REVIEWS -- MAY 14, 2001

            VIDEO OF THE WEEK

Radiohead – Pyramid Song
     (***½)  If you’ve been lucky enough to peruse Da Head’s video collection 7 Television Commercials, you know Thom Yorke & Co. turned out some of the best videos of the ’90s, which went with some of that decade’s absolute best music. Then Kid A came out and, no, it didn’t exactly constitute the best music of the decade and, no, Radiohead wasn’t exactly making videos to go with it. MTV had a couple of barely rotated nuggets – first the bargain-basement concert clip for “Optimistic” and the marginally better one-take lip synching of “Idioteque,” but there was nothing even close to approaching the sublime greatness of your “Street Spirit” or your “Paranoid Android.” Which was a shame.
     But now, with the upcoming release of Amnesiac, we have an actual Radiohead video again, and it’s a damn good one. But the band’s not actually in it, which makes me wonder if Radiohead’s become the second Pearl Jam of the music video world. You know, the guys who get too self-consciously good to do MTV’s song and dance and only ever put out videos every five or six years, videos with about as much performance footage as your average posthumous 2Pac effort (and, yeah, we have one of those this week too).
     Andrew, what the fuck are you bitching for? you ask me. You’ve gotten more out of Radiohead’s music and videos than pretty much anyone out there. Be glad you have what you have and let them release their shit at their own pace. And you have a hell of a point – all it takes is one video like “Pyramid Song” to keep my snide comments at bay until, oh, the next presidential election. It’s a four-minute animated effort from Shynola (a guy or a production company? you decide…) that looks like the way Fantasia 2000 should have gone.*
     A computer-animated diver (more an abstract figure than a full-fledged person) drops into the ocean and paddles through a trippy-ass blue-tinted underwater landscape. He sees opened books and skeletons floating in the water as his helmet headlight discovers an entire sunken town. And that’s not even the best visual sequence in the video – that honor belongs to the closing red-tint cloudscape set, which has tiny, glowing balls of cosmic light flitting around in an increasingly frenzied dance.
     “Pyramid Song” is a big step in the right direction for Radiohead, and I’m hoping we can get at least two more actual, thought-out videos from Amnesiac. Andrew Hicks
     * = Fuck, can you imagine a Fantasia movie scored by Radiohead? Could any collegiate stoner be so lucky?


Cold – No One
     (**½)  I’ve been resisting this one for a few weeks now, half because the band name leaves me… uh, you know… and half because “No One” comes from the well-warmed director chair of one Fred Durst. I don’t know if his directorial skills are necessarily an improvement on his MC skills, but I bet I’d have a hard time taking orders from anyone wearing a backward Starter cap.
     “No One” does have one thing going for it off the bat – it’s the only video I’ve seen that has a tarantula walking around its lead singer’s bald-ass head. Even the Crocodile Hunter himself would probably bristle at the suggestion: “Crickey, Fred, I know you’re the master of Woodstock ’99 shock rock and what you say goes, but this seems a little extreme.”
     The video opens on Baldy trapped between two narrow walls with a lone lamp hanging above his head. The book he’s reading is actually hollowed out, though, and inside is the key to his escaping into the eyeliner-heavy, gas station attendant fashion world of a Fred Durst video. He and the band perform from a stage with tarantula-shaped risers (check the aerial shot if you don’t believe me) while he tries to flash his best Rockwell, “Somebody’s Watching Me” stare of paranoia. Meanwhile, the rest of us are like, why’s this freaky bastard wearing a fucking skirt all of a sudden?!
     I find all this surprisingly tolerable, though – maybe it’s my mood, maybe it’s all the spiders walking around my head. First they learned to read my thoughts, now the eight-legged Hitlers have control of my brain. Run for safety before they get you, too! –AH

DJ Strichnine and Paranorm – Mic Reaction
     (***)  I didn’t know what this song was called at first, so my working title for this review was “I’m Lyrical Poison and Shit.” You know, because his name is DJ Strichnine. Right. (I’ve got all kinds of lame name puns to toss out – take Paranorm. Isn’t that George Wendt’s gangsta name?)
     The act, on the Beasties’ Grand Royal label, tosses in a couple Beastie Boys vocal samples but tosses out a sound all their own. Well, it does kind of remind me of Dilated Peoples, but that’s just because I’ve been playing the shit out of their album The Platform lately.
     “Mic Reaction’ is a low-budget video that places the rappers behind studio microphones that are strategically located in bedrooms, pool halls and out on the street. And director Nate Weaver splits the screen off into boxed components and blurs the rappers’ faces frequently.
     The result is a slight but distinct visual style that augments the music (which is the real attraction) without swallowing it up. Lyrical poison indeed, and shit. –AH

