Posted by: dougery | January 22, 2011

Music Video Review Monday: MGMT’s “Kids”

Welcome to the first installment of Music Video Review Monday (although I’m posting this one a bit early). I encourage you to take the time to watch the youtube video below in it’s entirety (and this is where I will be bidding most of you adieu, no doubt :-p [But seriously, it’s worth it, trust me]) and then skip down and read what I have to say. I will be bullet linking certain moments in the video for discussion where you can click and be magically zapped back to the instant in question. Ah the magic of the internets. But enough dallying…

“He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster,” is the neon green quote that opens this video off MGMT’s debut full length album Oracular Spectacular. Flames roil behind the rather ominous words made all the more sinister since this is a song about children, it says so right in the title. Yet monsters are forged, not born, so maybe the fire isn’t completely arbitrary after all. The quote is attributed to Mark Twain which is all well and good, and he might have actually said them at some point, but if so he was cribbing from Nietzsche (who in turn was paraphrasing Shaq, avant la lettre, so like, go figure). The inferno goes on for quite some time but be patient, there is all kinds of ridiculous awesomeness around the corner.

1:05 – An animated 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 countdown like you might find in a children’s variety show, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

1:11 – We meet our video’s protagonist, a cherub-faced baby you just want to give a bright red fire truck. But say, the room around his crib is pretty dark, no? And what’s that moving all creepily on the other side of the bars? You can watch the poor kid’s face go from happy to freaked out in a matter of seconds (and this probably isn’t acting) as giant vaguely insectoid monsters cavort all around him. They are the stuff of the Evil Dead, all oozing and slimy and claws and they are reaching in to get him! Ack! Are they real? Are they just a representation of the monsters every kid imagines reside just out of sight in their bedrooms? If they aren’t fictional, where the hell is this little dude’s mom?

1:54 – Ah, here she is. Maybe those big spooky beasts weren’t real after all. Mom arrives to save the day and off we go into the bright lights. That’s indie harpist extraordinaire Joanna Newsom btw. Playing anything but herself. It’s an amazing disguise–some self-absorbed yuppie, a far cry from the general weirdness of the Andy Samberg dating real-life Newsom.

2:07 – Uh oh. She’s already pecking at her smart phone, our dear mother, although for the time being junior is happy just to be held. This will not last. The night horrors are back, and this time they are anyone and everyone. Hooded figures loom in and out of the frame, all of them resembling burn victims, it seems the flames from the intro have done some unspeakable work, rendering monsters everywhere. The kid is bawling now, but this seems to be par for the course with dear old mum. She’s back on her phone a moment later, and down goes baby.

2:40 – Begins a brilliant sequence where we see the child looking up at all of the monster/adults, wondering if anyone can be trusted. He scuttles along, bouncing from person to person while the goons and creeps get more and more gruesome. With such a powerful visual image it’s easy to forget there’s a song playing behind all of this, and Andrew VanWyngarden sings over and “Control Yourself!,” as if wishing the kid good luck. Even the trees and shrubs are jostling about as if some storm were about to break loose. Behind all of this lay some sort of shopping mall.

2:49 – And it’s off to wilderness! Look at how happy he is! That’s because he’s about to meet a bunch of futuristic poet-prophets all dressed up like a cross between David Bowie (Labyrinth era) and any time Looney Tunes goes Space Future (think Duck Dodgers).

3:00 – Occupying the exact middle of this 6 minute masterpiece is the band itself. Their outfits resemble Halloween costumes made from supplies laying around the house. Even the pooch is in on things. So serious, so focused, what these guys have to say is important! (it’s not) it will save your life! (it mostly makes no sense) it will keep you youngins from going down that grim dark path of monsterhood (maybe?).

3:33 – Too bad, shorty, the police found you. Cool you got that rad headband though. Oops, mom doesn’t like it much. It’s interesting, mom doesn’t appear to notice the policeman is a monster. Is this a Calvin and Hobbes moment? Is the kid the only one who can see things for what they are? The question then becomes, why’s mom all squeaky clean, shouldn’t she be all mangled and deformed, too? Maybe the others are just monsters because he doesn’t know them. Hmm…

3:49 – ‘Safe’ in the car. And look at that neck on Mom. Newsom’s bizarre transformation is all in that freakishly elongated neck. This is a woman who (in real life) has hair down to her hips. In almost every photo it drapes her like some ren faire chick.

With her hair up she is an entirely different person. Plus those chic shades. And the ride’s gotta be expensive. There’s a TV in the back seat for crying out loud.

3:54 – Check out those bars on the child safety seat. Kid can barely look around them at all.

4:05 – Bunch of monsters in a car with a surfboard. For the life of me I cannot remember what this is riffing off of. Some classic punk cartoon. Or metal album cover. The name, she escapes me.

4:19 – This is when the video goes from great to flat out bonkers awesome. The wolf magician guy, the Christmas tree thing, the farm animal puppets–this children’s show should exist in real life. I would watch it religiously.

4:51 – Nothing encapsulates how watching this video makes me feel quite like the tot’s expression here. A very Keanu “whoa” moment.

4:52 – A second later he’s whooshed into animation himself. That’s his mom, presumably, letting her hair down and literally transforming into the entire universe. A bunch of food imagery, things eating other things. Survival of the fittest, or at least the luckiest. Being frightened and crying morphs into witches and ghosts. We call down these terrible things all by ourselves.

5:42 – Ballet pig in a tutu. No clue. But it’s fantastic that he bursts into a kaleidoscopic fountain of hams.

5:53 – And we’re back to where we started. Spooks chasing kids. This time, not even the band can can save him. The messengers dissolve into monsters themselves and the kid falls into the abyss. Fin

I hope you enjoyed the video as much as I do. And if not, and you are still here reading, well, you sir or madam, must be related to me or one of my dearest friends. Next week on Music Video Review Monday: The Black Keys “Tighten Up.” See you then!

Reading: Dead Until Dark

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Responses

  1. I love this song and this video. I also love non-traumatized babies. But not as much as I love monsters. Go monsters!

  2. Agreed. And not just monsters, but the kind of sloppy, ichor-laden Jim Henson-on-a bad-trip style monsters. They seem to be having more fun anyhow.

    I stumbled upon this song/video rather late, but it has been on my regular rotation ever since. I feel I have contributed my fair share of those 5 million-odd views the thing has received on the ‘Tube.

    My favorite part features the wolf-magician kid’s show host with the cape. If I wouldn’t receive an unending barrage of wtf are you comments, I’d totally dress up as him for Halloween.


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