REVIEWS -- APRIL 16, 2001

It’s becoming too regular a topic of discussion on a page that’s supposed to be devoted to the scholarly underpinning of the music video artform (it is, you bastards, I swear!), but I have to talk about Miss Cleo again. Hell, she’s already a widespread cultural icon, because sooner or later, everyone ends up channel surfing through late-night TV offerings.

And where there is insomnia, there is Cleo, penetrating these unsuspecting callers’ shrouds of secrecy to reveal secrets that are increasingly volatile to their everyday existences. One of the latest Miss Cleo commercials, when it’s not resorting to Springer-esque audience testimonials like, “She real,” and (no kidding), “She remind me of one of my auwnties!” contains a revelation from our favorite blunt but reassuring psychic character/caricature actress that a caller’s miscarriage was caused by her boyfriend/husband/baby daddy abusing her.

I mean, that kind of shit can lead to criminal charges. I don’t think it’s an appropriate selling point for this type of phone service – it’s in poor taste and is downright unscrupulous. The fine print reads, “For entertainment purposes only,” but most people don’t read that. I doubt the general public takes Miss Cleo any more seriously than it does, say, the Weekly World News, but this fabricated routine, this twenty-first century twist on the friendly Dionne Warwick scam, is offensive when you think about it.

In exclamatory print above the 1-900 number in a couple of the commercials lies the taunting phrase, “You Can’t Fool Miss Cleo!” which happens to crack me up even more.

Then all this makes me realize I’d hate to be the guy who calls up for “a free psychic reading” (that’s actually going to cost me four bucks a minute after they keep me on through the 180-second no-charge window) to see if some girl at work has a crush on him and instead has Miss Cleo announce to the camera, “Ah, so you like lil’ boys AND lil’ girls, don’tcha? You’re a sick, sick man, and you have skid marks in your shorts!” Because the Queen of Pederasts card told her so and shit. And you’re hanging up just as she shouts into her invisible phone, “And that blonde girl at work wouldn’t date’cha if you were the last man standing, honey!” Miss Cleo has got to keep it real for her young ones, and all of that.

How about I just talk about some videos for awhile, then…?

--Andrew Hicks


Jondi & Spesh – We Are Connected
     (***½)  I’ve been watching the MTV2 version of “Amp” – you know, MTV’s late-night techno compilation show that seemed annoying and then half-assed and sell-out (think, an entire hour of Fatboy Slim and the Chemical Brothers, like three videos in a row from each) and then just disappeared.
     Well, the resurrected version on MTV’s sister channel airs every Friday night around nine, and it’s well worth watching. Shit, this is the third week I’ve left it on while I was working on other writing, and I always end up getting distracted by the videos and setting the laptop aside for fifteen minutes at a time.
     I think what it is, is that – well, first of all, this type of music is born of the Ecstasy culture and lends itself to trippy shit – there’s no lip synching to be done, because these songs themselves are by and large instrumental, so the director has to compensate by creating a visual landscape that can sustain itself for four minutes. Or by creating a shitload* of visual landscapes that can sustain themselves for four seconds. In any mind-state, when they’re well done, these type of videos have my attention. Especially if I’ve just gotten done smoking a dimebag spliff. (Say, conceptually…)
     “We Are Connected,” then? It’s one of quite a few videos that’s pulled in my full attention just with clip-art patterns and shit. For most of the video, the screen is cut into geometrical quadrants, which are cut into quadrants themselves, and the patterns spin, emerge and repeat, as the camera pulls in and out to reveal still more areas of concentrated patterns. Then a computer-manipulated voice reminds us every so often that “we are connected.” Just like all this shit. Is that fucked up or what?***

     * = The auto-dictionary in Microsoft Word doesn’t seem to think “shitload” is a real word. It’s dispatched a horizontal web of red squiggles** to attract my attention.
   ** = I call these the Change This To Something Civilized squiggles.
 *** = The only tangible side-effect that’s resulted from me watching all these techno videos on Friday nights is my abject loss of brain cells. We’re talking millions at a time.