Jurassic 5 – The Influence
     (***)  Ignore the indulgent Coming to America rip-off intro with the artificially aged rappers bullshitting in an old-school barber shop, and get your ass straight to the video itself. “The Influence,” once it gets started, is a light-hearted summer romp that turns a scenario so simple as a man walking down the street or riding a bike into casual, profound art.
     This is the most domestic damn hip-hop video I’ve ever seen. It actually makes property values rise. That is, until the boys of Jurassic 5 set up a bank of speakers so thick and immovable it could successfully sandbag an entire town in times of flooding. And, from there, the block party starts, and the media arrives in droves.
     You know, this is the second video from the album Quality Control, and from the sound of things, it’s worth picking up. But, shit, unless you watch M2, you probably haven’t heard a damn thing from it. –AH

Dave Matthews Band – The Space Between
     (**½)  It’s another David Meyers special from the DMB, who follow up the bouncy, borderline-campy “I Did It” with a placid ballad video that confines its band members to a single dock on the waterfront. In the background, a dozen or more factories ceaselessly belch their poisonous smokes into the air* and random citizens sit quietly, waiting for the impending apocalypse from the sky.
     Well, it’s nothing so dramatic as that in the end – rain just begins to fall, and a pair of interracial lovers (remember, nothing sands off the painful edges of social persecution like a melodic, slow number from Dave Matthews) huddles under a jacket with smiles on their faces. A mom protects a kid, and Dave arches an eyebrow and furrows his face up. Like he always does. Only here, the expression seems to read, Is this all there is? Save a freaky closing shot of a hyperextended full moon (or is it a big-ass neighboring planet?), yes, Dave, that’s all there is. “The Space Between” is just that, a cooling-off phase between one clever, huge-budget DMB video and the next. –AH
     * = Which, when a cynical bastard thinks about it, may symbolize the Dave Matthews Band packing up and hitting the road for another overpriced summer arena tour.

Saliva – Your Disease
     (**)  I guess I’ve never been a fan of bands named after bodily fluids – Snot, Saliva, Great White Ropes of Jizz, none of them. But this video caught my eye for a second or two nonetheless because it’s one of dozens put out by director David Meyers in the past few months. He does hip-hop, rock, pop and the occasional dose of hybrid wigger shit like this.
     Saliva’s front man seems to owe his image in equal parts to Rob Zombie, Kid Rock and the guy from Monster Magnet and, consequently, you can’t really take him or his band seriously. Not in my estimation, at least, although this video opens with a hell of a cool sequence that has Kid Zombie Magnet fleeing a cracker-ass sheriff and instituting one of those world’s scariest police chases that doesn’t really go anywhere. Oh well, at least he has that nifty-looking pewter skull on his stick shifter.
     Don’t be fooled, though – the biggest chunk of “Your Disease,” in the tradition of the Aerosmith-Alicia Silverstone alliance of years past, follows a hot, mischievous brunette as she gets her belly tattooed, drinks in a bar and ends up at (where else) the Saliva concert. There’s also a kid who brings a CD into the car stereo display room and blows out the glass. (“Christ, this glass finds Saliva as painful as I do!”)
     This really isn’t such a bad song or video, I think I just feel the need to be brutal once or twice a week, and these guys were the easiest candidates for said brutality. Consider that before beating me with that pewter-skull stick shift, Mr. Magnet, sir. –AH

Musiq Soulchild – Love
     (**½)  Musiq, who burst on the scene with “Just Friends (Sunny)” (bouncy shit I still can’t get enough of), is falling back on more traditional R+B ballad territory with “Love.” And, as of yet, this song hasn’t struck me as anything better than your average BET afternoon offering.
     The video has its slice-of-life charm, though. It takes place in, around and on top of a high-rise brownstone, where Musiq lip synchs and the camera intrudes on the citizenry. An old couple slow dances, a dad plays with his kid, a guy and girl make out on the stairs, a woman nurses her baby in the bathtub, a pregnant woman tries to sleep with her swollen belly hanging off the bed, etc. There’s even a vigilant homeless guy sitting on the stoop.
     Eventually, day turns to night, rain falls, and the power goes out. This is nothing exciting, but it’s worth paying attention to once or twice before it falls off the playlists.* –AH
     * = This video is a Mama’s Boy Production. I don’t know why I’m feeling the need to tell you this, other than the fact that the video itself just felt the need to tell me. Might as well pass it along, porthole of info that I am.

