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 411mania » Music » Columns

The Savage Animal 1.15.14: The Videography of Sleater-Kinney
Posted by Mikey MiGo on 01.14.2014

"The Moral Responsibility of Sketch Comedy": I love sketch comedy, therefore I love SNL. I'm not going to be one of those "SNL hasn't been funny since…" assholes who like to complain about anything new and hype up certain obviously great years of the show. These people suck at life and don't like ANYTHING that's currently going on. They miss out on enjoying the awesome things right in front of you. That's why sketch comedy rocks. It's "in the moment" and is small chunks of comedy that work or die based on what happens in that moment. There isn't much room for redos or change-ups. You are the page, for better or worse.

I could ramble about why I love SNL for hours. I have autographed photos and old shots of SNL on my wall within my reach. It's a huge part of my creative influence. When you're an avid fan for years and you live the life you lived, you notice certain things. One thing I've always noticed is the lack of diversity.

I'm thrilled that Saturday Night Live is finally adding a black female to the cast. In EVERY news report I heard or read it brought up that "this is the first black female cast member in six years" as if it was part of the press release SNL encouraged every outlet to say. We all remember Maya Rudolph. Why bring it up? Why does race have to do with ANYTHING here? SNL is a sketch comedy show.

It feels like SNL was bullied into this. I'm sure they'd love to have a black female on the cast that can make them funny and make them money. Are there really a lot of black females knocking down the SNL audition door? I have no idea. A few years ago a friend and I had a long debate about how few black female stand-up comedians there are. There ARE some, but not a whole lot on the mainstream level. There has never been a whole lot of black dudes on the show either. Garrett Morris, Chris Rock, Tim Meadows, Eddie Murphy, Keenan, and then a few other talents who didn't make AS much of an impact like Finesse, JB Smoove, Damon Wayans, and that's about it. It's not just a black female thing. It's a black dude thing too.

But what about the Hispanic representation, the Asian, the English, Little people, deaf people, handicapped people, etc? Aren't all of these genres of human beings representing in comedy and production? Who brings this up? And if IS brought up will SNL suddenly hold a "little people audition" to fill out a cast role? Then when the topic is hot will SNL then in turn announce the casting of a new little person to the cast? That's exactly what happened here.

There is a sense of "what the fuck" when it comes to stuff like this. Would it be offensive if someone pointed out that the old In Living Color cast only had like two white people in it? Is there ever a snarky blog headline that says "The Knicks finally added another white player!" It's that fine line of bullshit that we're shoveling here. It's like we're pointing out that SNL is adding a black female cast member so we can all talk about it and boast a big "look how fair and progressive WE are!"

It should just be natural. If SNL realized they needed to broaden their cast they should have done is this past off season or the next off season. To be so obvious and blatant about it is insulting to anyone's intelligence who has any intelligence.

Since they are presenting their hiring as "the first black female since Maya Rudolph" they're all but admitting or leaving open to the interpretation that they're not hiring the funniest person available, but the funniest black female who auditioned available. It's unfair to the "four white guys they hired" and everyone else who got their spot through the traditional route. SNL is known for being a struggle for camera time. Now the new hire automatically gets spotlight leverage because of the special treatment of the whole announcement and hiring process. I'm sure it'll work out, but this whole situation has just created a strange dynamic.

It's not fair to anyone. I know for a fact that Sasheer Zamata is funny. I've seen her web videos and she stood out on Inside Amy Schumer. I see no reason why she won't show up, take advantage of this really fucked up situation, and in a few years she'll be so funny that people will be talking about how funny Sasheer is and not that SNL has a black cast member now.

She has a great opportunity here. ANYONE would want to be on SNL. She's going to have the spotlight on her at start because of the strange situation that is what it is. The press releases and news coverage for her being added to the cast is almost bordering on "novelty". It really sucks, but it's not her fault and it's not any one viewer's fault. We just move on, get past this bullshit, and keep watching. On SNL the funny rises to the top.

Sketch comedy is a white man's game. That's not me saying it. It's just me pointing it out. I WANT it to be different. I really do, but it's interesting to think about why. It seems to me that most African American comedy figures(actors, stand ups, etc.) came up from doing stand up and working the hustle and grind of the road. I heard on some random awesome podcast (no idea which one) a theory that it could be because of the wealth status. Improv comedy is a paid luxury. Not many people get a comedy troupe together in the hood to go out and put on shows. I'm sure there are exceptions, but it's not as common as a group of fairly well off white college kids trying to get their "Whitest Kids You Know" on. Second City and the improv schools aren't opening up in Gary, Indiana or Compton. But there's always stand up. I don't know if any of this is true or if it's bullshit. It's just something to ponder. At the end of the day, we all just want to laugh. For that job, race and sex do not matter.

I know that what I'm saying is bullshit, but its reality bullshit. I know things are changing, but it's not changing overnight. I'm happy SNL is stepping into the 19th century with their casting, but are supposed to hold them accountable for the lack of variety out there in their chosen field? Is it the NBA's responsibility to make sure more Hispanic children play basketball so one day a percentage of them will be good enough to "diversify" the NBA? Is it the NHL's job to get more black people? No.

