1992

Rank the Videos: The Cure 1992 – 2008

For the past few months, I’ve been re-watching and re-ranking videos by The Cure to celebrate their upcoming Chicago shows. Now, we’re almost a week away and I can barely contain myself. But before the high pitched sequels and mass fangirling about seeing Robert Smith, it’s time to rank the last batch of Cure videos. Unlike the previous two entries, I have not previously ranked these videos, so this list is completely fresh. While the 80s had some of the band’s best videos, the 90s had some of their most lackluster. While there are some good ones in the mix, most of them are forgettable or just bad. So let’s take a look at the last of The Cure’s videos until they hopefully release another album.

“Friday I’m in Love” (1992)

One of The Cure’s most successful songs gets the most playful video. In a homage to filmmaker Georges Melies, the band performs in front of various backdrops, including one advertising some of their previous singles and videos. As they sing, performers representing characters from Melies’ films come out and shower the set with confetti, sparklers, and balloons. The Cure gets in on it as they put on silly costumes, dance, and have a drink. There’s not much of a plot, rather it’s just the band having a good time on set. Seeing them freeze like statues or Smith trying to keep beat while wearing an awkward mask as a hat is sure to make you chuckle. Sadly, this would be the last time The Cure worked with Tim Pope until 1997.

“High” (1992)

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This clip from the Wish era may make your eyes hurt since it has a washed out overlay. But the rest of the video is a dream, matching the album’s sound perfectly. The band plays on a ship in a cloudy sky where images from the lyrics, like “makes me bite my fingers through,” actually play out. Smith then floats above the clouds on a kite, with fellow bandmate Perry is steering. Smith then safely returns to land to finish the song. The video is bright and colorful and it plays like an adventurous dream, the kind you don’t want to wake up from. Like their best videos, this one is whimsical and leaves you feeling good.

“The End of the World” (2004)

Directed by Floria Sigimondi, whose done videos for Marilyn Manson and The White Stripes, this is the coolest video of The Cure’s later era. Using a cool, yet eerie stop motion effect, Smith shuffles around his house which is slowly crumbling to the ground. It seems possessed as dishes start breaking, cans spin around, and a doll keeps wandering around the house. When Smith travels outside he finds the other members also roaming around their destroyed houses. In the end, the house goes back to normal and Smith walks in wondering what just happened. The stand out effects and the dreary look of the video give it an eerie vibe, especially when you see cups with faces on them sliding around on their own. And since it’s something more than just the band performing in front of a background, it has a slight Tim Pope feel, which is nice for longtime fans.

“alt. end” (2004)

Smith seems to be stuck in the recesses of his mind in this video. As Smith falls asleep at the typewriter, we enter what seems like a whimsical world, but actually shows different scenarios ranging from sad (a couple fighting) to horrifying (a woman with her head cut off). Things get more intense and strange as Smith continues wandering through the woods holding his head. It’s kind of weird, but the dark imagery and some of the effects give it an imaginative look and feel. There’s quite a bit going on it may take you a few views to try to piece together what’s going on, but at least the video tries to be creative.

“Wrong Number” (1997)

Bad acid trip is the only way to describe what’s happening in this video. In their first collaboration with Tim Pope in seven years, this video centers around the bright colors mentioned in the song and slithering creatures, like snakes and worms. Everything else is just random clips spliced together of Smith getting married, joining forces with a witch doctor, and seemingly going crazy and crawling around on the floor. There are even scenes with random scary clowns and weird flying fish creatures with a human face. It’s a fucking mess. From the look in his eyes and the way he sweats, it looks like Smith himself is on some bad trip. It’s wild and weird, but one of their better later videos.

“Cut Here” (2001)

This video is simple, but it’s nicely done and feels appropriate for the somber song. The video uses a panoramic effect to show the band performing and switches to close-ups on various members. Nothing else happens, but its sleek look, subtle effects, and simple concept make it stand out. And since the song is about Smith’s friend Billy Mackenzie, who committed suicide in 1997, the bare bones video allows viewers to take in the lyrics instead of obsessing over the visuals.

“Taking Off” (2004)

One of their more playful videos, this one finds the band about the size of ants playing the song as large animals and butterflies roam around them. Think of it as Honey, I Shrunk the Kids meets The Cure. During the hook, Smith floats into the air closer to the sun only to drop back down and join the other members. The best part is Smith’s gestures as he’s more animated wiggling around and pounding his head to the beat of the song. It’s not their best or most creative video, but it’s pretty cute.

