Category Archives: 120 REASONS TO LIVE

120 Reasons To Live: The Smiths

Nothing did more to further the cause of Alternative Nation-building than 120 Minutes, MTV’s Sunday-night video showcase of non-mainstream acts. For nearly two decades, the program spanned musical eras from ’80s college rock to ’00s indie, with grunge, Britpop, punk, industrial, electronica and more in between. MAGNET raids the vaults to resurrect our 120 favorite and unjustly forgotten videos from the show’s classic era.

#120: The Smiths “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before”

YouTube Preview Image

There’s a fine line between nostalgia trip and beating a dead horse, so the final installment in this series of digging up old music videos goes to the band with the most appropriate song title for the occasion. The Smiths were the most furiously creative band of the 1980s; from 1983 to 1987, Morrissey and Johnny Marr redefined the aesthetics of popular music in an astonishingly conservative, classical way. The Smiths wore normal clothes and hardly ever wore makeup or used keyboards. That’s the idea the video for “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” purports—everybody’s a Smith. Of course, that’s untrue. Morrissey and Marr were extraordinary. This writer interviewed Johnny Marr some years back and came away with the feeling that the Smiths were a pathological entity:

“The thing that brought us really close together is the essence of why Morrissey lives his life and why I live my life,” said Marr. “Without the art of pop music and pop culture, life doesn’t make any sense. It was a pretty serious, deep need. It wasn’t just the need to escape our social situation, because underneath it all, one of the things that makes us the same is that we’re both incredibly sensitive. There was this burden with serious mental problems that were taken care of by records.”

Thank god for mental illness.

Posted in 120 REASONS TO LIVE | Comments closed

120 Reasons To Live: Bomb The Bass

Nothing did more to further the cause of Alternative Nation-building than 120 Minutes, MTV’s Sunday-night video showcase of non-mainstream acts. For nearly two decades, the program spanned musical eras from ’80s college rock to ’00s indie, with grunge, Britpop, punk, industrial, electronica and more in between. MAGNET raids the vaults to resurrect our 120 favorite and unjustly forgotten videos from the show’s classic era.

#119: Bomb The Bass “Beat Dis”

YouTube Preview Image

You know how the introductory paragraph above suggests that this series of 120 posts would include “industrial, electronica and more in between”? Yeah, that hasn’t really happened for the most part. With one post remaining, it’s apparent that 120 Minutes was not as musically varied as memory served; still, stylistic breakthroughs such as “Beat Dis”—the 1988 megasingle by U.K. act Bomb The Bass—regularly found a home on the program. Helmed by producer Tim Simenon, Bomb The Bass didn’t invent sampling, but it sure did pioneer how to pile it on. As for MTV’s further adventures in electronic-music/DJ programming, Amp (1997-2001) became a far more subversive vehicle for arty, creative videos.

Posted in 120 REASONS TO LIVE | Comments closed

120 Reasons To Live: Sparks

Nothing did more to further the cause of Alternative Nation-building than 120 Minutes, MTV’s Sunday-night video showcase of non-mainstream acts. For nearly two decades, the program spanned musical eras from ’80s college rock to ’00s indie, with grunge, Britpop, punk, industrial, electronica and more in between. MAGNET raids the vaults to resurrect our 120 favorite and unjustly forgotten videos from the show’s classic era.

#118: Sparks “So Important”

YouTube Preview Image

Is it possible this was the only Sparks video to appear on 120 Minutes? Sparks, the L.A.-based duo of brothers Ron and Russell Mael, went on vacation in the late ’80s and didn’t really return until the early ’00s. “So Important” is from 1988’s Interior Design, and it’s symptomatic of some issues that may be preventing the full-on Sparktacular rediscovery: dated style and production that’s like a wall or tall shrubbery, inhibiting access to a deep reservoir of songs. Oh, but when Sparks returned with 2002’s Li’l Beethoven and 2006’s Hello Young Lovers, it began a renaissance in which the Maels’ annoying musical traits (mixing classical with rock, extreme repetition of lyrics and melody, bad puns) became unique assets. Below is the masterpiece from the modern Sparks songbook, “Dick Around”:

YouTube Preview Image
Posted in 120 REASONS TO LIVE | Comments closed

120 Reasons To Live: Aztec Camera

Nothing did more to further the cause of Alternative Nation-building than 120 Minutes, MTV’s Sunday-night video showcase of non-mainstream acts. For nearly two decades, the program spanned musical eras from ’80s college rock to ’00s indie, with grunge, Britpop, punk, industrial, electronica and more in between. MAGNET raids the vaults to resurrect our 120 favorite and unjustly forgotten videos from the show’s classic era.

