Sunday, November 28, 2010

100 Music Videos, Part 3: The Coup to Finntroll

Since I'm arranging these videos in alphabetical order, there isn't any explicit theme for each installment of "100 Music Videos". But sometimes, patterns emerge. On the basis of this installment, I have come do an astonishing conclusion: every single band starting with "D" or "F" is jovial and light hearted, while every single band starting with "E" is dour and serious.

For the most part, this will be a light-hearted installment. We will get to explore the lighter side of war, the lighter side of domestic violence and, most importantly, the lighter side of being hacked to pieces by surgical implements in a demonic hell-bar. Even the lone "C" band in this entry is taking a fairly humorous dissection of inequality in America. All in all it's a laugh riot. At least it would be if it weren't for those few "E" bands coming in and spoiling the mood.

So kick back, break out the nitrous oxide and enjoy (most of) the show!

21. The Coup – Fat Cats and Bigga Fish [dir. Andrei Rozen]

A lot of mainstream hip-hop is centered around rags to riches stories. Jay-Z was one from the streets but managed to become a millionaire by rapping. And if you are good at rapping and incredibly lucky you can be a millionaire too. And you can use your millions of dollars to promote the destruction of working class neighborhoods to build a basketball stadium.

But Boots Riley, Marxist that he is, is having none of that. You get the same sort of epic storytelling as he goes from the streets to the fancy world of bribing politicians and tearing down poor neighborhoods to build condos. But when he gets to the top he doesn’t like what he sees. If you’re going to be a criminal, better to steal bus passes then to drive people out of their homes.

22. The Decemberists – 16 Military Wives [dir. Aaron Stewart]

The Decemberists are often criticized for peddling escapism. While other indie bands write relatable songs about relatable things like Jack White falling in love with a girl who doesn’t know what love is, Colin Meloy is off writing songs about mortal enemies duking it out in a whale's stomach.

Wes Anderson is also often cricitized for peddling escapism. While other directors are making relatable movies about finding love with manic pixie dream girls while listening to indie rock, he’s making unrelatable movies about planning whacky heists while listening to indie rock.

So how come when the Decemberists make a music video in the style of Wes Anderson, it ends up being a timely attack on the very Bush administration that everyone was trying to escape from in the first place?

23. Devo – Whip It [dir. Gerald Casale]

Devo - Whip It
Uploaded by Dan_of_the_Land. - Explore more music videos.

Every facet of Devo’s art extends from their “devolution theory” and the traumatic events that lead up to it, so to truly appreciate this video, you have to have some understanding of what Devo stands for and what they went through. You see, they were students at Kent State university, during the infamous shooting, and were, in fact participants in the protests. Gerald Casale was even standing next to Allison Krause when she was shot by the National Guard troops.

This experienced, followed by Richard Nixon’s infamous post-massacre denunciation of the protestors as “bums” led the people who later formed Devo to conclude that mankind had reached is peak in evolution and had now gone into a state of devolution. Naturally, the only way to express these ideas was to put flower pots on their heads and remove women’s clothes with a whip.

24. Dixie Chicks – Goodbye, Earl [dir. Evan Bernard]

It’s funny the tricks time plays on us all. Once upon a time Jane Krakowski was known as “that chick from Ally McBeal who isn’t Calista Flockhart” and not “that chick from 30 Rock who isn’t Tina Fey”. Also the Dixie Chicks were not the country music pariahs they are now. Rather they were the band that wrote that cheery, light-hearted, happy-go-lucky song about domestic violence. But what a song it is.

25. The Dresden Dolls – Coin-Operated Boy [dir. Michael Pope]

The Dresden Dolls - Coin Operated Boy
Uploaded by Michel_Pougnou. - Arts and animation videos.

For those unfamiliar, Amanda Palmer’s career started as a living statue in Harvard Square. This gave her an expertise in miming, which I assume she passed on to drummer Brian Viglione. This is the result. So parents: when you ask your kid what they want to be grow up and they say “I want to pretend to be a statue for money”, don’t worry; they’ll turn out all right.

26. Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues [dir. D. A. Pennebaker]

Joan Baez once described Bob Dylan as “good with words and keeping things vague”. So it’s understandable that his most famous foray into the world of music video would be awash in dense verbal symbolism. But, as vague as it is, if you look closely enough, you can figure out what everything’s about. For instance, that sign that says “government” represents the government. The sign that days “pawking metaws” represents bad spelling. The sign that says “write Braille” represents irony. I'm not sure what the sign that says "bed, but" represents.

27. El-P – Stepfather Factory [dir. Plates Animation]

The main conceit of this song, a corporate executive rapping his buzzwords and buzzphrases, sounds like the sort of thing an actual corporate executive might be inclined to do to show how “hip” and “approachable” they are. However, El-P’s fusion of this with a dystopian sci-fi hellscape make the whole ordeal a lot less painful and terrifying than an actual rapping CEO would be. We are forever in your debt, El-P.

28. Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These) [dir. Dave Stewart & Joe Roseman]

What is it with bands that start with “E” and music videos featuring dark sci-fi presentations in corporate boardrooms? I guess that will just have to remain one of the great mysteries of life. But there are three important things that set this apart from your ordinary everyday, run-of-the-mill dark sci-fi corporate boardroom presentation video. One: Annie Lennox making dominatrix poses in a suit. Two: David Stewart cello-syncing the synthesizer solo. Three: cows.

29. The Fiery Furnaces – Even in the Rain [dir. Scott Jacobson]

Somewhere in the history of the music video, people realized that the content of the video didn’t necessarily have to have anything to do with the song itself. Once people realized that, it was only a matter of time before somebody said: “Hey, let’s make our music video be a documentary on the making of the 1969 motorcycle movie, Easy Rider!” Why it took until 2009 before somebody followed through is beyond me.

So, even though this video has nothing to do with what there singing about, it’s still a noteworthy video and has plenty of useful information about the making of Easy Rider. For instance did you know that Dennis Hopper showed signs of extreme paranoia that resulted in trouble with the producers? And did you know that Peter Fonda looks really hot as a chick? And did you know that Rip Torn looks exactly like that British guy from The Daily Show? I didn’t know that either, until I saw this video.

30. Finntroll – Under Bergets Rot [dir. Animaatiokopla]

Finnish black metal/polka band Finntroll is a lot more inviting than other black metal bands. They’re not about hacking each other to pieces with surgical implements to shock people. They’re about hacking each other to pieces with surgical implements because it’s fun. And even the squares are welcome, as long as they like getting hacked to pieces with surgical implements. And it’s nice to know that, even in demonic hell-bars of the damned, you’ll get slapped if you grab a chick’s ass. Plus those dancing back-up mummies are just sooooo damn cute.

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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