Tuesday, August 25, 2009

David Bowie. Boys Keep Swinging (1979).

I remember seeing this video, very late at night in 1979, on some random TV show. At the time, all I was really listening to was classical music and prog rock, so I had no previous interest in David Bowie, I thought he was just some wacko. When this video came on, it took me by surprise, and I sensed there was more going on with him, in fact, I believed I was seeing "art."

It's not that the video is weird. Weird isn't always good, or even interesting, sometimes weird is just dumb. Boys Keep Swinging is chilling in a metaphysical way. Note the lack of special effects. It's essentially a theatrical performance. It's not spontaneous or tossed off, it's premeditated and carefully staged.

There are two parts, the "performance" and the "runway show." In the performance part, Bowie performs enthusiastically in eerie isolation, doing his awkward/cool rock and roll dance, without a band or any visible audience. It's like a claustrophobic peepshow. If you haven't seen this, or forget what happens next, I won't spoil it for you, but David takes some female personas for a stroll down a catwalk. It's has you wondering at first, "Is that him? It can't be him. Oh, yes, it's definitely him!" The cheap set design for the "runway" section is completely fabulous, it would have been ruined if it were of a higher quality. And don't forget cheap can look expensive on film, this was meant to look tacky. The female characters are deftly mimed in brief cameos and each of them is individually defined with a few ingenious bits of actor's business.

How can I not mention Adrian Belew's guitar solo that accompanies the runway portion? It's a sublime and unbounded bit of ecstatic improvisation.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Yuan Quan. Short Stay No. 2 (2008)

I came across this video while our family was in Guangzhou, China for our second adoption. Our son was taking a nap and I found myself watching the V Channel, which is the Asian music video channel.

I had read in the
NY Times that Chinese pop was generic and bland. Some of it is, but I found a lot of the music really delightful, pretty, delicate, and light as air, and that's not a crime. I saw a band that did some really sweet Indie pop reminiscent of the NY band Ivy.

And I was impressed by this video, “Short Stay No. 2″ by
Yuan Quan. At least I think this is the video, it looks like it, but I remember it sounding different, more of a samba. Either way, it's probably something most folks in the states would never see, and it has a refreshing charm. Yuan Quan is apparently quite a big deal in China. She's an actress and musician, and she has compiled a collection of travel related songs under the series title, Short Stay that she recorded with musicians living in each of the cities she visited.

Yuan Quan. Short Stay No. 2: