Jan 132011

Prompted by Townsfellow shawnkilroy, I just watched the video for “Something So Strong,” by Crowded House for the first time in a while. I think that this song is undeniable. It’s a great performance of a great song, the hooks are so big you could use them to go whale fishing and it still sounds fantastic despite the era in which it was recorded. Even Mitchell Froom managed not to go overboard with the production.

The problem? Everything about the video. When this came out, I almost blew off Crowded House solely because of that video. This may be an example of Bigsteve’s Listen But Don’t Look Principle, but let me catalog some of the atrocities that take place in a mere 3:13:

  • Shameless mugging
  • Slack-jawed bemusement
  • Milk drinking
  • Neckerchiefs
  • Cartwheels
  • Pratfalls
  • Horn-rimmed eyeglass—bedecked Nerds dancing with dresses
  • Video chicks that are so devoid of sex appeal that they make it seem like the Nerd made the right choice when he went for the dress
  • And a complete and utter disregard for one another’s personal space.

“Losing My Religion,” by REM is a distant second for me for songs that I ended up liking despite the video. The film-student pretentiousness of that video made it unable for me to give that song a fair shake. When I finally saw them do it live on tv, I ended up really liking the song.

Are there promotional efforts that ended up doing more harm than good for you?


  33 Responses to “Listen But Don’t Look Principle Revisited: Something So Wrong”

  1. Excellent points, and you may have overlooked the most UN-ROCK image in that video: the tighty whitey hanging from the clothesline! I’m sure I’ll think of other promotional efforts that killed the buzz before I had a chance to ingest whatever was being promoted.

  2. shawnkilroy

    she drives me crazy by FYC
    the song is so-so, but the video is totally asshole.
    full of jerkoff shit that only dickheads can like.

  3. I love Neil Finn in nearly all of his endeavors, but I have never been all that crazy about this song. It’s not bad, but there’s probably 30 or 40 of his songs I like better.

  4. jeangray

    I gots to go w/Oats on this one. I’ve always thought this was one of Neil’s weakest songs, and that was before I’d even seen the video. Sooo, in my humble opinion that nullify’s this thread, because both the song & video are horrible.

  5. cherguevara

    I saw an interview early on in CH’s career where Neil mentioned there were two songs on the first album he didn’t care to play live. One was “Something So Strong,” which I suspect is because he knew it was corny, the other was “Hole In The River,” which was perhaps too personal.

    Has there ever been a good video by Enz/CH/Finn?

    Funny this should come up, though, because I just listened to that album on Monday. I have a recording of their Philly debut, which simulcast on WYSP, I think, from the Troc. It was a great show, which I wasn’t old enough to attend at the time since I was about 17.

  6. I’m a huge Crowded House fan, but when their debut came out I had the same issues with this video and it caused me at the time NOT to buy this record. Temple of Low Men is even beter (and sold poorly) and I did not get this record until after Woodface (1991?) came out and I saw them live. Their show in 2010 was my “best” show of the year on our 2010 wrap up.

  7. cherguevara

    My copy of that 1st CH album has a sticker that says, “Featuring Neil Finn from Split Enz.” A few months later, the Split Enz records had stickers reading, “Featuring Neil Finn from Crowded House.” The original sequence starts with “World Where You Live” and not “Mean To Me” and I dislike the bonus track they added to the CD.

    I think the regrouped band started to gel much more on this tour, I wasn’t feeling it for the first reunion tour. The album they put out, though, really did nothing for me. The previous one did little for me either, though I thought “Nobody Wants To” was worth the price of admission.

  8. Yeah, I skipped the first couple of Crowded House albums before I even saw the video. I didn’t like all the red velvet graphics on the album cover, I didn’t like Mitchell Froom’s production, and I didn’t like the band’s elfin Look – you know which elf I’m talking about, from that series of Christmas puppetmations. I had similar troubles with Split Enz, who also made things worse by having outfits designed by Crayola. Finally, I got into the band, after andyr sent me (while my wife and I lived in Hungary) a cassette of Together Alone, which he rightly characterized as having “stoner” qualities. I went back and bought the earlier albums, which have their high points, but nothing else really sticks like that fourth album. I like Neil Finn’s first solo album a lot, too, but the second one and the new Crowded House album get back to having that velvety sheen I’m never thrilled with. “Something So Strong” is a solid song, in my book. It’s like the big Squeeze hit, “Tempted,” or that hit song by Ace that Paul Carrack also sang, “How Long Has This Been Going On.”

