Friday, December 3, 2010

100 Music Videos, Part 8: Pulp to Smashing Pumpkins

I believe it was Jon Stewart who said "Have you ever seen Scent of a Woman . . . on weed?!" Well, if Jon Stewart reads my blog, then this installment of "100 Music Videos" is probably the blog entry he would advocate reading . . . on weed! This will be the entry where a bunch of naked cyclists is the least trippy thing going on.

Along the way we will have a video from the director of The Fall followed by a video from the director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. We have a video about people's eyes preceded by a band made of giant eyeballs. We've got space adventures and supermarket adventures and mountain adventures. And then there's video number 79.

So go forth and watch . . . on weed!

71. Pulp – Common People

That’s the thing about the common people. They really like disco dancing, but they’re not very good at it.

Okay, so the bad dancing was an homage to the “Eleanor Rigby” bit from the Yellow Submarine movie. But the disco stuff does get at an issue worth addressing. A lot of people these days, Rodney Atkins for instance, like to promote that romanticized vision of “common people” where “the fences need fixin’, the peaches need pickin’ and the cows need bringin’ round.” But these people would likely exclude Jarvis Cocker from the “common people” solely on the basis of him being a skinny disco-dancing pansy.

But, as the song shows, it’s not all that romantic nonsense that makes you part of the common people. You can be part of the common people whether you’re an effete Brit with emo hair or an Iowa farmboy. It’s the less romantic stuff that makes you common.

72. Queen – Bicycle Race [dir. Dennis de Vallance]

WARNING: This video contains nudity/poor bicycle safety.

Back in the pre-MTV days, a lot of British music videos were connected with the “Top of the Pops” show. These videos were trying to replicate a live performance, but recorded in a studio so you don’t have to worry about messing up. The result is that most of these videos aren’t very interesting.

Most of Queen’s videos came from this process. But when they got to “Bicycle Race”, it occurred to them that, if they weren’t actually doing a live show, they could put pretty much anything into the video. Anything!

73. R.E.M. – Losing My Religion [dir. Tarsem Singh]

R.E.M. - Losing My Religion
Uploaded by WBRNewMedia. - Watch more music videos, in HD!

And there was the scantily clad boy, who was tied to a pole and shot with arrows. Arrows fired by Governor Odious. And there was the fallen angel. But did he fall or was he pushed? Pushed, by Governor Odious. And there was the old guy with the gaping stomach wound. A wound inflicted by Governor Odious. And there was Michael Stipe, the Indian, the ex-slave and the British naturalist Charles Darwin, with his pet monkey Wallace. And together, they all vowed revenge against Governor Odious.

74. Radiohead – Knives Out [dir. Michel Gondry]

radiohead - knives out from amnesiac on Vimeo.

Esteemed film critic Michael D’Angelo once argued that the practice of long tracking shots is to the detriment of filmmaking. Part of his argument hinged on some post-modern nonsense about how perception is reality and so all films should have jump cuts to represent blinking. To this, I say “What?”

But the main thrust of his argument was that having long unbroken takes was a distraction. People would be too busy thinking about how it was filmed, asking questions like “How did they get those microwaves around Thom Yorke’s feet when we weren’t looking?” and “How did they get the video within the video within the video to sync up so well” and “How did they fit an entire room full of people underneath Thom Yorke’s covers and get them to act on queue?” According to D’Angelo, these nagging questions distract the audience from the content of the movie, in this case, a song about a cat eating a mouse or something like that. To this, I say “So?”

75. Rage Against the Machine – Bulls on Parade [dir. Peter Christopherson]

Here you've got distorted concert footage, mixed in with stock videos of people getting attacked by and/or attacking the police, as well as some graffiti-style slogans. All in all, what you'd expect from Rage Against the Machine. It makes it look like an underground newsreel. But then you have all those shots of the guys with flags marching across a mountain, and things take a turn for the strange. But somehow it all goes together.

76. Rammstein – Amerika [dir. Jörn Heitmann]

After Columbine, everybody started accusing Rammstein of being Nazis, and they faded from the public consciousness, but they continued to make music. Conscious of the accusations, they wrote the song "Links 234" which included the lyrics "My heart beats on the left", to clarify their political views. By 2004, the Iraq war had politicized everyone, and Rammstein became sort of an industrial metal version of Naomi Klein, albeit funnier. This is the result of that transformation.

77. The Residents – Burn Baby Burn

Watching this video, you may come to the conclusion that it is, maybe, possibly, a little bit on the strange side. This is understandable, since it’s by a band whose members hide their identities and wear giant eyeball masks and tuxes. However, in this case, the Residents themselves aren’t to blame for the weirdness.

That’s because the song is based on the bible. Specifically, it’s based on the story of Jephthah, who prayed to God for a military victory. He said that if he won, he would sacrifice the first thing he saw when he got back home. So he won and, when he got back, his daughter was waiting at the door to congratulate him. So really, this video is God’s fault, not the Residents’. Unless . . . what if one of the Residents is God underneath that giant eyeball?

78. Siouxsie and the Banshees – Peek-A-Boo [dir. John Mathieson]

I’m a bit conflicted about this video. On the one hand, it’s a catchy song with a neat arrangement and kick-ass goth imagery. And, of course, it’s got Siouxsie Sioux in it, so that’s a plus.

On the other hand, the song is supposed to be a critique of the conformity and beauty-obsessed attitude of the media. Since the goth scene had its own form of conformity and beauty-obsession, just with different make-up, it comes of as a bit disingenuous. Especially since Siouxsie Sioux is pretty conventionally attractive. Isn’t this precisely what Jhonen Vasquez was making fun of with the Anne Gwish character in Johnny the Homicidal Maniac?

On the other other hand, the back-up musicians in the plague-era bird masks include an accordionist and a serpent. Okay, I’m not conflicted any more.

79. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum – A Hymn to the Morning Star [dir. Adam Feinstein]

Apparently this song cause some moral outrage for allegedly promoting Satanism or something like that. But I think it’s sweet. It’s all about love and opening your heart and all that, and it’s got this nice pretty tune. It’s just like those songs about how Jesus loves us, but with a different fictional character instead. It even has Christian-style buildings. It doesn’t matter which fictional characters you choose to welcome into your heart. This is the sort of song that should make everyone happy. At least as long as you’re not the throttled hen.

80. Smashing Pumpkins – Tonight, Tonight [dir. Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris]

Smashing Pumpkins - Tonight, Tonight
Uploaded by popefucker. - Music videos, artist interviews, concerts and more.

After that happy-go-lucky song that preceded this, we now take a turn for the sad. "How sad?" you ask. Infinitely sad. In fact, if I had to describe this Smashimg Pumpkins song in one word it would be "Melloncollie". But you come to expect that with Smashing Pumpkins.

I believe it was Homer Simpson who said of Smashing Pumpkins, "You know, my kids think you're the greatest. And thanks to your gloomy music, they've finally stopped dreaming of a future I can't possibly provide." And he hit the nail right on the head, there. Because, nothing crushes our dreams of a future we can't possibly provide than a madcap steampunk space adventure.

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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