“The 13th” (1996)

Strange video for The Cure’s strangest single. It starts off with a battered and bruised Smith in a hotel bed trying to figure out where he is. He finds he’s in a motel with a smiling woman wearing a wedding dress. She dances and twirls trying to seduce him while he slowly tries to piece together what’s going on. Then it cuts to Smith playing with a Latin band on a Spanish variety show. The video goes back and forth between these two worlds as Smith becomes more and more enamored with the person in white. The clip ends with the person in his room and the woman he was previously singing with fighting. It really doesn’t make any sense. It’s entertaining, but at the same time, you ask yourself why are these things happening. As a result, it’s one of their most forgettable singles.

“The Only One” (2008)

Freakshow” (2008)

“Sleep When I’m Dead” (2008)

“The Perfect Boy” (2008)

These are all lumped together because they’re all pretty much the same: black and white performance videos. It’s just the band, miming the song in a studio setting with various close-ups of each of the members. Maybe they were exciting when they first came out since it was their first new songs in four years, but now they’re kind of dull, especially to watch back to back. The only thing notable about these clips are the random faces Smith pulls off. It wouldn’t be so bad if the clips were varied, but they’re a carbon copy of each other. Hopefully, their future videos are more exciting.

“A Letter to Elise” (1992)

This is a straightforward performance video. The band mimes the song on stage in what looks like a sound check, with an occasional blue tint over them. Yeah, it’s pretty dull. Unless you’re a huge fan of this song there’s nothing much to keep you watching till the end. It’s so disappointing the final single from Wish got such a boring video, especially since the previous singles got really memorable clips. It’s no surprise to learn this clip was not directed by Tim Pope, which is a huge reason why it’s so forgettable.

“Gone!” (1996)

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What is even happening in this video? What starts out looking like a standard in concert clip turns into a mess. The video switches between varying footage of the band on stage playing the song and footage of one of the members fixing the bus, one of them sleeping, and Smith sitting with older ladies having tea, which is the most memorable shot from the entire video. Smith tries to have some fun with it by doing his silly dancing and faces, but it doesn’t make the video anymore entertaining. It manages to be yet another forgettable clip from the Wild Mood Swings era.

“Mint Car” (1996)

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Robert Smith stumbles around in wacky costumes. That’s the entirety of this video. Smith goes from set to set in different outfits while singing the song. It seems like this clip is trying to capture that same fun, carefree vibe of “Friday, I’m in Love,” but it’s so easy to see through. This one feels forced and too scripted. Smith just looks unsure of himself most of the time. And it’s this video that made me realize how Tim Pope managed to capture all the members in the band. Later directors solely focused on Smith and that’s what happens here. Try to spot the other members. It’s pretty difficult if you ask me. But to top it all off the video ends with a shot of Smith staring into the camera taking off his coat. It wouldn’t be so bizarre if it didn’t look like it was better suited for the Backstreet Boys. Even though it tries really hard, it’s one of their worst videos.

“Just Say Yes” (2001)

Does anyone even remember this song? Another lackluster song gets a dull video. It’s hard to pick what’s more annoying: the unflattering close-ups of Robert Smith or the singer Saffron, bouncing with energy not meshing with Smith’s subdued nature. This video is just the band singing the song and occasionally wearing funny costumes. But everything about it seems forced. Smith looks pained as he sings with Saffron and the other members don’t look all that thrilled to be there. This is one of the videos you wish you could forget.

Where did your favorite video end up on the list? How would you rank these videos? Let me know in the comments!

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Singles OST

Release Year: 1992

Rating: 8/10

In the early 90s grunge exploded on the music scene, which meant several companies wanted to cash in on the phenomenon. Fashion shows featuring flannel, “grunge lingo,” and even movies wanted to adapt the genre, which is why we have Singles. It’s a romantic comedy about the lives of people in their twenties blah blah blah. The movie is notable for two things: it has a brief appearance by Alice in Chains and the soundtrack. Look up any best soundtracks of the 90s list and this will most likely make an appearance. But now that every record company isn’t trying to sign the next Nirvana, is it really any good?

