REVIEWS -- APRIL 23, 2001

           VIDEO OF THE WEEK

Fatboy Slim – Weapon of Choice
     (****)  Look, I don’t expect to keep giving these rare-as-hell four star ratings to Fatboy Slim videos, but God, they keep getting better and better. I picked “Sunset (Bird of Prey)” as the second best video of last year, and I’ve watched it over and over – as recently as about 3:30 this morning, even. Now comes “Weapon of Choice,” a juicy, comic three-minute opus that blows away its predecessor.
     Why do I make these outrageous fucking claims? Because “Weapon of Choice” instantly establishes itself among the best of the increasingly rarer Spike Jonze videos and also contains one of Christopher Walken’s most winning performances. Fatboy, Spike and Chris all in one place – you can’t go wrong.
     “Weapon of Choice” is set in a luxury hotel, where an exhausted businessman (guess who) sits inert in the lobby. As the music from an abandoned maid cart kicks in, though, Walken pulls himself to his feet and breaks into some hilarious dance moves that take him through the whole of the building.
     Each sequence is better than the one before it, and Walken rarely requires a stunt double. He manipulates an escalator, dances atop a table and takes the elevator up to the second floor. That’s when shit really gets crazy, as Walken nose dives from the balcony, flies around the room and immerses himself in a portrait on the wall.
     Right now, this is the best thing out in the music video world. It justifies every self-indulgent tap dance lounge routine Walken has ever done during a monologue while hosting “SNL.” –Andrew Hicks


Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya and Pink – Lady Marmalade
     (*½)  I dream videos like this when I eat too many sausages before bedtime. But I don’t think any amount of sausage is too much for this supertramp foursome, the members of which try their damnedest for four minutes to out-slut each other.
     This version of “Lady Marmalade,” the disco classic which was a pretty damn gaudy song in its own right, will likely have Patti LaBelle rolling over in her Craftmatic adjustable bed. The participants, who lounge around a vacated strip club labeled “Moulin Rouge” (this song headlines the soundtrack of the same name), dress like rejects from Vanity 6, all bustiers and garters and layered makeup.
     Mya comes out looking almost respectable, because hers is the kind of beauty that’s almost impossible to disguise, but everyone else looks so freakish as to be frightening. Especially Aguilera, who sports a faux, crimped blonde mane that dwarves Tina Turner’s entire fucking wig closet, a silver nose stud, five or six different colored layers of eye makeup and jewels trapped in her vast eyelashes.
     Granted, Christina Aguilera’s image has always been over the top, tart-wise, but there’s nothing she could possibly do to look more like a streetwalker here. Which, of course, was the idea, but… damn. To paraphrase a friend, I don’t think my penis has ever been more limp when I’ve looked at good ol’ Christina. --AH
Christina Aguilera

Depeche Mode – Dream On
     (***)  I’ve got a friend back in Columbia who has impeccable taste in books and movies and sports one of the most varied music collections I’ve rifled through. What I don’t own of Jeff’s, I want to borrow. But there’s one yellow flag we’ve bickered about in our time – his favorite two bands are KISS and Depeche Mode. I don’t really take either seriously, although I’m the first to admit I haven’t immersed myself in their music beyond the shit everyone knows (i.e. “Personal Jesus,” “Rock and Roll All Night”).
     This new shit, though, “Dream On,” I like. I don’t know if the album Exciter is coming out or if it came out awhile ago, but MTV2 has just now hipped me to it (to paraphrase Pee Wee Herman), so I figure it’s a good time to pass it along to you guys.
     The song is lazy, midtempo stuff you can get high to (to paraphrase Nancy Reagan), with vocals in the verses that seem to go twice as fast as the backing music itself. The video, from alterna-staple Stephanie Sednaoui, is sort of a cross between Moby’s “Porcelain” and Radiohead’s “Karma Police.” The guys drive a beat-up boat of a car through the desert and the occasional cosmic time warp. It’s pretty engrossing the whole way through and takes new visual turns as it goes.
     And, my friend, if you so desire, you can trip your balls off to it (to paraphrase Ronald Reagan). –AH

