Specialty: Music Video -- A look and a listen to music videos on Cheap Trick, Bob Marley, and The Ramones

Specialty: Music Video

Cheap Trick: Every Trick in the Book
Loosely arranged in reverse chronological order, the 17 clips compiled here pointedly illustrate Cheap Trick’s descent from manic originality to demographic formalism. The band’s recent videos are dull and characterless compared with the best pieces: two enthusiastic (if poorly shot) concert mementos from the quartet’s first Japanese tour, a staggering live rendition of “Ain’t That a Shame” from a 1980 awards telecast, and a bizarre voodoo interpretation of ”I Can’t Take It” (1983). The car-commercial sterility of the later numbers makes Every Trick in the Book an unsettling portrait of a once-great band getting older but not better. C+

M.C. Hammer: Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em
Like many other contemporary pop stars, dancer-rapper M.C. Hammer’s ambitions extend beyond making records and three-minute promotional clips. This hour-long made-for-video morality play — in which Hammer comes home to Oakland, Calif., hits the ground dancing, and manages to turn the tide against drugs — has top-notch production values, halfway decent acting, and a script that isn’t quite as trivial as such things are wont to be. And where similar outings have strained to squeeze in artists’ familiar video hits, there’s no sign of ”U Can’t Touch This” anywhere. Like Hammer’s records, Don’t Hurt ‘Em is enjoyably insubstantial, offering fans far more entertainment value than the usual video album. B+

Bob Marley and the Wailers: The Bob Marley Story/Caribbean Nights
Nine years after his death, Bob Marley remains a powerful cultural icon, both for globalizing reggae music and for being a proud symbol of black self-determination. Using interviews, live performances, and newsreel footage, this earnest 1986 British television documentary sketches out Marley’s life and career, providing a little historical context — regarding Rastafarianism, Jamaica’s political strife, Zimbabwe’s independence — to amplify the music and the man. Typical of TV journalism, the depth of reportage and analysis varies considerably, while the mixture of education and entertainment shortchanges both to a degree. Still, this thoughtful tribute forcefully conveys some of the magical sound and vision that endeared Marley to millions. B

Sinéad O’Connor: The Value of Ignorance
As briefly recorded here, Sinead O’Connor is a ferocious live performer, an intense and engrossing purveyor of unbridled emotion. For eight songs from a June 1988 c8 cert (an odd choice for release now), director John Maybury trains his camera tightly on the young singer, letting no extraneous shots interrupt the appropriate visual claustrophobia. Overlaying the occasionally distorted close-ups of the Irish singer with various abstract pictorial elements, the video makes no effort to glamorize O’Connor, leaving her as unprotected as her personal music. A rare instance of imagery reflecting content on a subtle, sympathetic plane, The Value of Ignorance actually demonstrates the value of intelligence. B-

Lifestyles of the Ramones
Sixteen years after arriving on New York’s Bowery in a blizzard of leather and torn denim to reinvent punk rock, the Ramones have still not grown up. That achievement is celebrated in Lifestyles of the Ramones, a tongue-in-cheek portrait that cleverly links a decade’s worth of song clips with amusing offhand comments by the group, Debbie Harry, Yankee pitcher Dave Righetti, and many others. Although charter members of the TV generation, the Ramones aren’t exactly telegenic camera subjects. Fortunately, the foursome’s awkwardness fits right in with the videos, which, in the early ’80s, had the cheesy look and logic of Plan 9 From Outer Space, but without the special effects. And that’s part of the Ramones’ populist appeal — no lasers or exotic locales for these knuckleheads. The clips aren’t posh, colorful, or clever, yet they’re as unpretentious and joyfully silly as the music they accompany. B-