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…)

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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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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Muse – “Madness”

  We start out with two people apparently involved in some type of smoking competition on a subway. The one guy has that slicked-back-hair, European look like he’s in a cologne ad for some designer fragrance that none of the common people can afford, and the woman has that slightly-mussy, supermodel long hair that you usually see on the mysterious but pretty woman in mystery thrillers, the one that you don’t suspect of doing horrible things with pitchforks but you find out in the last five minutes of the movie that, yep, she’s very familiar with farm implements.

  They sit there very quietly for a bit, because I guess that’s what you do in smoking competitions on public transport, despite the fact that we can see some type of dog clawing at one of the windows. Then we start getting quick images of a pseudo-military gang of men marching around in combat boots and dark couture. They have guns, so they probably mean business, we just don’t know what that business might be or why we’re not allowed to see them for longer than 0.37 seconds at a time.

  We roll into a cryptic montage of more imagery, jumping around all over the place with bits of this and that, with the general theme being anarchy and wet darkness. Some people appear to be running from something, other people appear to be tromping along in places involving lots of subway steam, a gang of questionable folks with hoodies might be preparing for a ritual sacrifice, and all of this activity is being provoked or monitored by the shadowy storm-troopers who refuse to let us see their faces but sure want us to see their guns.

  Are we at the Republican National Convention?

  The smoking supermodels aren’t offering any explanations, choosing instead to just sit there nonchalantly and let their ashes get dangerously long. Oh wait, the song finally kicked in, and suddenly the female smoker (let’s call her Alexa) is marching toward an escalator. (Wouldn’t it be fun if she can only smoke inside and has to go outside to not smoke? That would be a nice societal twist.) But before we can learn further details about her journey, we get shots of the band (or at least people holding instruments) in yet another dark and dank location. One guy is playing a guitar that appears to have a touch screen where the strings would be, a development that strikes fear into the hearts of garage bands everywhere.

  Lead singer Matthew suddenly appears, looking very focused about achieving an aura of moody angst, which really isn’t that hard to do when the set designer they’ve hired apparently watched Blade Runner way too many times. Back to Alexa on the escalator, destination still unknown, and she’s surrounded by those annoying people who jump around and fidget instead of just waiting for the ride to end. Some of those folks look very angry, which isn’t surprising, considering there’s just not enough light in this place for anybody to remain happy for any length of time.

  Alexa politely proceeds through a bank of turnstiles, whilst her companions leap over them like wolves sensing that one of the Kardashians is in heat. (The wolf people are obviously up to no good, so Alexa should make sure that she’s taken the safety off of her pepper spray.) We then have a murky bit where I really can’t tell what is going on, other than no one is smiling, and then we get some shots of the band performing in the subterranean bathroom, or whatever it is, and Matthew singing in front of what might be a giant neon diaphragm.

  More murkiness. People seem to be relocating from one place to another, but no explanations or itineraries are presented.

  We’re back with Alexa, with her and her hair still walking somewhere, in a place that causes her to look around furtively. (Is she trying to find her agent? Good luck with that.) Oh wait, someone is following her as she heads toward another subway car. (Dude, she paid for her ticket, you need to go harass those wolf people.) My bad, the dude is the male supermodel from the smoking competition. (He found an ugly coat somewhere along the line, and that totally changed his persona.) He gets on the subway, but Alexa gets back off to light another cigarette. (Girl has needs, sayin.)

  The male model (let’s call him Wycliffe) stares out the window at Alexa for a while, then decides to join her. But before they can meet cute, we roll into another montage of the band playing, the storm-troopers stomping around with swagger that is probably steroid-based, and more of that irritating steam that seems to be coming from nowhere. Then we start getting the impression that the wolf people and the storm-troopers are both marching toward Alexa and Wycliffe. This means that the two of them have done something very bad or people are just sick of other people with zero-percent body fat and great hair.

