REVIEWS -- MARCH 9, 2001

At the Drive-In – One Armed Scissor
     (***)  The newest sitcom spin-off on the Beastie Boys’ label, Grand Royal, is this punk/thrash metal band. Which, from the sound of things, is pretty damn cool. Via prologue on M2, I’ve just learned that the band itself made the video – directed and edited it. During a trip to Japan (you’d never guess it, but At the Drive-In has been the top-selling act in Japan since 1986, with David Hasselhoff and Boy George a distant tie for second), the band shot outdoor location footage and backstage type stuff. You know, the kind of two-birds-with-one-stone thing the music video industry’s been doing for years – taking a couple documentary cameras out on tour and shooting videos with “behind the scenes” footage that can be packaged cheaply and edited together almost immediately. In this case, though, the editing is tight and the visuals are frequently trippy. That “One Armed Scissor” is also a pretty good song doesn’t hurt. At the Drive-In is pretty rough around the edges, from what I’ve heard here anyway, but it has that Beastie Boys quality of instant captivation. –Andrew Hicks

Eve – Who’s That Girl?
     (**½)  The lady rapper has offered us another extravagant video whose chorus sounds like a damn nursery book rhyme. The production on “Who’s That Girl?” is better than most of her shit, though, with a groove that actually manages to draw me in for a couple minutes at a time. Eve looks pretty sexy her damn self, all tough and covered in tattoos, red-dyed corn rows flaring. If you’re wondering, no, “Who’s That Girl?” doesn’t sample Madonna’s 1987 soundtrack anthem of the same name, although there is a brief animated interlude that parodies the old video from the Big M. Mostly, though, director Diane Martel’s color scheme is white and more white. This video is brighter than Whitney Houston’s damn mouth. I love the trumpet samples, and my personal favorite set has Eve in red fur and a bored-looking tiger walking around an Arctic scape. I guess I was bound to like one of this woman’s songs eventually. –AH

Dave Matthews Band – I Did It
     (***)  “You’ve got to hear it. It’s Dave Matthews doing guitar rock and shit.” A friend heard the new DMB single before I did, you see, but it soon integrated itself into the playlists of MTV1 and 2 and, I’m sure, VH1. And, as I learned, this Matthews effort wasn’t so much guitar rock as power pop with a strong electric intro. “I Did It” is well-engineered music that can only be described as pop. (What do you expect? DMB went to Glen Ballard, the producer behind such Hellapalooza wack-acts as Alanis Morissette and Wilson Phillips.) The results here, though, are irresistible. One Rolling Stone music critic recently said this was the song people would be humming all spring, whether they wanted to or not, and I believe he’s right. The video, from director David Meyers*, exists in its own fantasy universe where Dave has Plastic Man proportions and rose petals fall from the sky. All through “I Did It,” Matthews is fighting with one of his charismatic bandmates for, I don’t know, there can be only one. More disorienting special effects than you usually see in heavy rotation. –AH
     * = The hardest-working man in the music video business of late, and no doubt he’s been on God knows how much speed since sometime late last fall. Maybe it started with the diet pills. We’ll never know.

MTV’s “Undressed”
     (*)  I know, I know, I don’t review much of the MTV “extras” anymore because, shit, I don’t watch MTV anymore. I might tape six late-night hours of it every week or so, but most of my casual viewing time goes to MTV2. Still, I can’t help but happen upon an episode of “Undressed” twice a week or so, then I grab the digital cable remote and push the forward arrow a few times and find out that the next eight shows on MTV are also going to be “Undressed.” (Does this fucking channel have the most cracked-out programmers or what? MTV was founded on the idea that the attention span of a teenager peaks at about four or five minutes a stretch, yet the station programs its shows back-to-back-to-back with the frustrating repetition of bad, never-ending sex.) Anyway, I came across the end of an episode of “Undressed” just now, and as always, I stopped for a second to marvel at just how goddamned caliente-sexy the female cast is. This is a horrible show with poor writing and worse acting, but I always pause to ogle its chicks. I’d kill to live with roommates like that – I’m just in the bathroom brushing my teeth and some model-gorgeous nineteen-year-old walks in wearing a bra and panties. Asks me if I paid the rent. And I look her body up and down, give her an Ice Cube glare and say, like the bloody Mexican pimp I am, “Yeah, baby, I paid the rent. In cash. Fifties. Do that turn you on? Do that make yo’ little body hot?” This is a fantasy world I exist in, as you can see. –AH

