PIXIES, “SNAKES” – MARK LOCKE. Despite my hardline stance on devoting time to promotional materials for a record called “Indie Cindy,” anything that gets called “the best music video of the post-MTV era” demands some attention. Daniel J. Flynn has awarded this bold accolade to last week’s Mark Locke-directed clip “Snakes” in a monumental essay for “The American Spectator.” Flynn, who’s previous works include “The War On Football” and “Why The Left Hates America,” is a music video expert and very much qualified to make such claims, so it’s in our best interest to take his words seriously. “Snakes” is the best video of the post-MTV era. What about that one with Beyoncé dancing with the two other ladies and stuff? I’ve been told that that was one of the best videos of all time one of the best videos of all time of all time. But “all time” means something different in the post-MTV era. Time is a construct and the elimination of scheduled music video programming destroyed it.
I wish I was as next-level as Flynn, but my critical apparatus is still stuck in the MTV era, so I can only think about “Snakes” as such. So I’ma turn it to him:
The jarring new Pixies video for “Snakes” depicts paper-mache piñata people escaping encroaching predators. It is as off-kilter as the band that doesn’t once appear in it. The disturbing mini-movie makes more sense after a few viewings, which makes sense given that, unlike real movies, music videos aim for hundreds of repeat screenings. The surprise ending, positively Shyamalanian if not Hitchcockian, makes clues, meaningless upon first glance, exude meaning after repeat YouTube visits.
Flynn is making some bold claims here: “…the band that doesn’t once appear in it.” This is a truly shocking assertion – music videos, by simple MTV-era standards, must always contain the musician, and to suggest that the band doesn’t appear in the video is simply staggering. What could this do to our understanding of Spike Jonze’s “Elektrobank?” I always thought that the Chemical Brothers were just really good at rhythmic gymnastics. “The surprise ending, positively Shyamalanian if not Hitchcockian” – music videos have never before been conceived as having plots, much less twist endings; the introduction of this line of narrative criticism changes everything. Flynn’s method, applied to David Fincher’s video for Madonna’s “Bad Girl,” or that one with Michael Jackson and the werewolves, could blow a hole in the very idea of what a music video means.
When I first watched “Snakes,” I was confused. Why are these guys running around with giant heads? Why are these generic thug guys chasing them? Why does this band suck so much without Kim Deal in it? And holy cow the ending – these disturbing images! these flies! this violence! Now, to think that it has meaning – I am still coming to terms with the very possibility. I thought “meaning” was one of those things confined to the realm of high art, like socially acceptable nudity and rubbing your chin and saying “hmmm.” But meaning – Shyamalanaian meaning – outside of high art? Or maybe, music videos are high art. This is crazy; no one has ever thought to do that before. In the future, I wonder if there will be museum exhibits devoted to music videos? Not like a lot of museums, just some weird ones in the outer boroughs of New York or something. Just a crazy thought, I’m not serious. But that would be crazy cool, wouldn’t it? Low art, as high art. Music videos as transcendent, post-art experience. Pixies as agents of digital revelation. Mind steel-bar-to-a-paper-mache-head blown.
Forget the post-MTV era. We are in the David J. Flynnian era, similar to but slightly different from the Shamalayananain era. This article is going to do to music videos what “Writing Before The Letter” did to words. Twenty, thirty years from now, people are going to say, “remember where you were when you first saw ‘Snakes?'” Gaga, Beyoncé, Diane Martel, Anthony Mandler, every rapper ever – you all mean shit now. The narrative music video is about to become a high-culture art form, and anyone that can’t keep up is going to be left in the pinata-splattered dust.