Monday, August 10, 2009

#143. 'Who uses a machete to cut through red tape'

Sounds like some kind of super girl that some feminist would approve of or something

How important is a video to an artist's success? At the beginning of the decade we were in the throes of a revival of completely image-based artists, ones who pretty much necessitated a video aspect to get to any level of notoriety, which seemed counterproductive at a time when MTV was playing less and less videos. The necessity of a video was becoming a factor only in the realms of pop music it seemed. Rock artists were less in need of them, instead relying on good old fashioned radio play to get themselves into the consciousness of their fanbase, especially after they got their initial break. Cake, for instance, may have owed some of their success to the great video for "The Distance" but after that their videos had an air of 'whatever' to them. "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" was possibly the laziest video ever made, but the results were fantastic and probably gave the song a healthy boost in popularity.

The idea was so simple it's a wonder no one thought of it before: play the song for a variety of people and conduct man-on-the-street interviews with them getting their thoughts on it. I think the key to the video's undeniable charm was that they left in the negative comments alongside the positive ones, leading to some choice quotes (the poet who claimed that this was done much better on all the old record in the 40s is particularly great) alongside some spastic dancing and looks of confusion. The video was great, so much so that it obscured the song under it. Most people will remember the video, but the song itself gets lost in the shuffle.

I just paid $80,000 to divorce my wife. If she was more like the broad in this song i think I might have stayed with her.

The question I've been pondering since I put this one down on the list was whether it would survive so well in my memory if not for the video. Any time I strongly associate a song with its video I tend find that the song on its own can't quite live up to the standard its video sets. That's definitely the case here, but on its own merits the song still deserves to be mentioned here. Ignoring the lyrics you've got one of Cake's catchier instrumentals, with the bass and guitar mirroring eachother for the main riff and that slight miriachi tinged trumprt lead ov er the last vers. Hell the instrumental portions of the song were appropriated as the theme for Chuck (seriously the most entertaining thing on network TV right now) and they work so well independent of the lyrics that I hardly miss 'em.

What the lyrics add is debatable, but as far as songs that try to define the ideal woman go it's certainly not the worst. Since so little of it is focused on look it sets itself a bit apart from the usual, but a lot of john McCrea's more abstract qualifications tip from quirky into annoying (he loses me at 'fingernails that shine like justice' honestly.) Wikipedia, that cornucopia of useless factoids seems to think it's talking about a girl who's given up the carefree party lifestyle for a steady job, which works in some ways, but I think McCrea's going more for a girl who embodies both sides of that coin. A girl who has it all worked out so that she can have it both ways. A short skirt for the nights out and a long jacket to hide that during the day. She gets up early and gets shit done then stays out late. She's smart enough to pull this off. She's everything any man might want, but only for a few minutes at a time. She's both Kitty and Karen at all times, but only shows one of them to you. I like this interpretation more, but it's immaterial to my enjoyment of the song. And I do enjoy it, but without the video I doubt I'd have remembered it well enough.

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