Monday, May 27, 2013

Janet Jackson – “Rhythm Nation”


  We start off in some huge and creepy warehouse, where we don’t really know what’s going on other than someone forgot to put color film in the camera. Everything is all black and white. There’s an ominous elevator coming down from somewhere, water dripping down the walls, and menacing machines all over the place that probably have evil functions that we don’t want to know about.  Janet and her little friends are doing that monotone voiceover, sounding like Franciscan monks practicing for an exorcism. Little Mary Sunshine would hate this place.

  The camera zooms in on a young man huddled in a corner. He appears to be crying, most likely due to all the depressing crap on the set. He turns to look at that arriving elevator, confusion and horror in his eyes, so Rush Limbaugh is probably inside it. But before we can determine if we need to scream and run, we cut to some folks clamoring down a ladder. The camera doesn’t show us their faces, so they might be in the Witness Protection plan after having done something they shouldn’t have at the top of that ladder.

  Cut to a close-up of water dripping into a puddle, which is like watching paint dry, only with better sound effects.

  Suddenly, we’re in a part of the warehouse where it looks like someone has converted a sinister loading dock into a dance floor, which proves to be very helpful, because Janet and her Rhythm County dancers have just arrived. They quickly get into a triangular formation and simultaneously do that little leg-spreading hop that means “we are about to start performing the intense choreography that will make you feel untalented and useless by the end of the video.”

  Close-up of Janet holding up her gloved fingers (what is it with the Jacksons and handwear?) and doing a little countdown for us, then boom, the music kicks in and everybody is bopping all over the stage in perfect synchronization, which means they had to do 300 takes of this bit until everybody popped at the same time, because nobody is that good. The precision-dancing goes on for a while, then we cut to another area with catwalks and lots of unexplained steam.  Some of the back-up backup dancers are over here, undulating on little stages where strippers would normally be if this was a gentleman’s club.

  Janet jumps into view, finally kicking off the vocals. She starts explaining why we are all part of the rhythm nation, but it’s a little hard to pay attention because she’s sporting this ginormous, vaguely-military medal on her chest. (What the hell did she have to do to wing that?) Speaking of military, everybody is dressed in garb that looks like some type of dark-ops cadet corps. We’ve got a serious uniform fetish going on here. But their intimidating boots sound really good when they stomp them on the floor, so it’s all good.

  We get a glimpse of that young man wandering around in the pipes and steam. You’d think he would have high-tailed it out of here once the 4th Battalion started in with the Electric Slide, but we haven’t lived his life so we can’t really judge his personal decisions in a dank warehouse.

  Meanwhile, Janet and her friends are back on the loading dock, doing more gyrations. I notice that Janet’s ponytail is really dramatic, with her copious locks flying about prettily as she whips her head, while the other female dancers have ponytails that have been slicked-up and tightly bound, not moving a millimeter. This seems a little unfair to the non-Janet girls, but maybe this is just something that’s in Janet’s contract. (“I must have the biggest hair or I’m not leaving the dressing room.”)

  I guess it doesn’t really matter, since everyone seems to be having a swell time.  We spend a while on the loading dock, occasionally cutting over to this odd, really long room where Janet and the Janettes march toward the camera in a dominating manner, sort of like the “uh oh, that’s not good” scenes in Night of the Living Dead when the zombies band together and storm the old wooden house. (Maybe if the video producers hadn’t decided to film in black and white, I wouldn’t have gone there, but they did, so I did.)

  We eventually find Janet and a few of her closest backup dancers in yet another part of the warehouse, where they are doing a special routine that mostly involves them striking various poses that require them to hold their fists up in front of their faces. Okay, then, they are prepared to fight. But, um, what are they fighting? The steam?

  We make another visit to the loading dock, because it’s time for another major line dance, this one having something to do with everybody pointing their fingers and thrusting their hips. It’s all very well done, of course, because you don’t get to be in a Janet Jackson video unless you know what the hell you’re doing. The backup dancers are hitting every critical plot point in the choreography as if their lives depended on it. And really, it does. You get your ass kicked off a Jackson shoot, you better have a Plan B for your career choice.

  Another shot of the young man wandering around Area 57 when he should be finding an exit door. Instead of fleeing, he decides to pause and watch Janet and the drill team continue with their exuberant rhythmic moves. I’m not sure why he’s forced to review the dancing from the other side of a chain-link fence (what is that all about?) but it’s a good thing that he decided to stick around, because this is the section where the choreography goes into overdrive, with the dancing folks performing moves that most humans couldn’t accomplish without a personal trainer and lots of free time on their hands.

  This part goes on for a very long time. Not that this is a bad thing, it’s just that the energy unleashed during this segment is enough to power the city of Newark for three years. I was completely exhausted, and all I did was push play. If we could get that kind of power unleashed during election season, the whole country might be in a better place. Food for thought, yes? (Quit eating nachos and watching reruns of Sex in the City, get in the car and go vote.)

  Then we head to what I’m assuming is one of the basement levels of the warehouse. (No one handed me a map, so I’m just guessing here.) In this bit, Janet and a select cadre of dancers are performing an interpretive piece that I believe has something to do with… hell, I don’t know. We have cameo dancers who are very limber and can do the splits. They are very invested in their craft, and they perform some admirable moves, especially the one guy (girl?) with the nunchucks. S/he’s whipping those things around with an intensity that would certainly make me pay attention to whatever cause s/he represents. I’m writing out a donation check right now, you can let me know what I just supported some other time. Please don’t whap me upside the head with something on the end of a chain.

  Next up, we roll into a montage of Janet and the High-Kicking Cadets doing their thing all over the warehouse. Sometimes we have just a few of them doing something intricate in a shadowy hallway, other times we have the entire population of Nevada doing pelvic thrusts in a massive steam-drenched room full of metal walkways that might be a gay bar in SoHo. Eventually we get to the point where Janet and Friends are doing that extended sequence where they keep popping their heads to one side repeatedly, in what looks like a very painful dance move.  Even the Young Man who doesn’t seem to have a purpose other than to run around and try to get out of here pauses in his running with an expression saying “That’s gotta hurt, girl. Why you jackin’ with your neck like that?”

  Janet  doesn’t really have time to answer him, because this is also the part of the video where the camera keeps zooming in for a close-up of Janet and that big-ass key hanging from her right earlobe, whilst she sing-pleads for us to “say it for” all of the oppressed people of the world. This is a very admirable plea, but I’m still not getting the military theme with the outfits. Or the shadowy darkness. Or the still inexplicable steam that keeps billowing like something mechanical is having an orgasm.

  I guess it really doesn’t matter, because we head into the last bit of the story, with Janet and the Janettes doing a final line dance on the loading dock, wherein they seem to be telling the story of what happens when you add sugar to your already-sugared breakfast cereal. These folks are caught up in a synchronized fervor that makes you lose weight from simply watching the video. Seriously, just keep hitting play and you’ll drop a dress size or two. Promise.

  Then the dancers all suddenly hunch over to the right and freeze. End trans.

  Meanwhile, the Young Man who just wants to get the hell out of here and find a place where people aren’t aggressively dancing for inexplicable reasons manages to stumble his way toward that elusive Exit Door. He opens it, and a Jackson family member hands him a glove…



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Friday, May 10, 2013

The Script, will.i.am – “Hall Of Fame”



  We start out with a brief shot of some boxer apparently doing something award worthy at a match, then we cut to a really loud mom waking up her son in their crappy dwelling. Zip over to an image of a really fancy ballerina getting a busload of roses throw at her, then we have a much-quieter dad waking up his daughter in their really fancy digs. Okay, it appears that this video is going to be about the universal theme of parents destroying their children’s dreams, regardless of your socio-economic background. Got it.

  We get a few additional shots to let us know that the young woman is at least somewhat deaf and has to wear a hearing aid, which is no laughing matter so we’ll leave that alone. She gets dressed and then gives her dad a smooch as she heads out the door to do whatever little princesses do when they are mobile and unescorted. Then we’re back at the crappy house, where harridan mom is smoking at the breakfast table, still hollering and being unpleasant and wearing an ugly outfit while the young man prepares to leave for his day. Her parting words are: “Don’t forget the trash!” (How can he? She’s sitting right there and won’t shut up.)

  Now we have some unknown hands playing the opening notes of the song on a piano. It’s very pretty and all, but I hope those hands are actually attached to a person and that this isn’t going to turn into a slasher movie about severed body parts that come alive and prevent you from going to the senior prom. We get a glimpse of Young Man taking out that much-discussed trash (as far as I can tell, Mom’s not in the can) and a shot of Young Woman marching off to some place that requires her to accessorize with a stylish gym bag and a blouse that is so short it might as well be a bra.

  Back to the piano, where we are greatly relieved to discover that the potentially-lethal hands are indeed attached to a human form, with that form being Danny, lead singer for The Script. He’s apparently giving one of those impromptu concerts in an otherwise vacant warehouse, something that only happens in music videos and movies that win the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. We get shots of Young Man running along the urban streets of his town (the best way to get away from Hollering Mama, yes?) as he has more visions about being that triumphant boxer. Or getting to wear silky shorts in public. Something about that roped-off square appeals to him.

