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Long may they rain

[Originally published 1993 |
Updated here 1999.06.20

I can scarcely turn on the TV these days without running into fabbo music videos, which are of course far more engaging than mere music. Take the Waltons, for example, three prairie dogs (four when they're on the road) whose major-label deal has lately borne fruit in a breezy, winsome video, "The Naked Rain." It's a paean to the feeling of liberation gained by (what else?) standing "naked in the pouring rain." The obvious means of illustrating this theme is to show actual rain, or at least water from a shower nozzle in a studio; while that device is an old one (KLF, Cathy Dennis, Nirvana, and even Madonna have all used it for novelty effect), "The Naked Rain" manages to avoid a clichéd one-to-one correlation between lyric and image.

The Waltons play their instruments in this downpour (did the accordion get all soggy? were they plugged in at the time?) while interspersed close-ups show in soap-commercial detail the way water beads on the skin of nude male and female models. Images of the boys in the band are sometimes projected on the bodies of the naked models (another example of an overused music-video effect, windows within windows). Elsewhere we get to see them naked, though they obscure their naughty bits by popping umbrellas open toward the camera, grinning all the while. The video is as charming, smooth and sensuous as vocalist Jason Plumb's sideburns are shaggy and irksome.

By the way, Mr. Naked Model gets more airtime and longer, more loving tracking shots across his body than Ms Naked Model, who was likely included more for "balance" than to ward off the homo vibes that aren't there in the first place. But aren't we lucky to live in the '90s? We get to witness men's ongoing realization that they can be at ease with each other in circumstances which more prurient minds would consider sexual.

Speaking of boys, the Pet Shop Boys have one-upped even the absurd Issey Miyake confections in which they parade around in public through the act of wearing spiral-striped dunce caps and matching jumpsuits. This spectacle can be witnessed in their newest video, "Can You Forgive Her?" Its trompe-l'oeil live-action scenes are a fittingly PSB-esque combination of the deadpan and the audacious. Imagine being dressed in a dunce cap and a jumpsuit walking the wrong way up or down an escalator and still keeping a straight face. Heck, I couldn't do it, but les Garçons de l'animalerie do. They are, as ever, a treasure of popular culture. Here's hoping they never end up as a 3-D karaoke lounge act in Vegas or anything.

And finally, some queer stuff from an only somewhat unusual source: Living Colour. These fellas "lensed," as they say in the biz, a video for "Bi," a ditty on their latest record, Stain. (Actually, scuttlebutt has it that the band lensed three videos, only one of which is suitable for airplay.) What's the song about? "Bisexuality," you say. Good answer! Three points. "My lover told me, well, that she's bi. I wanted to scream! There were tears in my eyes," croons Corey Glover, looking ever more like LeVar Burton in his new short dreads. "She said, 'Baby, baby, don't you cry, 'cause the one I've been with you've been seeing on the side." Right on, baby.

I wasn't too thrilled with the art-direction of "Bi"; the tinsel on the walls, black and white balloons, and polymorphous guys 'n' dolls in chainmail and sequins and leather make it seem too much like a desperate attempt to adapt, say, the party scenes in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls to today's decadence. Still, you gotta love Corey, always at ease with his polyvalent sex appeal, for cavorting in a pool and letting himself get licked by a woman and (tentatively) caressed by a guy – another black guy, no less. While certain doctrinaire leather-jacketed lesbians from the Queer Nation of yore may be unable to appreciate this, the fact that four black guys put out a song and video about bisexuality is groundbreaking. Of course, Living Colour has been nothing short of valiant in demolishing stereotypes and revealing the hidden truths about race, sex, and rock since they day they hit the big time. Hats (and bras and codpieces) off to them.