Not even remotely safe for work
One of the strangest trends of the past few years has been the grafting of the old Marilyn Manson aesthetic (itself taken from earlier Industrial video antecedents, performance art and fashion photography) onto disposable pop and dance music artists. None of this is the doing of the artists- performers, more accurately- it's the work of very expensive designers, choreographers and directors.* Too often people confuse the two. Once the performers are inevitably disposed with, this provisional army will move onto the next batch of puppets and cast their visual spells.
What we've seen from artists like Lady GaGa, Rihanna and some rappers is an adoption of this strange Plutonian energy into their visual presentation, using techniques, props and costumery more suited to metal acts. None of it's remotely new- you can see pretty much every riff in an old episode of 120 Minutes or Headbanger's Ball (the media machine intentionally destroys history because it needs to pretend that stolen ideas are original). But it's working- music video is by no means dead, and it's still an incredibly important tool in promoting an artist. Without it, no one would have even heard of Lady GaGa.
What is new is this strange evolution- this kind of visual imagination (Plutonian or otherwise) was the stock-in-trade of alternative rock acts, but most of the breakout alt.rock acts seem to be trading in that hipster vibe- that strange mix of Hermetic and Orphic memes and cues- that tend to radiate suburban privilege and comfort, not the stuff of rock 'n' roll. A lot of this is an evolution- the music industry stopped spending the big bucks on rock acts as soon as it realized that its fans are downloading their music from torrent sites- and the more Dionysian impulses in rock have been in recession.
This video would have been a huge hit in Pompeii- the phallic worship here is straight out of the Dionysus and Pan cults that ruled over that pleasure palace. I have no doubt the producers here- or the artist whose work they are referencing- are familiar with this history. I can just smell the pheremonal sweat, smoke and piss, and hear the maenad's yipping across the chasm of centuries.
The music itself has more of that new wave revival sound to it, referencing its 80s visual antecedents- the group itself even look like an evil 21st Century Thompson Twins. Everything seems to be an evil twin of some 80s act these days. If I hadn't hated all of that stuff the first time around, it might even give me a nice hit of nostalgia.
Offensive as this video might be to some people, it's also got a harsh, jarring buzz and a adrenalized kick, something that rock 'n' roll once had and very much needs to recapture. It's also incredibly timely, since this ties into what I've been writing about. Passion Pit make great records, but you can easily take your eyes off them and (most 0f) their videos.
Another 80s throwback- the music video is once again the playing field. If you want to compete- no matter what kind of music you make, think visual. It's part of the wonder of what once made rock 'n' roll great. Remember, it was TV that put Elvis and the Beatles over in the first place.
*If you need any proof that it's not the performers in the driver's seat, watch this.