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Rammstein & Girls' Mucky Vids Prove Why Rock Grot Is Rot Not Hot
Luke Turner , October 28th, 2009 07:00

This year hardcore porn has crossed over into the mainstream music video. Luke Turner gets all hot and bothered

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The naked human form has long been used to promote music. One imagines ancient men persuading the womenfolk of the cave to swing their pendulous dugs in time with their boarskin rhythms in order to attract local flint salesmen, or early shellac 78s featured etchings of debutante's ankles. Music video producers were naturally quick to pick up on the potential offered by the gyrating of human flesh in time to music. And so the hip hop and R&B video has become a cliché of enormous bottoms and six packs you could start a skiffle band off, metal revels busty dames in iron cages, and indie TV shot oft features shirtless boys who look like they could do with imbibing a hearty pork pie rather than another lungful of brown smoke. The nether reaches of all genres have always been packed with groups who've used extreme pornography to try and flog a few more records (or get the drummer laid), but it's only been recently that the habit has crossed over.

For never mind TaTu's teatime snog, or the Prodigy's cheaply baiting 'Smack My Bitch Up', this past year has seen a explosion in the number of officially hardcore grumble videos hitting the mainstream, culminating in yesterday's release of the grotty accompanying the latest slab of hipster ear-fodder from San Francisco's ludicrously overrated Girls (watch here, NSFW). Cue much denuded prancing from resting creative types, and the charming sight of a man singing into the other's tumescent todger is if it were a mic. The context of the West Coast US locale and what appears to be the Super 8 shot nature of the piece is clearly intended to imply, 'hey we're wild and free and radical, it's the Californian coastal vibe, man', but it comes across as more tawdry even than the American Apparel adverts where the nudity feels acceptable only because it means you don't have to look at the brand's appallingly cheap clothes.

Girls' latest comes hot on the buttocks of Rammstein's preposterous video for their single 'Pussy', which was released on a webcam sex site and features members (in two senses of the word) of Rammstein in, out and waved about a bevy of scantily, and eventually entirely unclad, porno-cliche women. Of course, Rammstein being Rammstein it's all part of their epic wind-up as Teutonic agent provocateurs. Perhaps they could be granted that if a) 'Pussy' wasn't the weakest song on an otherwise superb album and b) from Rammstein, a video featuring oodles of shagging hardly feels that exciting. The group sitting down for tea with the local vicar would surely have been more revolutionary. The flagrant use of nudity can, of course, be intended to subvert - The Cribs no doubt had this in mind when they employed a naked lovely to cavort around the set in the anti-lad anthem 'Men's Needs', though the jury is out on whether the one-handed mouse hunters who tuned in got the message. And anyway, Throbbing Gristle playing along to the COUM castration film it wasn't, and you could argue that even Add (N) to X's 'Plug Me In' was, a nearly a decade ago, and rather fitted their seedy brothel electronica.

I am no prude. In fact, righteous noise ought make for a tip top accompaniment to the perusal of the consentingly nude adult male or female form. But these latest videos merely feel symptomatic of the hardcore creep that's slipping invidious fingers into our popular culture, and that's not to mention desperate grabs for attention in the age of downloads and information saturation - who would heard of Matt & Kim had they not made a video where they walk down the street discarding their clothes?.

The more hardcore of the form are also predominantly heterosexual and aimed at the male - when Patrick Wolf had the temerity to writhe around half naked and sporting black leather, indie messageboards exploded in frothing apoplexy in a way that'd be unimaginable had the artist in question been a woman. But perhaps that's what it all comes down to - the hardcore pornographic music video merely replaces , like so much online, the joy of real interaction, the feel of flesh on flesh, the seductive imagining of a naked stranger, and the joy and beauty of a very human soundtrack that can be produced by neither mixing desk nor autotune.

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Oct 28, 2009 5:55pm

Heyyy, at least do a LITTLE bit of research- you could have easily found out it's t.A.T.u

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mr stein to you
Oct 29, 2009 9:12am

To be fair to Rammstein the band were naked as well!

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Nov 5, 2009 5:21am

Your reaction to the Rammstein video is what they were looking for as well as your views on what's become of society.

Like you said, sex has lost its real intimacy, an idea that Rammstein explored. The video was meant as a satire on the sex industry, on how artificial and cliche it has become. The band members also brought up the fact that sex permeates all our entertainment media in the suggested form (suggestive lyrics, movies, tv shows) it should be of no surprise the flimsy veil would soon be torn away.

But your comments are indeed thought provoking. I appreciate the mildness in your writing, your reaction could've been much worse.