  Then we’re back in the art-house warehouse, where will.i.am has wandered in because it’s time for he and Danny to start singing or this will just be an instrumental track. Danny goes first, accentuating his words with some street moves that perhaps he should have practiced a little bit more. will.i.am does a bit better with the hand choreography during his parts, probably because he’s had so much practice trying to keep Fergie’s breasts from upstaging him during concerts.

  While these two toss the lyrics at one another, we check up on Young Man. It seems he wasn’t paying any attention to where his nimble feet where carrying him, and he’s now on a street  where three shady guys want nothing more than to chase after Young Man, and I doubt if they just want to ask him to join their glee club. We now have a car-chase segment without any cars, as they all race along, rushing past Young Woman, who briefly pauses to review their immaturity, then she and her half-shirt continue to wherever.

  We get another montage, this one of Danny and will.i.am performing for the audience that doesn’t exist, and the Three Thugs pounding on Young Man behind a dumpster. (We get a shot of someone watching the pounding from a nearby window without bothering to intervene, so we must be in New York City.) Then we have Young Woman arriving at a dance studio, where everyone is really pretty and they all weigh about two pounds each. One of the other dancers (an ice-blonde prototype) makes a face about Young Woman wearing hearing aids, so we instantly hate her and hope she falls down an elevator shaft.

  Next we have Young Man, face bruised and cut after his encounter with the Rethuglicans, arriving at a gym where lots of people are boxing and looking wet. Meanwhile, Young Woman is twirling away over at the studio, full of the spirit. Then I guess the spirit goes on break, because Young Woman does something that she shouldn’t have and falls to the floor, causing Evil Blondie to smirk at her because that’s what bitches do. Young Woman gets back to her feet with determination in her heart, conviction in her soul, and the phone number of a yuppie hit-man in her satchel.

  Back to the warehouse, where will.i.am and Danny are still doing their thing, which is starting to get a tiny bit boring. They’re singers, and they’re singing. No real surprises here. But at least they’re having a good time, especially Danny, who gets so emotionally-invested during the chorus that he appears to throw a punch at the camera and then does a manly twirl in celebration. (Which, in my book, sort of makes him a suspect in the street-mugging that just went down a few minutes ago, but we’ll let the police handle it.)

  Another montage, this one of Young Man training at the gym while thickly-muscled trainers show him some tough love about learning the dark arts, making us feel like we’re watching a promo for Rocky 17: The Luck of the Irish.  We also have footage of Young Woman, as she works really hard in the studio so she can one day be as good as Jennifer Beals’ body-double in Flashdance. (And yes, Ice Blondie continues to smirk at Young Woman’s efforts, proving that Ann Coulter is not the only one with a massive stick up her ass.)

  The training montage goes on for a long time, with lots of punching and sweating and standing on your toes, reminding us that you have to work really hard to be good at what you do. Unless you’re a Kardashian. Or a Fox News reporter.

  But we know that our young starlets will eventually succeed, especially with Danny and will.i.am continually reminding us on the soundtrack to “be champy-uns”. Young Man prepares for an important fight, with another Rocky-tribute series of scenes, and Young Woman happily trots off to audition for a dance company, where a stern-faced group of people  on the review panel look like they just got back from the proctologist.

  Of course, we have to have a little bit of drama before they triumph, mainly because there’s still a minute left in the song. Young Man is a little wobbly in his bout at first, so he has to be yelled at by Poppa Bear trainer while a blood-thirsty crowd roars in the background. (I’ve never understood boxing as a spectator sport. You want to pay money to watch people beat the hell out of each other? Really? But at least boxing is better than the WWF, where grown men dry-hump each other while wearing bikini briefs on national television.)

  And Young Woman has her own troubles, with her initially jacking-up her audition and falling down once again. (No reaction shot from Blondie, so maybe she’s at the bottom of that elevator shaft. Or at the proctologist’s office, where both of them are in for a surprise.) Luckily, Young Woman just has to run place her hands on a conveniently-nearby speaker (she can’t hear, remember, you might have forgotten that during the 112 times that Danny or will.i.am struck another pose) so she can get the rhythm back, and then she’s all good. (This is actually a very nicely done bit, with the song becoming muted while her hand is touching the speaker. I wish I had a button that could mute the world like that.)

  Eventually, Young Man presumably wins his fight, with him (or somebody, might be the dream boxer) hoisting one of those massive title belts. (Where are you actually supposed to wear that thing? At a manhole-cover convention?) And I guess Young Woman triumphs as well, because she gets all smiley. We don’t actually see her getting her own locker or whatever happens when you get accepted by a dance troupe, but we do have another image of the dream dancer being pelted by roses, so I’m taking that as a positive sign.

  The video ends with Danny, all alone again in that warehouse, as he walks toward the camera and our last image is of his darkened crotch. I’m thinking that shot probably should have been in a different type of video, but maybe that’s Danny’s signature sign off, like Carol Burnett with her ear tug…


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Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Mynabirds - "Body Of Work"



  We start out with a woman sprawled across a bed in some forest, her hair dangling off the side of the mattress in a forlorn manner, but before we can ask her if she needs any assistance, we quickly cut to somebody doing something with drumsticks, and then to a woman fiddling around with lots of square mirrors suspended from trees. We’re only 8 seconds into the video and I have no idea what’s going on, but at least we’re not in a dance club so this video is already better than 97% of the videos out there.

  More anonymous drumming, some schizophrenic imagery of what I’m starting to think might be the lead singer (or maybe just someone who has questionable access to video-editing equipment), and a barefoot woman running away from what little plot there is. Back to the bed, where the previously very-tired woman has swallowed some type of stimulant and is belting out the lyrics of the song.  This is followed by some more shots of bare feet, this time re-enacting the Lucy Ricardo grape-stomping scene of yore, only there’s no grapes or Lucy or rustic Italian-peasant attire. Just feet and mud. This is one of those things that seems like a good idea at the time, but then somebody has to hose you down when you’re done.

  A woman that we haven’t met before briefly struts past the camera and then disappears, which is kind of rude, but she may have urgent things to take care of somewhere that doesn’t involve a forest.  Another lady is trying to take our picture, but she’s using one of those old-school cameras the size of Buick and we don’t have time for that, cutting back to the woman on the bed. Bed-woman seems to have a lot of issues, but I guess we’ll have to get back to that later, because the woman who disappeared suddenly re-appears, smiling invitingly at us, so her agent must have told her to get her ass back on the set and make nice with people.

  More drumming and more hanging mirrors that don’t seem to have a purpose, then we get a long shot of Bed-Woman and we immediately understand one of her issues. The bed is floating several feet above the forest floor, which is kind of festive if you’ve taken the right pharmaceuticals, but rather annoying if you’re just trying to catch some shut eye before the concert later tonight. No wonder Bed-Woman is pounding on the mattress with her aggressive-looking drumsticks. She needs a ladder, stat.

  Oh wait, maybe she’s not that upset about the altitude, because she’s smiling a lot and flopping around on the bed with enthusiasm and gazing at herself in yet another mirror. (Apparently mynabirds like reflections, write that down.) And the next scene shows that they also like to hold up and look through decaying windows whilst a strange man squats behind them and hugs them around the ass. (No idea, but they both seem to be having a good time, especially the Ass-Man.) Then we have a nice montage of random eyeballs, the woman with the camera, Bed-Woman banging her sticks together, someone who may or may not have just sat on a very stimulating pinecone (look at that expression on her face, that surely means sexual release, right?), and some disembodied hands clapping.

  Did I mention pharmaceuticals?

  The montage continues, with several barefoot women and some dorkily-dressed men frolicking about in a handy stream, the Pinecone Woman eating leaves off an odd branch (I get hungry after nature sex as well), the Bed-Woman temporarily out of the bed and wearing a nice frock while she holds up lit sparklers, and a group of three new women (just how many Mynabirds are there?) doing a line dance that involves dramatic poses and thigh-slapping.

  We check in on Bed-Woman, now properly back in her bed, and she’s still doing the same thing, using sticks and a floating bed and even more mirrors to tell the story of something unsatisfactory that happened in the Ozark Mountains. Cut to a woman who may have fallen and can’t get up, a brief shot of clouds, another group of women who seem very invested in jumping, more random trees, Bed-Woman using a telescope to see if anyone is paying attention to her drama on the daybed, more trees, more mirrors, and the never-ending usage of drumsticks.

  Montage #37: A trio of colorfully-dressed women sneakily creep down an embankment toward that stream where people were previously dancing, looking like piñatas up to no good, more mirrors, more exuberant jumping, a shot of what might be Lisa Kudrow wondering when she will ever score another part like “Phoebe”, clouds, the piñata people launching three paper boats on the stream (is this a tribute to Columbus?), a woman spewing glitter dust out of her mouth (pharmaceuticals!), and a woman sitting in a jacked-up tree and gazing into yet another mirror with the passion of Maya Angelou writing a poem about the mystical inner-strength of women who sit in jacked-up trees.