Mya – Free (Cocktease Pt. II)
     (**½)  Poor Mya has to promote a single that’s featured on the Bait soundtrack. (She’s like, Oh great, it made $20 million, disappeared five months ago and now I get to push the soundtrack for it? Thanks, record company assholes.) Luckily, you’d never guess “Free” was from Bait – the director of this video knows his best bet is just to show as much damn Mya as possible. Mya is pure pleasure to look at in “Free,” and she actually seems halfway intelligent, unlike Britney and Christina. (I saw her guest-host MTV’s “Direct EFX” one night and was struck by how much charisma and on-air poise she had. They should cast her in a fucking teen horror movie or something.) Mya even looks sexy as a 1980s roller rink queen, tearing it up on the hardwood and flirting with sexy ol’ Jerome at the snack bar. She also dances in front of a pulsating, silver-circle scape and, later, an airbrushed, graffiti backdrop bearing the title of the song. Director David Meyers has attached his name to better – this week, in fact – but as far as bullshit teen pop goes, this is surprisingly bearable. –AH

St. Germain – Rose Rouge
     (***½)  This is the kind of video that MTV’s “Amp” show was made for, a trippy meld of percussion, jazz and vocal samples, stock footage and sensual chicks. I managed to tape about two-thirds of it from M2 late at night a week or so ago, and I’ve watched it maybe six times already. It always captures my full attention and sets my head to bobbing. It makes my fucking eyes dilate – that’s the mark of a good video, and I back Germain in his deserved sainthood. –AH

They Might Be Giants – Boss of Me
     (***)  It was a geek pairing for the ages, They Might Be Giants and “Malcolm in the Middle,” and I happen to have an unhealthy addiction to both. So when I found out the venerable quasi-novelty college act would be releasing a full version of their 40-second “Malcolm” theme song and a video to match, my curiosity was piqued. Even though when it premiered on FOX after “The Simpsons” and the voice-over announcer teased, “Coming up next – the world’s first ‘Malcolm in the Middle’ music video!” and everyone else in the room simultaneously dove for the remote, I didn’t protest. I just knew that, if it was from the Giants, it would turn up on MTV2 before too long. M2 was founded on bands like this who make entertaining fucking videos just a step out of the mainstream. That indulgent/obligatory tripe dispensed, I must also admit I find “Boss of Me” a cool video, filmed in an outrageous but subtle style by director Ted Crittenden. It stars the entire principle “Malcolm” family, the members of which are playing and doing yard work outside one day when young Dewey finds a box marked “TMBG Toys.” They’re literally figurines of Giants members John Linnell and John Flansbergh, a couple session ringers and a hula dancer, and they come to life, perform the song and get mutilated by Reese, the sick older brother. Flansbergh ends up getting his arm cut off and being tossed on an open barbecue pit. It’s twisted fun that still seems appropriately childlike and a hell of a catchy song. –AH

Travis – Turn
     (***)  Okay, I totally dropped the ball the first time I reviewed the Travis video. I’d drunk a six-pack of Boulevard, I think, and I compared the Travis sound to that of Ben Folds Five. I’ve always thought of “Why Does It Always Rain on Me” as the kind of jaunty little number with darker overtones that Ben and his merry band of men would sing. (Actually, make that, “ex-merry band of men.” Rest in peace, you magnificent bastards.) Anyway, it was a bullshit hasty generalization on my part, and it brought a flood of e-mails to my account along the lines of, “How fucking ignorant are you? The two bands sound nothing alike and, hello, where’s the piano here? THERE IS NONE!” So I made extra sure to give “Turn” a fair chance, and guess what, I like it. And I promise you, it sounds nothing like a Ben Folds rip-off. (Then again, I haven’t had any Boulevard tonight.) The video, from veteran director Nigel Dick, is warm-looking and eclectic, with Travis playing to an empty stadium and the lead singer apparently distributing his vocal power across a dozen microphones. There are a lot of circular, sweeping pans, hearkening to Dick’s days with Guns N’ Roses and Motley Crue, and eventually one of the band members retires to the control room to watch stock footage of crowds. (Which one to steal? I would have said the 1984 Republican National Convention would be the least likely candidate, but that’s the one Dick hones in on here.) –AH
     P.S. Sorry about the pathetically evocative literary imagery of someone named Dick “honing in” on his prey. I promise I won’t stoop so low again in the next ten minutes. Starting now.


