Today, we'll be putting My Chemical Romance's "Helena" under the microscope.
00:00We open on a guy wearing black clothing and a lot of black eye make-up. Where shall we put him? Somewhere no one would be expecting. Oh, I know: a church. Really, is the whole thing going to be this obvious? I'm looking for subtle details here. The band aren't really renowned for their subtlety but still, this is too much.
00:03Programs? For a performance of some sort?
00:04No, for a funeral. Do funerals have playbills? I guess they must. I haven't been to one in a while, touch wood.
00:06The guy swinging the incense looks really mall-punk. I mean they all do, but this guy's not above going the extra mile here. In what era was that haircut cool?
00:08It's open-casket of course, so they can cast a tarted-up young goth nymph as the corpse. Not complaining, mind you.
00:14The all-black-with-red-ties look is way over. We're talking baggy-shorts-with-long-johns over. I'm not here to argue about who got there first, it's just time to move on.
00:17Excuse me? Dost mine eyes deceive me? Are those dancers I see? This video just went from boring and silly to delightful and silly. It's a fine line, you know.
00:21The lead vocalist, who I believe is named Gerald something, appears to be simultaneously fronting the band (with a mic) as they thrash away before the altar and preaching from the pulpit (no mic) as the dancers take the place of the band. Worth noting: he's got a Shure SM-57 in the band shots, the sine qua non of shitty sound systems from bar to bar all across this great land. I thought gothy dudes were all way into bullet mics. Kind of a cool move I guess, like "Hey man, we have fat video budgets now, but we used to hit the road in a beat-up Econoline." Of course, to really complete the effect the guitarists would Peavey Bandit 112s, right? Or is that too pre-hitting-the-road, still-stuck-in-the-garage? This shit matters, people.
00:26I've said it before, I'll say it now and at some point I will inevitably say it again: no video with choreography is completely without merit. I mean you just can't go wrong, no matter what kind of music they're dancing to.
00:30I think Gerald uses a smaller mic so it won't get in the way of his face, which is remarkably pretty, gothy make-up be damned. The bullet mic would just get in the way of that adorable teddy-bear sneer. Of course, this theory begs the further question as to why he doesn't use one of Bob Barker's Price Is Right mics.
00:42Too many quick cuts here. For God's sake, just let them dance!
00:45I mean really pretty, and he knows it too. Just look at those eyes.
00:48The whole congregation rises for the chorus: love it! They lip-synch along, too, as if their hymnals were suffused with all manner of charmingly disposable punk-pop ditties.
00:53This Gerald character is one hell of an over-emoter, but every once in a while he gives the act a rest for a split second and you get to see just how pretty he is. You can't tell me that's not conscious. This guy just knows he's born to be a teen pin-up idol and has no qualms about using those looks to shift units. The make-up and the angry yelping are fooling no one, I promise you, least of all the band's nubile young audience.
01:15It looks like, while none of the other band members get much face time in the video, the guitarist with the bushy red hair gets noticeably more close-ups than the other three anonymous schlubs. Funny, because he's easily the least gothy-looking of the bunch. It could be because he's the only other one singing, but I'm more inclined to think he's probably the primary songwriter, the Johnny Marr to Gerald's yelping Morrissey, the driving musical force in the band. One imagines him hunkered down in the studio with just the producer and engineer, fine-tuning guitar overdubs hour after hour till dawn and beyond, while his bands mates are off cavorting about in the manner of all such young rock stars, hanging around some swanky, exclusive after-hours lounge somewhere and sipping little white lines from the firm, ample bosoms of aspiring lingerie models. Ah, youth. Youth, fame and money.
01:26The dancers are laying on the floor, contorting their bodies this way and that, while a bird's-eye camera captures them in the midst of what looks something like a preliminary training session for a synchronised swimming team.
01:27Hey, there's the other guitarist! Man, I know it's normal to just feature the singer (and, in this case, one other guy), but this is ridiculous. Even the bass player got his little incense-swinging scene in the beginning; this guy might as well be a p.a. on the video shoot for all the face time he gets. I could watch this video a dozen times in slow motion and still not be able to pick that guy out of a lineup. Go ahead, fella, rob yourself a liquor store, no one's gonna find you.
