Published on July 20th, 2011 | Jonny Abrams
Top Ten: Spike Jonze music videos (part one)
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Beastie Boys have renewed working relations with acclaimed director Spike Jonze on this epic, berserk and utterly inspired video for ‘Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win’, the second single from the New Yoikers’ triumphant comeback album Hot Sauce Committee Part Two (Parlophone/Capitol).
So Rocksucker thought: wouldn’t it be ruddy well timely to list our Top Ten Spike Jonze music videos? So here – for your delectation and/or rabid disagreement – they are…
1. ‘100%’ by Sonic Youth (1992) – The video for this delightfully sleazy first single from Sonic Youth’s Dirty album (Entertainment Weekly‘s Album of 1992, no less) betrays the skater background and in-motion style which would later come to eminence in Jonze’s work on televisual tomfoolery staple Jackass.
Co-directed with Tamra Davis (Half Baked director and wife of Beastie Boy Mike D), it features a young Jason Lee (the My Name is Earl actor, not the pineapple-coiffured former Nottingham Forest forward) and was dedicated to the memory of Joe Cole (Black Flag and Rollins Band roadie and friend who was shot dead, not the outrageously remunerated Liverpool midfielder); indeed, Lee represents Cole here, where his body is found by police in what remains to this day an unsolved murder.
Kim Gordon, writer of the song’s lyrics, plays a yellow Fender bass which she apparently borrowed from budding Bill & Ted star Keanu Reeves, while the hazy, early-nineties house party setting suggests that, somewhere out there, Beavis and Butt-head are still watching and sniggering.
2. ‘Hang On’ by Teenage Fanclub (1993) – Opening track of the Fannies’ unfairly derided Bandwagonesque follow-up Thirteen, ‘Hang On’ is a by-turns-cacophonous-and-sweetly-melodic encapsulation of the Fannies’ fuzzy early sound whose bleariness is captured expertly by Jonze in this accompanying promo video.
Wobbly handheld camera shots weave in and out of each other as street-skiing and bunny masks supplement the subtly surreal effect, before Messrs Blake, McGinley and Love march across traffic/rock out onstage for the song’s triumphant flute’n’strings coda.
Jonze would soon cement his go-to-guy status with ingenious videos for Weezer and Beasite Boys, while Teenage Fanclub would regroup from that unwarranted critical backlash and record Rocksucker favourite Grand Prix.
3. ‘Buddy Holly’ by Weezer (1994) – Arguably Jonze’s first landmark music video, this was filmed all in one day at Hollywood’s Charlie Chaplin Studios. Splicing footage of Cuomo and co with clips from legendary sitcom Happy Days, Jonze managed to present Weezer as performing at the original Arnold’s Drive-In Diner and even features a cameo introduction from Al “try the fish” Molinaro himself.
Hair gelled and adorned in ever-so-polite cardigans, the band make for an irksomely convincing gaggle of Richie Cunninghams while rocking this Blue Album classic. Sad to think that a band once capable of sending The Fonz into near-rapture ended up recording such guff as ‘Beverly Hills’ but, hey, that’s showbiz. Does that $10m offer from fans for Weezer to split up still stand? In any case, this promo ‘scooped’ four ‘gongs’ at the 1995 MTV Music Awards, stirring the crest of the wave which Weezer would ride right into the following year’s classic Pinkerton album. After that, well…
4. ‘Feel the Pain’ by Dinosaur Jr. (1994) – Like a sort of halfway point between Teenage Fanclub’s street-skiing and the violence of ‘Don’t Play No Game…’, Jonze’s video for this single from Dinosaur Jr.’s much-maligned Without a Sound album sees J. Mascis indulging in a game of urban golf which spares no prisoners. Those poor unfortunates who get in the way of this improvised golf course are clobbered with clubs and, on occasion, used as unwitting tees for the next putt, keeping proceedings suitably in line with the title of the song.
However, Jonze’s eye for surreal slapstick and the wonderful effect of the golf ball flying over high-rise buildings render this particular Pain more than bearable; indeed, Mascis’ golf buggy joyriding makes for such an entertaining romp that you may even permit yourself a cheer when he, er, ‘gets his hole’ at the end.
5. ‘Sabotage’ by Beastie Boys (1994) – Capping a remarkably fruitful year for Jonze, this video for the classic Ill Communication single was nominated for five MTV Video Music Awards (it won none, provoking this rather colourful protest from MCA). Starring the Beasties themselves as moustachioed super-sleuths Sir Stewart Wallace, Cochese, The Rookie and The Chief (plus DJ Hurricane as Bunny), the video portrays a spoof seventies crime drama whose more violent moments had to be edited out by the bold Knights of Standards and Practices at MTV.
‘Sabotage’ was not the first Beastie Boys video to be directed by Jonze but – pending monumental success for ‘Don’t Play No Game…’, it remains the most iconic. It’s worth noting that Beavis and Butt-head were huge fans of the video, even if the element of pastiche was someone lost on the former.
Have Rocksucker’s no-doubt-musically-biased selections caused you to shake your head disapprovingly and mutter obscenities such as “bosh” and “flim flam”? Well, have your say in the comments section at the bottom of the page…