lateblt (lateblt) wrote,

Hidden in plain sight: The video edit for "Post-Modern Sleaze"

I've written in the past about how grunge music was already beginning to disappear by the mid-1990s, but although the music industry in general had already begun taking a turn for the worse by then, there was still a lot of good music that came out of the latter half of the 1990s. Those who were listening to the radio at that time have probably heard the Sneaker Pimps, who had a big hit with their 1996 debut album Becoming X, whose sound was fueled by the extremely easy-to-listen-to voice of Kelli Dayton. Unfortunately for the band, after the first album, the male members of the band decided that Dayton's voice was not well-suited to their new music, and Dayton was fired and replaced with a male singer, which is literally the stupidest possible decision the band could have made, as Dayton's voice was the one thing which made Becoming X a stellar album. Of course, the music was good too, but Dayton's voice made the difference between good and great. The band's music since then has all been embarrassingly forgettable, which is really a shame since they had such a strong start, but whatever, Dayton went on to a successful solo career under the name Kelli Ali; her departure was the band's loss.

For me, as a person with relatively mainstream musical tastes, the highlight of Becoming X has always been "6 Underground", a ridiculously catchy little tune which was, not surprisingly, the band's breakout single, but two other singles which received significant radio play around that time were "Spin Spin Sugar" and "Post-Modern Sleaze". Again, if you were listening to rock radio at the time, you've probably heard both songs. I always felt like they were kind of average... Definitely listenable and catchy in their own ways, but not something that would really make me want to crank up the volume when I heard them.

Well, it turns out that for all these 25 years, I never knew that the album version of "Post-Modern Sleaze", which I've heard countless times on the radio, is not the version which was used in the song's music video. It was not unheard of for bands to use a different version of a song in the music video than what was released on the album, for various reasons. Sometimes this is done for artistic reasons, sometimes for technical reasons, and sometimes just to have something different. Soundgarden's "Fell on Black Days" is an example, as the music video uses a noticeably different take of the song from the album version. "Post-Modern Sleaze", by contrast, uses a different remix of the song for the music video. Growing up without MTV, as I did, I had never actually watched the music video, and so I'd only heard the album version of the song. It wasn't until the other day, when I happened to idly open the music video, that I discovered this gem of a remix, hidden in plain sight.

There is a long-running tradition of mixing classical symphonic orchestration with heavy metal music, but using symphony instrumentation with alternative rock is a relatively rare fusion. When it works, it works very well; one of my favorite shining examples of how well this fusion can work is Beck's "Paper Tiger", but unfortunately, I can't name a lot of other songs which pull it off well. The video edit of "Post-Modern Sleaze" nails it almost perfectly; instead of just the simple acoustic-guitar backing which the album version has, the video version adds a full line of violins which provide perfectly-timed frills and fill-ins throughout the song. The beats have also been amped up somewhat, with real thick trip-hop transitions instead of the more pedestrian percussion used on the song's album cut. It really makes me wonder what they were thinking with the album version of the song; it's so lacking in inspiration that it almost seems like a demo which lacked any production. By comparison, the video cut is the real thing: It's the kind of sound that makes you perk up in anticipation when you hear it, because it just sounds so darned good. And the thing is, when I compare the two versions of the song side-by-side, they're actually not that different from each other; the video edit has only fairly minor changes, and yes those little details make all the difference. When you're making music, it really is the small touches, the subtle little tweaks which are done during the production, that make all the difference between a good track and a great one.

Unfortunately, the actual music video for "Post-Modern Sleaze" interrupts the music quite a bit for various parts of the action taking place in the video, which is a practice that has always annoyed me, and this particular video is especially egregious in how it keeps doing it. Fortunately, "video edit" recordings--like, for example, this one--exist which eliminate the cinematics of the music video itself, leaving only the sheer goodness of the orchestral riffs. If the video I linked to goes down, look for versions of the song which are three and a half minutes long; the video mix of the song is also known as the "Flight From Nashville Mix" (it was thus named on Becoming Remixed, the 1998 album of remixes from Becoming X), which should provide a fairly distinctive phrase to search and look for.

I am sometimes astonished by what we miss, what hidden gems people never discover because they never think to look in a particular place. Even making small changes in your routines, small adjustments to well-worn processes, can sometimes yield surprisingly different and inspiring results. Adding a handful of violin sounds to a simple pop song turned the song from a boring by-the-numbers piece to something which sounds fresh and unique. Sometimes, it really is amazing how so little can go for such a long way.

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