Bizarro Masterpiece Theatre: The Music Videos of Army of Lovers

Army of Lovers - Big Boobs and Scary Dudes

The Music Videos of Army of Lovers

Director: Fredrik Boklund

I’m going to do something very different in this week’s Bizarro, and I’m going to discuss a series of music videos that, quite honestly, scare the crap out of me.  My weirdo street cred is well established, yet Army of Lovers, an avant-garde Swedish electropop group which adheres to a screw anything that moves school of libertine sexuality, is one of the most disturbingly alluring entities I’ve ever encountered.  The more I think about the group’s dynamic, the more convinced I am that Army of Lovers is what would happen if the B-52s grew up listening to Soft Cell, Boney M, and Bach.

He will get you!

The lion’s share of the creepouts are brought by vocalist Jean-Pierre Barda, a leering, gyrating, scantily-clad dude with the chest hair of Paul Stanley and a similar look to the Boy George-obsessed tranny from The Wedding Singer. When Barda stares at the camera, for any reason, my first impulse is to throw a blanket over myself and run away screaming.

But perhaps more disturbing than Barda’s overwhelming aura of campy perversion, or cohort Alexander Bard’s mousy antics, are the band’s shapely, similarly scantily clad women who strut around the elaborate sets and belt out big R&B vocals.  The easy label to stick to Army of Lovers is that it’s a gay, gay band, but if that’s true, then its videos are gay in a way that will make the straights question everything they’ve ever believed about themselves.

Though all the Army of Lovers videos are fantastically strange, what follows are the cream of the crop, those clips so deranged that they may induce nightmares.  The grandiose absurdity of director Fredrik Boklund may well make him the John Waters of the music video world.

Even the least bizarre of these is frightening.  In “King Midas,” Barda cruises the streets with a five o’clock shadow, eventually hitting the club and acting all rough trade.  He’s greeted in the lot by a buxom cop, played by top lady La Camilla, and soon he’s harassing the kitchen staff, molesting dudes in the bathroom, and pissing on his own shoes.  It’s also implied that his lovely assistant may have sodomized Bard the janitor/bartender with her nightstick.  After that, however, it descends to bodies writhing together and becomes just another night out at the fetish bar.

If the gold-plated prancing which comprises “Give My Life” is stranger, it’s mainly because of the few moments when Barda scampers around sporting a three-foot gold boner.  Jesus.

For some reason that’s never explained, this video begins with three of the band members covered in grease and working at a mechanic’s garage.  Barda strolls like a mook toward a car where his two buddies are working and plays a game of grabass with his colleague, whose tits are popping out of her unzipped jumpsuit.  Staying on task, the third wrench defuses this uncomfortable situation by removing what I think is gold underwear from a car’s engine, and a magical portal opens on the ground.  The grease monkeys enter, and, surprise, they’re Army of Lovers again, dressed in gold and getting chased around a labyrinth and whipped by La Camilla.  And Barda’s wearing a thong.

“Israelism” is the most bizarre celebration of Judaism I’ve ever seen.  Appropriating the traditional “Hevenu Shalom Alechem” into the song’s chorus, the video shows the band knee-deep in big tits and Hebrew imagery.  Barda prances around as usual, half the time dressed like a gold-plated princess, but this time he doesn’t hold a candle to the chick who is, shall we say, filling up Jean-Pierre’s bathtub.  Also, Bard suffers a ninja circumcision at Barda’s hands, but it doesn’t stop his frantic pelvic thrusts.

(The best I can find on Youtube at the moment is this live video, but it’s pretty tremendous in its own right.  The official video is here.)

But the all time champ of the Army of Lovers catalogue is “Crucified,” which shows Barda, Bard, and La Camilla in all their baroque glory.  I first saw this gem years ago on Beavis and Butt-head, and the pair reacted to it in the appropriate way – with terror and bewildered attraction.  One moment they cheered a close-up of big boobs; the next they cringed as Barda writhed around half-nude in yet another bathtub.  (“Drain the tub!” Butt-head shouted at the latter.)

The atmosphere is all ascots, corsets, and frilly nightrobes.  The cast twitches around like drug addicts from some French erotica, sword fighting, waving flags, batting at a tiny piano, playing a violin with a loaf of bread, and staring into the camera as though the viewer was a canvas for sex crime.  Barda, of course, is the video’s lead creep, chaining himself to a caged bed, prancing around, and most of all despairing – while gyrating.  It’s pretty awesome.

I vastly appreciate anything that can horrify me, and in this Army of Lovers has succeeded magnificently.  I salute you, you epic perverts!

The Designer’s Drugs: Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan – The Fall

Medium: Literature

Stimulus: Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan – The Fall

Anno: 2010

 

The second book in this new vampire trilogy is so much better than the first.  While The Strain eventually found its legs, it suffered from a horribly awkward introduction, where the authors ham-fisted the world together with overbearing explanations.  Luckily, The Fall hits the ground running and allows the reader to catch up in its own time.

As its title blatantly suggests, this book chronicles the time when everything goes to Hell.  The Strain’s tale of creeping contagion bursts into full-scale disorder, yet the powers that be, for various reasons, do nothing.  The heroes of the first book are first ignored and later vilified, as tends to happen in stories like this, and they must fight the story’s rogue vampire lord and unravel all mysteries on their own.  All pretty typical, but an interesting element comes in the intervention of the rest of the king bloodsuckers, who aren’t pleased that their brother is scaring the straights.  One of the story’s main characters is recruited by these ancients, assisted by a vampire-hunting vampire, and he draws together a hunting team comprised of street thugs and an old ex-luchador reminiscent of El Santo (by far the book’s best new addition).

The Fall’s greatest strength is its characterization.  Del Toro and Hogan have hit their stride in keeping out of the narrative and filling this failing world with believable, well-fleshed people.  This is especially true in the chapters detailing characters who don’t become a part of the greater struggle, who fall prey to the rampage in short order.  To put so much background into doomed characters, and then to off them, creates a great sense of tension and uncertainty.  So when the next character comes along, and the details of his or her life are given, one can’t help but become skeptical about that person’s chances.  And then someone surprises the reader and triumphs.

With the already established characters, del Toro and Hogan guarantee nothing.  While they don’t come anywhere close to clearing the slate, every character is placed in a position in which certain doom seems imminent.  The authors’ skill is shown in how the humans handle these scrapes; there are no magical, unexplained escapes, but rather instances of dumb luck that shine faintly through the terror.  The fact that a character survived one onslaught doesn’t mean that another one isn’t coming around the corner.

Not everything is sparkling; there’s a weird subplot thrown in involving nuclear reactors and a sappy message stating that a mother’s love is stronger than vampirism.  But most of it works.

This vampire trilogy may have started rough, but its midpoint indicates that it’s only going to get better.  The Fall is a quick and dirty vampire story that cuts out all the crap and leaves nothing but monsters and mayhem.  Old school nastiness at its best.