  Dang, we have another tension-breaking montage, with more of the band not being happy in the loo, fires possibly being started in places that they shouldn’t, storm-troopers possibly racing to beat the hell out of the fire-starters or just trying to do crowd control at Macy’s, something about what might be an aqueduct in ancient Rome, and more of that mood-killing random steam. (I’m starting to think that if somebody would simply adjust a gaseous output-valve somewhere, we’d have a whole different video.)

   Oh look, Alexa has finally hooked up with Wycliffe, touching him on the shoulder in a manner that could be affectionate or threatening. But before they can consummate their relationship, we have yet another montage. I’ll shorthand it for you: people running, people fleeing, storm-troopers storming, band playing, something with giant iron gates, steam. Then we finally get back to Alexa and Wycliffe fondling each other and moving in for a kiss that may or may not happen because there’s too much going on in this video to figure out who’s zooming who.

  So we get to the instrumental part of the song, which signals Alexa and Wycliffe to stand in the middle of a subway platform and wait for whatever to happen. (She appears to be standing on a box that some fool dropped trying to make the next connection, so she might have some height insecurities that she needs to work out with her therapist.) There’s also some commotion where the storm-troopers might be fighting some of the wolf people, not clear, but we at least get to see “SWAT” on the back of one of the troopers as he tumbles to the steam-drenched floor. Okay, then. Tactical units have been engaged for this operation. Whatever that operation might be.

  Another montage of murky violence and unhappiness. Was that Jerry Springer doing a cameo? Or maybe Geraldo Rivera. Somebody appeared very briefly and then quickly returned to bitter obscurity.

  Then we have Alexa abandoning her little box and marching along the platform, followed by Wycliffe and his coat that nobody likes. We have a brief distraction with some attention-craving man breaking subway windows with an axe, then an odd mash-up image of lead singer Matthew and Alexa. (Does he want her? Does she even know him? Are they the same people, just on different days? So many questions.) Then somebody lights a tear-gas thing and throws it into the mix, like we need more billowing clouds of whatever in this giant underground sauna.

  Oh my, some guy just pulled out his hose and started squirting. I’m just going to let that one go.

  Well, maybe I can’t. The water from said hose manages to turn back some of the wolf people, as well as some innocent bystanders who were just trying to get to Chinatown for some tasty Dim Sum at Hoon Lee’s. And in the midst of all this forceful wetness, all hell breaks loose.

  Singer Matthew hits some astonishing high notes, Alexa grabs Wycliffe around his ugly collar in a manner that might be intensely lustful or intensely pissed, things seem to be flying in the air all around them like some kind of “don’t ever touch that” portal was just breached, the whole set is shaking as if California is about to snap off and float toward Hawaii (creating Calwaii, a new state where the Oscars are awarded with a pineapple ring on top), and Matthew still does not understand that the giant diaphragm behind him is distracting from his artistry.

  Then Alexa plants a forceful kiss on Wycliffe, despite the mayhem and questionably-plotted things happening around them. This bit of face-suckage goes on for a while, allowing us plenty of time to watch all the mayhem settle down in and around the subway car that started all this mess. Speaking of the start, we now have Alexa and Wycliffe in their original positions, with cigarettes being smoked and both of them facing away from each other, not saying a word or attempting to explain what just happened, how they can possibly justify their actions, why everything is so wet, or who is going to write the thank-you notes for the SWAT team that allowed them to board a subway car without having to stand in line like everybody else…

Click Here to Watch this Video on YouTube.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Thomas Dolby – “She Blinded Me With Science”

  We start out with Thomas tooling down some road, driving one of those old-school motorcycles with a sidecar thing. (I never understood those contraptions. If you need the extra seating, just get a car, right?) Anyway, Thomas and his odd trench-coat are driving up to a collection of buildings in the countryside, where we can see a man with a jetpack standing on the roof of one of the structures. He looks a bit distraught (maybe he should get off the roof, that might help) and he’s shaking his head at us in a manner which indicates we should just go find a nice pub and not stop here.

