Sunday, December 03, 2006

Worst Video Collection

Dave Matthews Band: The Videos 1994-2001 offers 12 music videos and a bit more.

First up, thanks to the intense close ups, is grasping how quickly a hairline can recede in seven years.

The second thing you'll probably notice is that they aren't video artists. Few today are.
Ourselves, we'd pick Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" as the best video. It doesn't depend upon gimmicks or star turns, it just tells a story that is in keeping with the lyrics of the songs. In fact, it may be one of the few videos that actually enhanced a song.

Most didn't then and most don't now.

Dave Mattews Band started making videos a decade later. Watching the DVD you may wonder why anyone bothered to collect them in the first place?

Bonus features to the DVD? Forget it. You don't want to watch the 'behind the scenes' for "Don't Drink The Water." (Unless you enjoy someone discussing swollen balls.) If you're thinking you'll see the process by which the video is made, well, they went another way.

The 'videos' usually rely on a concert footage. So, since the band can't seem to mark Christmas without foisting off a live multi-disc set off on consumers, the videos may seem more than a bit redundant. Pay attention to "Stay Wasting Time" which is all concert footage that is out of synch with the music. (Dean Karr directed.)

What is Dave Matthews Band visually? A lot like there Ben & Jerry's flavor, Magic Brownie which will turn you off brownies and ice cream rather quick. That grab bag 'flavor' is composed of vanilla ice cream, chocolate brownies and (wait, it's coming) raspberries. Some see it as an attempt to ape their forebearer (musical and dairy) and that the raspberries are supposed to enliven the flavor the way cherries do Cherry Garcia. The reality is it tastes like they threw whatever they could think of in a container.

Whatever they could think of gets tossed in front of the camera as well.

"What Would You Say" is a bit more upfront about using nudity to sell the video than anything U2's ever done. (We're all aware that there's a nude breast in "With Or Without You," right? Use the freeze frame or you may miss it.) David Hogan surveyed the band and decided models were the way to go which we don't think is fair. The band could have an interesting look. And Dave Matthews himself was actually sexy on the cover of Spin in the 90s showing a tiny bit of a pudgy belly.

Hogan didn't seem to know what to do with the follow up, "Ants Marching," so he dropped the American Gothic lite and went with a concert performance (and another models -- male and female). "Satellite" comes next and Wayne Isham's love of Tom Petty videos is all over that one which opens with a shot of a satellite (well, videos are quite often obvious) and then a female model blowing bubbles (less obvious, but got to get the sex in) while, watching it all, is a young male model in a trailer out in the middle of nowhere. One idea Isham did have, a good one, was that David Matthews could be handsome.

That depends on lighting, angles and Dave Matthews.

Matthews' looks can make him come off like the perv on this week's perp walk such as in "Stay (Wasting Time)" or, when he's feeling particularly animated such as in "I Did It," as though he's attempting to wrestle the crown for Frat Boy funny from Huey Lewis.

Throughout it all you wonder why he doesn't pull a Jack Johnson and just wear a t-shirt. He has no fashion sense and the bulky shirts and sweaters he favors (that all hang low) look more like smocks. After "Satellites," he never had a director who knew how to make him look attractive. Or to stand fairly still. Watching "Too Much" (directed by Ken Fox) is to think the title's supposed to describe Matthews' incessant mugging and knee manuevers that appear to owe a huge debt to Madonna's Live Aid performance of "Into The Groove." (Both appear to mistake the stage for a treadmill.)

"So Much To Say" continues the portrayal of Dave Matthews as rock's resident spaz as he eye pops, raises eyebrows, poses and preens, appears to have borrowed all the left over lipstick from Home Alone and generally jerks around in a manner that would lead some to prescribe Ritalin.

"Crash Into Me" (directed by Dean Karr) tries to go arty. Matthews put into a white shirt and formal clothes but can't lay off the goofy eye movements. Did he think it was a comical song?

Who knows what Karr thought because he's working with pastels, blurry focus and, for some reason that no sane person should be able to figure out, a geisha motif and a a tribal male. The look on Matthews face as he lip synchs "Hike up your skirt a little more" is so creepy, you're better off not seeing it.

"Don't Drink the Water" was another opportunity for Karr to play art school and it also provides Matthews with the chance to salute the video work of Adam Ant. Who knew? Why are indegenous people in the video? To give the band 'soul' or to reflect the lyrics. If it's to reflect the lyrics, Matthews swinging around from a chandelier with bemused looks undermines the lyrics.

"Crush" (also directed by Karr) is in black & white and mainly serves to demonstrate that Matthews can't even sit still as he bounces around in his chair while smoking a cigarette. He's like a toddler that bounces frantically. (He is aware, isn't he, that you don't have to move on every beat?) The band plays on stage while Matthews sings at the bar. Every now and then you get "art shots" of things like urinals.

Dave Meyers directs the last two videos (the videos play in order of release), "The Space Between" and "I Did It," the latter of which is the more ambitious. At the end, you learn Matthews is a sanitation worker and you have to wade through a lot of crap to get to that point -- including 'kung fu' moves, Matthews floating through trash, flying, attacking an apparent rock star, getting beaten with his own left leg, and so much more, most of all Matthews bugging and batting his eyes repeatedly as he comes off like Pee Wee Herman's chunky older brother.

As musical artists, Dave Matthews Band is a group we enjoy. As video artists, they demonstrate repeatedly that they have no visual sense, have no vision and allow their videos to settle for the most obvious of the esoteric images -- every one could appear in a commercial for bath salts.

The collection doesn't offer one video that enhances a song. It does show that the band has no idea who they are visually and nothing worth saying visually. More importantly, the non-stop mugging doesn't just detract from the lyrics, it takes serious lines, even sexy lines, and turns it all into a joke.

Maybe it is? Matthews can't stop writing and singing about Woman as Nature as though he o.d.ed on the works of Frederick Nietzsche or at least "Mysterious Ways." Instead of enhancing your love of the band, the video collection makes you question your enjoyment of the band.
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