These reviews were originally intended to be posted on August 10, but I underwent the electronic equivalent of being locked out of the house when my brother's computer crashed, and I lost all kinds of autopilot information, including my user name and password for this site. Which, believe it or not, I couldn't remember and couldn't find written down anywhere. And, in a hectic-ass party summer such as this, the problem can go unsolved for three weeks with no tangible repercussions. But I'm back now, and here are those old new reviews. Sorry I disappeared again...



Limp Bizkit -- Boiler
     (***)  It’s a double header in this week’s reviews for David Meyers and Fred Durst, and the first from each is this widescreen creepshow effort that turns out much better than you’d expect. The whole thing pits MC Backward Ballcap as the unluckiest-ever candidate on “Spy TV,” being thrust into situations where the normal becomes instantly macabre. The girl you’re about to score with goes into violent convulsions and spits a metal floating-orb bomb into your face. The hamburger you’re enjoying at the diner crawls with giant millipedes just before a car crashes into the place.
     Durst walks through these scenarios with proper looks of disbelief, horror and befuddled tenacity. (And I’ve been to acting seminars - befuddled tenacity is one of the hardest ones to pull off. My Starter cap’s off to you, Fred.) And the cinematography is strong, too - my biggest beef with Meyers is his tendency to go too over the top with things, but in this universe of severed heads and random scares, his filmmaking seems almost subdued. The editing is quick but not frantic, and the camera tricks do more to supplement than distract.
     So I’m forced to give my first-ever positive review to a Limp Bizkit video. I never thought it could happen - then again, when I was giving them zeros and ones, they didn’t have access to a budget this astronomical. A budget that guarantees that even the standard lip-synch shots look fascinating and that can afford a high-quality animated sequence in the middle. And for once, Limp Bizkit’s freak guitarist Wes Borland is right at home. Andrew Hicks


Mary J. Blige - Family Affair
     (**½)  It’s a special night at Club Mary J, where thrill seekers are passing through the door and leaving their car keys in an enormous glass bowl, ’70s-style. Imagine being at this particular key party at the end of the night and watching the largest, turbo-drunkest girl there withdraw your ORU Prayer Tower keychain from the bowl with her teeth.
     I saw a making-of feature for this video on BET the other day, and it made “Family Affair” seem like a much more laborious project than it turned to be. There are six or seven different backdrop motifs inside the club, and staple director David Meyers does a good enough job of alternating between them, but there’s nothing but flash and celebrity cameos to hold it together. I mean, you don’t have to keep cutting to Dr. Dre’s smiling face every thirty seconds. We know he’s at the damn party.
     Blige herself changes images every few seconds or so, some of them tacky and some flattering, but it leaves her looking less like herself than your average dance-video whore. Which, believe me, I don’t mind; it’s just hard to adjust to the Queen of R+B shaking her titties and singing “let’s get crunk.” Must be a whole new millennium. -AH

Michelle Branch - Everywhere
Michelle Branch, private eye
     (**)  It’s like one of your friends’ sisters grabbed a guitar and pretended she could play it in a joke video and all of a sudden you started to feel guilty about it because you realized your boy Joe or whoever’s kid sister was beginning to turn you on. Michelle Branch, whoever she is and however old she is*, is quite easy to look at, even if her video and her music doesn’t quite seem real. There’s something phony about it, like it’s Christian contemporary or something.
     Director Liz Friedlander, who’s always been too poppy and lowest-common-denominator for me to respect many of her videos, puts Branch in an enormous loft, Lisa Loeb-style, but has her spending her non-lip synching time staring at a boy in the high-rise building across the street, Rear Window-style. She takes endless Polaroids of him, little realizing that from that distance, any picture taken from one of those cameras will look like shit.
     Let’s see, Branch also tosses a party and lip synchs in front of a backdrop of trees. None of this adds up to anything distinctive, particularly the ending, which apes Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn” right down to the physical posturing and lower lip biting. -AH
     * = I say this because American medical advancements and nutritional information in general have brought us a society where some 12-year-old girls can sprout the bodies of adults seemingly overnight and some first graders have to add a training bra to their list of school supplies for the fall. It’s getting ridiculous. Is this what happens when you put fluoride in the water?
Michelle Branch, loft party

Destiny’s Child f/Missy Elliot - Bootylicious (Rockwilder remix)
Destiny's Child f/Missy Elliot - Bootylicious (Rockwilder remix)
     (*½)  Remixes like this are the reason I ignore Destiny’s Child half the time. Its generic, sound-alike shit that eliminates the original’s intriguing marriage of an old Stevie Nicks guitar riff with amusing, catchy-ass lyrics. The summer-party sentiment of the album version is lost in the transition, and the halfhearted rap from Missy adds nothing to the proceedings.
Destiny's Child f/Missy Elliot - Bootylicious (Rockwilder remix)
Destiny's Child f/Missy Elliot - Bootylicious (Rockwilder remix)
     Worst of all, the video takes place entirely on one tacky soundstage set, with the only variations coming from endless costume changes and backdrop graffiti logos. Oh, and they pull the old Paula Abdul trick of dressing up little kids like big people for “Aww, isn’t that cute?” laughs. The whole affair is a boring and unnecessary autopilot effort from the normally reliable director Little X. -AH
Destiny's Child f/Missy Elliot - Bootylicious (Rockwilder remix)

