Thursday 12 November 2009

The Flaming Lips: Watching the Planets

If you’re wondering why that screenshot above is so blurry, there’s a simple explanation: It’s one of the few moments of the Flaming Lips’ “Watching the Planets” music video that doesn’t feature a penis.

As this six-minute clip makes abundantly clear, Flaming Lips fans come in all shapes and sizes. If there’s one thing that unites them though, it may be a universal lack of desire to see hairy Lips frontman Wayne Coyne naked. Unfortunately for them – and us – that’s just what happened in September when Coyne decided to shoot a Hair-inspired naked bike ride.

“There’s a difference between pornography and just freaks who are naked,” Coyne told at the time. “This is about unrestricted freedom and a good lawlessness that’s always sort of implied at our shows.”

“Freaks who are naked” does aptly describe the resulting video. Anyone still holding on to the Renaissance notion that the human body is a beautiful thing may be disillusioned watching a bunch of average Joes and Jills riding around the woods or engaging in tribal-like jumping.

“Maybe I’ll even get naked for the video, too,” Coyne said. “I don’t even know how it ends — maybe it ends with them all getting clothed and making me get naked and shoving me back into the giant fur egg. I just came up with that right now.”

The bad news Coyne predicted: he does get naked. The bad news he didn’t: no one gets clothed. Instead the whole band of nude merrymakers hoist Coyne aloft in what looks like the beginnings of the most nauseating orgy ever.

“Watching the Planets” is the second video promoting the Lips’ double-album Embryonic, and watching the entire thing is an exercise in endurance like a Tour de Uncomfortable. Did I mention the enormous fur-covered vagina Wayne gets shoved into at the end? I better not. I just ate.

Verdict: 1/5 stars

Watch The Flaming Lips' "Watching the Planets" here.

Wednesday 11 November 2009

Lady Gaga: Bad Romance

Lady Gaga’s latest video has all the hallmarks of a Britney Spears promo. Heavy choreography, bedside seduction, plaintive close-ups, it’s all there. As anyone who saw her blood-soaked performance at this year’s VMAs knows, though, Gaga’s a Tim Burton Britney, freaking us out one Kermit costume at a time.

In her new video for “Bad Romance” this visually-inclined artist goes through more bizarre costumes than a Cirque de Soleil show. First she emerges in an all-white lycra suit that covers everything but her mouth. Later she sensually drags along a polar bear carcass behind her fur coat. Of course, this follows her “Orbit” outfit where concentric metal rings revolving around her.

The song itself comes from Gaga’s The Fame Monster, an expanded edition of her breakthrough debut that features eight new songs. She first discussed the video a few weeks ago for Rolling Stone.

“We worked with Francis Lawrence,” she said. “He's a movie director, and he almost never does music videos anymore…I'm really impressed, even with myself – it's so amazing.”

Her facts are a little off – in the past ten years Lawrence has directed nineteen music videos and only two movies – but the man behind I Am Legend clearly is a catch. With art direction by her collective Haus of Gaga though, one wonders how much of the absurdity is his doing and how much came out of her own twisted mind.

For the fashion (if you can call it that) at least, we know Haus had help from Alexander McQueen, promoting his “Plato’s Atlantis” Spring 2010 line. While it’s unclear that there’s a market for the melting-Barbie look, the buzz is huge. Gaga’s website was supposed to premiere the view on Monday in fact, but so many fans took down the homepage with their frantic refreshing.

Few dispute that this was worth the wait though. Whether she’s surrounded by suspended diamonds or writhing in what looks like a prison shower, you can’t take your eyes off Gaga. This woman may be legally insane, but that may be the main difference between her and Britney. Gaga makes crazy fun.

Verdict: 5/5 stars

Tuesday 10 November 2009

Bowling For Soup: No Hablo Ingles

With Captain OxiClean Billy Mays having left us for that 30-minute TV spot in the sky, there’s a hole in the infomercial world. In their new music video though, Bowling for Soup try to corner that market by pitching not a product, but an excuse: “No Hablo Ingles.”

“Are you ready to take control of your life?” lead singer and “Master Motivator” Jaret Reddick shouts to the studio audience. “I have developed a bulletproof system that will help you get out of any difficult situation you may find yourself in. If life gives you stress…”

“¡No Hablo Ingles!” the crowd responds, mustering all the enthusiasm of folks paid $50 to be music video extras for the day.

With any other band this could be seen as some commentary on non-English speaking immigrants, but Bowling for Soup aren’t that profound. I mean, their previous video promoting Sorry for Partyin’ featured the quartet caressing a woman dressed as a giant penis (song title: "My Wena"). This seems downright tasteful by comparison.

A little girl gets mad when you steal her ice cream? No Hablo Ingles. Your friend busts you peeing into his pool? No Hablo Ingles. Your wife walks in on you in bed handcuffed to a man? You get the idea.

The video was directed by Sum 41 drummer Steve Jocz. Though the concept eventually wears out its welcome, perhaps that’s a sign this infomercial parody is dead on. After all, they’re throwing in a handheld mirror at no extra charge. Act now!

Verdict: 3/5 stars

Monday 9 November 2009

Grizzly Bear: Ready, Able

Break out the clay – it’s time for another indie-folk video! Grizzly Bear’s the band in question this time, but after the Low Anthem’s brilliant clip for “Charlie Darwin,” we’re beginning to see a trend. Did a Brooklyn Play-Doh factory explode?