Badly Drawn Boy – Disillusion
     (***)  The same thing I first said about Badly Drawn Boy goes the second time around – I still like his music and intend to buy his album, maybe even see him live and shit sometime, but da Boy is never high enough on my priority list to rise to the top of the potential-purchase heap.
     But “Disillusion” is a solid follow-up effort, even if it does indulge in a little too much cute weirdness for cute-weirdness’ sake. The singer, badly drawn as he is, is reduced to human taxi status in the video, which has him running up and down the street while ferrying passengers on his back, from the nervous-looking fiftyish business man to the perky love interest. (Who eventually, no kidding, abandons him for a real-life, four-wheel taxi. How fucking painful is that for the poor human taxi? Enough for a damn Movie of the Week, that’s for sure.)
     I like that Badly Drawn Boy has inscrutably bad luck in the video, though – after he loses his girl, a fireman opens a hydrant on him and the blast of the water knocks BDB and his scattered cash to the ground. It’s humiliating, but it definitely makes for an entertaining watch the first time around. The artsy-ass ending almost makes me want to rate it more highly. –AH

Buckcherry – Ridin’
     (*½)  AC/DC crossed with the Black Crowes. Why? –AH

Disturbed – Voices
     (***)  Just like Badly Drawn Boy up there, “Voices” makes the second effort I’ve seen from Disturbed, who made my top ten list for music videos last year with “Stupefy.” This one, from ex-porno director Gregory Dark, isn’t quite as inherently watchable but contains a lot of intriguing visual moments.
     The band footage, involving angry-looking lip synching and the same old studies in black clothing and body piercings, isn’t what you should look out for in this video. It’s the workplace drama, which involves a cubicle worker hitting on chicks, fantasizing about throwing dirty underwear or something at his boss and the spectre of the Disturbed lead singer hovering over him, egging him on in his Dilbert angst. He eventually just vacates the office, loses the dress shirt and cornflower blue tie (“It must be Tuesday”) and shows up at the Disturbed concert.
     You thought the singer was whispering devil’s-advocate shit in his ear like, “Go on, kick the boss’s ass,” and really he was just saying, “Dude, come on down and see our band tonight. It’s only twelve bucks, there’s a fuckin’ opening act and everything!” –AH

Missy Elliott – Get UR Freak On
Missy Elliott - Get UR Freak On
     (**½)  The Timbaland cameo-fest rap videos have pretty much fallen by the wayside, so it’s almost refreshing to stumble across this new video from Missy Eliott and uber-prolific director Dave Meyers. Missy, who’s in some kind of jewel-encrusted denim outfit, wanders through some kind of sewer garden and forest dance club with blue writhing corpses hanging from the branches and shit.
Missy Elliott - Get UR Freak On
     All the while, Missy changes from one Madonna-meets-Norman Schwartzkopf outfit to another and shows off her shimmering blue contacts. She even hangs from a chandelier at one point, while the likes of Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J, Timbaland and Ja Rule watch from the sidelines. “Get UR Freak On” is not the most elegant or subtle effort from Ms. Elliott, but it’s pretty strong musically and visually both. –AH
Missy Elliott - Get UR Freak On

Isaac Hayes – Shaft
     (**½)  Now how is it I missed this video during its release with the Samuel L. Jackson vehicle last summer? Oh, that’s right, because MTV and VH1 refused to put it into rotation and its world premiere on BET was preempted by a Miss Cleo infomercial. So I have only VH1 Classic to thank for hipping me to the new “Shaft” video, which is probably also in circulation as a tossed-in DVD extra.
     Anyway, it’s worth watching once, just to see hip-hop auteur Nzingha Stewart surround the voice of Chef with bevies of much-younger beauties. The colors are bright and flashy, Hype Williams-style, but the proceedings are still somewhat perfunctory and subdued. The frequent clips from the movie don’t help raise my interest level much, either.
     This song is a total classic, and if they’d wanted to make a big-budget video in 2000 for it, they could have done a lot better. But I’m betting the budget wasn’t all that big for this one. –AH

Lil’ Bow Wow – Puppy Love
    (**)  More and more, I’m starting to think Lil’ Bow Wow is the 13-year-old version of that kid on Doggystyle who replies, when asked what he wants to be when he grows up, “I wanna be a muthafuckin’ hustla!” Actually, more and more, I’m substituting the phrase, “I wanna be a muthafuckin’ TRL star!”
    This is video three from our latest pubescent Jermaine Dupri creation, and still the dog puns abound. This time he’s out for some puppy love, “even if you’re three years older than me,” which in doggy years means he’s willing to kick it with a chick in her mid-thirties. And that’s just gross for a video that includes a shot of its protagonist playing in some Showbiz Pizza colored balls from the ball pit. (Don’t act like you don’t know what the ball pit is, because you know you damn well do.)
     Frankly, I expect more from a music video auteur like David Meyers, but all we get is four minutes of Richie Rich posturing, with Lil’ Bow Wow harrassing his butler* and chauffeuring his prospective girlfriend around in his own little toy car with his name on it. I’m starting to realize why this kid’s album is called Beware of Dog. –AH
     * = His name is Mr. Belvedere, if you can believe that.