  Uh oh, Bed-Woman is out of the bed again, waving those lit sparklers around in a dangerous manner. We should probably tell someone, I’m just not sure who that would be.

  Then we have a nice bit where the line-dancers are back, doing something interpretive with their hands and hips. Wait a minute, one of the dancers from the original scene is missing. Is this like Dreamgirls? (“And I’m telling you, I’m not leaving this forest!” Then whoops, she gone.) Brief bit with a woman who might have starred in The Ring standing near two trees, followed by another brief bit with a solo dancer who might not be listening to the same song that we are, and finally a man apparently freaking out and waving his arms about. (What, is this too much estrogen for you? Are you in the Republican party?)

  Oh wait, Freak-Out Man was apparently the introductory dancer to a sequence where everyone appears to have at least minimally lost their minds, gyrating and flailing like they really mean business. (Mixed in with this are shots of Bed-Woman still pounding and what might be summer-camp photos from a camp that never really existed.) This culminates in a big-ass dance off where lots of people are jumping around in a field that was apparently adjacent to a Janis Joplin concert in 1969.

  Another shot of clouds rolling across the sky, reminding us that Mother Nature loves us all even if we do extraordinarily unusual things at times, then we cut to one of the Mynas sitting amongst some foliage and whipping her hair around with enough frenzy to power Newark for the next three months.  (That girl is going to need some pain-killers at the wrap party, for sure.)

  More sparklers.

  More jumping.

  And we roll into the final montage with Bed-Woman properly ensconced back in her Levitating Slumber Slab of Freedom, more mirrors, some mess with people running along and waving homemade flags, Jacked-Up Tree Woman looking at us like we just said something insipid during the Summer Solstice passion play, something about a half-door that leads to a pond that might have algae-buildup issues, and another review of the Janis Jumpers as they whirl around like the Von Trapp family just ate mushrooms on an Austrian mountaintop.

  We close it out with all of the Mynas and their Myna-friends standing in formation and wistfully gazing up at the sun. The sun gazes wistfully back at them, but doesn’t say anything. Because it can’t. The Mynas wait. The sun waits. Then somebody hollers “Cut!” and everybody runs to pack their bags for The Burning Man festival…


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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Family of the Year – “St. Croix”



  We start off with a loving shot of some vixen’s rear as she high-tails it away from us and joins a bunch of her pals on a beach. (Was it something we said?) All of her little friends are sporting bathing couture from the 1960’s, and there are several surfboards around, shoved in the sand in that startlingly-phallic manner than shoved surfboards have. While credits splash on the screen, some of the folks are dancing about and performing those self-satisfied moves that have little to do with the actual rhythm of the song and more to do with the possible appearance of a rash in an uncomfortable location.

  We also get our first shot of a woman in a pink bathing suit with an excess of fringe, wiggling her hips with a frenzy. She may look innocent at the moment (although a bit over-accessorized), but we will soon start to fear her a little bit since she makes a number of increasingly-aggressive appearances as the video progresses. She clearly has a dark agenda of some kind, and no one is safe from her and her lethally-whipping fringe.

  Cut to the band members standing in a line in front of an old-timey car. They are wearing matching striped shirts, which is initially cute and wholesomely-nostalgic, but something about their body language gives off a slight “Children of the Corn” vibe, a foreboding that will grow along with our unease about Fringed Frieda and her pelvic gyrations. Oh, and one of those surfboards has joined the lineup, but since he doesn’t appear to know any of the lyrics or dance moves, his musical career might be a little shorter than the other four.

  And we’re back to Frieda (see, I told you, she eventually ends up everywhere, like bad shag carpeting), who does a hip solo, then we visit with her other little friends on the beach, with everyone trying to do white-people dances and appear festive. There’s also some mess with a hula hoop, but the person trying to do the hooping obviously watched the wrong instructional video, because that hoop is not doing what it should. But everyone is smiling and having a swell time, so the skill-set of some of the participants is really less important than, say, the complete lack of same-sex couples doing The Frug.

  Back to the foursome in front of the Ford, or whatever kind of car that is. They are very happy to finally be singing the lyrics of the song, after that extended intro where they didn’t get to do much other than stand there and be pretty. The camera pans down the line, so we can fully appreciate their individual happiness and very-fine dental work. (Why is that one guy playing a guitar the size of a sugar packet? Maybe I should save that for the Q&A session at the end of the video.)

  Oh wait, we’re suddenly getting some more title credits. I’m not sure why we need a second round, but maybe we’ll learn something. It seems that this video is starring Family of the Year, news that comes as a total shock, this being a Family of the Year video and all. Then we get some snippet cameos from the band members, with each of them waving about a prop with borderline manic glee, followed by a Brady Bunch-style intro to a gaggle of people known as “The Gang”. It’s not clear who these people are, but most of them are clutching vessels of fruity alcohol, so I’m sure we’ll get along just fine.

  There’s a quick series of vignettes, with the Pinstripe Quartet performing on a deck, some of the guys being very friendly with surfboards, the perusal of trashy pulp novels, and some business concerning a sandcastle with self-esteem issues. Then we’re back to more credits, because somebody up in this grill really has a fondness for fonts. We are introduced to three of the band members (at least I think they’re in the band, we really have a lot of people running around) who will be playing characters with odd names that usually only happen in the south of France or on California communes in 1967.

  We head back to the quartet on that deck thing, a gig that they must greatly enjoy because we spend a considerable amount of time there. Christina, the lone female in the otherwise testosterone-heavy lineup, appears to be very invested in doing an interpretive dance about an escaped convict not knowing which way to run.

  Then we kick off our little mini-story, one that initially involves “Lou Simpatico”, a mustached man who is selling a love-potion concoction at a little hut. As he stands there and makes us think of someone involved in cheap pornographic films (sorry, it’s that mustache), our other two featured starlets, “Rita Haricot Vers” and “Vince Schoenhauser”, come running up from wherever they were standing before the director hollered “Action!”. They each snatch a drink from Porno Lou, and then turn to gaze upon one another whilst they guzzle.

  This leads to a gauzy dream sequence where our two chemically-altered lovers make goo-goo eyes and smile dreamily, followed by the four band members also chugging the chupacabra juice. This makes the libation an official trending topic, and suddenly everyone on the entire set is racing to get them a glassful. Two seconds later, the inevitable dance-off begins, with people pumping their hands in the air and doing squat thrusts. The celebration is capped off by the band members trying out for the local cheerleading squad that doesn’t really exist.

  Now that hormone levels have been maximized, we proceed to a montage of several couples sucking face with a fierce determination. First we have the couples perched atop an odd fence, because nothing is more erotic than wooden supports poking at your butt, then we have the couples strewn about a pile of seaside rocks, like a bunch of seals at the height of mating season. We cap this section off with Vince and Rita, post-coupling, racing into the ocean waters to wash away their sins.

  Quick image of the band members running along the beach carrying a surfboard over their heads, then we cut to the members riding said board in a lovely tribute to the art of obvious trick photography, complete with mismatched film stock and over-acting. There’s also some mess with what appears to be a three-way taking place between a discreet set of surfboards, but we are only allowed to see body parts that are uninteresting, which lowers the titillation factor.

  The final part of this epic love story involves a voyeuristic lifeguard using binoculars to spy on Vince and Rita as they do that “beast with two backs” thing, wallering around on the sand. Well, apparently the lifeguard is a Republican, because he can’t stand it when other people are happy, so he blows on a whistle to make them stop. But instead of seeing a reaction shot from Vince and Rita as they pull away from each other with an audible pop, we cut to a fisherman snagging a bikini top with his pole. (Which sounds rather eye-opening, but isn’t quite what you think.)

  There’s some minimal choreography involving beach balls and a Busby Berkley tribute, and suddenly Fringed Frieda is back on the scene, standing front and center and ready to lacerate us with her dangly mini-whips. Luckily, the band members dance their way in between us and Certain Death, creating a life-saving barrier so that our last image on Earth isn’t a human weed whacker from hell.

  To celebrate the fact that everyone survived the video with only a bit of sunburn and some possible surprise pregnancies, we close things out with folks sitting around a charming bonfire as the day fades, people reflect, and libidos recharge. Then we roll into the closing credits, with more images of beautiful people being far more happy than reality and non-alcoholic beverages would normally allow…


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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Countess LuAnn – “Money Can’t Buy You Class”



  Note:  This mess is absolutely terrible. Which means I’m completely excited and can’t wait to get started. (That noise you hear is me popping another beer as I stretch my fingers…)

  We start off with several model-type men marching into what looks like a crusty barracks from some old-school military movie where lots of things blew up and there was no real plot, so at least the producers are being honest with us from the get go. The guys line up along one wall, looking like they already regret having answered the casting call. Then we cut to LuAnn wearing a fancy bustier in a room with horrid wallpaper, while the title of the song magically appears just beneath her hydraulically-trussed cleavage. She’s going to sing about class whilst shoving her breasts at us?

