Wednesday, October 02, 2019

A Brief History of End-Times Entertrainment

Seeing Massive Attack in person left an impression all the YouTube clips cannot. It's almost like the difference of having something described to you versus experiencing it for yourself. But it also left me with a very unsettled feeling, seeing how explicitly confrontational and --yes-- apocalyptic it all actually was.

But it also brought to mind a lineage I wanted to briefly touch on, and that's the incorporation of newsreel footage as a collage or montage in music video and other entertainment media. 

And just how often doing so creates a kind of alarmist, end-times kind of atmosphere at the same time it might awaken people to what is going on outside their bubbles.

Hopefully, at least.

As I mentioned before, the overall effect of the concert was a lot like this well-circulated scene from The X-Files, which aired after Super Bowl in 2016. 

That episode was like rocket-fuel on the Conspirasphere brushfires, and you saw this clip everywhere you looked. It's still bouncing around Cyberspace.

Of course, old school XF-ers recognized it as Chris Carter rewriting himself, specifically the ludicrously-purple soliloquy by Michael Kritschgau in "Redux."

You gotta love the staging here: Kritschgau letting the cat out of the bag while breezily strolling down the hall at work, with all kinds of military personnel wandering to and fro. It only makes a lick of sense if my theory is correct and that The X-Files is really about mind control and not the paranormal.

Going from one extreme to another, there were also a lot of Evangelical recruitment films using the collage effect in the 70s and 80s, again using newsreels to paint an end-timey picture for potential converts. It worked a charm, as the record shows.

After all, I hear Evangelicalism and apocalypticism might go back a spell. 

Soonafter you began to see a lot of weirdo punk and New Wave bands incorporate the motif into their music videos, given how big an anxiety "nuclear war" had become as the Cold War heated up in the late 70s. 

The deliciously-irritating Suburban Lawns, led by the supremely-odd Su Tissue, threw their hat into the end-times ring with the annoy-core classic, "Janitor," in 1980.

Director David Mallet tapped into the meme with his 1981 video for the Queen/Bowie classic, "Under Pressure," since the artists were unavailable for the shoot. Mallet interspersed old archive footage with more contemporaneous clips. 

I think David Mallet may have actually directed every music video made in the Eighties. I'll have to check.

The Clash leavened some news clips with footage of their favorite subject (themselves) in the "This is Radio Clash" video, released around the same time as "Under Pressure." Ironically so, since they've admitted that they flat-out stole the song's bassline from "Another One Bites the Dust," itself lifted from Chic's "Good Times,' at least in part. 

Ironically, Bowie would work with Chic's Nile Rodgers on his next album, whose title track lifted some sax riffs back from "Radio Clash." It's an incestuous business.

Apoca-Rock titans Killing Joke produced a couple collage-performance synthesis videos in 1984, for both "A New Day" and "Eighties."

Call me crazy, but I get the feeling the director had the hots for Geordie. Just throwing that out there.

On second thought, I think it's more Big Paul.

Proto-Industrial synthsters Cabaret Voltaire often wielded the motif, having long been deeply involved in experimental film and video. It looks like with this one they were unable to license some Russ Meyer clips so decided to make their own.

The Cabs, like the Joke, were heavily influential on a generation of artists who figured out how to best monetize their mutated blend of experimental music, dance, and doom.

Depeche Mode was one of the first to take the Cabs' signature blend straight to Barclays after founder Vince Clarke went off to do Yaz and Erasure. I like a lot of DM stuff, mind you, but I hate this song and I hate this video. 

Just so you know.

Edgier industrial bands made collage practically de rigeur. And many clangers like the UK's Test Dept took it upon themselves to manufacture their own archive-looking footage to accompany their atonal rackets, because it was always the apocalypse inside their expensively-coiffed heads.

Bless them.

Ministry did likewise with the "Stigmata" video, from their 1988 landmark, The Land of Rape and Skinny Puppy.

I like pre-thrash Ministry, but I think because they were so unapologetically derivative that it was fun trying to figure out who they were aping.

Same with Nine Inch Nails, who did their own Cabaret Voltaire tribute (with Adrian Sherwood, no less), 1989's "Down in It."

The conjunction of the Iraq War and Killing Joke's searing 2003 comeback album created a virtual cottage industry of videographers using the merciless grinder "Total Invasion" as the soundtrack for montages of gruesome and disturbing war footage. This is one of the less graphic.

WARNING: Go looking for the others at your own risk. 


Similar efforts were made for the epic mini-symphony "Dark Forces." I guarantee our Mr. Curtis watched a lot of these kinds of vids while working on MezzanineXXI.

Given the long history of Apocalypticism, it made me wonder if this is some kind of collective immune system response. That Apocalypticism is a kind of antibody, raising alarms and thereto helping to fight off threats to the host at large.

It's dreary and facile to dismiss Apocalypticism given how many complex societies-- astonishing city-states and empires that their citizens thought would last forever-- have been destroyed throughout history. I'd argue it's also dangerous. Steven Pinker is all fine and good, but a little gloom 'n' doom can help keep the complacency from setting in. Especially with so many negative indicators being masked by, well, The Masked Singer.  

Who was it that said "only the paranoid survive?" Betty White? Grandma Moses? Don Rickles?

I'll have to check my notes.