Saturday, December 4, 2010

100 Music Videos, Part 9: Todd Snider to Suzanne Vega

As we near the end of "100 Music Videos", I thought I would share a bit about my "MTV phase" in middle school. Up until 1994 I didn't really pay attention to MTV or music videos or modern rock in general, being more into the Beatles. But then I saw this amazing music video. The song was sort of Beatles-esque psychedelia, but harder, so that was nice. But the video had groundbreaking special effects that just completely wowed me. The song: Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun".

So, naturally, when I was working out what videos to include in this list, that was one of the obvious choices and I went to view it on YouTube. Well the thing about groundbreaking special effects from 1994, is, uh, well, they're not so ground breaking anymore. Also, did you know that, beneath its shiny, clean-cut exterior, suburbia has a dark side? Well I still got a nostalgia kick, but declined to include the video, because I don't think that anybody who wasn't in middle school in 1994 will be able to appreciate it. However, I did include a video by Tool that has groundbreaking special effects from 2001.

So here goes.

81. Todd Snider – You Got Away With It (A Tale of Two Fraternity Brothers)

It’s that twist that really gets you. We’ve got our country singer reminiscing about his past as a rich fratboy to an old fellow-rich-fratboy friend of his. He goes on all about the nasty shit they did and got away with because they were rich fratboys. And we get our flashbacks of fratboys doing fratboy things and behaving in a manner that could charitably be described as horrible and uncharitably be described as Chris-Pine-esque.

But then the twist comes and it turns out the fratboy he’s singing to/about is none other than (gasp) George W. Bush! And he’s still getting away with shit!

82. Regina Spektor – Fidelity [dir. Marc Webb]

regina spektor - Fidelity
Uploaded by WBRNewMedia. - Explore more music videos.

I've been reluctant to get into Regina Spektor because she willingly identifies with the "genre" known as "anti-folk". Just the idea of giving a genre a name that identifies itself as being the opposite of another genre is the height of musical dickishness (see also "no wave"). Especially since anti-folk is generally regarded as a subgenre of folk rather than it's antithesis. The only name more dickish than "anti-folk" is "post-nü-anti-folkwavecore" which thankfully doesn't exist.

However, this video has won me over. The stylized furniture, the invisible boyfriend in the black-and-white striped clothes, the swing, all perfect. And of course, when your invisible boyfriend in black-and-white striped clothes in a stylized black-and-white room stops being invisible, I can't think of anyone who wouldn't celebrate by having a dry tempera paint fight. Once they're rolling around in the dry paint, all is forgiven.

83. System of a Down – B.Y.O.B. [dir. Jake Nava]

One of the neat things about System of a Down’s music is the way they keep shifting between manic, thrashy shouting and slower, more melodic Armenian folk stuff. And this video puts that style to its best use, as you have the escapist party-goers ignoring all the fascist stormtroopers outside. This is all connected to the song title which means both “Bring Your Own Beer” and “Bring Your Own Bombs”. Though come to think of it, I was unaware of the second meaning until I read the Wikipedia entry on this song, so they could have just made that up.

84. Talking Heads – Once in a Lifetime [dir. Toni Basil & David Byrne]

I’ve determined that the fundamental appeal of new wave dancing is in the idea that if a whole bunch of people do the exact same dance move at the same time it will look awesome no matter how awkward the dance move is. This is sort of a case in point. One David Byrne flailing around like an epileptic puppet? That’s kind of silly. Multiple David Byrne’s flailing around like multiple epileptic puppets? That’s sublimely silly.

85. Tegan and Sara – Hell [dir. Jamie Travis]

Tegan and Sara - Hell from Catherine Lutes on Vimeo.

The trick to making truly great music videos is for your band to be a set of identical twins. Just put one of them in vertical stripes and the other in horizontal stripes and you have music video gold.

It’s like the came Set. Either everything is completely the same or completely different. The stripes are the same color and thickness but in different directions. The pants are the same design but one pair is yellow and the other purple. The hotel rooms are mirror images in different colors. They both get visions form a creepy mutant, but one sees it in the mirror, the other in the TV.

But the best part is where they do the fades between vertical-stripe chick and horizontal-stripe chick (don’t ask me which one is Tegan and which one is Sara. White people all look the same, especially when they’re identical twins.) But for a brief moment in the fade it looks like one hybrid Tegansara in a plaid shirt. Every band should consist of identical twins.