PS Rammstein made a homosexual-themed video before as well...just to throw it out there. They sure don't discriminate...:)

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Nick Small
Nov 5, 2009 10:15am

The drive towards pornography (hardcore or otherwise) in music videos has been there as long as the genre itself. The big difference now, is that MTV/TOTP/The Chart Show are not the primary outlet for videos, outside of those produced by the Sony/BMG/Universal stables.
Record labels saw no sense in financing videos that breached the codes explicitly laid out by MTV/The Chart Show etc....smoking and graffiti were verboten FFS.
Now, it's possible to shoot and edit something cheaply and, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, distribution isn't a problem. Of course, Rammstein's preposterous porn and the Girls video actually improve the chances of their widespread distribution via email, nudge nudge wink winkery, and especially via articles disapproving of their content (with handy links of course).

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Mat D
Dec 17, 2009 7:20pm

The Rammstein video annoyed me greatly. The 'agent provocateur' tag is a cop out. That they can peddle some second rate critique (Linda Williams they ain't) of sexual politics while using the very same methodologies they purport to criticize to push product is not subversive, it's cowardly and non committal.

I think there are two things of note here, and they are generational. You have Rammstein, who are of an age where high contrast subversion through farce was a potent tool - see adbusters etc.

You then have a new generation of myspace reared kids for whom cultural forms are as interchangeable as their ipod shuffle (see Brokencyde), unburdened by history, ideology and most importantly for this point, the familiar politics of the skin.

As the 'Girls' video illustrates, graphic imagery is all just another part of the picture - nudity being just another part of the jpeg palette by which you construct your own experience. Despite feeling a little nauseous from the 'wild and free and radical' pretense (I live in SF and suffer these types often), I'm not so sure I mind the greater development.

Once we all accept the mundanity of the filmed erect penis or pruned lips, perhaps then we can start doing something interesting with them. See Bruno Dumont, Ulrich Seidl, Bill Viola, Rebecca Horn for reference.

Also spare a moment of thought for hanhsolo, for whom sex has 'lost it's intimacy'.

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Jan 3, 2010 9:49pm

i don't see anything tawdry or offensive in the girls' video, it comes off as a bunch of friends goofing around, it's actually kind of sweet.

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Jan 7, 2010 4:27am

"and the joy and beauty of a very human soundtrack that can be produced by neither mixing desk nor autotune."


Maybe this is too frank but at some point I remember completely stoping the practice of playing music while having sex, it just began to feel really cheap, corny and took away from the act itself and masked the sounds and words of the one person I should be listening to, Her. There are only a few things in the world I can say I love more than music, but Can music serve as an kind of anesthetic in a negative way, in certain situations, of course? Thanks for writing this.

and apologies for the sincerity.

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Jan 15, 2010 6:07am

That Girls video is awful. (so is the song) Vice Magazine needs to stop. Naked people aren't interesting.

I'm just glad you didn't talk shit about eric wareheim's flying lotus video. It may have been played out, but if everyone is reminiscing and doing best of lists: Best use of nudity for 2009? Does it qualify?

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Jan 20, 2010 4:21pm

Meh, just gimmicks to get you to watch their video. I doubt it'll stick as a trend - now that Rammstein have done what they did who will bother doing it again?

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Alice Zents
Mar 27, 2010 3:52pm

Interesting and refreshing reading. I have always found porn a bore rather than a turn-on, too removed from the suspense and tension of real-life sexuality because I have no acquaintance with the human subjects. But the Rammstein video is different for me. Like other commenters, I think they’re actually skewering (heh) porn itself.

For one thing, being familiar with the band’s work gives us a limited level of acquaintance with them—I grant them a type of faith and credit because I so thoroughly enjoy what they do, and naturally I’ve had crushes on them. They know fans fantasize about them, and I see this video as, in part, a wink-wink-nudge-nudge at us for it. Let’s face it: fan fantasies amount to a sort of virtual sex tourism. It would make a peculiarly Rammsteinly sense to acknowledge this in a porn video, and I don’t think it’s too far-fetched. Sexual frankness has always been their coat of arms.

Watching Till charge up from his chair, Paul with that goofy grin, Richard watching us through part of it, as though asking “Do you get this? Do you?”…it’s still not a turn-on, but there’s a sort of merriment to it. They mug so gleefully, poking (heh) fun at themselves as the sex objects they still are, down in the trenches along with the eternal-sex-object women. That’s the message I take—and I know I’m on the edge of overanalysis here—from the disembodied, anonymous anatomy at the end, and from the cover of the single. Politics is in there somewhere, too (the flag, the “speech”), but among other things, I think this is a kind of post-porn porn.

Skewer away, men, and true, strong love and health and well-being to you all.

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