Tuesday, November 20, 2007

DVD Review - CLIPS

2000 was a busy year for PUFFY - they practically packed an average band's career into the span of twelve months. Three (count 'em) DVD's in support of JET, one concert DVD in support of FEVER FEVER, a greatest hits collection (The Very Best of Puffy/amiyumi jet fever), two new singles, and an all-new album release (Spike). Oh, and this: Clips, a DVD compiling their promotional videos from the JET, FEVER FEVER and pre-Spike era. Whew!

As you can guess by how early some of these videos are, this DVD is fun. It's pretty short - only seven videos total, interspersed with footage from PUFFY's live introduction to American audiences at SXSW2000 - but these are some of the funniest, strangest, and most endearing videos they've made to date. Well, right up until "Umi Eto", anyway - when you can almost sense a change in attitude (or at least a change in image).

Here's the track list:

1. PRMX - a remix compilation video
2. Tararan
3. Puffy de Rumba
4. Nichiyobi no Musume
5. Yume no Tameni
6. Ai de Tsuon Min
7. Umi Eto

All of those romanizations were taken directly from the DVD menu, so I'm not being pretentious for spelling "Tararan" that way or stupid for leaving the "u" out of "Nichiyobi". Oh, and what is track 6? Why, it's the Mandarin Chinese version of "Ai no Shirushi", of course. They not only sang it in Chinese, they made the video in Chinese too - with Japanese subtitles. I confess I'd never seen most of these PV's - or even knew they existed! - before buying Clips. Hey, gimme a break; I'm an American. We're a little slow when it comes to PUFFY.

To be honest, it's almost criminal how much Sony charged for this DVD when it launched. ¥4,305, or about $40 US - for about 30 minutes worth of footage. That's $1.25 per minute! Only a record label with a band as popular as PUFFY at that time could get away with this. All of PUFFY's other 2000 releases were priced similarly, and even with one major release about every two months, people still bought them.

Nowadays, if you can find it on the used market, Clips is one of the cheaper PUFFY discs out there. I paid around $15 for mine on Yahoo Auctions, and that was probably too much. You can get it for less (if you're in Japan). You can also very, very occasionally find it on Ebay. Of course, you can also just go and watch all the videos on YouTube, but then where's the satisfaction in that? Ok, be my guest, I know you want to look - but if you're like me, you enjoy actually owning these collections, and even more, you enjoy the much better picture quality of a DVD.

Because there's no real way to cohesively review a clip collection, I'm gonna do what I did with Fun Clips Fun Club and just go track by track.

PRMX
Well, that's a disturbing image to lead off with, isn't it! This video can see the future, and it ain't pretty. (No offense to those two actresses, whoever they are.)

Most of this video is stuff we've seen before, remixed just like the music. It's a compilation of songs from PUFFY's past designed to evoke nostalgia (or to milk a few bucks out of the same songs a second time around) while being updated just enough to sound new. The visuals are taken straight out of the videos for the songs being remixed, with new effects added and new editing. Remixed songs include "Kore ga Watashi no Ikirumichi", "Electric Beach Fever", "Ajia no Junshin" and one other that I'm forgetting right now. It's actually all kinda forgettable, really.

Tararan
This song has always been one of my guilty pleasures - it's a little too cutesy for me to play in public, but I've always loved Andy Sturmer's melodies in this, and I love the way the girls sing it. The video is almost syrupy sweet, but it's irresistible. It's definitely girly. There's a whole lot of choreography. There are Rodney Alan Greenblat animated caricatures dancing along with Ami and Yumi. No, I would not put this on during halftime of a football game I was watching with my friends. I don't liked to get laughed at. But I love this video.

Puffy de Rumba
This video, even as strange and funny as it is, was kind of a new direction. It features Ami and Yumi singing in the middle of a forest, complete with backup dancers and... Jimi Hendrix?! Or at least, an actor playing him (convincingly, I might add - Olympic White left-handed stratocaster and all).

At one point, Hendrix somehow falls unconscious in a stream in the forest, only to be revived by Ami and Yumi's feeding him an honest-to-god magic mushroom. This obvious bit of illicit drug peddling is not even disguised - he immediately begins hallucinating.

And look at the girls. They look noticeably more mature than they did in "Tararan" - they look like girls in their twenties, not like the teenagers they had intentionally been evoking earlier on. In fact, they look pretty similar here to how they look now. This was probably the first "adult themed" video that they made, and they'd sort of alternate back and forth between styles from then on.

Nichiyobi no Musume
PUFFY play petty criminals in this one, and it's hilarious. One problem: the video kind of blows its load in the first shot, which is the funniest of all. It's pictured above - Ami and Yumi steal this little kid's big-wheel. That's funny enough, but his reaction - which seems to be genuine - is priceless. He runs towards the camera, screaming in anguish at the top of his lungs (or so I imagine).

The rest of the video sees PUFFY get chased by the cops for stealing their bicycles and other random harmless little crimes. I have to mention the afro's being sported by Ami and Yumi - this was probably the start of their hairstyle experimentation. And it's the only time I've ever seen them with this one.