Monica – Just Another Girl
     (**)  You remember the old days, Monica, when you’d just hit puberty and landed yourself a slot on the damn Poetic Justice soundtrack. When you hit big with “Just One of Dem Days.” When your duet with Brandy fueled speculations of true divahood. Well, unfortunately, Monica, your latest shit is sinking without a trace, and the title “Just Another Girl” is probably more prophetic than you initially realized.
     I think your TRL days are already behind you, lil’ girl – I bet you can even legally vote and buy cigarettes now. I think it’s time to start thinking about accountancy school or perhaps a nice job with an airline. You wouldn’t even have to suffer the once-degrading title of stewardess – they’re called “flight attendants” now. Doesn’t that have a cute little ring to it? –AH

Sade – King of Sorrow
     (***)  When I reviewed the first video from Lovers Rock, “By Your Side” (still gracing the Muzak at work every even-numbered hour on the hour), I felt the need to write off Sade as a guilty pleasure. As something I apologize for up front but embrace anyway, and fuck you if you think I’m a pussy for it. But I’m over that assessment now – I’m a 23-year-old man-child, I have my mellow moments, and I like Sade. The band and the woman, but especially the woman.
     In “King of Sorrow,” Sade plays a harrowed single mother with three small kids to look after. And, Christ, it’s a good thing she wasn’t my mother because I would have had some deep Oedipal issues. Mama Sade always dresses like Erin Brockovich, bouncing around the kitchen with her boobs hanging out and her kids just itching for Mommy to drop something so they can watch her bend over and pick it up.
     Most of the video involves this mommy shit, but there’s also plenty of second-unit footage of Sade and the band playing the Ritz-Carlton lounge or something. She looks even better there than she did before, if that’s possible. This lady has graced the music video world for 16 years and counting, and I don’t even mind that all of her songs sound pretty much the same. –AH

Shaggy f/Raywon – Angel
     (**)  Okay, I fell for “It Wasn’t Me” at first, when I thought it was some kind of obscure fucking novelty song and not something I’d soon hear so much I’d never want to hear it again. But lightning isn’t striking twice for me with its follow-up, this by-the-numbers, midtempo reggae-pop tune with a regurgitated chorus from “Angel of the Morning.” (Whose song was that? The Pretenders? Juice Newton?) It blows my mind that Shaggy’s album Hotshot has rested atop the Billboard charts for, what, three months off and on? It’s like that crappy movie everyone goes to see because there’s nothing else out. Supernova ruling the box-office and shit.
     You want I should talk about the video? Fuck, why not… Shaggy gets off a charter jet, with his chorus singer Raywon following him and a hot chick with too much eyeliner waiting aground to greet him. But, inexplicably, the two guys jump in their convertible and speed off. Not to worry, though – at the next red light, another hot chick walks by, distracting the guys from the fact that a second car is bearing down head-on. When we next see Shaggy and Ray-Ray, they’re in some white room with a bunch of models that I guess is supposed to represent heaven. (And I guess that brunette in the thong is supposed to be Mother Theresa? Shakin’ dat holy God-lovin’ ass, I take it?)
     The video then muddles itself even more with flashbacks and just plain indiscernible shit. If there wasn’t a steady stream of hot women tying the narrative together, I would have hit the fast forward button long ago. –AH

Semisonic – Chemistry
     (**½)  It’s a little known fact in the annals of useless Andrew Hicks trivia, but I have seen Semisonic live. In concert. Two years ago, as an opening act for Sheryl Crow, and they weren’t that bad. Hell, by the end of the set, I even felt sorry that a bunch of 14-year-old girls, frat boys and sorostitutes had been yelling, “Play ‘Closing Time’!” after every song since they got on stage.
     Fuck it, it’s all about chemistry, or so the perky-assed boys of Semisonic would have us believe with this leadoff single from their second album. (Second album anyone’s heard of, at least.) It’s an upbeat, piano- and drum-driven tune in the tradition of everyone from The Beatles – the McCartney side – down to the obnoxious New Radicals. They’ve got the dreamer’s disease, as James would say.
     The video? Oh, I guess I’ll talk about that next time. It’s pretty good. –AH