  But Thomas does, because he’s a free spirit (how else would you explain his hair?), pulling into a little parking circle that makes it clear he just learned how to drive the motorcycle three minutes ago. Some helpful title cards then appear on the screen, letting us know this is “Mr. Dolby’s arrival at the Home for Deranged Scientists”. How nice for him. But why would a deranged scientist voluntarily go to a sanitarium? They must have a really compelling brochure.

  Thomas and his odd cap head inside, where he finds a woman wearing spectacles and looking completely out of place at the reception desk. (She appears to be angry in some way? Did he not have an appointment? Do deranged people even understand what appointments are? Or reception desks?) Thomas hands over some paperwork and takes off his coat, because it’s really far too big for anyone to be wearing if they want to be taken seriously.

  The camera heads out to the lawn (probably because paperwork takes a lot of time to review and no one wants to watch that process) where we find several older gentleman doing strange things. Bubble-blowing appears to be involved, and possibly some synchronized frolicking. Even the cameraman doesn’t know what they’re doing, so he gets bored and we head back into the main building. We find the Receptionist Lady, who is leading us (and presumably Thomas) into an inner chamber with a vague sign on the door, so anything could be happening in here, from barn-dancing to yodeling.

  We are then presented to a man standing at and gazing out a window, perhaps searching for a better-paying job, who turns and comes rushing at us with far more enthusiasm than is comfortable, especially in England where one simply doesn’t show excitement unless another coronation has been announced. He shakes our hand and then proudly directs us to a nearby psychiatric couch. Oh. We’re going to do that now. Great.

  Luckily, the camera switches angles so that we are no longer pseudo-Thomas , and we watch as real-Thomas plops onto the couch with great comfort and familiarity, indicating that he’s been to this rodeo a time or two. As Thomas wiggles his fanny on the couch and the doctor drops into a companion chair, Receptionist Lady (who might be “Miss Sakamoto” from the lyrics or Joan from central casting) decides to climb a short ladder and then fiddle with her skirt in what I’m assuming is supposed to be an erotic manner but really looks like she’s done got the crabs once again.

  This development causes Thomas and his hair to ogle her with barely concealed lust, a sure sign that Thomas has not been watching the right pornographic movies. It also causes the Doctor to suddenly be in a completely different video, one where he waves mysterious implements and does a small jig. Then the Doctor comes back to the right set, and he begins to scribble in his old-school notebook whilst Thomas tries to tell us why he’s here and what led him to wearing intense eye-shadow.

  Thomas starts off by babbling about the stench of chemicals and scratching his head. (Uh oh, did Sakamoto’s crabs leap-frog their way across the room?) As if she heard our thoughts, Sakamoto and her severe glasses turn to give us a penetrating look like she’s a prison warden with her hand on the switch that controls the electric chair. Or maybe she’s just horny, because we quickly cut to another scene where she and Thomas are doing an odd awkward dance in a darkened but classical room, clutching at each other and moving sedately.

  Oh wait, maybe it’s not Saka. This woman has long hair that is not wound into a bitchy receptionist bun, and as she slowly twirls with Thomas, we can see, courtesy of her revealing couture, that she has an odd, vaguely violin-themed tattoo on her back. Maybe this is Saka’s musical personality that takes control from the other personalities in her head when they are all standing on a dance floor? Saka Chaka Khan?

  We briefly cut back to Thomas still on the couch, touching his nose and making sniffing motions. Let it be entered into the court transcript that this is a completely unattractive thing for Thomas to do.

  Another shot of the questionable waltz, then we go back to original Sakamoto as she climbs back down the short ladder. She’s not carrying anything, like reference documents or prescriptions for tranquilizers, so she clearly did all that mess just to show off her legs. Harlot.

  The Doctor and Thomas continue to chat, with Doc scribbling frantically and Thom pulling up one pant leg to show us who knows what. (Another title card pops up, proclaiming “Suitable for Treatment!” I think that card should have started the video.) The Doctor is inspired to do that thing with his implements again, looking manic, and Saka arrives bearing refreshments in the form of a wooden puzzle that Thomas must decipher for some important reason. We watch him bang at that thing for a bit until the cameraman gets bored once again and we head back outside.