  This train hasn’t even left the station and it’s already off the rails.

  LuAnn, somehow managing to put some actual clothes on at some point, sashays her way to the barracks, where she proceeds to inspect the troops. (This inspection is mixed with more shots of LuAnn still in that bustier, attempting to look sultry, but it really appears that she might have a gastric disorder.) Inspector LuAnn finds a billfold on one of the guys, and she hurls it to the ground with the acting skill of a pet rock. At the same time, LuAnn’s vocals start on the soundtrack, and it’s obvious within half a second that somebody hit the start button on the Auto-Tune.

  Inspector LuAnn then moves on to the next guy, and she finds a stack of cash in one of his pockets (held together with a rubber band, because that’s how everybody carries their money around, right?). She promptly tosses this aside as well, letting us know that she has no use for currency. (Obviously not, since she clearly didn’t spend any on singing lessons.) Then LuAnn decides on a victim, and drags one of the guys out of the lineup, heading to parts unknown. (The other three guys breathe a sigh of relief, because there’s just something not quite right about LuAnn and her mystical sense of self-importance.)

  Oh look, LuAnn has schlepped the Chosen One up to her tawdry boudoir with the crushed velvet wallpaper. (She’s made him change into a shirt that coordinates with said paper, the one hint at actual design sense that we’ve seen so far.) Then she forces him to tighten the back of her bustier even more whilst she clutches her globes of self-esteem, a startling display of self-love that we haven’t seen since the last time Donald Trump said something stupid on TV. (Which was probably two hours ago.) And based on the way her little man-servant is instantly familiar with the mechanisms of a bustier, he clearly knows a show tune or two and this relationship simply can’t work out.

  We then have a montage of LuAnn in various poses in the boudoir, with “Not Gonna Happen” Guy shoved to the side while LuAnn takes matters into her own hands, touching herself provocatively and looking about as erotic as an armadillo in heat. Then LuAnn launches into a “spoken word” bit that never should have happened in a civilized society, with her babbling about the proper way to treat a lady. What lady that might be, we don’t know, because she surely doesn’t mean the one we can see now, wearing the last bit of sheet-metal from the crash of the Hindenburg while the uninterested male model pretends to know where a woman likes to be touched.

  LuAnn actually pauses in mid-rap to apply lipstick in what she presumes to be a sexual manner (because that’s classy) as the model gazes in adoration, which really means “studying her makeup tips because he might need them for the drag show on Saturday night”. And did I mention that LuAnn’s speaking voice is really deep? Deeper than mine, and I sound like I have gravel in my throat. She must have boulders. I officially start looking for a cleverly-disguised adam’s apple.

  Okay, we’ve just changed locales (sort of, because we keep going back to the Bustier Room repeatedly, as LuAnn apparently feels most comfortable in the Hindenburg getup). She’s in some room where another one of the guys from the barracks lineup is texting on his phone. This is apparently a no-no in Lu-Lu land, because she snatches the phone away from him and then slams his head into a cocktail table. (Honey, really? You couldn’t just say “I don’t really care for that”? Were you raised by she-wolves?) Texting Guy, realizing that her biceps are bigger than his, doesn’t put up much of a fuss.

  Brief montage of LuAnn cavorting some more in the boudoir, then we head to a nightclub, with LuAnn now sporting an outfit presumably made out of a pink Slip-n-Slide from the 70’s. (I didn’t know those things even came in that color back in the day, but they must have.) She’s managed to gather up all the guys from the barracks lineup, and they have apparently been instructed to “gaze upon LuAnn with complete infatuation, no matter what her hick ass does”, because they do. One guy even whips out a camera to record the moment, because he can’t live, if living means he doesn’t have pictures of spoiled heiresses who don’t know how to dress themselves.

  The cameraman manages to pull his camera away from LuAnn for a brief bit, giving us shots of the other attendees at this questionable nightclub, all of them gazing at LuAnn with a wonder greater than the biggest orgasm ever. Clearly, these people are drunk or very-highly paid.

  Then we hit a bit where LuAnn confirms that she has lost touch with reality and should be confined to a sanitarium where there are no sharp implements and an abundance of medication. She actually walks up to two patrons, snatches their beers away, and shoves glasses of champagne at them. This is just not right in any way imaginable. Don’t mess with my beer, I don’t care how tight your bustier might be.

  But do the patrons complain? Nope. Instead, everyone, especially the males, continue to gaze upon LuAnn like they haven’t seen anything that good since Grandma baked one of her apple pies with the secret ingredient. (Which might have been Prozac.) This encourages LuAnn (who obviously doesn’t need approval) to then school another one of the guys in the proper way to use silverware. Or eat soup. Something that involves a big white bowl on a table and some utensils. The guy looks just as confused as we are. LuAnn, now wearing a black ensemble that came out of nowhere, doesn’t care.

  More shots of LuAnn straddling a barstool whilst no-shame paid extras struggle to get in the same shot with her and pretend that the words spit from her mouth have any type of significance whatsoever.

  Even more shots of LuAnn in the Bustier Room. (Did it never occur to anybody to walk up to LuAnn and say “you know what, I think we’ve seen enough of your breasts”. Could you maybe put those things away for, I don’t know, two seconds?)

  Then we roll into a bit where Lu-Lu is screwing around with one of the guy’s ties, adjusting it a bit, like she has any qualifications when it comes to fashion. (Rule Number One: Just because you can afford to buy it doesn’t mean you should wear it.) But I guess she’s not really all that invested in the tie, because the pointless scene is quickly abandoned and we head back to the bar proper, where LuAnn is under the impression that if she just does enough arm choreography we’ll forget that there’s really no reason for her to have a recording contract of any kind.

  Then we’re suddenly somewhere that has a giant bed, one that allows LuAnn to wear yet another outfit, this one made out of old-school circuit boards from the first computer ever invented. All of the guys from the original barracks lineup are on hand, sprawled on the bed in what is supposed to be a sensual manner, but actually looks like there has been a drive-by shooting of some kind.

  I feel especially bad for the one guy who agreed to have his head placed near LuAnn’s cooter. He looks absolutely terrified, even more so because LuAnn has one of her industrial hands latched onto his head, keeping him firmly in place. If he doesn’t sue his agent for abusive behavior, then he’s a fool.

  But I guess they spent a lot of money on this sequence, because we stay here for a while. (There are some brief glimpses of LuAnn in the other settings, but they’re really not necessary. She has breasts. We get it.) For a scene that’s presumably supposed to be erotic, those guys lounging on the bed couldn’t be more disinterested. (I haven’t seen that much boredom since Ann Coulter tried to share another one of her vapid opinions.) These guys are clearly not hot for teacher.

  That doesn’t stop LuAnn, however. She loves herself so much that she simply can’t fathom the possibility that anyone with a pulse wouldn’t instantly worship her on sight. To prove this, we now have a montage of various menfolk being allowed to touch LuAnn for a second or two, because she’s all about letting the little people have a moment of glory. (The men all respond to this opportunity with professional adoration and feigned lust, but I’m assuming that once the director hollered “Cut!” they all raced to a decontamination chamber, screaming.)

  We wind up the video with LuAnn doing another spoken-word bit where she babbles once again about the class that she doesn’t have, including a bit where she grunts out a fake laugh that is the most emotionless sound ever heard on the planet. This is followed up by a quick re-visit to the Shawshank bed where terrified men have been chained to the mattress and forced to appear aroused, and a final run through the crappy nightclub where you don’t dare order a beer or Countess AutoTune will snatch it out of your hands.

  We close with LuAnn (well, the computer, actually) bellowing “Money Can’t Buy You Class” while visibly restraining herself from kissing her own ass.

  No, honey. It can’t. Thank you for proving that…


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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Love and Rockets - "So Alive"



  We start out with a shadowy image of what we’ll soon learn is a disembodied pair of legs that will quickly take over the video with a vengeance, then we cut to lead singer Daniel’s gloved hands caressing a microphone stand in a very intimate manner. (It’s not my place to judge, and they do make a cute couple.) Then we have a nice profile silhouette of Daniel, as he and his electrified hair prepare to sing about being alive and apparently having access to extensive amounts of styling products.

  First though, we have to go through a bit where they establish another theme of the video, this one involving making it look like things are under water. This is probably highly symbolic in some way, or maybe it’s just a nice feature for those partaking in recreational drugs. Then we finally get to the business part of things, with Daniel launching into the vocals while the shadow legs do some random choreography on the wall behind him, some footwork that could be the Texas Two-Step or could might be someone receiving the Heimlich maneuver.

