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State of the Airwaves

Alternative video, alternative music, and an alternative to Jude

By Daniel J. Katz

Only occasionally does the “art form about an art form” motif yield something creatively challenging. One of the most recent successful examples was The Truman Show. The latest is Orgy’s music video for “Stitches.” Laden with effects ranging from distorted images to a giant oscillating box, the setting for this masterpiece is a museum exhibit from the future about the 20th Century Music Video pointing out everything from “youthful values” to the “obligatory performance” shot. But the most important thing in a music video is the music, and Orgy delivers. “Stitches,” an earlier single being rereleased to follow up the success of “Blue Monday,” is a menacing piece of industrial rock based around an atmosphere of muted paranoia that explodes into a surge of twisted power chords that don’t seem to go anywhere in particular. A terrific song on its own, “Stitches” is only enhanced by director Rocky Morton’s vivid video imagery.

* Earlier this year, a British music publication named the Manic Street Preachers the best band in the world. Credentials like that gives you the right to record a single with a name as unwieldy as “If You Tolerate This, Your Children Will Be Next.” While the song doesn’t confirm any world domination (as I said last week, that’s Smash Mouth’s racket), it’s a pleasant British guitar ballad that makes you wonder where the heck Oasis has been for the last year (although preaching individualism is a lot more virtuous than trashing your hotel room and punching out your brother.)

* Another Dave Matthews Band single, “Rapunzel,” has hit the radio... time to go through my usual five-phase Dave Matthews progression. First, initial irritation at a band that the radio is so saturated with. Then, realization that the song is kind of creatively arranged. Next, indifference after a few listens as the novelty wears off. Fourth, enjoyment as the song’s catchiness begins to grow on me. Fifth, more irritation after radio plays the hell out of the song. I’m in phase two now... check back in a few weeks.

* When I first got an earful of Jude’s debut album (featuring the funk-laden acoustic radio tune, “Rick James”), I remember thinking what a wonderful voice Jude has, but how vapid and purposeless his songwriting is. Train, on the other hand, possess very similar vocals, but their single, “Meet Virginia,” has a moving spirit and a very memorable chorus.

* Lenny Kravitz’s “American Woman” is fun to listen to. At first. Then the same stuff starts to happen over and over. It’s sort of like a dance song where nothing happens. I doubt this track’s going to hold up as well as Kravitz’s last hit or Austin Powers’, which has callously spawned a soundtrack including “American Woman” and an equally tiring cover of”Beautiful Stranger” by Madonna.

* Godsmack’s “Whatever” a buzz clip in heavy rotation on MTV... Wow. Sometimes the media pleasantly surprises me.

* Remix of the Week (a new feature): The “Slim Shady Skank.” Yes, your fears are accurate; it’s a combination of Eminem’s violent shock-rap anthem “My Name Is” and a remix of Fat Boy Slim’s “The Rockafeller Skank.” The frightening thing is that they sound really good together. While this track has apparently appeared on at least one radio station, anyone who’s heard the real lyrics to the Eminem single knows that any DJ who plays this cut is a flashing FCC target. You’re better off combing the jungles of the Internet. Trust me, the safari will be worth it.

* See you next month. Keep expanding your horizons.