Disturbed - Down With the Sickness
     (***)  I like everything I’ve heard from Disturbed, but I still don’t have their album. And those disaffected parrot screams at the beginning of “Down With the Sickness” haven’t sent me into the mesmerizing consumer trance needed to push me off my ass and into the record store. The same trance that once brought a Cracker CD into my possession and made me buy some Vanessa Williams at a swap meet. The trance doesn’t always discriminate.
     The video is mostly performance and behind-the-scenes shots of Disturbed’s tour with what I can only assume is Ozzfest, with incessant strobe lights to cut down on what is essentially a dark video. The concert stuff is shot at night and has more black than a Church’s Chicken on Sunday afternoon.* But the editing and camera angles keep things interesting.
     I think Nathan Cox scaled things back when he realized the most interesting thing you can do in a Disturbed video is just focus on the front man for awhile. As I mentioned earlier, he does have a bizarre form of Tourette’s that leaves him sounding like one of those Animal Speak-N-Say things, but that’s just the beginning. This bald terror has a face and a scream for every occasion. And I don’t even know the dude’s name. -AH
     * = Shit, someone’s got to get the NAACP off the Adam’s Mark’s back. Might as well be me.

Puddle of Mudd - Control
     (**)  With Fred Durst at the helm and Flawless Entertainment Group putting up the funds, how could Puddle of Mudd go wrong? Okay, stupid question. I’m not overly (translation: at all) familiar with Puddle of Mudd, other than I’ve stepped in them a couple of times… huh huh… All I really know is, they’re part of the recent resurgence of bands whose lead singer has to channel Eddie Vedder and Scott Weiland and other alternative Ex-Lax cases of the ’90s. The Puddle of Mudd front man isn’t quite the heartthrob Vedder was in his time, though - he looks more like Willem Dafoe in method acting roles that require him to look particularly haggard.
     “Control” begins promisingly enough, with Dafoe’s girlfriend kicking him out of the car, flipping him off (and yes, MTV still does censor the shit) and driving away. He shows up to his hole-in-the-wall gig late, the band members give him their most insistent, this-behavior-has-got-to-cease “Dude…” greeting, and they go onstage. Meanwhile, Durst flashes back to Dafoe walking along the side of the road and the chick still driving. Then she hits the brakes, invites him back in the car and expresses shock when he grabs the keys to her truck and tosses them into the woods, walking off with a look of satisfaction on his face.
     It’s not exactly a Shakespeare-level scorned-lover plot twist, and none of this particularly stands out over anything else, but I’m going to go ahead and drop the middle-ground two star rating here because I can’t entirely trash any song whose chorus includes the line, “I love the way you smack my ass.” -AH

Scapegoat Wax - Aisle 10 (Hi Alison)
     (***)  In the vein of that song “Shaniqua” I reviewed last time, “Aisle 10” is a hip-hop-influenced song that’s a bit too honky for its own good, but therein lies a certain charm. Scapegoat Wax isn’t all white boy rapping - it’s also a second cousin of Sublime and Beastie Boys (they’re on the Grand Royal label, if that helps) with, in this song anyway, an appealing blend of styles and delivery.
     The video, which I assume hit MTV once or twice or never, has had decent rotation on MTV2 for the past month or so, and it’s just unassuming and charming enough to ensure I’ll leave it on every time. (Well, almost every time. If “The Simpsons” is coming on in two minutes, I have to change it.) The singer, who works in a grocery store with his bandmates, sees a hot girl come in and jumps into a cart to lip synch for the surveillance camera.
     His boys eventually grab the camera and head around the store to keep filming, while the hottie gravitates to the produce aisle to mull over the cucumbers. (I never accused “Aisle 10” of being subtle.) It’s some funny shit, though, and beyond its novelty value actually has a little artistic merit, video and song alike. -AH

Jessica Simpson f/Lil’ Bow Wow and Jermaine Dupri - Irresistible (So So Def remix)
     (*½)  Dupri has been whoring out his mixing board to all kinds of borderline-comatose artists, but I doubt he’s ever had to undertake so a pitiable a corporate idea to hip-hop up Jessica Simpson. The white-breadest of all teen-pop artists. The virgin who’s engaged to one of the junior Chippendales from 98 Degrees. The girl who’s headlined as many Midwest state fairs as Hattie The Blue Ribbon Hog. But I guess J.D. couldn’t scare up Da Brat or anything, so he sent in his latest backup plan, Lil’ Bow Wow. Who’s probably headlined a few swap meets in his time.
     The only difference between this video and the original “Irresistible” (which I never even got around to reviewing) is the footage of Bow Wow and Dupri themselves, who bounce around generic-looking skyscraper hallways while the video cuts to the shots of Simpson riding the futuristic glass elevator up to the top of a skyscraper and then runway walking down a hallway’s reflective pool. And there’s a bomb in a giant ying-yang ball.
     This makes at least a dozen remix videos I’ve happened upon in the last few weeks and like three or four with Dupri in them. He did an okay job on the new Janet Jackson single, but I have to wonder how many more of these remixes we’ll suffer before Dupri finally just goes backstage and grabs up the puppet strings on Lil’ Bow Wow for another album. Not that I’m looking forward to that, either. –AH