  This leads to a shot where we have multiple sets of the legs wearing glamour heels and marching in a single line toward… I don’t know, it’s never made clear, but it must be an important place because the legs spend the entire video trying to get there. Happily, the legs are now the real thing and not just shadowy billows. Sadly, the legs are still missing the upper halves of their bodies. (Or the cameraman is really, really short.) It’s a little creepy, with the subtle hint that someone may have done something unsavory with a chainsaw, but they are very nice legs, in that super-thin supermodel style of legs, and you can certainly understand why someone might write a pop song about them.

  Next up, we start our third theme of the video, wherein the various band members wear moody sunglasses whilst various lights are splashed across their stoic, “bored with all this” faces.  It’s also about this time that Daniel starts one of his signature moves, where he raises his eyes to the Lord, or at least a ceiling fan, apparently overcome by the passion of the lyrics. We seem to spend most of these moments focusing on his right eye, so the director must feel that that one has better stage presence. Or that eye has a better agent who managed to get the eye better billing in the credits.

  As we approach the one-minute mark, Daniel suddenly gets a headache that causes him to briefly transform into David Bowie during his Ziggy Stardust fetish. It’s a very special moment.

  Then it’s time for more shadow play, as Daniel uses his hands and his hair to create images that spell out the migratory pattern of some interestingly-shaped birds. This goes on for a while, so the birds are apparently flying to someplace important. (Maybe they are meeting the torso-less legs for cocktails in SoHo?) This is followed by a quick montage of some of the light-dappled band members, reminding us that none of them are the least bit invested in cracking a smile.

  Eventually we get around to the image of just one supermodel leg swinging in the wind, which could mean anything. But before we can ask any questions, we kick off another montage, this one involving some video editor splashing stars all over the screen, some very grainy footage of possible pornography, and more close-ups of Daniel’s right eye as it gazes worshipfully at the ceiling fan. The ceiling fan doesn’t immediately answer Daniel’s prayers because, well, it’s a ceiling fan.

  Then the marching line of legs is back, but this time the sets of legs have stopped walking and they seem to be milling around in confusion. (This is probably the point where the sets are all wondering, “hey, where’s the rest of our bodies?”) While the legs compare notes, the camera runs through all of the band members again, letting us see that they are still very moody and insisting on not looking at us, because that’s how you’re supposed to act in an artsy, semi-Goth band where people wear stark clothing and quote poetry about death.

  Another brief shot of Daniel singing, without all the hand choreography, and then the legs are on the march again. This appearance of the stilettos is apparently slightly different, although they look the same to me, because it triggers Daniel (I think) to grab one of the other band members so they can do a mystifying modified waltz, with twirling and everything. (I have no idea.) Then we’re back to Daniel’s eye and its skyward focus, along with Daniel’s hair and its skyward focus. (Seriously, there’s enough volume with that mess that small children could hide for days.)

  Of course, the legs are soon back, because they’ve obviously become the stars of the show and the band members have become their bitch, forced to merely provide background music while the legs get all the fan mail. This time around, the legs are doing more of that milling about, probably because they don’t have eyes and therefore can’t see where the camera might be. But they still look quite fetching with their “oh so long”-ness and the complete lack of any body fat, so it doesn’t really matter where they pretend to look.

  And that’s about it, folks. There’s the better part of a minute left in the video, but we’ve rolled into that non-lyrical part of the song where some invisible backup singers do the “doot doot” thing while the musicians somberly play their instruments and think bleak thoughts. We get a final, extended montage of all that we’ve seen before (legs, hair, stars, legs, non-smiling, legs, more stars, hair, gloved hands, single-eye praying, legs) and then we fade to black. Which, naturally, is exactly where gothic people like things to fade to…


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Monday, April 1, 2013

Three Dog Night – “Eli’s Coming”



  Note: This is a performance clip from a TV special, something I normally don’t mess with, but after watching it I knew I wouldn’t feel good in the morning if I let this one go. It’s from 1972, and that alone should explain everything that’s about to happen. Here we go…

  We start out with a blurry image of what might be the drummer, followed by blurry images of anonymous hands playing a piano and tuning a guitar. Are we standing in line at a methadone clinic? (To be fair, the blurriness is probably the degraded quality of the film and not the result of some artistic director proclaiming “we must open with blurriness!” and then taking a defiant drag on a clove cigarette.) Then we get a shot of one of those Troll dolls (you know, those old-school asexually naked things with fuzzy hair) stuck on the end of a guitar, and I start to get nervous.

  Then we pan over to the person holding that guitar, and I’m not trying to pass any judgment, but based on the facial reactions, he’s clearly stoned out of his mind, or at least has severe focus issues. But it’s all good, because we soon cut to somebody singing the opening bit of the song, and you forget all about drug usage because this singer’s hair is quite stunning. I’m not sure what he was going for with that look, but I hope he found it. Then we zip over to another singer, I have no idea how many of them we might meet, and this one is wearing an even more expressive hairdo, one that Cher would later use during that part of her career when she wore a thong whilst straddling a big gun on a battleship.

  Okay, we’ve got another vocalist, this one upping the hair challenge by sporting a mustache that could rake the leaves off your front lawn. Oddly enough, he can’t help but giggle during his lyric delivery, which I take as another sign of recreational inhalants, but many of the women in the audience take as a cue to start screaming in worship. Since I was only 7 at the time of this video, I’ll just assume there were things going on that I was clueless about as I played with my G.I. Joe and watched Saturday morning cartoons.

  Mustache Man starts playing with the crowd, throwing in some “wooh!” noises, encouraging folks to scream some more so that it drowns out the song, which is kind of sad because he really has quite a nice voice. (But I think he knows that.) He throws in a cryptic Tiny Tim bit of flourish, then he passes the vocal torch to yet another singer, this one wearing a startling mini-vest thing that looks like something you would put on your Streetwalker Barbie Doll and not on your G.I. Joe. (Unless Joe was raised in Venice Beach.)

  This vest causes the music to really ramp up, and we cut to the audience to see how they are enjoying things so far. I would say that they mightily approve, especially the one woman who appears to have just had a spontaneous orgasm. We head back to the stage, where all 140 lead singers are posing in a head-to-toe camera angle, letting us know that the Theme of the Day is overly-tight slacks that highlight your crotch. Just to make sure we understand this theme, the Cher-Hair Guy grabs the waistband of his pants and pulls them even higher, helpfully letting the world know that he hangs to the left.

  We get some more audience reaction shots, and I do believe that this has now become some type of religious ceremony, with folks raising their hands to Jesus, or at least signaling to the traveling beer vendor that they are a bit parched. Brief re-visit to the stage, then we’re back in the audience, where everyone has been inspired to rhythmically clap with a frenzy that would cause psychologists to widen their eyes in alarm.

  Stage again, where the camera appears to be zooming in toward the Mini-Vest Guy, a development that forces me to take another swig of vodka as reinforcement against what might happen. Mini-Vest proceeds to wiggle his hips in a manner that I would think is ill-advised, but based on the audience reaction, there was apparently nothing sexier in 1972 than somebody shifting from foot to foot like they have seriously got to pee. (This also might explain how Nixon managed to get re-elected in 1972. He always looked like he had bladder issues.)

  Then some of the 280 lead singers start raising their hands in the air, officially transitioning us from a mere concert into a frenzied praise celebration. (I guess everybody is quite happy about those tight pants.) The Cher-Hair Guy is the most invested in this bit, flailing his arms like there were some vicious jalapenos in the bean dip, and causing Mini-Vest Guy to glance at him like “does it always have to be about you? Didn’t we discuss this on the bus coming here? And stop pulling on your pants, we get it, you have a penis.” Or something like that. I wasn’t there and nobody forwarded the meeting minutes.

  Another quick shot of the audience, reminding us that none of the women in 1972 yet had access to the hair-styling products that would later allow Farrah Fawcett to dominate the planet, and then we focus back on Mini-Vest. He’s now whipping one arm downward like he’s in the final stretch of the Kentucky Derby. (This doesn’t appeal to me in the least, probably because I already had no intention of sleeping with someone who considers vests an aphrodisiac, but judging by the euphoric reaction of the women (and a few of the men) in the audience, they are clearly prepared to be ridden across the finish line. I guess you had to be there.

  And I guess the cameraman relishes the fact that the audience is on the verge of massive sexual satisfaction, because he happily records more shots of people clapping and waving their hands as they approach the Big O, or find salvation in the Lord, or both, whatever it is that they are doing that resulted in the creation of disco music a few short years later. No wonder plaid polyester suits became all the rage about this time. If a man in a mini-vest can help you find your g-spot, anything can happen.

  And that’s how we wind down the video, with the 360 lead singers doing their thing, an apparently mesmerizing bit that totally enraptured thousands of people before cable TV was invented and allowed people to find peace and sexual redemption without leaving their homes. There’s a final shot of the audience members thrusting their hands in the air in a manner that would later become required movements by people attending mega-churches where nobody knows your name, and then we close out with Mini-Vest on the stage warbling the last bits of the song.