Yume no Tameni
This is one of my favorite songs from Fever Fever, and I never even realized it was a single before buying this DVD. (Hell, I probably own it - I've never listened to half my early CD singles, and don't even remember what I have.) You really get two videos in one with this song, as it's split half and half between clips from an outdoor performance of the song and stylized, choreographed and neon-lit pseudo-nightclub scenes. The performance clips are very high-energy, especially considering that the song is actually pretty laid-back and early Beatles-esque. But I guess the Beatles had their fair share of wild crowds too, especially in the early years with their kinda mellow brand of boy-band rock.

The other half of the video features Ami and Yumi dancing around, along with a couple of "guests" that include some western chick dressed up like a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader (ok, maybe I'm not remember this quite right) and the same dude who played Jimi Hendrix in "Puffy de Rumba". I guess they liked him.

Ai de Tsuon Min
Not real sure of the backstory behind this one - feel free to chime in with a comment if there's some nugget of info that I'm missing. Basically, this is "Ai no Shirushi" in Chinese. Seems most likely that Puffy are, or would like to be, popular in China and were throwing their fans there a bone with this song. They've always wanted to be a global band, and they're no stranger to singing in a foreign language. I wonder how they managed to get the pronunciations down without actually knowing Mandarin - though for all I know, their Chinese is unintelligible.

The video itself is intended to give a little taste of their Fever Fever tour. It features some strategically interspliced clips from actual live shows combined with shots of Ami and Yumi replicating the live experience on a studio stage. There's a lot of handclapping to the beat going on. This has never been one of my favorite PUFFY songs - it's got too much of a "George of the Jungle" feel to it. But the girls are cute, in the way they were in those early days.

Umi Eto
This video's a brand new bag. The song itself is one of their harder and punkier songs, and it's off the album I've always considered their transition into a more adult sound. The visuals are split in half between clips of their performance of this song at SXSW 2000 and shots of Ami and Yumi looking positively dour as they wander around Tokyo in pant suits that were obviously inspired by 1970's London punk fashion. I don't think they crack a smile once in these sequences. A definite sign of what was to come over the next few years as they remade themselves into a grown-up band. Hey, when you're approaching 30, it's tough to keep up the teeny-bopper act... though they'd resurrect it later for "Hi Hi".

Like with Fun Clips Fun Club, it's pretty interesting to see the progression from the start of this compilation to the end. Whereas that DVD had them moving from indie rock into a more corporate pop punk look and sound, Clips shows their progression from a couple of cutesy girls in a pop act to a serious hard rock band. Even the clips before "Umi Eto" include scenes and themes that show the direction they were quickly moving in.

There's also just a huge amount of choreography here - I gotta say that while I've seen them dance plenty of times before, I never realized how pervasive it was in their act in those early days. Literally every early single had its own dance, most of them pretty damn complex, and they're all in that sort of goofy style that may or may not be ironic. It's fun to watch, but maybe a little overdone. I think I actually prefer their modern incarnation, where they pull out the choreography sparingly, and where it's definitely at least half-ironic when they do.

As for the SXSW footage, it's interspersed in between each video and is purposely cut short so you never get a full song - until "Umi Eto". I'm not sure if they were a little shy about this performance (it was their first in the United States, and they look understandably nervous), or if they weren't too happy with the cramped, close-in footage or what, but the clips of this show cut in and out seemingly at random. They're still some nice little extras.

Like all PUFFY DVD's, this DVD is region 2 and will not work on unmodified US players. It's also a 4:3, non-widescreen DVD. The picture quality is good, considering the original standard-def source material.

Ah, who am I kidding? Here's one video, have fun searching for the rest.


3 comments:

  1. This is up on eBay for $25 right now...

    Totally not getting it. Though I kick myself for not picking up Spike Daisakusen on eBay for $30.. :(

    Yahoo Japan Auctions had ALL the CD-cased Puffy DVDs (pre-Rolling Revue, basically) going for a little over $200 once. I don't know if they all had obis.. and they were certainly out of my price range at the time.

    Ah well, there're always (hopefully eventual) Blu-ray releases to look forward to! At least we can count on being in the same BR disc region as Japan and thus, not having to deal with arbitrary region-coding!

    --

    The girls' transformation is a stunning one indeed. Seeing them go from their innocent 1996 start and developing to where they are now really is a lot to chew through. I'm proud that they certainly have made it this far while maintaining an identity all their own.

    -Mode7

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  2. Re: "Ai de Tsuon Min"

    I don't know the exact reasons why they did only two Mandarin-language tracks, but I may know how they got the pronunciations down.

    On "Fever*Fever DVD" there's some footage of Puffy's concert in Hong Kong back in 1999, and for all of their Mandarin pronunciations (lyrics, MC spots, etc.), Ami and Yumi each had entire scripts written out phonetically in katakana and taped to the back of their fold-back speakers at the front of the stage. There's even an amusing bit where the camera catches Ami very obviously referencing her script while talking to the audience. I imagine something similar was probably done when they recorded the Mandarin vocals for the songs.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anthony : you mean this, don't you.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKAzHRg-GRo

    ReplyDelete


 
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