EW reviews the latest bands appearing on video -- We review the latest concerts on VHS

EW reviews the latest bands appearing on video

The screen is alive with the sound of music. . .Rock video’s second decade is shaping up like its first, with live performances and promotional clips as the basic menu, offering fans moving posters and kinetic concert souvenirs. The good news is that the form’s growing popularity has produced fairly reasonable prices, a wide variety of artists, and an occasional glimmer of creative ambition among the mass of clods and clichés.

Lou Reed: The New York Album (Warner Reprise)
Armed with his strongest album in a dog’s age, Lou Reed hit the road in 1989, devoting half of each show to performing the complete New York. Those who missed this important piece of adult rock theater now have another chance with this video. Captured with imperfect one-take immediacy on a Montreal stage decorated to represent urban decay, Reed downplays showmanship to focus his intensity and conviction on the self-righteously sociopolitical lyrics. From the opening chords of ”Romeo Had Juliette” to the last feedback squeal of ”Dime Store Mystery,” the tape demonstrates the undeniable art and power of a trenchant intellect supported by a talented trio. A-

The Sugarcubes: Live Zabor (Elektra)
Iceland’s Sugarcubes are so far outside the familiar parameters of rock style that they are virtually off the map. Live Zabor mixes inconsistently shot but invariably entertaining 1988-89 concert performances from London, Iceland, and Alabama with offbeat interview segments in which the quintet discourse on such things as the philosophy of television and their nation’s groceries. The Sugarcubes’ exoticism lends a remoteness to their records, but they are a brilliant and fascinating live act. Seeing them, even on video, considerably enhances one’s enjoyment of the music. B+

New Town: Bryan Ferry in Europe (Virgin) In the 1970s, Bryan Ferry was the debonair front man of glam-rock’s most influential invention, Roxy Music. On his own, the smooth operator makes tamer, largely humorless music, and that’s the stylistic flaw in this aatful 1989 concert film: The once campily suave lounge lizard now resembles the former object of his satire. Ably backed by six fine musicians and three female singers, he offers a polished but uninspired recitation of his hits. The seven Roxy classics arr worth seeing, but the tape has a distant and impersonal feel; it’s a spotlight that paradoxically reveals nothing about the artist. B-

The Jesus and Mary Chain: Videos 1985 to 1989 (Warner Reprise)
Until very recently, Scotland’s brilliant pop-noise proponents were deemed too extreme for the American TV audience, so most of the 12 clips on this career summary are likely to be unfamiliar, even to fans. Little matter: One J&M clip is pretty much like the next, each a challenging dose of insolence to match the records’ antagonistic allure. The group takes a determinedly casual approach to making videos, indifferently miming songs in various TV studios, on a beach, and in a field. While all the clips succeed in capturing the chaotic spirit of the music, few besides the earliest (”Never Understand”) and the latest (”Head On,” ”Blues From a Gun”) add much to it. B-

The B-52’s: 1979-1989 (Warner Reprise)
Now that the B-52’s are finally enjoying overdue commercial success, these kings and queens of kitsch have issued the inevitable clip compilation. The result is delightful but surprisingly sketchy. Their quirky songs and colorful personalities (not to mention awesome hair extensions) are ideally suited to video translation, and lead to such delights as Adam Bernstein’s rambunctious ”Love Shack” and wild pan-cultural travelogue, ”Roam.” Mary Lambert’s clip for singer Fred Schneider’s solo track, ”Monster,” features both a cameo by the late Keith Haring and some cute claymation. But other clips aren’t quite as inventive, and the group’s video catalog has only four numbers (including a wonderful live ”Rock Lobster” from ’79) that predate the group’s current hit album. B-