Duran Duran – A View to a Kill (1985)
     (*½)  This is one of those Duran Duran videos that doesn’t pop up too much – “Hungry Like the Wolf,” “Rio” and “Girls on Film” are the ones everyone remembers. I’ve only seen this one a couple times, and it has the distinction of being even worse than the James Bond movie of the same name. You know, the one where Christopher Walken and Grace Jones are the villains, and Roger Moore is so old and decrepit he has to slam an Ensure before he opens fire on an enemy spy.
     The “View to a Kill” video takes place entirely on and around the Eiffel Tower, where footage from the movie is combined with shots of Simon LeBon & Co. hamming it up as spies. LeBon sports a stylish bad-guy beret and has a Walkman that’s really a detonator while a fake-looking animated camera hovers around the screen, filming the “action.”
     It’s insult to injury, and so is the closing sequence that has the recognizable lead singer declaring that his name is “Bond… Simon LeBond…” LeLame LeJoke, LeBastard. –AH


Art of Noize – Close to the Edit (1989)
     (***½)  I was tempted to just ignore this dated-ass, goofy video when it popped up on “Amp” a few Friday nights ago, but I taped it and, searching for something fresh to review, let myself stop the fast-forwarding process to watch a snippet of it later. And at first, it was a pure What the fuck? reaction, the one I inevitably have when faced with some deliberately strange/unintentionally cheesy video like Barnes and Barnes “Fish Heads” or Herbie Hancock’s 1983 blue-plate crap special “Rockit.”
     In “Close to the Edit,” three guys in sunglasses – and, in one case, welding safety-goggles – follow a little girl (who’s dressed and made up like a Reagan-era whore-baby trying to emulate Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan, and I’m not even going to go into the psycho-sexual implications of that) around an alley, destroying instruments that appear and disappear as the girl acts belligerent and lips synchs to the pre-recorded woman’s high-pitched “Hey!” sample. (You know the “Hey!” of which I speak – it’s been used a thousand times since, peaking around the mid-Technotronic era.)
     So at this point in my viewing, about thirty seconds in, I was like, Fuck, I’m rewinding this!
     Better, “Close to the Edit” climaxes in the dramatic, torturous destruction of an antique grand piano, which is almost pornographic in its perverse, romanticizing display of violence. If that makes sense. (It had People for the Ethical Treatment of Baby Grands in a real fuckin’ huff at the time. You remember the headlines and endless protests outside Art of Noize shows.)
     I chalk the climax sequence up to the obvious intro-to-film imagery-interpretation – that the advent of the synthesizer has all but eradicated the need for pianos, violins, cellos and everything else these sunglasses-wearing bastards eradicate with one touch of an electronic keyboard. Video killed the radio star, and all that.
     Whatever it means or doesn’t mean, “Close to the Edit” amounts to a good time. –AH

Europe – The Final Countdown (1986)
     (*½)  I used to love this damn song. There was an entire summer where I’d bum a quarter from my dad every time we went to a place with a jukebox so I could bust out a little Europe on everyone. I was eight at the time, of course, but this wannabe hair-metal anthem was a smash hit with the grown-up world, too. I’m sure some trucker even Request and Dedicationed it to his dead wife Bonnie on the Casey Kasem countdown once or twice.
     The “Final Countdown” video (which I hadn’t seen in a decade or more, until VH1 Classic unexpectedly brought it into my home last week) is a monstrosity of such hilarious proportions that it has to be seen to be believed. It’s Spinal Tap-funny in places, with masturbatory slow-motion shots of those manes of hair flopping around, a cock-rock guitar solo to die for, and some priceless facial expressions from the band members.
     Yet it’s just a simple performance video staged at one of Europe’s concerts, with crowd noise occasionally intruding upon the ham-handed lip synching. Every shot, from the glimpses of audience members to behind-the-scenes tour footage to the animated countdown at the end of the video, has a 50-50 chance of putting a smile on your face. It’s just that bad, which means it’s just that good. Y’know? Y’know?! Yeahhhh, you know… –AH


Copyright 2001 Andrew Hicks