The sculpting for Grizzly Bear’s “Ready, Able” comes from artist Allison Schulnik, who crafts some sad clay Sasquatches to accompany the Veckatimest single. One glance at her website shows that these multicolored forest-monsters are her stock in trade, and she has not altered her approach one bit.

There’s no denying that these creations are visually fascination. Like a kiddie-clay Monet, Shulnik putting her medium’s imperfections front and center, never letting you forget you are looking at capital-a Art. The monsters melt, morph, and, in an unwelcome diversion from the clayscape, get abducted by a cellophane spaceship.

As art, it’s both progressive and nostalgic, visually stimulating and meticulously constructed. However, one gets the feeling that this was created independent of the song. Had another band come around looking for their next video, Schulnik may have shipped this footage to them. In fact, the whole thing is basically a less-cogent version of Schulnik’s fascinating “Hobo Clown” clip, available at her website and well worth a look.

By all means, watch this video and be amazed. If Grizzly Bear isn’t your thing though, put on some U2, Slayer, or anything else. It’ll work just as well.

Verdict: 3/5 stars

Friday 6 November 2009

Marilyn Manson: Running to the Edge of the World

“Sometimes hate is not enough,” Marilyn Manson sings in “Running to the Edge of the World,” the third single off May’s The High End of Low. Unfortunately, in the one-part bloody, two-parts boring mix that concocted the music video, hate seems to be all he’s got.

This video has already started circulating among outraged viewers who don’t enjoy watching Manson beat and murder a naked woman who looks suspiciously like his ex-girlfriend Evan Rachel Wood. Fair enough. After Lily Allen kidnapping Elton John, the singer-attacking-celebrity genre does seem to be gaining steam.

But domestic violence isn't the video’s most objectionable content. Tasteless shock is this goth prince’s stock in trade after all. The true crime committed here is that he’s not even trying. The staged Wood murder is a ploy for news coverage, but filmed in jerky Blair Witch Project, it’s more irritating than it is offensive.

Directed by Manson and Nathan Cox, who previously shot Merry Maril’ in his “Personal Jesus” video, “Running to the Edge of the World” only shows the murder footage for the last two minutes of the six-and-a-half minute video. To get there you have to endure the true savagery of watching four minutes of Manson singing through a translucent curtain. For goodness sake, the man’s mascara seems to be running. Is this guy goth, or just emo?

A few years ago the Onion had a classic article, “Marilyn Manson Now Going Door-to-Door Trying to Shock People.” The Manson they portrayed showing up at Girl Scout meetings covered in sheep entrails though exhibits more creativity than the real-life version. This is just the same old Manson gore, but with a whole lot more bore.

Verdict: 0/5 stars

Thursday 5 November 2009

J. Tillman: Though I Have Wronged You

Any music video that keeps viewer attention for the duration deserves commendation. If the video only does so by being text-based though, this is faint praise indeed.

Enter the clip for J. Tillman’s “Though I Have Wronged You.” We’ve got Mr. Pink Dot and My Green Dot talking about loneliness, ego, and the fleeting nature of fame.

“I feel disconnected,” says Mr. Green Dot.
“How so,” Purple replies.
“I’ve been noticing how the first thing I do in the morning is get on the internet," says Green. "Like, before I even put a shirt on or anything.”

It goes on like for three-and-a-half minutes, running like an episode of Frasier or smarter-than-though web comic XKCD. No info has come out on the director, probably because it was a 9th-grade kid who’d just finished the first chapter of CSS for Dummies. Give the idea a point for inventiveness, but the context’s all wrong.

A video based on DOS-level programming seems like it might work with the 8-bit gitchy tunes of Crystal Castles or their ilk. Indeed, a minimalist approach suits the slow-burn of the Fleet Fox’s song. However, stalks of wheat conversing about the upcoming harvest would fit better than color pixels self-consciously ruminating about web-stalking themselves. Music that sounds 1880s Amish shouldn’t have 1980s Tron thrust upon it.

Verdict: 1/5 stars

Wednesday 4 November 2009

Muse: Undisclosed Desires

Premiering their “Undisclosed Desires” video on MySpace suggests another bid for the American acceptance that has eluded British alt-prog heroes Muse so long. Creating a weird techno-robot studio sequence like some 1984 dystopia suggests they’ll need to keep searching for that a game-changing crossover.

Still, credit this experimental trio with turning the standard in-studio routine on its head for their second single off The Resistance. Spinning guitar wheels, flashing LED lights and a singer who plugs into a wall aptly distract the viewer from the usual tedium of a band standing around. An unsettling series of words from the lyrics flash on TVs surrounding the band. “Pure.” “Violence.” “Exorcise.”

Matt Bellamy rocks the keytar, Christopher Wolsteholme slaps his bass into next month and Dominic Howard thumps out a Timbaland-esq beat on a jet-black drum kit, but it’s one solitary dancer who steals the show. The fact that her outfit consists solely of electrical cables helps.

Muse released little information on the video, leaving who directed it or where it was filmed unknown. However, a behind-the-scenes photo the band tweeted on October 20th suggests this was filmed several weeks ago. Twitter time travel may be afoot though, since this video looks straight out of the future. “Undisclosed Desires,” aka. 3001: A Muse Odyssey. (via MySpace)

Verdict: 4/5 stars