#117: Aztec Camera “The Crying Scene”

YouTube Preview Image

Hailing from East Kilbride, Scotland (the same town that birthed the Jesus And Mary Chain), Aztec Camera gained early notoriety for 1983 single “Oblivious,” whose video features boyish frontman Roddy Frame as new wave’s own Peter Pan. (In a now-familiar theme, that clip would have been the obvious choice here but is not available online.) By the time of 1990’s Stray, Aztec Camera was no longer relying on eyeliner and strummy, lightweight songs. Stray wasn’t pure gold, but first single “The Crying Scene” represents a respectable toughening-up of Frame’s songwriting with a peculiarly American touch. Frame was Aztec Camera’s sole constant—the band cycled through approximately 25 members over its lifespan, including former “fifth Smith” Craig Gannon for a spell—until he began recording under his own name in 1995.

Posted in 120 REASONS TO LIVE | Comments closed

120 Reasons To Live: Robyn Hitchcock

Nothing did more to further the cause of Alternative Nation-building than 120 Minutes, MTV’s Sunday-night video showcase of non-mainstream acts. For nearly two decades, the program spanned musical eras from ’80s college rock to ’00s indie, with grunge, Britpop, punk, industrial, electronica and more in between. MAGNET raids the vaults to resurrect our 120 favorite and unjustly forgotten videos from the show’s classic era.

#116: Robyn Hitchcock Owns This Channel

YouTube Preview Image

If the price was reasonable, we’d buy a full-length recording of Robyn Hitchcock simply talking. It’s possible that no human has strung together more original sentences than him. It must be exhausting being Robyn Hitchcock. In an earlier post we bemoaned the lack of his videos on YouTube (though “Balloon Man” sneakily appears here in crap-o-vision), but this series of between-clip banter might be even better—even Dave Kendall seems impressed. “I didn’t want to worship the devil,” Hitchcock tells him, “so I came to Manhattan.” The context here is funny, too; just think of the sad beauty of a song such as “She Doesn’t Exist,” from Hitchcock’s 1991 album Perspex Island, having to rub up against the silver body paint of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Give It Away” on the record-store shelves and college-radio airwaves. There oughta be a law.

Posted in 120 REASONS TO LIVE | Comments closed

120 Reasons To Live: Superchunk

Nothing did more to further the cause of Alternative Nation-building than 120 Minutes, MTV’s Sunday-night video showcase of non-mainstream acts. For nearly two decades, the program spanned musical eras from ’80s college rock to ’00s indie, with grunge, Britpop, punk, industrial, electronica and more in between. MAGNET raids the vaults to resurrect our 120 favorite and unjustly forgotten videos from the show’s classic era.

#115: Superchunk “Driveway To Driveway”

YouTube Preview Image

Once again we stretch the elastic boundaries of what constitutes 120 Minutes‘ “classic era” to include this 1994 video from Chapel Hill, N.C.’s Superchunk, but we do so in order to point out two things:
1) This clip for “Driveway To Driveway” puts the lie to our earlier notion that indie rock killed 120 Minutes by not making videos. The more likely explanation is that Viacom/MTV didn’t see much business sense in airing promotional videos by indie labels such as Matador (let’s please not get into this any further).
2) Mac-and-Laura breakup album Foolish proved that Superchunk could do more than the pogoing pop/punk of “Slack Motherfucker”; that it might be a band that survived your college years; that it was every bit as “important” as Pavement even though the group rarely got more than an acknowledgment of workmanlike accomplishment from the press box.

Posted in 120 REASONS TO LIVE | Comments closed

120 Reasons To Live: Material Issue

Nothing did more to further the cause of Alternative Nation-building than 120 Minutes, MTV’s Sunday-night video showcase of non-mainstream acts. For nearly two decades, the program spanned musical eras from ’80s college rock to ’00s indie, with grunge, Britpop, punk, industrial, electronica and more in between. MAGNET raids the vaults to resurrect our 120 favorite and unjustly forgotten videos from the show’s classic era.