Tina Turner - Private Dancer (1984)
     (*)  Naturally, the song “Private Dancer” has been lip synched (lip sunk?) to death during drag-night performances at gay bars all over the country, but the video is in a category of gayness all its own. For seven minutes, it takes us through one seriously fucked-up ball that starts in a dance hall and continues through dark, vast soundstages.
     There are probably 200 extras in the video, and at least half of them must have really hated the wardrobe assignments. Would you want to have to be the guy in top hat, tux, white gloves and heavy lipstick? Or the guy who has to squat and flex his biceps while lolling around with a giant bull head on? How much would they have to pay you to lie on the ground in a bathing suit and smile dementedly while people circle around you and toss long-stemmed roses on you? Oh wait, that’s not an extra, that’s Tina herself.
     Tina herself looks pretty down in the dumps the whole time, maybe because she’s sticking to the hardened-hooker character from the song and maybe because she has to preside over this wicked Reagan-era fashion mess. Her own hair is poking up higher than most overpass cutoffs on highway bridges, and each of her massive earrings weighs more than a house ball at the bowling alley. But Tina is the least atrocious-looking person in the video, and that very well might have been the director’s intention. –AH


Bubba Sparxxx -- Ugly
     (**1/2) Bubba Sparxxx is this big scary ass looking redneck from LaGrange, GA (no, I don't know where that is), yet instead of bumping the country music, he actually has a decent flow to him. Eminem he ain't, but Vanilla Ice he ain't either (thank you JAYSUS!!!!) The song is tight, sounding kind of like a b-side of Missy's "Get Ur Freak On". Speaking of which, guess who the producer is in this one? That's right, Timbaland is all over this video, and even seagues back and forth from Ugly to GUFO. And we get to see Missy Elliott riding a tractor. The video kind of has a psychadelic/country look to it, with people mud wrestling, and participating in tractor pulls. All in all, good clean fun. Leon Bracey


Black Eyed Peas - Karma (1998)
     (***½)  I can think of a couple music videos where people wander down panicked hallways where all sorts of weird shit is going on. We don’t have to flash back to the paranoia-stricken Quarterflash video for “Harden My Heart,” either - there’s also that Paul Thomas Anderson-directed video from the supplemental DVD disc of Boogie Nights. Can’t remember the name of the song or artist, but it was a good video.
     And here are the Black Eyed Peas with a four-minute romp down a hospital hallway. One of the rappers is trying to get treatment for an open stab wound or something on his left shoulder, and he meanders down the hallway and running into myriad infirm patients and doctors, having pills spilled in front of him, etc. The other two Peas show up for their verses, one of them as a stretcher-pushing doctor and the other a sanitary but creepy surgeon. “Karma” is highly entertaining from beginning to end and comes complete with a sing-along bridge that shoplifts Blondie’s “One Way or Another.” -AH

New Kids on the Block - Please Don’t Go (1988)
     (zero)  Proving they really don’t discriminate when it comes to playing the most embarrassing videos of all time, BET dusted off this old beaut the other day on their “Black in the Day” show. Whether it was shown as mere contrast or evidence of honkey injustice to man remains to be explained, but it is worth noting that the mythical concert audience in the video is made up almost entirely of adoring black women. Maybe once you go New Kids, you never go back.
     This is from way black in the day, pre-Hangin’ Tough, when only 60 percent of the boy band’s members had pubes. Little Joe, of course bringing up the rear in the pube count, starts things off with a nice girly-sounding verse, then the guy who looks like the youngest son on “The Hogan Family” chimes in, then the guy with the Vanilla Ice lines in his scalp goes “uh huh” soulfully. It’s a good potpourri of crap.
     It’s not merely the lack of anything artistic or even interesting to hold the attention span that makes “Please Don’t Go” suck so much. It’s not even the thought balloon cloud effect when Joe comes up to a lady who was born a good decade or so ahead of him and says, “I love ya, girl.” It’s the clothes and the hair that make this unbearable. Every one of the United Colors of Benneton is represented. -AH


Although I like to be a playful person, I have something serious to report to you all...

Singer/Actress Aaliyah was killed in a plane crash in the Bahamas this past weekend (August 25) at the tender age of 22. Yes, this is very tragic news, and in a way, it is unfair that such a young, vibrant, talented life was taken away like that, especially someone who was heading toward the top.

I rarely cry, but I had to hold back tears as I heard the news, and wanting to pinch myself, wondering if this was just a bad dream, but it isn't. Tommorow isn't promised to anyone, and I want everyone in here to live their life to the fullest, and to enjoy life, and to be thankful for it. My prayers go out to her friends and family.

Aaliyah, rest in peace.






Copyright 2001 Andrew Hicks