  Then the 480 lead singers leave the stage and search the phonebook for chiropractors who can help their testicles re-descend after being confined in restrictive pants at the prayer circle…


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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Neon Trees - “Everybody Talks”



  We start out with some mid-70’s promo title cards letting us know that some really swell cinematic feature is headed to a drive-in near us, which gets me very excited until I remember that all of the drive-ins around these parts were torn down long ago. Then we learn that the movie has the thrilling title of “Zombie Bikers From Hell”, a completely fascinating subject that any decent person would want to know more about, and I start to curse the Dallas Zoning Commission for letting all the festive drive-ins get turned into yet another Walgreens or one of those shady money-borrowing places where you pay 8,000% interest and have to sign over your house, your car and your slower-moving relatives.

  Then we pull back from the movie-screen and find ourselves in an actual drive-in, with neat little rows of cars and lots of people doing what we used to do at drive-ins, which is everything but actually pay attention to the movie. Folks are running all over the place and little travelling waitresses are moving from car to car and taking orders, presumably orders involving all of that glorious movie junk-food that had no nutritional value whatsoever but sure tasted good when you shoved it in your mouth. Then some more words splash on the distant movie screen and we learn that the Neon Trees are starring in this lovely slasher film about the un-dead.

  Oh? We need to see what’s going with that, please. And pass the bucket of butter with bits of popcorn floating in it. You can’t really enjoy a drive-in movie unless you are endangering your cholesterol levels.

  I guess the cameraman heard our desires, and we zoom back in on the movie screen. The Trees have just arrived somewhere and they are piling out of a van, then they head into a cabin in the woods. (Right away we all know that they are going to die, because killer zombies often frequent remote housing made of wood.) Oh wait, we just backed out of the screen again, so we can focus on one of the parked cars where the Trees also have been cast as people watching the movie. They are piled in a vintage car that most people can’t afford these days, yet another sign that if you really want to have nice things you have to be in a rock band. Those guidance counselors in high school were lying to you.

  We get even closer to the parked car, because it’s time for lead singer Tyler to kick off the vocals of the song, and he does so, whilst gripping the steering wheel in a manner that indicates he might have had a bit too much caffeine recently. Then we start jump-cutting all over the place, back and forth between the actions on the screen and the actions in the giant parking lot, and there’s suddenly a lot of information to process. I’ll try to report everything, but I’ve just watched the latest episode of The Walking Dead and I’ve consumed an award-winning amount of beer, so this will be a challenge. Here goes.

  Tyler is billed as “Tyler Trash” in the movie (a startling decision that’s really not going to play well on the Internet), one of the band members is playing “Cutter Chris” in the movie as well as Anthony Michael Hall circa 16 Candles in the real world, another band  member is “Branden Blood” (zombie world) and Sal Mineo (circa that one time he grew a beard) in the parked Trees car, and finally we have the drummer as “Elaine Evil” (potential  zombie snack) and the lone girl in the Trees car who is either going to get really lucky tonight or learn some shocking truths about her fellow car occupants.

  Rounding out the cast is an actress playing the role of an Over-Worked Carhop who likes to wear heart-shaped sunglasses and bite on pickle spears. (I tried googling the name of the actress, but the results were a little confusing, because there’s so much carp on the Internet, so I’m not going to sign anything official or make any kind of pinky-swear.) Carhop Girl will eventually prove to be a critical element in the video, much like the red and blue pills in The Matrix, but we don’t know that yet. Right now she’s just the Lady Who Brings Deep-Fried Gifts.)

  So anyway, on the screen, the Trees are giving an impromptu concert in the Eventual Cabin of Death, because if you’re in the middle of nowhere you might as well harmonize while you wait for something interesting to happen. Tyler is whipping his microphone cord around with a frenzy that makes it very clear that you don’t want mess with him when it comes to the dominant role in a sexual relationship, the zombie bikers are driving down dusty roads and looking a bit ornery about things (perhaps if they actually bathed they wouldn’t be so angry?), and the other band members are attacking their instruments like this is their one chance to make Simon Cowell and his omniscient t-shirt approve of their performance.

  In the drive-in parking lot, we have shots of car occupants either watching the movie with gusto or interacting with their neighbors as if the movie didn’t exist. (Hold up, who’s that one guy with the great eyebrows and the shiny teeth? Is he single?) Then we have a bit where the Trees in their car are doing some interesting hand-choreography in some type of competition with three ladies in a nearby car who are stylized to look like factory workers and lounge singers from the 1940’s. It’s like the “born to hand-jive” sequence from Grease, that movie where 30-year-olds pretended they were in high school and John Travolta wore running shorts that came up to his nipples.

  We go back to the movie screen for a bit, where the band is still performing and managing to avoid death by smelly un-dead bikers, then we’re back in the lot where lots of people are making poor little Carhop Girl and her Lolita sunglasses run all over hell, schlepping nachos. Screen again, where we get a close-up of Tyler shoving his face at the camera in a way that might indicate some excessive voltage in his microphone cord. (Or maybe he had some risky sushi for lunch? You swallow a tainted piece of yellowtail and you’ll definitely vibrate.) Whatever the case, he is very excited about singing this song, and you have to respect his enthusiasm and dedication to his craft.

  More shots of hard-working Carhop Lolita delivering processed foods to people with no purpose in life.

  Then we roll into a bit where several carloads of people are doing more hand-choreography based on the “it started with a whisper” bit of the song, with folks placing one manicured finger against their lips and shimmying in tandem. It’s actually very cute, and I briefly contemplate getting all the folks at my workplace to do the same thing, but then I remember that this is Texas and rednecks will pull a gun on you if you exhibit any type of song-based rhythm. (I still scribble it on my Bucket List, though. Might be able to work it in at a later date.)

  The choreography goes on for a while, looking even cuter and making me wish I had friends who would do symmetrical things with me in public places, even if it involves nudity. Then we cut to a scene with Carhop Jezebel flirting with a Nerdy-Guy in his car. Jezebel is hot enough that she can clearly snap her fingers and have 17 boys sniffing around her ankles, so we don’t know why she’s interested in a lower-shelf selection. But who knows, love works in mysterious ways, especially if the smell of stale popcorn is in the air.

  We have another montage of happy people doing the hand-jive and various others jives. I don’t know where this drive-in is located, but it’s obviously not in a place where elected officials are Republican, because they don’t put up with happiness or dancing.

  Then we’re back to Carhop Seductress, as she leads the Dweeb to a very private area of the drive-in (which appears to be right outside the bathrooms, so perhaps “private” was not the right adjective). Suddenly, Carhop Yum-Yum turns into Carhop Succubus and poor little Dweeb Boy ends his life without ever having had actual sex. It’s tragic, really. But we’ve got two minutes left in the video, so screw him.

  Back to the movie on the screen, where The Trees are continuing to make music whilst the Biker Zombies run amuck and refuse to have any fashion sense. The stumbling Bikers eventually find The Trees’ van outside the Shack O’ Impending Death, sniff something in the air that gets them aroused (the smell of the ink on record-sales receipts?) and they stagger off toward the cabin that is stuffed with fresh meat and musical performers, intent on a smorgasbord where etiquette and the proper use of eating utensils is not really important.

  Then we have a fun bit where the song completely stops, creating a nice little dramatic moment where the rude zombies bang on the door of Casa Muerta and the band members pause to consider who might have ordered pizza at a really inappropriate time. In a moment of not-thinking, Tyler runs to the door and whips it open, revealing a really old cast member of Braveheart, with blue face-paint and such. (I don’t know when the zombies had time to stop by a rural location of Elizabeth Arden, but this somehow happened.) Braveheart dude snarls menacingly and all hell breaks loose as the zombies pour in through the front door and various poorly-fortified windows.

  So now we have a nice psychological moment where Tyler smashes a bottle on the head of one member of the Blue Man Group, and then he decides that saving the rest of his band members is really not worth the calisthenics and the possible ripping of expensive couture. He quickly scurries out the front door, leaving the rest of his supposed musical family to face the wrath of un-dead people with no social skills. (And those band members best remember who ran for Jesus at a really awkward moment when it comes time for the next round of contract negotiations. Just sayin.)

  Meanwhile, back at the drive-in, the various cars of rhythmic people are continuing to be choreographic and happy while people are being eaten on the screen. (This is a very sad commentary on the state of American values. Then again, so is the fact that Michele Bachmann continues to be re-elected.) Just to make sure that we understand that people are seriously jacked-up in the head, we get to watch Carhop Death-Girl lead another victim into her Sanctuary of Sucking, this time a jock-type who learns the true meaning of taking one for the team, as he and his letter jacket get annihilated.

  Back on the screen, Tyler is running like he just realized that he’s in a red state where there are no laws to protect someone who happened to be born with a musical orientation. The rest of the band, still trapped in that cabin where they probably won’t get their deposit back after this mess, is being systematically gutted by the Mean People Who Refuse to Die, otherwise known as The Tea Party.