Welcome to 2014. Even non-racism is racist.

The Videography of Sleater-Kinney
Good stuff!
I'm not going open this up with some big nerdy rant. I'm not going to pull big descriptive words out of my ass to talk about a band that seems like the reason sites like Pitchfork exist. On the surface, and just based on the involvement of who listens, who reviews, and the general vibe, I feel like this band will be a low-fi, snarky, low-dub, hipster glasses indie band. I hope I'm wrong. I hope this perfect example of "judging a book by its cover" turns out to be a big morale of the story type of lesson.

The truth is that I don't know shit about Sleater-Kinney. I know it was an all-female band that a lot of the "cool people" dug. I was under the impression that they were around in the early 90's around the time of the The Pixies and were in that whole upper north west indie rock world. I heard a lot of good things about this band and by all critical accounts, they were "acclaimed".

I just never crossed paths with them. No real reason why. I am a big fan of artsy indie rock and should have gone out of my way to indulge in new music goodness. It would be my love for comedy to really expose me to this band. After seeing Carrie Brownstein's work on "Portlandia" I wanted to check out her "day job" so to speak. The more I hear her voice the bigger a fan I become so why not?

Sadly, there are only five music videos for Sleater-Kinney. They released a few albums, but didn't get around to putting a video out until 1999. So this is genuinely my first impression of the band. I've never knowingly listening to them and have no opinion. Today I find out what's the deal with this Sleater-Kinney band…

Track: "Get Up"

Album: "The Hot Rock"
Year: 1999
Director: Miranda July

This music video came out in 1999, but I think it had to because it wanted to see every single 1990's cliché available to them before unleashing this moody artsty video. I know that sounded snarky, but I enjoyed it. It's a washed out black and white video of shots of the band hanging out with friends in a big nice field. Meanwhile, there is a not-so-spoon-fed narrative of people being lonely, panics, and in needed of an escape, perhaps to a nice field full of friends. The visual of this video is what's so cliché. It looks like all of those late night music videos that MTV would barley show and you'd have to find on secondary markets like local access shows and college video rotations. It's ridiculously low budget and "DIY-cool", but it never really bores me. That's a plus. I enjoyed the song a lot more than the video.
Rating: 6.75

Track: "You're No Rock n' Roll Fun"

Album: "All Hands on the Bad One"
Year: 2000
Director: Brett Vapnek

This video is WAY more conventional. Almost too conventional. The band plays a poppier rock tune in an empty white space. This is cut with shots of the band rocking out with fun colorful and cool backgroups. It's a simple edit. Then for the guitar solo break down, the "fourth wall" is broken and the camera spins and we see the crew and gathering of people watching the video being made. It then gets a little more tongue in cheek with its tone and delivery. It's casual punk rock with a smile. It's an enjoyable song and a silly video that still manages to maintain their "indie cred". Nice balance.
Rating: 7.5

Track: "Entertain"

Album: "The Woods"
Year: 2005
Director: Molly and Mariah

This video is really serious. You can tell by the moody shadows and the almost-menacing nature shots. The band rocks out in the middle of the woods as we get some close ups of spiderwebs, the tangled view of upward tree branches, and the band themselves. The song is pretty bad ass. The band kicks ass on this one. The direction almost feels like we're spying on the band, but they know we're spying and they don't give a shit. There is nothing too out of the ordinary here. There doesn't seem to be much of a narrative other than the band wanted to go out to the woods and record a killer video.
Rating: 8.50

Track: "Jumpers"

Album: "The Woods"
Year: 2005
Director: Molly and Mariah

This video isn't too groundbreaking, but it's genuinely engaging. It's boredom at work, sitting in a car, walking around, sitting at a computer, and just boredom everywhere. Work sucks, life is mundane, and everyone is compartmentalized within their own cubicle. Meanwhile, the band rocks out in business attire. Eventually the bored woman makes wings out of office supplies and flies off the roof of the building. The song is really catchy and engaging. I'm surprised I've not heard more of this band until now. My circles suck. I'm going to assume the woman did not die once she jumped off a building with office supply wings. If so, this song took a really harsh turn. I'm a little sad now.
Rating: 7.75

Track: "Modern Girl" (live)

Album: "The Woods"
Year: 2006
Director: Christoph Green

Shots of cereal and introduction titles take us to the band chilling in a nice spot for a "in house" live version of the song. We get cool close ups of the band just doing their thing in stripped down rehearsal type of vibe. The atmosphere is an empty living room with people just standing around assumingly with cameras and equipment. It's really raw and unfiltered. It's almost like the behind the scenes footage of a bigger music video shoot. The vibe fits the music that much more and adds to the mood. By the end of the song you feel enthralled by the simplicity of the surroundings and the fullness of the sound. Good song. Good video.
Rating: 7.25

What is YOUR favorite Sleater-Kinney video?

