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.
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!