The album is pretty much a compilation of the big Seattle bands along with some underdog players of the grunge scene. Some of the tracks were written for the LP while others were featured in the movie. It begins with Alice in Chains’ “Would?” their dedication to Andrew Wood, who died of a heroin overdose in 1990. Similar to most of their songs, this one is great, even a little haunting thanks to Layne Staley’s eerie echoing vocals. It would later appear on their amazing album Dirt. Pearl Jam make two contributions here with the first being “Breath.” I’ll admit, I’m not their biggest fan, but I thought this song was pretty cool, though typical for the band. “State of Love and Trust” is the more interesting of the two since it’s surprisingly upbeat and makes you want to dance. It’s pretty fun to listen to and catchy, especially when the mindless “hey na na na na” singing comes in. This track was apparently inspired by the events of the film itself.

Chris Cornell is featured a couple times too both solo and with Soundgarden. “Seasons” is a slow, acoustic song that has a sense of foreboding. The music is soft, yet is not comforting and you can’t understand why. The song works really well because you can hear the awesomeness and power of Cornell’s voice. “Birth Ritual” is one of the best on the album. With clashing music, a heavy vibe, and Rob Halford-esque vocals from Cornell, the song is intense as fuck. Again, Cornell shows his vocal range while hitting some pretty high notes. If all you listen to is Superunknown, you may not’ve known his voice could reach those heights. Mudhoney’s contribution “Overblown” is guaranteed to make you smile since it takes the piss out of the grunge hype. With shaky groovy music, Mark Arm sings about everybody loving their town and how it’s getting creepy. He talks about how the Seattle scene went from friends playing music together to being a mainstream thing. Even though he’s rebelling against the whole thing, it’s kind of ironic that the song appears on soundtrack made to appeal to the masses. Or maybe that was the point.

The rest of the tracks are pretty solid and none of them are what I would call bad. “Dyslexic Heart” and “Waiting for Somebody” both by Paul Westerberg, are upbeat, melodic, and have sing song qualities to them providing some uplifting moments on the album. Lovemongers AKA Heart provide an excellent cover of the Led Zeppelin epic “Battle of Evermore” and the fantastic “May This Be Love” by Jimi Hendrix adds a bit of classic Seattle history. One of the most powerful and moving songs here is “Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns” by Mother Love Bone. It starts out sounding like the typical piano ballad, but Andrew Wood’s vocals add this grittiness and edge to it that keeps you listening. As the song goes on the music keeps building with slight changes to keep away from cheesy ballad territory. By the end, everything clashes at the end of the bridge and everything turns up until you reach the harrowing end. It’s beautiful, yet kind of eerie considering the many references to death Wood drops.

The album closes with “Drown” by Smashing Pumpkins. It’s a slower number from the band with soft light music that sounds like it’s lulling you to sleep. The music is very dreamy with a hint of psychedelia, something Smashing Pumpkins does well. What keeps it from getting dull is when a single electrified note rings out in the middle of the song signifying things are about to kick up followed by heavy, energetic music. Billy Corgan sounds like he’s flying as he sings “ I wish, I wish, I wish/I could fly.” The solo that closes the track sounds out of this world with it’s harsh notes and stark vibe, but it goes on a bit too long.

Final verdict? Yeah, it’s a good soundtrack. All of the songs are enjoyable with some that definitely stand out from the others. The line up is solid, though with most of the grunge Big 4 featured, you gotta wonder where Nirvana is. The album is like grunge for beginners, but it’s a nice mix of the big name acts along with some underground ones. If someone asked me where they should start with grunge music, I would probably point them to this album. I still think the soundtrack and the movie were made solely to cash in on the Seattle trend, but it at least helped to push grunge into the mainstream, which could be good or bad depending on who you ask.

Fixed EP – Nine Inch Nails

Release Year: 1992

Rating: 8/10

Trent Reznor is a beast of a musician who does everything from songwriting, playing various instruments, composing, and even producing. Since the early days of NIN, he’s handed over his songs to others to see what they do with the material. Now, it’s not surprising to find a remix album after the release of a NIN studio album. Though it’s technically an EP, the Broken release got the remix treatment in 1992. This release takes “Wish,” “Last,” “Gave Up,” and “Happiness in Slavery” and turns them inside out to the point of being difficult to identify.

There are two versions of “Wish,” both by J.T. Thrilwell, but first one is better than “Fist Fuck.” What’s so prominent about the first version is the heavy, tribal like percussion that plays throughout the entire track. The latter version has the same drumming, but since it focuses on distorted Timothy Leary samples and squeaky noises, it’s very repetitive and gets old very fast. The former remix features a lot of elements from the original song, but the mix sounds rough like it’s being played out of blown out speakers. Both of them aren’t bad and have their strong points, but out of the two remixes the first one is better and is interesting enough to listen to this along with the original.

