Tuesday Ten: 137: Videos and 30 Years of MTV

Another bit of a retrospective this week, as I finally get ’round to covering the fact that MTV turned 30 years old on 01-August. As the NME noted a few months ago, whatever happened to the MTV of old? For all its faults – not least seemingly moving away from what was the whole point in the first place towards reality shows (which it started with The Real World) – MTV did drive the use of the music video. It pushed artists to produce ever more outlandish, expensive and perhaps ridiculously conceited concepts, but crucially also gave some bands exposure that they would never have otherwise had.

Spotify_Icon_RGB_Green Spotify
YouTube-icon-full_color YouTube

And perhaps the tide is turning back after all, with MTV finally making a tentative return to the channel we used to love, with the reappearance of 120 Minutes and Beavis and Butthead, in the US at least. Here’s hoping that MTV remember that those of us in the UK and Europe would love to see their return, too. For those of you wanting to reminisce a bit: just check this awesome site with a full 120 Minutes archive and playlists too.

But a final thought before I move onto this week’s Ten: in the age of YouTube, where just about any video is available nowadays – even if the quality can be a bit questionable – is MTV all that necessary? Rather than relying on a music channel or two playing you the videos MTV and the record industry think you should see, why not just go online and find the stuff you want to see and hear? For all its faults, as least YouTube allows a level-ish playing field (as OK Go found out with the wild success of Here It Goes Again, with 52 million views before it switched to a VEVO presentation) Collating this weeks could easily have resulted in way more than ten videos, but I tried to be good and stick with ten. It was tough to pick the final list: but feel free to tell me your favourite or unsung videos – my ten has a mix of both.

Come Together
Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space

I never quite understood this video, and I still don’t now. Jason Pierce being led to the execution chamber, apparently live on TV, under the glare of the world (and the media), for some unspecified crime…and then the final, climactic scene. Was it a musing on the glare of the press on him following his soul-baring on the (still) extraordinary (even now) album that the song came from? Was it just a cool concept at the time? Who knows, but it still packs a pretty big punch.

The Sisters of Mercy

There is something gloriously odd about this video, too. Andrew Eldritch, the arch-goth, in all white and mirror shades, in the heat of Petra in Jordan. All of their videos of this time were, of course, pretentious as hell, mind, but all were striking and full of bombast: and seemed to take lyrical concepts literally – so Petra appeared to come from “in the heat of the night / in the heat of the day“, while Lucretia My Reflection‘s “roar of the big machine” saw the video set in an Indian cotton factory (with bemused staff looking on in the background). So, this has Eldritch posing in front of ruins with swords, drinking what appears to be mint tea, and Patricia Morrison riding on horseback to collect some random book. As you do.

In Strict Confidence
Mistrust The Angels

ISC developed a quite spectacularly arty image quite early on, creating a common theme across musical, lyrical and visual mediums for each of their last four albums (over a period of twelve years) at least. And the results have frequently been quite breathtaking. This video isn’t, perhaps, their most striking, but it is certainly my favourite. And the pretty angel (who has apparently fallen to earth, and lusts after Dennis Ostermann) is part of the reason, certainly (and the song is great). (Note: NSFW video)

Machines of Loving Grace
Butterfly Wings

Too many people only know this band for Golgotha Tenement Blues from The Crow, so lets make another attempt to redress the balance. For me one of the finest, and darkest of the wave of industrial rock bands that emerged in the fertile atmosphere of the alternative-friendly 90s, this was their biggest “hit”, if you will – it made it to MTV more than once (I remember seeing it a few times on 120 Minutes, and I bought the album off the back of this). A surging, electronic-fuelled slice of dancefloor rock, this is dripping with hate and disdain. Interestingly, I’ve finally now found the Sank remix of this track, too, which makes it even more dancefloor friendly, after years of wanting to hear it.

Taxicab Messiah

Another of those bands that came out from the 90s alt-boom, but rather later – and kidneythieves always seemed to remain something of an underground band. That is, if you discount their Queen of the Damned appearance – which I do, as many people know the song but not the band. Anyway, this was the first I heard, like many others, I suspect, and is their punchy debut single. Another one with a quite odd video concept based around the lyrics, but generally concentrates on singer Free Dominguez – not that many would say this is a bad thing…

Some Kind of Strange

Oddly this video was released some considerable time after the release of the parent album – and indeed this version is a shorter, edited version of the Emirian Remix that featured on remix Vortex back in 2004. That it was released as a belated video single is no accident – the band’s strongest and most immediate moment, it gained a striking, gorgeous video that befitted the regal, sensual song. Not a million miles in concept from kidneythieves, but with a quite different approach (and sound – Collide are more ethereal than the more direct sound of kidneythieves), the release of this video seemed to spur a new interest in the band, and widen their audience somewhat.

Pop Will Eat Itself
Def Con One (Including the Twilight Zone)
This Is the Day…This Is the Hour…This Is This!

Easily one of the Poppies’ most iconic songs, it perhaps isn’t their finest video. But then, this is back in the days of indie bands making videos on a shoestring. And it is perhaps dated by the clothes and the hair, if nothing else. The reason it is here? It comes from about the time when it was still a thrill to see an indie band on TV, even a quick showing on The Chart Show (in the Indie chart?). Oh, and I love this band.

Einstürzende Neubauten
Silence Is Sexy

One of Neubauten’s finest later-period songs, an elegant, subdued musing on the ideas of beauty and colour (and seemingly German identity, judging on the use of red, gold and black), that has a really bloody strange video. It appears to be a (literally) bull-headed man putting on makeup in a dank public toilet, and by the end of it, despairing with the way he looks – perhaps an allegory for Germany looking at itself and it’s past in the mirror, but I could be wrong. But in feel, the video is as calm and relaxed as the song – which is little more than a tense rhythm and Blixa’s deep, rich voice (and is utterly wondrous live, too).

Skinny Puppy
Too Dark Park

At their height – i.e. late 80s/early 90s – the Puppy’s videos were as chaotic, fucked up and downright weird as the band and their music were. And here is exhibit A – the low-rent horror freakout of Spasmolytic, and the video is freaky as hell too. Too Dark Park was an astoundingly heavy album – but the heaviness was in how much of a trial it could be to listen to, with a dense meshing of rhythms and samples, with the whole album sounding like some extremely fucked up druggy nightmare. Which I’m sure was the point. This wasn’t their most fucked up video, mind – Worlock‘s long-banned horror film mashup wins that hands down.

Confessions EP

Finally, to bring things up to date: a new-ish band, with their first single, and now first video. A song that wears its influences well, but still does something new with them, this is a band to watch for the coming months, as the recent gig suggested they have a good set of songs, never mind just a great debut. Yes, its a bit Curve, a bit Garbage, but also a whole lot special – and with a classy video that doesn’t have a great many elements to it – basically a studio room, some sheets, the band and some manic camerawork.

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