Surf and rap--somehow it doesn't seem like a marriage made in heaven.
But it works, as not just one but two new music videos reviewed below show. Also standing out from the crowd are two entries by stylish French director Jean-Baptiste Mondino. Otherwise, it's video-as-usual. MTV just celebrated its sixth anniversary, but is there really that much to celebrate these days? Most videos seem so much like commercials that even Sound & Vision got confused this month.
Ratings system: 80-100, excellent; 60-79, good; 40-59, watchable; 20-39, poor; 0-19, wretched.
The Fat Boys/the Beach Boys. "Wipeout." Director: Steve Rechschaeffner. The street/beach-nut mix of rhythms is an absolute gas, though it bears no relation to the classic instrumental by the Surfaris. And while the video doesn't come up with the hilarity one might desire, it's pretty delightful, too. It might have been even better if more thought had gone into the planning: There's more rhyme than reason, more surfboards than storyboards, more true grit (sand, that is) than true wit--and too much falling back on video cliches, like the old lip-sync-going-down-the-street-on-the-back-of-a-truck routine. And the two sets of "Boys" never appear in the same shot. Still, the sheer fun of the culture clash (so lightly suggested here it almost seems too strong a term) and the colorful, forward thrust of the direction almost do wipe out all objections. 87
David Bowie/Tina Turner. "Creation." Bowie plays a scientist who inserts photos and a bunch of other junk into a computer and comes up with the Perfect Woman (Turner?!) and they sing and dance into the night (purple shades of "Weird Science"). This video seems to have everything going against it: The song is just Bowie's "Modern Love" with some silly new lyrics; Turner's certainly not my idea of a dream babe; and in this video the commercial slant goes too far: For poorly justified reasons, references to a certain soda pop are crudely injected. But all the same this clip has something great going for it: It's the shortest rock video I've ever seen! The whole thing's over in about 30 seconds! And after watching that Grateful Dead video go on and on. . . . Wait a minute. Somebody just told me this isn't a real video at all. It's a Pepsi commercial! But . . . but, it had that little superimposed title in the left-bottom corner like other MTV videos do, and stars and music, and. . . . Well, everybody makes mistakes.
David Bowie. "Never Let Me Down." Director: Jean-Baptiste Mondino. Ah, the real Bowie video, and once you see the director's name, hope soars. Mondino's work has the stylishness every other video director is looking for. He's to the film image what Helmut Newton was to still photography--startling, perverse, sexy, and a master of lighting (especially in black-and-white). He casts Bowie as a singer at one of those "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" dance marathons, where the event's grueling nature is transformed into something almost mystical--elements of time-warp glamour, sultriness, and even playfulness taking over amid the ennui. An otherworldly treat for the eyes, even though the depth of Mondino's best (like Bryan Ferry's "Slave to Love") is missing, and the music is not comparable to the Bowie of old. 85
Les Rita Mitsouko. "C'est Comme Ca." Director: Jean-Baptiste Mondino. For once, at least, Mondino goes against expectations. Instead of his usual majestic, sweeping, romantic images, he goes for the kooky and the herky-jerky. No doubt this French pop band's frenetic music influenced the decision, but the video also seems to be a homage to the other most noted video director from Europe, Zbigniew Rybczinski. This is fun, but what it could have used is a few more Rybczinski-like editing tricks. After a while, we get a bit tired of the too-zany (as in too-hip) couple that we see on a '50s-designed TV here. Actually, the best thing here is the TV, the strange statuette sitting on it, and the chimp watching both--all briefly seen, and all more interesting than the group. By the way, when you see this on MTV, etc., chances are you won't see all of it. Not because of anything scandalous, but because that last shot is held for what seems forever (even the woman in it gets impatient) before fading--just one more sly, teasing touch from one of music video's outstanding creators. 78
Surf M.C.'S. "Surf or Die." Directors: Bill Davis, Suzan Pitt. Like the Fat Boys/Beach Boys clip, this local band's rap-surf entry is also dominated by playfulness. But the fun is darker and punk-influenced. In fact, the best things about it are those strange little skulls that frequently come into the whacked-out picture. The second-best thing is when one of these four guys does his Angus Young imitation--which strikes me as funny, I guess, because AC/DC has nothing to do with either surf or rap, and just because Angus is so outrageous. For low-budget stuff, this mixture of stop-action animation and silly behavior is good and goofy. 69
Genesis. "Anything She Does." Director: Jim Yukich. A secret revealed! For lo these many years my pals and I have wondered where Phil Collins gets that irritating, low-brow sense of humor. One look at the comedian they've hired to do this video and the answer is clear. Benny Hill! Actually, both Hill and Collins do have their moments, however far between they may be, and this is one of them. In this slapstick affair, Hill plays Genesis' new security guard who does a predictably awful job of keeping the wrong people from going backstage. Cute stuff, this goes down easy. 60
Def Leppard. "Women." Directors: Jean Pellerin, Doug Freel. I knew there was something missing from my life during the last five years--some indefinable loss. Of course, it was Def Leppard! The hard rockers haven't given us a new album, or a video, during all that time. May I be the first (17th?) to say that this Leppard hasn't changed its spots during "the missing years." The boys are just as tasteless and boring as ever--and in Pellerin and Freel they've found someone who visually expresses Leppard's unique combination of mediocrity and crassness even better than the band's old video director, David Mallet. Scenes of the band singing are interspersed with dumb, sexist comic-book drawings. The drawings that show a woman being tied up by villains and rescued by a skate-boarding hero should especially appeal to the teen-age/20s males toward whom every other clip on MTV seems directed. 10