  As Tyler continues to run to wherever on the screen, we get snippets of Drummer Elaine, looking very “Willow on Buffy”, trying valiantly to save her life, but there’s really only so much you can do with a microphone stand and a cute hairstyle. This is followed by snippets of Carhop Death-Bringer luring another victim to her restroom-adjacent killing field, this time in the form of a hot guy who really knows how to wear a muscle shirt but doesn’t have a clue about waitresses who can transform into demons if you don’t leave a big enough tip.

  Back on the screen, we have a quick bit where Tyler is still performing with his band, despite the fact that he has already high-tailed it elsewhere and the rest of the band members have become buffet choices at an all-you-can-eat diner. Then we cut to Fleeing Tyler on a messy dirt road that he wouldn’t be on if some video director hadn’t insisted on realism, where a van just happens to drive up, offering some roadside assistance. And, looky there, the van is being driven by Carhop Lolita, with her shoving open the passenger door and beckoning for Tyler to join her. And he does, with the van driving off into the sunset as they head toward a lawyer’s office so they can collect the insurance on all the deceased people in the video. Who apparently died because they talked too much. (It started with a whisper…)


Click Here to Watch this Video on YouTube.

Click Here for other Neon Trees reviews.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Matchbox Twenty – “Unwell”



  We start out with lead singer Rob screwing around with a model airplane, using one hand to make it fly over and around the coffee table. (The other hand appears to be busy doing something else, but we won’t really go there.) Then we get a close-up of Rob and that haircut I never understood staring at us staring at him. He has a hurtful and disappointed look in his eyes, making us feel guilty about something we may have done fifteen years ago but we’ve had too much beer since then to really recall.

  The camera pops back so we can get a full-frontal of Rob, and he’s seated in a chair whilst wearing a t-shirt asking us to “love him”. (I’m sure that can be arranged, Rob. So you’ve forgiven us for whatever you didn’t like about us five seconds ago? Great.) Quick bit with Rob watching a tennis match that we can’t see, and then a dog that clearly wasn’t on the floor last time we looked suddenly gets up, twirls around and walks away. The camera angle makes the dog look bigger than Rob. Actually, it looks bigger than Atlanta. I’m starting to get concerned about the things in Rob’s apartment and whether or not he has full control of them.

  We get a shot of a green teddy bear on the coffee table. He seems to share our concerns because he’s got one little arm raised, as if pleading for us to help him. But we haven’t had time to run a background check on him, and it’s very possible that he’s a serial-killer teddy. Best let him be for now.

  More images of Rob fiddling with his toys and glancing around the room in a despondent manner, including a long shot that lets us see he’s all alone in this startlingly-large room (well, except for his little stuffed friend, the potential sociopath with Poppa Bear issues). We also see that whoever selected the wallpaper on the back wall might have an obsession with eyeballs. This does nothing to help us relax and want to know Rob better. Nor does the banjo on the floor that appears to have been violated in some way.

  Rob flops his head back to look at the ceiling, and as we follow his gaze, it seems that the ceiling stretches out into infinity and then snaps back. Okay, then. This is about our third sign that something is not right up in this grill, so maybe we should just get our coat and call a taxi, lying to Rob that we just remembered an important ukulele recital in the next city. Or state.

  Close-up on Rob again, as he starts to sing the song that we’ve actually forgotten about, what with the stretchy architecture and such. Things are rather calm for a few moments, and we start to put our coat back down, intending to stay for at least a one drink, but then we cut to Rob standing in front of some walls that appear to be breathing like they just ran a marathon, then the walls start rapidly sliding away while a bright light appears and seems intent  on swallowing Rob’s head. Then the light just as quickly disappears.

  Okay, that’s it. Time for all the smart people to run like hell and let our more simple companions stay behind and serve as monster snacks, giving us more time to reach safety and call our lawyers. (As we learned from watching Scream 14: Drew Barrymore Returns and She’s Really, Really Pissed, the smartest thing to do when facing potentially-lethal situations is sacrifice your less-popular friends and run for Jesus, not stick around and try to open locked doors, enter buildings with no electricity, or pause to have sex with people you just met.)

  Oh wait, now Rob is lying on his couch with his teddy bear, and he looks even more blue. We can’t just leave him like that, can we? We start to say something comforting, but then we get another image of the ceiling reaching toward the sun and walls reaching toward Yonkers. Then everything is back in place, and he’s singing tenderly again. This relationship with Rob is turning into too much work, and I don’t know if I have enough anxiety pills to go around, especially if the bear wants some.

  Suddenly, Rob does this teleporting thing where he’s standing right by us and then he’s across the room, a movement accompanied by a flash of light just like in the old-school Star Trek series where William Shatner always said his lines with much more enthusiasm than was necessary. Maybe we don’t need to leave just yet, because flash-travel would be an interesting skill to have, like when you’re running from the po-po or your mother-in-law rings the doorbell. Maybe Rob can show us how it’s done?

  I guess not, because he chooses instead to sit in a chair and make a grimace-face that causes his bare feet to become super-huge. This is a little disappointing. The ability to grow my feet is so far down on my bucket list that it will never get crossed off. But wait, if Rob can show me how to apply that magic to other parts of my body, then maybe I’ll sign up for classes and-

  But no, Rob is singing again, first to us, and then to a bathroom mirror, where we catch the reflection of another stuffed animal watching Rob watch himself. Then the little guy disappears. This is far more creepy than the melting walls and Rob’s bangs. Then a pig briefly pops his head out of an oversize bathtub and then hides again. Instead of being mature and looking for an exit, Rob goes to investigate Porky in the Tub, to find that it’s been replaced by Frank Zappa or his stand-in. The sanity train has now officially left the station.

  The giant dog jumps into an equally giant toilet, and Rob decides that the only appropriate thing to do is shove his face into the toilet water and see where Fido might have gone. The plumbing leads to an elevator shaft, and after a bit of fancy camerawork, we’re inside an elevator with Rob, what might be the other band members, and the green bear, who has apparently taken steroids and is now almost ceiling high. (What is up with all these people and toys and commodes wanting to be ultra-big? Now they’ll have to shop in special clothing stores and they’ll have to pay for two seats on airplanes. Is it really worth it?)

  Rob’s not sure, either, so he backs out of the elevator and onto a subway car. (Brief shot of a spinning skull zooming toward us through the walls of several other speeding subways. As if we need another warning sign that we knocked on the wrong door when trying to sell our Twirl Scout cookies. But then the skull goes somewhere else for a while, and that’s fine by me.) Rob glances around his subway car, and he spies the other band members just hanging out and reading newspapers. Are we safe now?

  Of course not. As the subway car rolls along, and an annoying flashing light splashes over everything, we get little snatches of the passengers’ faces turning into monster faces for a split-second and then back again. (Does this mean they are all Republicans?) Even the band members are having these little flash-morphing episodes, so Rob needs to think very carefully before renewing their contracts. Then the giant green bear appears and runs to stand next to Rob, all cute but still not right. Rob proceeds to grab the bear and throw him to the ground before stomping out of the subway car, so he probably won’t be getting a Christmas card from PETA.

  Rob exits out of a phone booth onto a plaza of some kind, where a couple of the band members teleport in and then slide out of sight along with the phone booth/subway exit. (What, they’re too busy to appear in a video for their own song? Better keep an eye on them, Rob, they might be secretly working on solo careers. Oh wait, you went solo shortly after this. My bad.) Then we’re back in Rob’s stretchy apartment, not because we want to be but because the pushy director thinks we need another visit. While Rob sings in the chair we don’t like because it’s the one he uses to make his feet annoyingly big, we get interspersed scenes of the band members (I think) back on that plaza, doing things with fire and walking sticks while Rob gazes around in confusion like his house just landed in the color part of The Wizard of Oz.

  Then a dog drops from the sky, a disturbing kind of cartoon dog where we can sometimes see his canine skeleton. Bone Doggie hands Rob a special newspaper that transports them into one of those tiny European cars that are so compact you don’t dare toot or the doors will blow off. They’re racing down an unnamed highway, with the car in color and all the things they pass (odd buildings, cows) in black-and-white. This might be a political statement or solid evidence of a budgetary issue with the video. Who knows.

  I guess Rob commits some type of vehicular violation (perhaps singing to the not-real dog instead of keeping his eyes on the road?) and we soon have a police car in pursuit, a car driven by two band members with giant noses. The chase goes on for a bit, with noses flapping in the wind, Rob wrenching on the steering wheel but never actually looking out the front window, and the dream dog doing nothing of real value, other than occasionally letting us see his bones and waiting for a chew toy.

  Then Rob hits a special ramp, one that allows the tiny car to disappear into some mountains and Rob to appear in a passenger seat on a plane. Oh, and we can see Fido out the plane window, struggling to stand up on one of the wings. (Dude, what have you got against animals? Or a real part in your hair?) But Rob isn’t explaining anything (maybe he can’t) and we roll into a montage of Rob and the Big-Nose Boys on the plane, Rob and his Big-Ass Feet in the melting apartment, and Rob singing directly into the camera and trying to appear charming, but we can no longer trust him after he shoved his face into the toilet, because there are just certain things you don’t do on a first date.

