Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Replacements - Bastards of Young



Bastards of Young
USA, 1986, almost 4 minutes
Source: YouTube

The Replacements' music video, Bastards of Young, could be classified as an experimental film (a minimalist reminder of the aural art form driving the short film) but mostly exists as a kind of enduring anti-valentine to MTV.

The Replacements were one of the 1980's alternative rock comets (they were formed in 1979 and disbanded in 1991), and their Minnesota-brewed punk-alternative legacy and attitudes have influenced the Goo Goo Dolls and Green Day among other people. They also belong to a select group permanently banned from SNL.

We aren't given much to work with in the video, and that's just the way singer Paul Westerberg and crew want it. We focus in on a stereo speaker as the song begins and stay there throughout, pulling back slowly, to witness fleeting moments of things falling off the stereo, a man crossing back and forth and then smoking on the couch (Westerberg?), a casual sneaker in our face, and then a final stomping out of the speaker before the man exits out the door.

This is as far away as we can get from the carefully staged and montaged Girls on Film glitz of Duran Duran and the cartoon fan boy world of a-ha's Take on Me, and the overall effect I think is a real focusing in on Westerberg's vitriolic lyrics (Clean your baby womb, trash that baby boom ...) and the group's beating heart of anti-establishment angst.

I decided to write about Bastards of Young after reading about it in the Saul Austerlitz article (he mentions the video in passing twice in our reading in Money for Nothing) and finding it on YouTube. I loved the Replacements but oddly have no memory of watching this video. I wonder if MTV buried it back in the day in some off-hour slot as punishment, allowing artists like Madonna and Lionel Richie, who worshiped at the shrine of MTV, the prime time hours? Austerlitz, in the chapter on female artists, tagged Cyndi Lauper as the 1980's poetic and down-to-earth "killjoy" to Madonna's effervescent and image-conscious "Material Girl." I think the Replacements and this video fit nicely in that same mold, a band of iconoclastic "killjoys" in the "greed is good" decade.

3 comments:

Middento said...

I'm so glad you wrote about this. I meant to screen it the other day and plumb forgot.

Lindsay Z. said...

I doubt that it got Lionel-Richie-levels of airplay (though one can only wonder if the inclusion of a clay bust of Paul Westerberg would have changed that fact?) at the time of its release, but what's strange about this video is how MTV has come to venerate it over the years, though it was and always will be an unequivocal fuck-you directed pointedly at the very idea of MTV. I can distinctly remember watching one of those "Top 100 Greatest MTV Videos EVER" specials (of which there are tons, since we all know how much MTV loves to celebrate MTV) and seeing this video rank somewhere on that countdown. MTV seems to realize the "artistic importance" of anti-MTV statements like this (or other minimalist-on-purpose videos like Radiohead's "No Surprises"), which is one of the funny things about MTV. Sometimes the more you try to point out and defy the limitations of its system, the more that very system embraces you.

Stone said...

I too was a fan of the Replacements back in the day and also have no memory of this video. However it was a time when the ideologies of punk rock’s anti-establishment ran sweetly through my veins. “Selling out” or changing your convictions when the purse strings opened was the height of hypocrisy. A few, like the Replacements, held fast to their discipline and instead of mortgaging their lives to make a fancy video so they might kneel at the might alter of MTV, they created the simplest of videos that made you listen to the music instead of the infantile glitz and glam. MTV was a sell out in the minds of those who had quite literally, a voice, the purists. Those who wrote music that made you think, feel, or have an opinion. Video was an erosion/distraction of the sanctity between the lyrics and the mind, ultimately devaluing the intended message. The youth of the day were all to eager for the eye candy. Bright lights and sex were the name of the game no matter the message. And so they became mindless … ‘Bastards of young’.