"Mike Goodpaster's Unpaid Programming"

"The Way Way Back"

It's a "coming of age" story where a timid kid gets stuck going to a local pool while on vacation with his mom and his seemingly future step-dad. At the pool he "comes out of his shell" and start to develop his own personality and grows some balls. This is all thanks to the change of scenery and the awesome cast of characters that worked at and hung out at the pool. The kid, played by Liam James, did a great job of being awkward enough to be off-putting but sweet enough to be relatable. Kids in movies like this tend to often be annoying and lame. This dude was not and should have a good career ahead of him. The supporting cast rocked. Sam Rockwell got his Bill Murray from "Meatballs" on as the cool guy in charge, Maya Rudolph, Jim Rash, Nat Faxon, and a hand full of others all made it a fun time whenever the kid went to the water park. Meanwhile his home life saw his mom played by Toni Collette who is there with a really assholed-up Steve Carell. Carell was really unlikable and a jerk in the movie. It was awesome to see him prove he could do that and do it so well. On top of this we get Allison Janney being awesome as always. I'm at the point now where if I see Allison Janney in the credits of something I'm going to watch it. She is just THAT enjoyable. Rob Corddry and Amanda Peet drop in for nice additions as well. I really enjoyed this movie. I've been watching just as many movies this year as the past few years, which is a lot, but it seems like there has been a void of smart comedies like this. This movie fits into his own quasi-independent film where it has that slow human nature, wandering emotional ride type of vibe to it but it also has a bigger production budget than most "real indies" and has a cast that would make even the worst of scripts come off like a million bucks. Then we factor in the fact that this script IS well written and good… yeah, it's got a lot going for it. See this. A-

"Worst Case Scenario" is a new take on the concept of "fantasy booking". For years professional wrestling fans would spend endless hours of thinking up the coolest things that could happen. Why waste the energy? This only leads to high expectations. "Worst Case Scenario" flips that. Instead of looking through rose colored glasses, let's take a bi-weekly look at the worst possible scenarios in professional wrestling. I'm not going to be malicious or anything too mean, but I will not refrain from letting my brain come up with the worst possible shit I can. Sadly, it seems the writers and producers of mainstream TV wrestling and the mainstream iPPV level indies are doing the same thing but charging us for it. And now…

"Handicap Match: Big Show vs. Two Bears!"

The Big Show is one of the most unique figures in the history of the WWE. He's been a main eventer and has been in the ring with some of the best wrestlers and most successful performers of all time. He has carried his own in the ring for well-paced, intriguing, and action packed matches. I'm not saying he's a 5-star wrestler, but he does what he needs to do. He's been champion up and down the card and is always a legit contender to plug in whenever they want to.

At the same time, he's an attraction. He's a HUGE man so he's someone the company can spotlight based on the presence alone. This is why he's the guy who comes out and fights the famous boxer, the famous sumo wrestler, and the famous basketball player. When the media covers the fact that someone from another faucet of pop culture they get to see a big spectacle of a foe.

Let's take this one step farther. Big Show vs. a bear? Nope. Big Show vs. TWO BEARS!

You see, people have heard folklore of old school bad asses and carny folk fighting a bear. It's a crazy story, but people seem to stomach it enough to let it fly and let the stories continue on. To REALLY make history, Big Show would have to face not one, but TWO bears.

Show would have to be feuding with a non-wrestler like a Paul Heyman, Zeb, or even a Vince McMahon. They could go on a story where Big Show becomes animalistic and people are off-put by him. No one wants to work with him. This leads to him being forced to face two bears. The promos would be great.

Tell me how AMAZING it would be to see The Big Show clinch his fist and knock not one, but TWO bears out with a punch to the dome? You can't.

Book it! Big Show vs. TWO BEARS! WrestleMania 30!

"Lone Survivor"

On the surface I want to be jaded and say this movie is going to be hokey. I'm sure it's be good, but it'd be one of those inspiring action packed war movies that glorify war by displaying the soul-crushing survival parts of it. Then at the end, the flag will wave and manly eyes will have tears begin to swell. But I'm going to be more open minded. This is written and directed by Peter Berg and he's not one to just toss out some trite shit. He casted some awesome people like Ben Foster, Eric Bana, and Emile Hirsch on top of stars like Taylor Kitsch and Mark Wahlberg. It's based on a true story, but it looks to have some emotive elements that "Zero Dark Thirty" didn't really have. I'm not sure how exciting I am to watch this, but I know I want to. For a movie like this, I feel like I would need to be prepared for a rollercoaster of action. Sometimes you just know a movie is going to be exhausting, but art that challenges you is the best art so I'm in.

That's all for now! I genuinely enjoyed this one. I always dig being able to take in new music. I may have missed the boat on this band when they were active, but that doesn't mean I can't go back and appreciate the body of work. Someday in the near future I hope to sit down with their discography, maybe a bottle of wine, and just absorb. Life is crazy right now. I have my candle burning from two ends, I'm in between a rock and a hard place, and I can't drive 55. Next week I unleash some venting on you guys. In fact, I spread it out over TWO columns of doom. It's my epic rant titled "Top 20 Things Wrong With Music Today". Next week is 20-11, where I'll probably contradict myself and annoy anyone who likes anything. But at least we can get through this together, right?.... right? Right! After that, I promise to get back to coherency or at least something elephant. Until next time… Have a Great Week!


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