There are also two version of “Happiness in Slavery” and both remixes are pretty solid. The remix by Reznor, Chris Vrenna, and P.K. has an electronic influence. With the various synth and techno inspired riffs it plays like the tracks from NIN’s debut LP. It has a mechanical vibe with lots of weird noises swirling around catching your attention. Like other mixes on the EP, this has very little traces of the original, but since everything else is sonically intriguing, it doesn’t really bother you. With how aggressive, brutal, fuzzy, and staticy it is, it sounds similar to Ministry’s best material. The “Screaming Slave” version of the song is trippy, confusing, and really disorienting. It sounds like fifty things are playing at once, making it difficult to figure what’s going on. Everything keeps shifting, steadily getting out of control as the song goes on. To amp up its grittiness, it also features clips of Bob Flanagan, who was in the video, being tortured by the mechanical device featured in the video. It’s an unnerving eight minutes you may not want to hear again.

Throw This Away,” mixed by Reznor, Vrenna, and Butch Vig, is the most difficult song to identify on the release. Not only is it because the music sounds nothing like the songs on Broken, it’s a mix of the tracks “Last” and “Suck.” The vibe starts out slow and methodical, with high pitched squelching noises drowning underwater. As this continues, bits of Reznor whispering “and I want you to throw me away” can be heard making it sound menacing and disturbing. Before the song ends, the pace abruptly changes and is suddenly upbeat with screeching guitars that sound like they’re dying. “Gave Up,” remixed by Coil with Danny Hyde, is disjointed in the beginning, which is what Reznor was originally going for. After that the pace picks up turning into an industrial club mix of the song. The vocals are choppy to the point you can’t make out what Reznor is saying. It sounds good, but compared to the other remix this one seems pretty simple.

This is only the first of many remix albums Reznor would release during his career. While initially I wasn’t a big fan of this EP, now I have a new found appreciation for it. Though many of the songs have two different versions, they are often diverse enough to not be dull. While some of the mixes sound like simple club versions, some of them completely flip the script and turn them into something new, disturbing, and scary, which doesn’t seem possible since it is the Broken EP we’re talking about. If anything it shows how Reznor isn’t afraid to let others handle his precious music.

Dirt – Alice in Chains

Release Year: 1992

Rating: 8.5/10

If you were asked to name one of the best albums of the 90s this would be on the list. Though this was the band’s second release, it’s the one that made them grunge superstars. Not only is it filled with hit songs that defined the era, it finds the band going in a darker, bleaker direction. The songs touch on themes of death, anger, depression, and drug abuse, which is eerie considering what frontman Layne Staley was going through at the time. 23 years later it still sounds as brutal, heavy, and haunting as before.

Them Bones” opens the album on a heavy note with a rough, sludgy riff that oozes throughout the song. Staley’s unmistakable wails open up the track before he starts singing. Right away we’re hit in the face with the dark themes as he sings “I feel so alone, gonna end up a/Big ole pile of them bones.” Dealing with the topic of death, it’s says no matter what we do we all end up as bones in the end. “Dam that River” speeds things up with a driving guitar riff that isn’t as heavy as the rest of the album. While it’s a good song, it doesn’t stand out musically or lyrically compared to the rest of the record.

What really captured me was how fucking dark this album is both in terms of the music and the lyrics. “Sickman” has this upbeat, chugging rhythm which goes against the ambiguous, bleak lyrics. It gets down right creepy during the bridge when random voices and eerie laughter is heard over Staley’s singing, like ghosts somehow got in the recording booth. “Rooster” is based on Jerry Cantrell’s father in the Vietnam war and provides a disturbing account on how you’re never sure you’re gonna make it another day when you’re in battle. “Junkhead,” “Hate to Feel,” and “Godsmack” are all about drug use. The second song is about Staley’s drug use, which he blames on his father. It’s eerie to hear him sing things like “You can’t understand a user’s mind/But try, with your books and degrees/If you let yourself go and opened your mind/I’ll bet you’d be doing like me/And it ain’t so bad.” At the time of recording, the singer resumed his impairing drug habit, which unfortunately caused his death in 2002. It’s songs like these where it feels like you’re trapped in his mind and crawling to get out.

