Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Sublime - Date Rape (1992)

*** (of four)

I wonder if this low-budget, slap-happy, vulgar little video ever saw the light of day on MTV. I was surprised just now to run across it on VH1 Classic's show "The Alternative." As we all know, Sublime was a kick-ass rock/reggae/punk band who would have been truly massive and long-lasting had its lead singer, Brad Nowell, not died of a heroin overdose just before the release of his band's breakthrough self-titled album.

We have three half-assed but charming studio albums to remember Sublime by but only a handful of videos. Most of those, in the style of the posthumous barrage of 2Pac clips, awkwardly inject the same available footage of Nowell before he died. "Date Rape," though, has a full-fledged, breathing, shirtless Nowell spread throughout the video. From the opening shot of him spitting into the camera to the closing shot of him getting whacked in the head by the neck of the bass player's whirling instrument.

The band performs in a smokey room in black and white, while the song's story is acted out in camcorder-looking color shots of a truly smarmy gentleman approaching a single woman at the bar, buying her several drinks and leaving in his car together. Not surprisingly, considering the song's title, Smarmy doesn't take no for an answer, but the victim gets her revenge. She throws a rock at his head, gets a lawyer and calls the cops, then Judge Ron Jeremy sentences him to a couple decades in jail, where Smarmy gets "butt-raped by a large inmate." Played by Ron Jeremy. Who, if you've seen any of his several thousand porn flicks, is no small fry. And is apparently no gentleman where lube is concerned.

Sublime's best music has innovation crossed with certain immature charm, and "Date Rape" is one of the band's strongest singles. That there's an actual video from years before Sublime had any notoriety and Nowell took his last intravenous plunge - an actual video made with a three-digit budget and somehow free of content censorship by the cable channels - well, that's a pleasant surprise on a Sunday morning.

Temple of the Dog - Hunger Strike (1992)

**1/2 (of four)

Until I perused the band biography on Billboard.com, I thought Temple of the Dog was a one-off supergroup that basically merged Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. I didn't realize it was a pre-Pearl Jam, one-album project put together by the surviving members of the band Mother Love Bone, who had just lost their lead singer to a heroin overdose.

Chris Cornell was brought in to write and do pinch vocal work, Soundgarden's drummer and future Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready rounded out the band, and Eddie Vedder contributed vocals here and there on the album. Which came out in 1990 but didn't hit until two years later, when the entire nation was angst-ridden, wearing flannel and looking to Seattle for inspiration.

"Hunger Strike" is one quick verse and chorus, repeated and repeated by Cornell and Vedder, who bounce their high/operatic and low/urrrrr-sounding respective vocals off each other. The topic? Personal satisfaction in the age of money-grubbing capitalism. ("I don't mind stealing bread / From the mouths of decadence / But I can't feed on the powerless / When my cup's already overfilled.") It's a haunting, driving song that builds as it goes.

Paul Rachman's video mostly consists of outdoor shots - lighthouses, shorelines, barren trees, clouds in the sunrise, etc. Cornell sits alone somewhere, head between knees, depressed as usual, while Vedder stands in the middle of a wheatfield or something. The full band eventually joins the scene, and they play together on the beach and in the woods at night. True to the lyrics of the song, no one is ever spotted eating anything.