Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Music: In praise of gimmicks, cheese, insincerity, and everything else that makes rock great.

Something seems vaguely unfair about The Horrors. They look like a Brit version of The Gruesomes, play a sort of simplistic retro-punk that's so sloppy one imagines The Ramones would shake their heads, and they smacked of indie press approval well before they even had an EP out. Their rep was such that they even managed to lure Chris Cunningham out of semi-retirement to handle their first video – not bad for a band that, at that point, only had a single to their name.

Although all of it is instantly suspect, ain't it? Bands that seem to spring, fully grown, out of the club scene and into instant celebrity, like some rock Athena popping fully-armored out of the head of some PR Zeus, seem to have their backlash built in. And if any band was asking for it, The Horror's seem to be. The look, a sort of mod by way of Edward Gorey shtick, flirts with being a novelty gimmick. Their overly-conscious rejection of musicianship and their choice of materials - the B-side to their first hit was a cover of Screamin' Lord Sutch's "Jack the Ripper" - almost seems calculated to tick-off a musical culture that has even managed to buff even punk rock until it has a sanitized mall-ready Blink 182 shine to it. It all seems fake, too ready-for-prime-time, too pre-counter programmed.

And that, dear readers, is how I like it.

Authenticity is the biggest sham. I like my bands to dress in matching outfits. They want to pretend they're rock and roll morticians or robots sent back from the future or hard rocking 18th century French aristos, all the freakin' better. Rather than the endless rants against the state of the world or self-indulgent art pretensions, bands that show up wearing flower pots on their heads send a clear, honest, and unmistakable message. They say, "We're here to make some music you hopefully will enjoy." End of story.

A bunch of dudes in powdered wigs or factory worker uniforms aren't going to lecture you about world poverty and then hop their private jet to their next show. They aren't going to wank away on some 20-minute prog rock sonic circle jerk and then demand you "understand" their aural sploogings. Nope. When a group shows up wearing Mexican wrestling masks and announcing that they plan to, musically speaking, give your sorry ass the atomic drop – well, now we're talking. They're here to get the freakin' job done! That's admirable, in my twisted and limited view of things.

The Horrors are a bunch of dandied-up, insincere, fakers. And that makes them a-okay in my book.

Here's what Cunningham cranked out for them, the video for their first single: "Sheena Was a Parasite."


Anonymous said...

Nice linda-blair like action with the girl..

Anonymous said...

I had the sound off while watching this video because my wife's asleep and i was too lazy to get my headphones.
And i thought it looked pretty cool!
Curiously, I just left a comment on your LUST FOR FRANKENSTEIN post, and watching this video makes me think of Jess Franco!
Although, this 1:40 video is far more compelling than the entirety of any Franco film i've seen to date (okay, not totally true... I seem to favor his earlier output, like THE AWFUL DR. ORLOFF and TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS).
But, anyways, Franco has a thing for "sinister performance art" in some of his films (DIABOLICAL DR. Z, SUCCUBUS, etc.) and the fact that the band performs in the same space with this poor girl, even watching her, seems to share that same dynamic.

Oh, kind of reminds me of THE WIZARD OF GORE, too. The whole horrors as public performance concept.

But this music video is way more effective than Franco's handling of his ideas. Franco's films remind me of the Santo movies: the ideas in the script never attain the same coolness on paper when executed on film. Incredibly frustrating.

Can't wait to check this out with music on!
Unless, I have to actually move my fat ass and get my headphones, then "can't wait" is misleading...