#114: Material Issue: “Valerie Loves Me” and “Kim The Waitress”

YouTube Preview Image

Here’s the video for 1991’s “Valerie Loves Me,” in which the members of Material Issue take turns stalking a woman, the bass player going so far as to camp out in the ladies’ restroom. Granted, the vlip doesn’t do justice to “Valerie,” a high-school mix-tape staple that’s in the rarefied airspace of “Melt With You” as far as those matters are concerned. That Material Issue pulled off a 1960s mod, English act in the midst of 1990s Chicago is charming and bizarre, but there was a dark side, too. (And we’re not referring to the sad collection of humanity that shows up at power-pop conventions.) Singer/guitarist Jim Ellison committed suicide in 1996 after the group had parted ways with its label the previous year and Ellison had ended a long-term relationship.

Cheer up, campers: It’s a Material Issue Double Shot! Here’s the band’s cover of “Kim The Waitress,” written by those other power-pop heroes, the Green Pajamas:

YouTube Preview Image

 

Posted in 120 REASONS TO LIVE | Comments closed

120 Reasons To Live: The Jesus And Mary Chain

Nothing did more to further the cause of Alternative Nation-building than 120 Minutes, MTV’s Sunday-night video showcase of non-mainstream acts. For nearly two decades, the program spanned musical eras from ’80s college rock to ’00s indie, with grunge, Britpop, punk, industrial, electronica and more in between. MAGNET raids the vaults to resurrect our 120 favorite and unjustly forgotten videos from the show’s classic era.

#113: The Jesus And Mary Chain “Darklands”

YouTube Preview Image

The weird thing about Darklands is that it’s so much better than Psychocandy. The latter gets all the respect and praise, but much of that debut is just noise. The Jesus And Mary Chain’s 1987 sophomore album is a fulcrum: It releases much of the childish, annoying feedback of Psychocandy and hasn’t yet completely tipped over into the drum-machine dystopia of 1989’s Automatic. On the title track, Jim and William Reid combine their love for the Velvet Underground and girl groups and blanket it with slow, shuddering chords. Darklands—it’s the new black.

Posted in 120 REASONS TO LIVE | Comments closed

120 Reasons To Live: Dramarama

Nothing did more to further the cause of Alternative Nation-building than 120 Minutes, MTV’s Sunday-night video showcase of non-mainstream acts. For nearly two decades, the program spanned musical eras from ’80s college rock to ’00s indie, with grunge, Britpop, punk, industrial, electronica and more in between. MAGNET raids the vaults to resurrect our 120 favorite and unjustly forgotten videos from the show’s classic era.

#112: Dramarama “Last Cigarette”

YouTube Preview Image

After last week’s self-important proclamation that, for some reason, the final 10 120 Reasons To Live entries should, like, count for something and represent important musical moments … well, here we are with the ultimate alt-rock footnote, Dramarama. Originally from Wayne, N.J. (of Fountains Of … fame) and later situated in Los Angeles, Dramarama was beloved by KROQ (Dramarama bassist Chris Carter went on to produce 2004 Rodney Bingenheimer documentary Mayor Of The Sunset Strip) and got signed by Elektra in the ’90s. “Last Cigarette” is from 1989’s Stuck In Wonderamaland, and there’s something annoyingly honest about it, in some ways the same as a country song that doesn’t mince words or seek to deliver any message but the plainest one: “Last cigarette/One before I go to bed.”

Posted in 120 REASONS TO LIVE | Comments closed

120 Reasons To Live: Pulp

Nothing did more to further the cause of Alternative Nation-building than 120 Minutes, MTV’s Sunday-night video showcase of non-mainstream acts. For nearly two decades, the program spanned musical eras from ’80s college rock to ’00s indie, with grunge, Britpop, punk, industrial, electronica and more in between. MAGNET raids the vaults to resurrect our 120 favorite and unjustly forgotten videos from the show’s classic era.

#111: Pulp “Disco 2000″

YouTube Preview Image

As we move into the final 10 entries in 120 Reasons To Live, there is a slow, dumb realization of the waves of regret that will come crashing down on us after there is no more space to fill. Did we really use up a spot just to make fun of Killing Joke? Two Lemonheads videos? The rest of the self-analysis will be saved for a special after-the-fact director’s commentary post. Maybe. Pulp’s popular era (circa 1996) is disconnected from the prime 120 Minutes era by a good half-decade, but if Blur was counted in our list then it’s a crime not to include the better (OK, best) band of the Britpop movement.

If the riff to “Disco 2000″ sounds familiar, maybe it’s because Jarvis Cocker is a huge fan of Laura Branigan’s appearance on an episode of CHiPs.

Posted in 120 REASONS TO LIVE | Comments closed