  9. I have the CD of the show from the same Atlanta venue one year before and it was not near as strong as the 2010 show. The only other time I saw them was right before Tim Finn left. We were not sure the show would even happen.

  10. alexmagic

    Man, I did not remember this video being that bad. That’s some straight up Mentos Commercial shit going on there. I suspect the intent was to make them look like the new Monkees, but they ended up looking like the New Monkees.

    cdm, I was slightly curious about the personal space thing coming up again after mentioning it re: the Tosh/Jagger video, but you’re dead on, there are personal space violations a-plenty here. And I don’t mean that in any reactionary, hetero-panic way. People just shouldn’t interact with people like they do in this video. They come off like the worst comedy troupe ever.

    I think 1:17 to 1:21 is very revealing. Keep a close eye on Neil’s face and see if you can tell how many emotions he’s going through in those four seconds. I count at least three distinct facial expressions indicating that he knows how bad this video is going to turn out.

    But to speak to the greater point, I did and still do like the song and band despite the terrible video and the similarly off-putting, cheesy album covers they had, which now that I look back, may have kept me from exploring their stuff more deeply for longer than I would otherwise would have.

  11. I don’t mind the album cover either. Man, what’s wrong with me?

    Truth be told, alexmagic, I was wondering about that personal space thing myself as I was writing that post. Was this really my hang-up? But I did some soul searching and I watched the video again, and I was quickly reassured that the problem was most definitely them, not me.

    I’m not sure which is more offensive, the intrusions into others’ personal space or the relentless mugging. One thing is for sure, mugging while in someone else’s personal space is 1) completely unacceptable behavior, and 2) video poison.

    And please don’t think that I’m necessarily anti-mugging. It’s an art that is easy to get wrong, but in the hands of a pro, like say, a John Oats or a Darryl Hall, it can easily elevate a “C” video to the level of a “C plus”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_RStwfTAmE

  12. misterioso

    The 80s. Feh.

  13. I had not seen this in years — and I was way more cynical back when this was popular, but I always thought this was a clever send-up of “good clean fun” in the country — I mean they’ve got to be pulling your leg with the milk-drinking right?

    I also thought that the marginal looks of the girls was an anti-video babe statement. If you gussied up the girl in the long hair, I think she looks like one of the chicks in Bananarama.

  14. machinery

    Funny, this sorta song … like a few Mr. Mod mentioned … kinda leave me cold. Everything seems straight down the middle. The tempo, the singing and the drumming. If it were twice as fast, it would be good. I have a problem with some dbs songs because of this. Costello has some mid-tempo songs, but the playing and the singing (as well as the lyrics) always save it.

    And yes, the video is awful.

  15. cherguevara

    Their albums covers were painted by the bass player, Nick Seymour, and were a point of contention. I think Neil told Nick that he didn’t want to see his own face on an album cover again. Funny to think that Nick’s brother Mark was the main guy in Hunters & Collectors, which I find interesting because they are so stylistically removed from what CH did, more in the Aussie pub rock tradition, and because I don’t think Nick ever had a songwriting credit with the band. They had this image of being goofy and funny, but it’s surprising that the band was actually always pretty unstable, with a good amount of friction between all three guys – and that Mark Hart was involved for a long while before he was actually given credit as being a member of the band.

    There was a song on the “Time On Earth” album named “She Called Up,” which I think comes from the same mold as “Something So Strong” – a breezy, poppy ditty that he probably churned out and it seemed fun, so they went with it. That song is a proverbial “needle lifter” for me.