01:46See, even when the camera accidentally catches one of these guys they still probably have trouble convincing their friends that's actually them in the video. "Seriously dude, I'm in this band, I wear make-up and stuff. Look, that's— no, hold on... Okay there! That was me! Behind the really cute guy!" That's the third shot of the drummer in the space of about ten seconds and still for all I know they guy could be in witness protection with absolutely no fear of having his cover blown.
02:05Gaaah! The corpse awakens! Should have seen that one coming I suppose. Seems like as good a time as any, too; I think we were running out of angles from which to show the other stuff. I mean it's just been band, dancers, singer, band, dancers, singer for a while now.
02:09And what would you do if you suddenly woke up in a coffin at your own funeral? You would dance, of course. Particularly if there was a punk-pop band thrashing away nearby.
02:23Okay, here's something I don't get. Since we're cutting between shots of Corpsetta from the waist up only and shots of her feet, and never getting a full body shot, I think it's safe to assume we're looking at two different people. They hired one rock video girl to be the face of death and the other to be the twinkle-toes of death. But why? I mean, if the face girl wasn't much of a dancer, why cast her? She's attractive enough, I suppose, but hardly one in a million. Someone in the band's girlfriend, perhaps? The Tawny Kitaen of punk-pop?
Same goes for the the feet girl: her face didn't look gothy enough? Find another dancer. I'm no expert on dance, but to these untrained eyes her skills don't really look irreplaceable. Which brings me to the weirdest part of this whole thing: feet girl can't even get up on her toes! Regardless of what she looks like above the waist, she's not even a good enough dancer to fulfill the role! I don't get this part at all.
02:21Gerald's praying now; eyes closed, hands together, utterly adorable. These Catholic kids make the best goths. So much drama to absorb, so much heavy-handed symbolism to rebel against. I don't even know for a fact that he's Catholic, but I mean come on: look at this video. Do these guys look like Methodists to you?
02:30Corpsetta's grabbed hold of the camera now, apparently believing herself to be in a Beastie Boys video.
02:37Wait a minute, where did the flowers come from? Didn't she throw those away at the beginning of her little dance number?
02:38And, finally, after running all the way down the aisle, she suddenly "re-dies", so to speak, then falls down and lands right back in the coffin whence she initially emerged. This makes no earthly sense whatsoever. I mean, she must have been at least fifty feet from the coffin. Why, oh why do I continue to look for logic and reason in rock videos? It's like factoring future scratch ticket winnings into one's grocery budget.
02:40Right then, time to make our way to the cemetary. It's raining out, naturally. Would you have it any other way?
02:41Well well well, looks like the dancers are coming along and they've got a little something worked out with their brollies. Suppose this is a clever tribute to Singin' in the Rain? Suppose anyone involved in making this video has ever seen Singin' in the Rain? Better yet, heard of it?
02:46Hold on a minute: the band are acting as pallbearers. Fine, all well and good, but there's only five of them, and clearly six pallbearers. Who's the extra guy? A roadie? More to the point, which one's the extra guy? I'm thinking he must be one of the guys wearing hats on the right-hand side of the coffin behind the lead guitarist, but I can't say for sure. For all I know they may all be extra guys except the front two, and the other band members are off prancing about with umbrellas.
02:56Look at Gerald emote! Screaming and grimacing! With all that rain messing up his hair and streaming down his face! And he still looks so hot! O—M—G!
03:04When you really get down to it, the umbrella choreography's pretty half-assed. I mean, the stuff in the church was terrific, but now they're just coasting on past glories. No one's in synch and there doesn't seem to be any direction. They're all just waving their umbrellas around randomly, seemingly oblivious to one another. Suppose the choreographer got fired midway through the shoot? For being cuter than Gerald, perhaps?
03:22And after they load the casket into the back of the hearse, Gerald peers through the little window dramatically for one last glamour shot. And really, can there ever be too many of those? Fade out.