2Pac f/R.I. – Until the End of Time
     (***)  The song’s title, naturally, also serves as answer to the question, How long will the late 2Pac keep releasing posthumously produced double albums assembled from half-decade-old vault rhymes? But the more important question answered by “Until the End of Time” is, How far will go Suge Knight’s minions go in mining ’80s adult-contemporary hits for rap hooks? Would they considering reaching for the Kajagoogoo? The Richard Marx? Or, holy living fuck, the Mr. Mister?!
     Well, my friend, we now have the unholy union of 2Pac and Mr. Mister, with a chorus lifted straight from the pillow-talk classic “Broken Wings.” The first time I heard this, midway through the first verse, I was thinking the synth chords were a little too familiar, hauntingly so, even. And when R.I. began belting out the chorus, souled-up for the hip-hop world, of course, I almost pinched myself. I mean, I dream unlikely team-ups like this sometimes.
     The video, as you’d expect, is reconstructed from the same existing footage of 2Pac that we’ve seen in “Changes,” et al. (Namely, familiar movie and news clips and shots from “I Get Around” and “Keep Ya Head Up.”) For real, though – the sad thing is there are more 2Pac videos he’s not even in than ones he is in. It was that way sometimes before he died, where he’d be in prison or in the hospital, recovering from five bullet wounds to the sternum or some shit, and the record company would be like, Ho hum, time to release the third single from Me Against the World. Let’s go ahead and commission another video without the actual frickin’ performer in it.
     I bitch, but despite its built-in production and visual handicaps, “Until the End of Time” still manages to hook me in for its full duration. And most of that is due, as always, to the immutable verbal style of 2Pac himself, who to me was one of the most literate and emotionally open verbal-political poets of his (short) time. Not even a Mr. Mister reworking can take that away from me – though I should also admit the source song, like the 2Pac updating of Bruce Hornsby’s “The Way It Is,” is bettered in its new incarnation. This is the kind of song I’d download from Napster in a second and probably be in love with by the end of the month.
     There’s actual studio footage of 2Pac rapping in the UTEOT video, which helps excuse some of the over-familiar contents, and director Chris Hafner uses grain effects, sound bites and proper pacing to his advantage. I particularly appreciate the quick-ass montage of approaching close-ups of every 2Pac album cover in chronological order. It helps put the whole thing in perspective, I think.
     You know, I saw Digital Underground live a few weeks ago*, and they segued into “I Get Around” within five minutes of getting onstage. The crowd was jumping and dancing like mad, and then they took it down a notch by lowering the house lights, having their DJ slap on “Hail Mary” and inviting everyone to raise their lighters. And, for a couple minutes, as the concertgoers and performers alike kept quiet and drank or smoked one in 2Pac’s memory, every last one of us realized the hip-hop world – hell, the music and pop-culture world in general – lost a good one when the man got shot down. –AH
     * = If they ever come your way, you should go – they’re still just as light-hearted, reverent toward the music of the past and present and, well, downright brilliant as they ever were.

Weezer – Hashpipe
     (***)  Ah, yes… just when I thought no other band from my senior year of high school could possibly attempt a comeback, here the fuck is Weezer again, and you know what? I’m ready for them. I’ve had friends tell me the band kicks ass live, and I’m willing to bet their brand of geek grunge has aged pretty damn well. If “Hashpipe” (or as pussy-ass MTV and its sister station refer to it, “H***pipe”) is any indication, I might even run out and buy the new Weezer album.
    The video (and, no, we couldn’t even wish for this one to come from the camera of Mr. Spike Jonze) hasn’t the charm of “Buddy Holly” or even “Say It Ain’t So,” but it has sumo wrestlers in abundance. They’re training and squatting and dancing in circles in the same hollowed-out hardwood gymnasium Weezer is playing in. (Somehow I think the setting and the mic announcement, “I hear we have a bar mitzvah buddy in the house tonight – come on up, Sherman Finkelstein,” are familiar ones to the guys in Weezer.)
     They’re still sporting the Woody Allen glasses and Papa Cunningham sweaters, but they seem more credible now, musically and image-wise. Still, if director Marcos Siega knew anything, he would have pitted Weezer and the sumos against each other. That’s a total pay per view in the making. –AH

Little River Band – Man On Your Mind
     (zero… oh Christ, LESS THAN ZERO!!!!)  You know, I would probably like this song if I heard it on the radio or something – especially right now, when the weather’s perfectly beautiful and I love driving around town on a Friday night – but “Man on Your Mind” happens to be among that elite group of the worst music videos of all time. And, under this heading, certainly one of the Most Gay™ (well, what’ya expect, it’s called “Man on Your Mind!”).
     This is some funny, funny shit, especially when you happen upon this monstrosity on VH1 Classic at 3:57 on a Sunday night. I would like it until the exact moment the thought popped into my head – no, wait, I can’t like the song when it’s being sung by that fucking guy. Look at the size of his goddamn bow tie! Does the bass player fucking NEED all those ruffles with that powder-blue leisure suit? Christ.
     It’s an assault on one’s senses at this time of the night (it’s now 4:05 on the dot, and I still haven’t recovered), but the video’s faux-earnest comedic posturing is like ‘80s Genesis (with even shittier taste in fashion) meets your average GVOTW Hall of Fame REO Speedwagon clip. –AH
Foo Fighters – Everlong (1997)
     (***½)  Dave Grohl is an avenging angel, a punk with Coolio-spiked hair, a kid gathering lumber and a normal man in the midst of disturbed slumber. Just wait until he encounters the giant phone and calls the black-and-white, sleeping version of himself.
     It’s the kind of paradox that would blow Doc Brown’s mind, watching the various realities of “Everlong” intrude on and interact with one another. The video’s mood is appropriately creepy, in that vintage, Italian film school sense, and the special effects do not, as of yet, seem in any way dated.
     Try turning your head away from even a second of this glorious mess. –AH


Copyright 2001 Andrew Hicks