Artist: The Replacements
Title: Bastards of Young
At long, long last, we reach the top 10 of this sprawling list-thing with the most poignant argument against the existence of music videos ever made. Swell. The term "anti-video" is one that gets bandied about in critical circles quite a bit, and almost always incorrectly. It tends to get attached to clips like Cake's "Short Skirt, Long Jacket" and blink182's "Rock Show," which thumb their noses at conventional direction, narrative and visuals. But that doesn't make them anti-videos; they may be iconoclastic, but in the end they're "just" videos that call for an expansion of the definition of what a video is, rather than anything designed to attack the art of music video itself. (And videos that are parodies of videos don't even enter the question.) To the best of my knowledge, the only band ever to truly indulge in honest-to-God anti-videos was the Replacements, and they never did it better than they did with "Bastards of Young." Those who oppose music video as an art form argue that it robs music lovers of the opportunity to form their own associations with the songs used. Music, they say, is very personal and experiential, and a song can strike powerful attachments with our memories and emotions; by splashing someone else's narrative across the screen, the folks at MTV are forcing a particular association on the viewer, stuck there for all time. The only visuals that should be involved are the album cover and the room the listener is in. And that's exactly what the Replacements give us: a single shot over some guy's shoulder of the stereo playing the album. Period. That's all. In the middle of MTV's usual visual onslaught, it's a reminder of what music was like before MTV ever existed, and a middle finger aimed at the very networks that put it into rotation. As for us, we're forced to accept the song on the band's own terms as a piece of music, not a soundtrack. Yes, at the end there's a bit of post-punk property damage to keep it from drifting into Warholian pretension, but even that comes off as, "We're just another rock and roll band. Don't take us seriously, either." And now, two decades later, I'm sitting in this chair, having devoted a year to my music video obsession, and "Bastards of Young" is making me feel sheepish and ashamed for ever doing so. F***ing brilliant.