86. Tenacious D – Tribute [dir. Liam Lynch]

So let's say you're in a heavy metal band. But the heavy metal band consists of two out-of-shape guys with an acoustic guitar. But you still persevere and become the heaviest of all acoustic heavy metal bands out there, even if only by being the only one. But then you want to make a music video. What do you do? You go to one of those make-your-own-video karaoke things in a mall, but make it the most bad-ass make-your-own-video karaoke thing ever performed by an acoustic heavy metal band. And maybe in post-production you can put in some cheap green-screen effects. But make sure they're the most awesome cheap green-screen effects ever used in a make-your-own-video karaoke thing by an acoustic heavy metal band! Yeah!!!

87. They Might Be Giants – Birdhouse in Your Soul [dir. Adam Bernstein]

This has got to be one of coolest music video of all time! It’s like they thought of all of the coolest things in existence: bicycles, protestors, plaid shirts, the illuminati and, of course, weird dimmer switches that make one light get brighter as it makes another dimmer! And then they said: “You know, we can combine all these awesome things by putting them in a music video together!” And that’s exactly what they did!

88. Tool – Parabola [dir. Adam Jones]

Progressive rock lends itself so well to music videos that it’s somewhat surprising that there aren’t more of them. If you just look at any random prog rock cover, it’ll probably look like something from a music video. And the tendency of prog rockers to write long, epic songs is somewhat more suited for visual imagery. Of course, the height of prog was a decade before MTV, so you don’t get to see any 20-minute “Tarkus” videos.

Fortunately, Tool exists. I don’t know if there’s supposed to be a story in this video, or if its just random surrealism, but it sure is awesome either way. The lyrics say something about it being a parable, but, more importantly, the symmetry group of the apple core changes each time they zoom in! That’s fucked, man! And that’s only the beginning.

89. Urker – Tugan Elim

I’ll be upfront with you and admit that I don’t speak Kazakh, so I’m not entirely sure what this song is about. But judging by the video, I assume it’s an incredibly moving commentary on the rise of Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome in Kazakhstan. Or it’s about the circle of life. Or maybe both.

All that new agey circle-of-life depictions of rapidly aging nomads and horsies running across the steppes of central Asia is one thing. But what makes the video special is that the members of the band are wearing industrial tech-geek clothes. So, in a way, it’s society that’s suffering from Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome.

90. Suzanne Vega – Tired of Sleeping [dir. Tarsem Singh]

Suzanne Vega - Tired Of Sleeping
Uploaded by jpdc11. - Music videos, artist interviews, concerts and more.

And there was the singer Suzanne Vega, who was tired of sleeping. And there was the accordionist John Linnell who might, or might not, be a giant. And they didn't care too much for Governor Odious either. Okay, so this doesn’t have the same obsessive symbolism as Tarsem’s other stuff. It’s kind of neat that he can shoot a gritty black-and-white take on the difficulties of aging as well as convoluted fantasy stuff. Granted, you still get a bike-riding angel and a floating guy but, by Tarsem standards, that’s downright verismo.

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


  1. This is what I can get from the Kazakh of "Tuwğan elim":

    Әһәу туған елім, бұған белім ертеңге
    Әһәу көкке сан ба, күштен хал ма өркенге
    Һай, бір өктем алыпсың
    Ай, қаҺарман, халықсың.

    Әһәу келді кезім, бір бе көзін [талыр еді]??
    Әһәу буға енді болашағын [барыр еді]??
    Һәу азатсың, еркінсің
    Һәу антымсың, серкімсің.

    Жайлауым-ай, тау қараң-ай, бау қараң-ай
    Қайларым-ай-ай, айым-ай менің.

    Әһәу қазақ ақын азаматын жақтайды
    Әһәу жаңа халқым баба салтын сақтайды
    Һәй ежелгі тұрансың
    Һәй бүгінгі қырансың.

    No guarantees as to accuracy or anything else, but this is a translation based on what I can figure out:

    Oh my native land, to it my strength for tomorrow
    Oh from strength the power to grow to the skies
    Hey, you're a majestic giant
    Hey, you're a hero, you're a people

    [Oh I appeared, would one eye tire?]??
    [Oh would your future evaporate?]??
    Hey, you're liberated, you're free
    Hey, you're my pledge, you're my companion

    Oh my summer pasture! Look at the mountains! Look at the orchards!
    [My means, my beloved]??

    Oh the Kazakh aqyn takes the side of the citizens
    Oh my new nation preserves the ancestors' traditions
    Hey you're the ancient Turan nation
    Hey you're today's bird of prey.

  2. I should mention that Туған елім is the first Kazakh song I ever heard (at least that I knew as such), and to this day, nearly 7 years and probably thousands of Kazakh songs later, is still my favourite. Urker's changed some, but they're still one of my favourite Kazakh groups. Their name, [ʉrki̯ɘr], translates as "Pleiades."