  16. Didn’t the bassist write and sing “Skinny Feeling,” or whatever that needle-lifter on side 2 of Together Alone is called? I had no idea he painted the covers! I had no idea they had a lot of friction, and it shocked me when the drummer killed himself. They seemed like sincerely fun, goofy guys the number of times I saw them appear on EuroMTV in ’93-’94. Maybe they were, but just being in a band inevitably led to friction…

  17. cherguevara

    Skin Feeling – written by the drummer, Paul Hester. He also wrote, “Italian Plastic” on Woodface and “This Is Massive,” which was a live CH staple although it was actually on the last Enz album, “See Ya Round.” That album also contained the a version of “I walk away,” which is a song Neil seems to have struggled with.

  18. I think the elf you’re thinking of is Herbie the dentist.

    Dreadful video. I can’t take their whole physical look. Every guy seems to have a sharp nose, chin, elbows, or hair. They’re all the same pasty English gangly guys you see running on the beach in Chariots of Fire. I can’t see how chicks would dig them or guys want to be them.

  19. chickenfrank wrote:

    I can’t see how chicks would dig them or guys want to be them.

    They may be the most honest criteria we bring to rock criticism, no?

  20. cherguevara

    If you took the pasty English gangly guys out of music, you’d be left with Meatloaf and Madonna.

  21. jeangray

    Not to make light of the dead, but if’n I went from MTV darling to being a Wiggle, I would probably would kill myself too. Ugh…

  22. I’m pro pasty English gangly guys, and a uniform band look. But these guys are all so similar in the video, it just seems like they need a Friar Tuck looking guy to break up the monotony.

    It’s a small complaint among the litany of abuses in this video.

  23. alexmagic

    They could have put out a press release titled “House Gets More Crowded” and had a picture of all the gangly guys crammed on one side of the frame next to the big Friar Tuck guy.

  24. Maybe McCartney’s drummer could hook up with them. I forget what the present-day drummer looks like.

  25. That is just great! I love the fact that Crowded House thought they were going to get all the teenage girls to scream at their clean-scrubbed pop/rock. God that’sthe reason I love Haircut 100 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2cat4kykzI)

    Cher asks has there ever been a good video from Enz/CH/Finn. I submitted this one as an (unplayed) tie-breaker in the RTH World Cup: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbOg3T8_Ba0

  26. ladymisskirroyale

    And they don’t even look very tight or very white. Double downer.

  27. ladymisskirroyale

    The look IS dated, but it was the look for a certain slice of the population at the time. Neckerchiefs were done. I’m guessing slack, grey, tighty-whiteys are still done.

  28. ladymisskirroyale

    Maybe the video was outsourced to the Australian Pastoral Promotional Association or something like that?

    It seemed like an Australian trend, given this video to The Go-Between’s “Cattle and Cane.” Given, this song actually has something to do with farms, country, clocks and the assorted objects in the video, but boy is it a dumb. Exhibit X in our continued chronicle of songs we love despite the stupid-ass videos.


  29. Are they suggesting their packages stretched them out?

  30. cherguevara

    When I was 12 years old, I found myself wandering when it came to rock music. I had been a Beatles fan almost exclusively as a kid and found myself surrounded by kids who were into The Who and Billy Joel (Glass Houses era). I liked the Who, moreso the early stuff, but didn’t really like much. Then one night we went to dinner at a friend’s house and they had this thing called MTV. Clicked it on and saw the video for “One Step Ahead” and that was it for me. To this day, that is a song I can listen to non-stop and it’s never lost its magic. So, I pretty much went from the Beatles to New Wave and skipped everything inbetween (until I got older).

    So having that as my background, I’ll rephrase my question – has there ever been an Enz/CH/Finn video which was not a documentation of a live performance that was not dumb?

  31. BigSteve

    I’m just amazed, because I’d forgotten there was a time when Grant had hair. I think Cattle & Cane is such a great track that no video could ever dim its light.

  32. “One Step Ahead” really is a fantastic song.

    I think this is a pretty good video. Maybe a little incongruous (why are they hotel workers?) but it has a dreamy quality that fits the song quite well.


  33. ladymisskirroyale

    Cheers, BigSteve. It’s probably my favorite song, ever.

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