Prince – Thieves in the Temple (1990)
     (*)  Disturbing. Damn disturbing. “Thieves” is a great song, although its production has rendered it dated-sounding in the eleven years since. It’s just, it’s a pain to visualize Prince in this post-Batman, pre-Diamonds and Pearls interim as anything but pathetic. This came from Graffiti Bridge, the Prince project that introduced the world to Tevin Campbell and instantly became a total cutout bin classic to be filed away with the follow-up album from Cutting Crew… Of course, it also doesn’t help that Prince’s dance moves in the “Thieves” video constitute a disturbing meld of Michael Jackson and Vanilla Ice. (Yes, that Vanilla Ice.) That the video is littered – and I do mean littered – with clips from Prince’s wack-ass final movie, also entitled Graffiti Bridge, is of equally scant value. I’ve long thought that Prince would have been easier to swallow as a woman. I mean, I’d rather take the low-to-high vocal range, Victoria’s Secret clothing, nymphomania and naïve spiritual one-liners from a sexy, sultry little tart than a five-foot-three black Italian male who weighs 102 and owns more high heels than Imelda Marcos. But that’s just me. –AH

Keith Sweat -- Real Man
     (**1/2)  Damn, how old is Keith Sweat now? He's been begging for some good loving since I was in Kindergarten. The video is your basic BET fare. He sees this woman at the gas station that he wants to holla at. She gives him a number, but as soon as he's gone, some thuggish roughneck rolls up in his car and sweeps the woman off her feet (hmmm, I wonder how many times this has happened in my life...). Next thing you know, they're back at his big ass mansion fucking each others brains out, and the FBI comes in and arrests the raggamuffin and the girl. Keith rolls by in his convertible with a look like, See, you would have been with me, you wouldn't be going through this shit. Cut to several shots of bikini clad women in a pool pouring glasses of water on each other. Anyway, I can only take Keith Sweat's gravelly, whiny voice in small doses (even though his previous single, "I'll Trade a Million Bucks" was a tight song), but now he is beginning to look like one of those old players at the club who are still trying to hit on women half his age. And when you start singing at casinos, it's definitely time to hang up the hat. --Leon Bracey


John Cougar – Hurts So Good (1982)
     (**)  God, Mellencamp sure did come up on the backs of all the hard-working Americans with bad teeth and houses with a hitch on the front, there, didn’t he? Shucks. Little Johnny Cougar is all grown up, and he’s first seen in a leather vest in “Hurts So Good,” a red paisley neckerchief rounding out his outfit as he frolics with a leather-ensconced chick who is also covered in plastic link chains. The video doesn’t get any more artistic from there – the director, whoever he is, favors roaming, in-your-face crowd shots. Cougar-Mellencamp-Minnelli is hanging with Harley-riding cutthroats in an abandoned general store or something, and he eventually picks up two dominatrix-looking women. As tame as most Mellencamp efforts have been since, coming across the “Hurts So Good” video at 9:00 on a slow Friday night is like finding 1930s stag films in your grandpa’s attic. They’re relics with that curious but creepy appeal. For that, two stars. –AH

Talking Heads – Road to Nowhere (c. 1985)
     (***½)  The only thing that keeps this Talking Heads classic from getting the full four-star rating is the emotionally indulgent, gospel-style intro that has the diverse residents of small-town America singing the song’s chorus as a hymn. (Though the bookend outro is sufficiently easier to tolerate.) Stop-motion animation, Peter Gabriel style, shows the hectic, herky-jerky passing of the human experience, from babyhood to old-age-colostomy-baghood. Naturally, front man David Byrne presides over a lot of other visual nonsense, while a shrunken version of his likeness plods along on road after road in the bottom right corner. Lots to soak in, if you ever happen upon this video (I have MTV2’s “120 Minutes” to thank), so you should tape it if you can and let the mofo run a couple times in the dark. –AH


Copyright 2001 Andrew Hicks