Thursday, September 22, 2005

Genesis - Invisible Touch

*1/2 (out of four)

There's a real smarmy quality to the "Invisible Touch" video - not only are the three members of Genesis mugging to the camera, they're also mugging with cameras. Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and The Other Guy are given handheld cameras with which to film each other, and the results are intended to be high comedy. And lemme tell you - I'm high right now, and this ain't comedy.

Phil spends the video's intro sticking the camera in the face of Mike (minus his Mechanics) and instructing him to "pout for me, pout baby." Mike, meanwhile, is in fact pouting, but that's because he's thinking of his dead dad again. Christ, Mike - your dad got run over by that cement truck, like, 25 years ago. And you even got a number-one hit out of it. Time to move on.

The entire "Invisible Touch" video takes place on a vast soundstage where, obstensibly, Genesis is rehearsing for their upcoming world tour. Band members lip synch on skeleton risers while stagehands play ping pong behind them - instead of serious rehearsal, though, Phil only pretends he's playing the synth drums for like ten seconds then spends the entire rest of the video singing into the drumsticks and performing his own unique, strained brand of physical comedy.

There's a little Phil flasher pantomiming, a little Phil air-traffic controller pantomiming, a little Phil chase-the-cameraman-around pantomiming and a lot of charmless, ham-fisted Phil idiocy. Mike (no Mechanics, remember - and no living dad, either) can't decide whether to play guitar or drums, while The Other Guy has three amazing synthesizers to choose from, and only two hands to play them on. I guess that's the '80s rock band guy's true idea of hell - so many Casios, not nearly enough hands.

Marc Broussard - Home

*** (out of four)

I still turn on regular old VH1 every now and then, during the three-hour sunrise window when they actually play music videos. Most of them are pure crap, of course, and that's kind of the point - VH1 is supposed to make you feel old and button-down and just kind of like you're getting music in a forcefed, mechanical way. A few of the most sanitized Top 40 hits the kids like and a lot of slow songs for the old folks.

That's why it's such a pleasant surprise to happen upon quality, unassuming grown-folks music like this leadoff track from Louisiana soul singer Marc Broussard's album Carencro (named after his hometown). I'd never heard of Broussard until 6:15 a.m. yesterday morning - a quick search of turned up no reviews at all, and other sites seem to posture Broussard more as a country artist than a rock one.

Sure, "Home" is Southern-fried, down-home, grassroots shit, but it has less twang than soul. Effortless, unassuming soul that conjures up old blues singers and a certain dude who used to sit on the dock of the bay and waste time. Even though Broussard is a slightly chunky, blue-eyed white boy you'd expect to see playing eighteen holes with Uncle Kracker.

Broussard takes us on a bus tour through the South - he sits, guitar in hand, halfway back in the charter bus while passengers bob their heads and the bus heads deeper into Louisiana. (There's a lot of traffic heading the other way, for some reason the video never delves into.) When he finally hops off the bus, Broussard leads a front porch jam session complete with washboard zydeco, and he rocks an underground wood-walled juke joint.

Timing-wise, the insistent, emotional singalong hook "take me home" seems more poignant than ever, given that the dude who's singing it just saw most of his home state get demolished in our country's worst-in-history national disaster. But even if I'd heard this before the Katrina crisis, there would be no denying "Home" is the kind of song that makes me stand up and take notice, regardless of genre. I definitely look forward to hearing more from Marc Broussard.

Terence Trent D'Arby - Wishing Well

** (out of four)

The peak of the "Wishing Well" video comes about nine seconds in, when Terence Trent D'Arby comes sliding into the opening shot. There's just this utterly bored-looking backing band - three white guys clustered together in sunglasses, leather jackets and black jeans, strapped with instruments and stuck in a song where you can't really play them - and in glides D'Arby, sliding straight for the microphone, almost uncontrollably. You really want to buy him a pair of TredSafe shoes so he won't slip on that wet floor next time.

D'arby is a two-hit wonder (this and "Sign My Name"*), Columbia Records' light-skinded, mini-dreaded answer to the '80s mulatto magic of Prince. And, sure, "Wishing Well" is a solid funk-pop novelty jam, but D'Arby looks closer to Milli Vanilli than The Purple One as he does his vertical finger-snap dance, shows off his silver sheriff star on that double-breasted working-woman power suit and charms his girlfriend in black-and-white park bench footage.

"Wishing Well" is one of those videos that, if you've seen the first minute, you've seen the entire clip. It doesn't go anywhere or say anything - really, the only reasons to hang in there are to see what new watered-down James Brown move D'Arby will do next. Oh, and three or four times, the same soundstage view cuts from D'Arby with his bland-ass band to D'Arby with his bland-ass group of dancers in the exact same spot. Two-star music videos don't get much more mediocre than this.

* = He's also noteworthy for providing Beavis and Butthead with a giggle-worthy comeback single in "She Kissed Me" in 1993 ("When I'm bare / She kisses me there")

Van Halen - Right Now

**1/2 (out of four)

At one point just after its release, "Right Now" was considered one of the best videos of all time. Then it became the spokesong for the soft-drink trainwreck known as Crystal Pepsi and was forever tarnished.* Now it just seems like some uber-liberal ad agency's self-righteous public service announcement, a bunch of sleek, disconnected images covered with one-liner slogans, all based on the concept of what's happening in the world "right now."

EXAMPLE: The camera pans down a red-silhouetted set of raised arms dangling the strings of a dancing stick puppet while superimposed somber gray-on-white type reads, "Right now, oil companies and old men are in control."

EXAMPLE: An unused yellow condom on white background with superimposed black type reading "Nothing is more expensive than regret."

Some of these platitudes fit with the song's lyrics (when Sammy Hagar mentions "working so hard," we see one of a trio of migrant Mexican laborers climb into the bed of a pickup truck), while others are just plain cute for the sake of cute.

EXAMPLE: The band, posing in black and white, disperses, and a spotlight arises on the bass player - standing by himself with an upright bass guitar - while the screen reads "Right now Mike is thinking about a solo project."

EXAMPLE: A kindly old lady, awash in bright white light, leans into the camera and smears red lipstick all over, while type flashing black and white type reads "Right now your parents miss you."

It kind of makes me wonder who wrote all these little slogans - I'm hoping it was members of the band and not outside hired help. Director Mark Fenske does manage to juggle a lot of second-unit set pieces and stock footage in with the shots of the band, but somehow "Right Now" never becomes a coherent, fully-realized video. It just kind of moves from one half-baked idea to the next, always living entirely in the present. Which I guess is what the song is supposed to be about.

* = However, tarnished in kind of a see-through way, since it was affiliated with crystal-clear cola and all.