  We close things out back in the origami apartment, where someone has changed the background wallpaper to something involving planes that twirl, because this video hasn’t been busy enough. All of the band members are there, minus prosthetics, and each of them gets a solo, where they strut toward the camera, take a bow, and then wander off the set, presumably to a better place where things that shouldn’t move or grow bigger refrain from doing that. (One of the guys is holding the green bear, now returned to a manageable size, and they leave together. I hope it works out for them.)

  The last to go, of course, is Rob. He and his non-cartooned dog saunter our way, with him giving us a sheepish grin, as if proud of the little ride he just took us on, but not sure if we were all that keen about it. Oh, the video was fine, Rob. A little out there, but at least you were trying to do something creative, unlike so many “artists”, and you didn’t just stand there in a thong and show us your breasts or grab at your crotch like it’s a national treasure.

  But the cookies, Rob. You didn’t buy any of my cookies. That’s the only reason I stopped by. I mean, the drug trip was fun and all, but I’ve got a deadline with this fund-raiser or I won’t get to go to Camp SnaggleCrack  this summer. So if you would just order a few boxes….Rob?...


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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Depeche Mode – “Personal Jesus”



  We start out in what is presumably the American Southwest, in one of those states where it’s really dry and hot and nothing important grows except for plants that can be used to make drugs, if you have that kind of cash flow and spare time. The camera is focused on a small group of adobe-style buildings, older structures that have been around longer than many European countries. Just as the song starts, we see a senorita running toward the largest building. No explanation is given, but if she’s moving that fast in this heat, we clearly have an issue of some kind.

  Turns out there’s a pickup truck headed this way, barreling down a dusty road that probably isn’t on any reputable map. But before we can get a good look inside the cab to see who it is and whether or not they’ve got any presents for us, we cut to another scene where we appear to be riding on the back of a horse that we don’t recognize, heading somewhere. (Are we seriously going through the desert on a horse with no name?) Another shot of the running senorita, who really needs to get wherever she’s going because we’re already a little tired of that, another shot of the pickup, arriving at the small village (or maybe a Burger King, not clear), and a couple of dudes getting off some horses who are still unnamed.

  The senorita finally stops running and just stands in the middle of the dirt, and she’s either welcoming the arriving men or waiting for one of them to do something stupid so she can shoot them. (Brief shot of a chicken running. Why can’t these people just relax around here and wait for things to cool off? Is there something in the salsa?) We get a close-up shot of what appears to be lead singer Neil Gahan, but he’s wearing dark sunglasses and cowboy drag, so I’m not putting any money on it. He’s singing while standing near a horse that magically manages to swish its tail in time to the thumping beat, proving that white horses do have rhythm after all.

  Next up is a panoramic shot of the little village, where we don’t really learn anything new other than the buildings are still a faded white and that the long-dead architect really liked arches. (Fleeting glimpse of the senorita smiling oddly and then wandering out of view. She might not understand what her exact role is just yet.) Then the band members and their cowboy duds head into one of the buildings, where they are greeted by what looks like several women posing on an album cover for The Judds, only there are too many of them and not as much makeup.

  As the men shamble around and pretend to be comfortable sporting western wear that they haven’t actually seen before today, the women break ranks and position themselves about the lobby, leaning against balcony railings and staircases in a seductive manner. (Oh. So we’re in a whorehouse. That’s nice. It should be fun watching the band work the theme of “personal Jesus” into this one.) We spend a few moments watching the women strut their wares and the men walking under a wagon-wheel chandelier, because you really shouldn’t sleep with people until you’ve checked out their lighting fixtures.

  Suddenly, Neil appears on the second-floor balcony. He’s apparently lost his shirt somewhere, which is really tragic, but he’s managed to keep his cute little jacket, which gives him the strength to continue singing the song. Meanwhile, the camera individually focuses on several of the strumpets, quick solos where they try to lustily accent their best physical features so the guys can select from the menu. (Holy cow, that one woman has hair longer than my Buick.)

  The girls strut on the literal catwalk for quite a bit, making sure that we carefully analyze their attributes. (Translation: There are NO refunds up in this grill, so choose wisely.) During all of this, Neil and his missing shirt manage to strike a pose that exactly matches the stance of one of the hoedown hookers, and if you squint just right, they could be the same person, especially if our confused senorita hostess has brought along some peyote as an appetizer.

  Neil relocates so that he’s standing in front of a brick wall, one that he apparently feels will enhance the dramatic moment where he tries to reach out and touch us just as they lyrics are encouraging us to “reach out and touch faith”. (Is Faith one of the hookers? This song is certainly taking on a new meaning.) To make sure we understand Neil is trying to bond with us, the camera jumps forward so Neil’s head is filling the screen, like Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade with only one float.

  Then I guess it’s time to get down to business, because the guys head up the stairs to the recreational chambers. This kicks off a montage of doors opening and closing, couples pairing off and heading to boudoirs, and heated women lounging naughtily on mattresses that have been endurance-tested. (Wait, is that Enya in the one room with the afghan? Poor thing. I guess she lost that recording contract, no wonder we haven’t heard from her in a while.)

  Then we’re focusing on Neil again, now having lost his jacket as well as the shirt (but not the cowboy hat, because that would be sacrilege) as he sits in one of the rooms with his back to us, gazing to the side. It’s actually a rather steamy shot, but we probably shouldn’t dwell on it too much because there’s just no polite way to tell someone that they look sexier when we they aren’t looking at us and trying to do the jazz hands thing. The words just wouldn’t come out right, no matter how hard we tried. Of course, tequila would probably make things better, because it always does.

  And we have another montage, with some guy walking by an odd cross symbol that has been painted on the wall (was there a quarantine at some time?), some of the women gazing in adoration at themselves in dusty mirrors (everybody needs somebody to love), horses waiting patiently for the fornication to end, and  then one of the band members (probably Neil) casting a silhouette on the wall of him breathing erratically but sensually to match what we’re hearing during that part of the song. His partner, or at least somebody somewhere in the house, flips her hair around in appreciation.

  Then we have a shot of a horse’s ass, for no apparent reason, and that’s just not sexy no matter how you try to edit it. (Did a record executive piss them off? What IS that?)

  Oh wait, the montage isn’t quite done. We have lassos flying through the air (did one of The Judds try to escape?), some guy in a rocking chair, another guy riding a rocking horse and enjoying it far more than a grown man should, a line dance where we focus on stomping spurs, and the sudden realization that nobody in the band has taken off their sunglasses at any point. Who’s going to recognize you in Slut Creek, Arizona? An armadillo?

  Now we have the band members all gathered together again (I guess the slap and tickle didn’t take very long), as they casually stand and sit around, playing their instruments (having already played their other instruments) and looking desert-chic in the fading sunlight. There’s a shot of one of the guys riding a horse to a telephone in the middle of nowhere (which is relative out here) so he can “pick up the receiver” as instructed by the lyrics. Nothing important happens when he does so, so we might have needed a bit more attention to story structure in the editing room.

  More images of the band playing, including one shot where one of the guitar players appears to be giving us the finger, then we realize it’s the wrong finger. (I could go so many ways with that comment, but I’ll leave that to the floozies on the second floor, who are now gossiping about what fingers did or did not do as they change the bed linens and prepare for the next hourly guests.) The horse shows up again, but this time he’s not so blatant about his hind-quarters, much to the approval of all, especially the band member who is standing next to Trigger and trying to be all artsy and cool.

  The original senorita reappears, waltzing through on her way to who the hell knows, which signals Neil that he should start doing more of that business where he shoves his outstretched hands at the camera. This is ill-advised, because it’s just not emotionally satisfying, and the camera quickly cuts to more shots of the band, this time stroking their instruments near a really tired yucca plant that has seen Johns come and go for centuries and it has more important things to do on its bucket list.

  And now it’s becoming a little bit obvious that the video editors are running out of steam, with more random images of the band members perched in various places and diddling with various musical props. But hey, there’s still some time left in the song, so we have to soldier on, even if it means repeat shots of blowing sand, guys trying to look suave despite the blowing sand getting into crevices, the Senorita still running around trying to escape the blowing sand, and Neil insisting on reaching through the blowing sand and touch us. And blowing sand.

  Brief shot of Neil, or a band member, or Pee Wee Herman, somebody, standing on the far side of a cactus big enough to eat Manhattan. And spit out Donald Trump, because we all know he tastes bad.

  Then there’s some mess where Neil is trying to bond with the desert scenery, fists raised triumphantly in the air while he stands beneath yet another arch in the village, but this doesn’t quite come off right, instead looking like a coming-attractions reel for a New Age retreat where people wear fringe and try to make peace with the demons in their past, like the questionable guidance counselor who told them it was okay to wear fringe in the first place.

  And that’s about it, folks. We get a couple more shots of the band lackadaisically playing their instruments as they recover from being in the desert on women with no names, and then Neil reaches out for us one more time. End trans.


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