The ballad “Down in the Hole” stands out musically because it uses a soft acoustic guitar to create this mellow, yet somber mood. It even finds Staley crooning during the opening, sounding wounded and hurt. Written by Cantrell, the song is dedicated to his “long-time love” and how it’s difficult to dedicate yourself to a long term relationship. There are some gut wrenching lyrics here that hit you like a bullet, such as “I’d like to fly/but my wings have been so denied” or “Down in a hole/I don’t know if I can be saved/See my heart I decorate it/like a grave.” Something about those lines are really powerful and emotionally charged; this is someone who wants to be free and has given up. These also add to the dark, haunting mood of the entire album.

Angry Chair” is one of their most popular songs and still holds up years later. It starts with this resonating riff giving off a eerie feeling of isolation. Just as with many of the songs here, this one has its share of bleak lyrics with my favorite being “Saw my reflection and cried.” Something about that image is really creepy, like he doesn’t know who he is anymore. But some of the most fucked up lyrics are found on the title track. There are several references to suicide with the most poignant being “I want to taste/a dirty stinging pistol/In my mouth/on my tongue.” When I heard this, I had to take a step back and go whoa. Shit just got really heavy. Lyrics like these are part of what makes the album so memorable.

Years after its release, this remains Alice in Chains’ essential album. During a time when grunge bands were as common as the flu, Layne Staley and crew separated themselves from the crowd thanks to their provocative lyrics and intense music. The songs are raw, honest, and sometimes disturbing. They put you inside the claustrophobic mind of Staley, who was dealing with drug addiction yet again. Based on the lyrics alone, it’s not a nice place to be. But it’s part of what makes the album so good. It puts you in that mindset and takes you on a dark journey. Some haunting masterpieces came out in the 90s and this is one of them.

 

Mini Music Movie Review: The Bodyguard (1992)

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I suppose you can call this movie a classic, especially now that Whitney Houston has died, but it’s not necessarily the best movie you could watch. Even though the music was phenomenal and led to some of Houston’s biggest hits, including “I Will Always Love You,” the story line and the acting is pretty shit. Houston was an amazing singer, but actress not so much. But if you’re bored and don’t mind wasting two hours of your day, then it could be pretty fun as long as you’re not taking it too seriously.

In the movie, Houston played an international pop star (how far fetched) who had a crazed stalker. This is where Kevin Costner comes in, a guy whose previous job found him protecting past presidents before a mishap got him babysitting a bratty singer. I guess Costner isn’t that bad, but I can’t really tell if his stilted, cold deliverance is him in character or him being a crappy actor. Then again, I really haven’t seen him in anything else. But Houston does her best to be the stereotypical, independent diva who doesn’t need anyone to protect her. You would think that since Houston was playing the role of a diva she would do a fairly good job, but the flat tone in her voice, her overacting, and her heartless emotion is enough to drive you crazy. Sure, you can deal with it for an hour or so, but after that you’re ready for the crazed stalker to come and get her.

Of course the best parts of the movie are the one where Houston sings. Okay, so she’s actually miming the lyrics, but the passion she puts behind it is really convincing; she’s in her element here and she lets it shine. One part of the movie that always sticks out in my mind is when she sings “Queen of the Night” and she’s in this awesome outfit that’s part cyber woman part Cleopatra. For some reason this has always been my favorite outfit of the entire movie and whenever I think of the singer it’s the first image that comes to mind. Either way any Houston fan will love any scene where she’s on stage because she owns it. It just reminds you of why she was and still is one of the most respected singers around.

Like I mentioned earlier, if you don’t take the movie seriously you can still manage to have a good time. It’s bad enough that the whole movie is contrived, I mean there is a scene where the stalker tries to kill her kid by exploding a boat he’s on, but there are some scenes that have such a serious tone to them that you can’t help but laugh. One of my favorite parts is when the singer is getting ready for a performance when the phone rings. She picks it up and for some reason thinks the obviously 40 year old creepy guy who replies “Mommy?” is her son. She excitedly says “Fletcher?!” to which the stalker responds in the weirdest and cheesiest voice ever “Nooo! Nooooo!” It’s the weirdest and most hilarious scene in the movie; it almost makes the whole movie worth it.

If you enjoy Whitney Houston and/or bad movies, then check out this film when you’re bored at home and don’t mind wasting away two hours. It’s not even one of those bad movies that’s fun to watch. Sure, there are moments that are funny, but it’s almost painful to sit through Houston and Costner’s stiff acting. If anything, this movie does not motivate you to watch the Whitney Houston vehicle Waiting to Exhale, unless you want to torture yourself.