Monday, November 29, 2010

100 Music Videos, Part 4: Freezepop to The Imagined Village

In our previous installment of "100 Music Videos", I mentioned that, despite being in alphabetical order, you may find some unexpected thematic unity in the entries. This time, nothing. Two of the videos have mice. Two of them are about going to space. But beyond that, today is schizo day.

There are some things that this installment will focus on a bit more than other installments. If you are looking for videos about math, or Australian politics or epic battles between orcs and Nazis, you will find a higher concentration of those topics in this installment than any other one. By which I mean more than nothing.

. . . but I've been talking too much.

31. Freezepop – Less Talk More Rokk

I’ve encountered a lot of people hating on this video because they first heard the song through Guitar Hero™, and then they were shocked to find out that the song uses keytars. Come on, people, what do you think a Guitar Hero™ controller is, something that isn't a keytar? Now let’s stop bitching about the instruments, and focus on the important things. You know, like the giant mice crawling around a disco floor.

32. Garmarna – Vänner Och Fränder [dir. Kristofer Lönnå]

In this list, I’ve generally tried to avoid videos that consisted simply of the band performing, without any bells or whistles or giant mice. In this case, I’ll have to make an exception. For those unfamiliar with Garmarna, they are an industrial-folk group that has been referred to as both “the Swedish Steeleye Span” and “the Swedish Rammstein”. As such, lead singer Emma Härdelin is basically an evil version of Maddy Prior.

Just look at her. She’s completely still. Her face a blank stare of pure, concentrated evil. It’s like she’s possessed. No. It’s like she’s possessing the rest of the band and making them to her evil bidding. Even at the end of the video when she finally smiles it’s the most maniacal smile known to man, accompanied by the most maniacal light chuckle known to man.

33. Crispin Glover – Ben [dir. Crispin Glover]

Best. Michael Jackson cover. Ever. Oddly enough, the original was also about a rat. But this version has a certain something that the original version lacks. Specifically, it has a bunch of formally dressed women going into orgasm induced by a mischief of mice.

34. Glukoza – Shvayne [dir. A. Yevdokimov]

Glukoza is in many ways similar to the better-known Russian duo t.A.T.u. But while t.A.T.u. are straight people who pretend to be lesbians, Glukoza is a farmgirl from the Urals who pretends to be a computer-generated KGB agent or something. She also has a posse of assorted computer-generated misfits and, in this video, they team up on a mission to kill as many Nazis as possible. There’s also an army of orcs, but they’re with the good guys.

The plot of this video was later shamelessly ripped off by Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds. However, what with the orcish army and all, it’s pretty clear that the “Shvayne” video is itself a rip-off of Lord of the Rings. But that was a rip-off of William Morris’s fantasy novels like The Wood Beyond the World and The Story of the Glittering Plain. But those novels were essentially fantasy rewrites of his utopian novel News From Nowhere, which was a reply to Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward. So, by transitivity . . .

35. Great Big Sea – Mari-Mac

Years before Team America, Team Canada was at the vanguard making kid-unfriendly videos with marionettes. They're videos may not have gone to the same extremes, but they had their charms. What they lacked in social commentary they made up for in lack of horrible social commentary. What they lacked in extended vomiting sequences, they made up for in Irish scat-singing.

But this video also gets as some very deep issues. You see, our humble narrator is not a puppet, but he still lives within the puppet’s world. In both storytelling role, and in physical size, he assumes the role of God. Sometimes this God/narrator is sitting cross-legged in the middle of the house and sometimes it’s just his head sticking out of the floor. It makes you wonder if we’re being controlled by the giant head of a hyperactive Newfoundlander who sees us as mere puppets in his music video. It really makes you think.

36. Hard ’n Phirm – Pi [dir. Keith Schofield]

Once, in a topology class, the professor was getting to the subject of the pullback of a vector bundle. To motivate the subject, he brought up the following hypothetical situation: “You’re walking down a dark alleyway and some guy puts a gun up to your head and says ‘What’s the universal property for the pullback of a vector bundle?’ What do you say?” The introduction to this video reminds me of that hypothetical situation for some reason.

37. PJ Harvey – The Piano [dir. Maria Mochnacz]

WARNING: This video contains censored nudity.

What makes this video particularly interesting is that it forces us to confront some difficult questions about the nature of censorship. We all like to think of ourselves as freedom-loving people who support all forms of free expression. This should make us completely opposed to the censorship of the pictures in the video. But . . . if those pictures weren’t censored then we wouldn’t be able to read the lyrics, so a lack of censorship would, in and of itself, be a form of censorship.

38. Helium – Leon’s Space Song

Helium is one of those bands that acted as a bridge from the gritty, grungy ’90s alternative chick-rock of Belly and Liz Phair to the twee, Renaissance Faire-inspired ’00s indie chick-folk of Joanna Newsom and Trembling Bells. In fact as far as I know it’s the only bridge. To see this transition in action, wait for the 1:47 mark in this video where scruffy Boston auto mechanic Mary Timony hands back the keys to her newly-repaired car, complete with giant unicorn key-chain. That is the exact moment when alternative (whatever that means) turned into indie (whatever that means).

39. The Herd – 2020 [dir. Mike Daly]

You want to make a great party video? Then make the video kinetic and exciting, with the band members dancing. You want to make a video that conveys your skepticism of newly elected Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s claims to bring hope and change? Then you want to fill the video with a bunch of newspaper articles. You want to do both? Well then . . .

That’s where modern technology comes in. While a lot of CGI these days is focused on making fake creatures look like everyday life. But they can also be sued to make actual people look like animated newsprint. By putting the band in the newspapers, you get an awesome kinetic video of people grabbing onto letters, but you also get to be reminded of all those moments in American and Australian history most people would rather forget. You also get to learn that Australian crossword puzzles have a lot of black squares. It all fits together to make a pretty much perfect video.

If that doesn’t convince you of the videos awesomeness, I have two words for you: hip-hop accordion.

40. The Imagined Village – Space Girl [dir. Henry Dalton]

The Imagined Village is a group of English folk musicians, working with various Asian and dubstep musicians to make the genre all multi-culti and drag it, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century. Okay, not kicking and screaming, since it’s old guard people like Martin and Eliza Carthy who were doing the dragging. But dragging it into the 21st century nonetheless. With Eliza Carthy’s “Space Girl”, they overshot a bit. This video is going to be soooo dated in a thousand years.

Part 1: A-Ha to Besti Flokkurinn
Part 2: Bijelo Dugme to Bruce Cockburn
Part 3: The Coup to Finntroll
Part 4: Freezepop to The Imagined Village
Part 5: Insane Clown Posse to Corb Lund
Part 6: M.I.A. to My Chemical Romance
Part 7: Sinéad O’Connor to Public Enemy
Part 8: Pulp to Smashing Pumpkins
Part 9: Todd Snider to Suzanne Vega
Part 10: Julieta Venegas to Zemfira

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