R.E.M. – Imitation of Life 
     (***)  Oh God, I think I’m going to have a coronary. I haven’t come across a new R.E.M. video I’ve liked since, what, “Drive”? “Crush With Eyeliner”? But with “Imitation of Life,” that’s exactly what we have – a strong video, from director Garth Jennings, and a bouncy pop song that’s worthy of the band’s carefree ’80s output.
     The video, a seeming one-take effort, is filmed in one very active park, where kids frolic in the water and old men wander around and motion occurs both forward and backward.
     Every patron of this park, though, must lip synch the song at all times – if they’re not mindlessly mouthing the words to “Imitation of Life,” Michael Stipe puts blindfolds around their heads and mows them down, Colombian drug kingpin-style.
     The best thing about all this? You only have to look at Stipe’s ball-headed punum once or twice in the video. –AH


ABC – The Look of Love (1982)
     (zero)  This was one of the videos, like REO Speedwagon’s “Keep on Loving You” and El DeBarge’s “Who’s Johnny,” that James and I set aside in 1999 as one of the incontrovertible clips for our Worst of the Worst theme week. We’d been planning it forever, but we always put it off for some reason or another, and I promise one of these days I’ll present my picks for worst of all time.
     Until then, though, content yourself with this piece of garbage from the neo-British Invasion (MOTTO: This Time They’re All Gay!) of the early MTV era. The men of ABC, each of whom has an absolutely hideous physical appearance, frolic on a phony soundstage that’s supposed to represent a public park.
     It’s the kind of playground you’d see if Willy Wonka was elected president of Parks and Recreation, minus the food. (Well, there is one guy sitting at a picnic table, eating mound upon mound of spaghetti, but I’m going to ignore that for now.)
     The ABC lead singer is wearing a loud, pinstriped carnival barker’s suit while a parrot looks on from his shoulder, a ballet dancer does her thing and the video director can’t keep from including shots of his cast as they appear in reality-bending funhouse mirrors. Oh, and there’s a puppet show involving an alligator.
     The whole thing is beyond painful, like Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” and The Tubes’ “She’s a Beauty” had a visual love child. I can’t say for sure that this is one of the twenty worst videos ever made, but I imagine it could stand up next to any major embarrassment of the MTV era. –AH


QB's Finest f/Nas -- Oochie Wally
     (****)  Oo-chie wally wally, oo-chie bang bang oo-chie wally wally, oo-chie bang bang oo-chie wally wally, oo-chie bang bang oo-chie wally wally He really really really fucked my coochie He really really really turned me out He really really really got to gut me He really really made me scream and shout He really taught me how to work my body He really taught me how to do it with my mouth He really really tried to hurt me hurt me I really love his thug and gangsta style. Women in bikinis and thongs dancing and shaking what they mama gave them in every position imaginable. Sorry if this seems brief, but I was too busy masturbating to really tell you what else happens. --Leon Bracey


OutKast – Elevators (1997)
    (***½)  This is another of those videos that’s not new exactly (it’s from like two albums ago) but is new to me because I finally have access to a station that actually plays classy shit that is more than two months old.
     “Elevators” opens on a shot of a kid, sitting under a tree in the park and reading the comic “Atliens: The OutKast Encounter.” And as he checks out the visuals, so do we, though ours occur in a trippy locomotion and his just occur in still drawings.*
     There are eight or more distinct visual landscapes in this video, which must have cost quite a bit for a rap group few had heard of at the time, and each of them is almost completely entrancing. There’s chill-out footage, government invasion footage and a chorus whose lyrics are printed in subtitles at the bottom of the screen while a shimmering green alien head bounces over the words.
     And there’s the one-liner that says it all: “I guess we’ve come a long way like those slim-ass cigarettes.” –AH
     * = Nanny nanny boo boo and shit.

Stray Cats – She’s Sexy and 17 (1983)
     (**½)  This is the third Single Everyone Knows from the Stray Cats and the one I bet sounds the creepiest when sung in concert by Brian Setzer today. The bleach-blonde greaser punk is sitting in class, declaring that he won’t go to school no more and in fact will devote all his earthly attention to the pack of cigarettes he has rolled up in his goddamn shirt sleeve.
     All the while, his girlfriend, “Little Marie,” flits around her house wearing nothing but panties. Her hair is so ’80s-nasty, though, that she almost looks like a guy from behind. It’s like, Should I admire this ass or find it repulsive? Give me some gender cues so I can hurry up and decide before the shot disappears. –AH


Copyright 2001 Andrew Hicks