name was Keidis. Just in time for the guitar solo, the camera spins 180 degrees and has the band (seemingly suspended in mid-air) playing upside-down. “Drive” is no epic, but it’s about as good as a casual, sit-around-the-house-and-look-at-all-my-Ikea-catalogue-bought-me video like this gets. –AH

Mudvayne – Dig
     (*)  Cartoon metal began with KISS, a band which I realize has its share of fans. I don’t count myself among them, and I can’t get into Gwar, Slipknot, Marilyn Manson or Powerman 5000. I don’t need my music from guys in Army gas masks and 5 and Dime costumes and, really, the only act in this vein I can stand is White Zombie, though I still can’t allow myself to take Rob & Co. seriously. Anyway, the latest entry in over-the-top, shock-rock oblivion comes from Mudvayne, a growl-heavy band whose members bear Insane Clown Posse makeup and Prodigy devil horns popping out of heads. The intended effect, I suppose, is that parents will feel threatened and kids will eat the shit up, buying records in droves. Hell, it at least throws a bone to fans of death metal until the next coming of Pantera. The video for “Dig” is abrasive, slap-happy shit taped on a white-backdrop soundstage. I dare you to sit through this, all the way through this. –AH

Jill Scott – A Long Walk
     (***)  I figured the video for “Gettin’ in the Way” wasn’t fully representative of what Jill Scott had to offer. It was a catchy little soul song, but it went down the well-traversed road of ultimatums from wronged girlfriends. (“Sistergirl, ya gotta understand / He’s my man.”) The music for “A Long Walk” is similar – breezy, Brown Sugar-esque synths, stuttering rimshots and lyrical acrobatics from Scott. Instead of playing the pissed-off queen of revenge here, she spends the whole video with a wide smile on her face, wandering a black-and-white world as the only person in color and addressing the camera in the second person. The whole thing goes down in one take, or it appears to anyway, and occasionally a hand comes out from the camera, turning everything it touches to color. It seems a subtle approach at first, but watch out – Jill Scott may win you over when you least suspect it. It happened to me… –AH

Tamia – Stranger in My House
Tamia - Stranger in My House
     (***)  I thought at first that “Stranger In My House” would just be a BET curiosity, the kind of video you come across during Midnight Love Videos or something. But MTV has hold of it now, and it’s a hell of a pleasant video to watch. Director Paul Hunter has flipped the hip-hop and R+B cliché of the half-naked woman on its ass, if you’ll pardon the expression. Tamia, who is absolutely gorgeous and must have graduated cum laude from the University of Sensual Looks, wades into a reflecting pool wearing a glistening-wet outfit with an ultra-firm grip on the dark, rich skin beneath it. In other words, this is one of those videos that’s a Maxim spread come to life, and it totally makes me forgive the fact that “Stranger in My House” sounds a little too Diane Warren-esque. The vocal performance is entrancing and the photography tasteful and resonant, but let’s face it, this is a half-step away from Friday-night Cinemax porn and for that ever will hold my attention span. Put this and Fiona Apple’s “Criminal” back to back, and you can’t lose. Unless, of course, you don’t happen to have an unhealthy lust for the female form. –AH
Tamia - Stranger in My House


Bee Gees – How Deep Is Your Love (1978)
     (*½)  In the same vein as last week’s selection from Gloria Gaynor, here’s a primitive clip for one of the most Muzacky ballads of all time. This is certainly some gay, gay shit, but, yeah, I have to admit my friend Justin with the often questionable music taste is right: “How Deep Is Your Love” is just a great song. It’s probably the type of song that should be remade every ten years or so by a worthy artist so it doesn’t become horribly dated. Which the Bee Gees performance certainly has. And which the video probably already had ten minutes after it was filmed. Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb (a.k.a. The Brothers Gibb, a.k.a. the Swedish Suckmasters) begin the video standing back-to-back in a brotherly triangle while bright lights in different colors are flashed at them and camera-circled ad nauseum. Then they’re out walking the street, passing silhouetted bystanders and taking turns lip synching to the camera in extreme close-ups, the placid emotion on their blown-up faces looking creepy and unconvincing at the same time, and you notice for the first time exactly how big Barry’s hair really was in the year I was born. I mean, a man shouldn’t be walking around with that much hair… with that much body… that Michael Bolton, lion’s mane shit. You know what I’m talking about. –AH


D’Angelo – Brown Sugar (1995)
     (***½)  D’Angelo’s six-year-old release Brown Sugar is one of my most treasured R+B albums, full of songs that never seem to age or get tiresome. He’s the Prince the ’90s needed, drawing from ’70s soul and adding hip-hop sensibilities without allowing them drown out the music itself (i.e. no bargain-basement interludes from rappers with names like Tony M. and Scrap D). And the video for the album’s title track, an irresistibly funky and sensual number, wisely focuses less on D’Angelo’s reputation for sex appeal (i.e. doing videos in the nude) than the artistry of music itself. We see the soul man seated behind his keyboard while his backing band plays and an uncommon amount of hot women writhe on the nightclub’s dance floor. The color scheme is rich but not overwhelming, and the whole affair is appropriately classy. –AH

The Police – Don’t Stand So Close To Me (1981)
     (**½)  This week is the first I’ve seen of the video to this Police staple that invokes Nabokov and has a teacher faced with the sexual temptation of one of his most voluptuous students. (“Her friends are so jealous / You know how bad girls get / Sometimes it’s not so easy / To be the teacher’s pet.”) Sting, for his part, actually looks somewhat distinguished as the teacher. He’s wearing those no-prescription glasses that are just there to make you smart, like Sylvester Stallone and Dan Quayle used to don, and he conveys well the natural frustration and curiosity of the teacher’s situation. But, damn, did they have to put in all those shots of Sting, wearing a tank top and one of those perfect-square graduation caps and determined to embarrass himself with his too-white dance moves? What’s more, since this must have been a potentially volatile clip to get past the MTV censors back in the day, there are never any clear shots of the female student in question. We see the lower two-thirds of her walk away from Sting’s desk toward the beginning, and she kind of looks like Olive Oyl. And, as we all know, there’s nothing quite as enticing as a teenage Olive Oyl. –AH


Copyright 2001 Andrew Hicks