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Grunge-Free Work From the Tongue-in-Cheek Pilots

Dave Matthews Band also has its cheeks stuffed in a cheesy video with a theme heavy on gluttony.

May 05, 1996|Lorraine Ali | Lorraine Ali writes about pop music for Calendar

Can a retro jam band make a relevant video without forsaking the nostalgia that is its selling point? Hootie & the Blowfish and the Dave Matthews Band face that challenge, trying to be more entertaining on camera than they are in their music, which is essentially bar rock for Eagles and Huey Lewis fans.

These two groups figure to be test cases for a landslide of similar bands that are sure to follow. How do you integrate melodies as old as Bob Seger tunes and as non-biodegradable as Styrofoam into the comparatively progressive world of video? Remember, Hootie's previous attempts included a video where the band shot hoops and played golf with sports heroes.

In this month's Sound & Vision, in which current videos are rated on a scale from 0-100, the Hooties and the Matthews Band see who can play the safest hooks yet still look fresh for the video age.

Stone Temple Pilots, "Big Bang Baby." The Southern California band (which was just derailed again by singer Scott Weiland's drug problems) has been criticized for everything from being too serious and self-obsessed to sounding like Pearl Jam. STP's first video for its new album is a tongue-and-cheek reaction to all the jabs and complaints. Directed by newcomer John Eder, "Big Bang Baby" looks as low-budget and awkward as an early new-wave entry, and finds the band as carefree and quirky as MTV's first video band, the Buggles. The quartet performs against a backdrop of crude graphics--a black-and-white spiral, a starry pink sky--and blows "Dating Game"-style kisses at the camera while eyeliner-wearing Weiland hams it up all glam-like. This highly entertaining, grunge-free video shows the band members for what they truly are: pop-rock stars. 91

Sonic Youth, "Little Trouble Girl." Though these pioneers of dissonant rock are old enough to have put out the prototype of STP's video, they deliver the most futuristic video of the Sound & Vision lot. A little alien girl wanders around a sterile, '50s-style office building, touching simulated wood paneling with long, spindly fingers and peering at a starburst clock with big, almond-shaped eyes. Bassist-singer Kim Gordon and guest singer Kim Deal of the Breeders sit on a couch while seemingly being filmed by a surveillance camera. The ambient tune breezes eerily through this beautifully filmed video (directed by Mark Romanek), where all the characters are aliens in a world created by stuffy men with slide rules. 88

The Cure, "The 13th." Ratty-haired singer Robert Smith wakes up bruised and abused in a sleazy motel room, with his suspiciously masculine new bride by his side. He numbly watches a TV report about a hotel serial killer's 12th victim before his bride changes the channel and comes across the Cure, dressed as a mariachi band, performing "The 13th." This colorful, creative and somewhat cryptic video doesn't rely on the band's previous gloom 'n' gothic imagery, instead forging into new, spooky territory as it integrates the Cure into the '90s. 75

Busta Rhymes, "Woo Hah! Got You All in Check." When the video opens, the New Yorker is cruising in a car with some friends who bust some moves to the stereo's booming beats. But it soon shifts, dream sequence-like, into a shoebox-like room where the oddball rapper is busting his own psychotic moves by himself. The nervous, topsy-turvy rhymes and warped, stop-and-go rhythms fuel Rhymes' antics--he dons several cartoonish, puffy outfits, sways in and out of camera range like a feverish hallucination and displays a pair of brown shoes as he sings, "How dare you try and step on my blue suede shoes!" Though this hyperactive video is sometimes too repetitive, the oddly charismatic Rhymes shows that he's more than a Coolio wannabe. He truly is his own freak. 68

Hootie & the Blowfish, "Old Man & Me." This black-and-white video attempts to bring you down home to the simple world of the Hooties, where life is easy and everything looks like an early R.E.M. video. The band performs its amalgam of everything FM out in the woods, while time-lapse shots show a boy growing old before our eyes. Other related scenes: An old man lies down on the forest floor and is swallowed up by vines (Peter Gabriel, anyone?), and a silhouetted elder descends a hill only to come back up the other side as a youth. The concept of rebirth is ironic for a video and band that are strictly rehash. 50

Dave Matthews Band, "Too Much." The quintet plays everything from violin to tuba on a stage while Matthews sings such couplets as "I eat too much. I drink too much." Just so you don't miss the point, the lines are set to scenes of gluttony that make the Carl's Jr. "in your face" commercials seem appetizing. Men in wacky, prank-store glasses and bowler hats jerk awkwardly around the set, making this clip unintentionally reminiscent of a cheesy Information Society video. Long live the '80s and all its embarrassing trimmings. 35

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