  To find those older gentlemen are still frolicking about and being very invested in doing annoying things. One of them is prancing with a jacked-up butterfly catcher, another is playing hopscotch whilst looking through a telescope that is pointed at the ground, and some interns seems to be pushing a patient along on a gurney as they rush to somewhere important. (Oh wait, that last one might actually be serious. These people take pills like a kid eats Skittles, so sooner or later one of them is going to hit the jackpot of unsatisfactory chemical interaction and there’s a flat-line issue. We should probably send a card.)

  We eventually make our way back to Thomas still on the couch, and he seems a bit peeved that we’ve been away for so long. (Dude, there was a Code Blue on the lanai. Un-clench.) But before we can become close friends again, we head into a montage of various happenings around the Happy Valley Home for Head-Jacked Scientists. There’s some man on the lawn wearing shoes that look like smoking guns (symbolic of the Reagan Administration?), more of Jet-Pack Guy on the roof, not knowing what he’s doing but determined to do whatever it is (symbolic of the Thatcher Administration?), and some nuns with those creepy, overblown hats strapping Thomas into a gurney (symbolic of record executives having no idea what to do with new-wave music?) Just guessing.

  The gigantor-hat nuns eventually get Thomas into a room that has a nice little contraption that they can strap to his head, so they do. The headgear looks menacing, in that “does this have anything to do with a lobotomy?” kind of way, but Thomas doesn’t seem to be fighting the procedure. (Maybe he can get some new musical ideas for his next record? At least for the remixes.)

  Next we have a brief shot of someone playing a violin, then we’re back outside where the older gentlemen have gathered and are doing a group dance that has little relation to the music that we are hearing. (So that’s how raves started. At an understaffed sanitarium where Thomas Dolby lusted after a dark-haired woman who may or may not have an STD. Update your notes accordingly.)

  Okay, we’re now in the “operating room”, where Thomas is still wearing his fancy metal bonnet, the Doctor is now wearing one of those old-timey head bands with a mirror stuck in it, some previously-unknown German-flavored people are wearing evil grins, and Sakamota is no longer wearing her severe bun, letting her locks tumble and confirming that she did indeed slow-dance with Thomas in a ballroom that isn’t functioning as intended.  This will have to go in her personnel file, I’m afraid.

  Speaking of the ballroom that really isn’t, we head back there briefly so we can watch Thomas use a violin wand to play the tattoo on Saka Chaka Khan’s back. (Saka doesn’t move a millimeter while this mess is going on, indicating dissatisfaction and boredom, so you know Thomas better find another form of foreplay or there’s going to be a heated discussion and possible privilege-reduction.

  And we’re back to Thomas on the gurney, presumably post-lobotomy, and we watch him watch several smartly-dressed young boys head past him into a secret room. (Symbolic of game night for certain Catholic priests?) Then we have another montage, letting us know that Thomas is actually still talking to the Doctor, the Jet-Pack Guy still hasn’t found what he’s looking for, the creepy nuns are still being really pushy with people, Sakamoto is back to her “I’m still pissed off about something” attitude, and Afternoon Tea has been seriously compromised what with all the rude interruptions.

  New title card, this one announcing “Mr. Dolby rejects Science and things Scientific”.

  So he’s become a Republican?

  We wrap things up with Thomas and that coat we don’t like heading out the door of the asylum while looking subversive and shady, a shot of the Doctor emoting in a dark corner and proving that any licenses he may have should be ripped from his over-active hands, Thomas again heading out the door, this time in his white couture from the apparently dream-sequence lobotomy, and the Doctor being shoved into a wheelchair and then subsequently shoved into a nearby river while people look the other way.

  Symbolic of the staff at Fox News? You decide…

Click Here to Watch this Video on YouTube.


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