Soundchecks Music Reviews
Director: David Barnard
BMG Music VHS
review by Rob Marshall
Hey, don't laugh... this is important stuff - young men's livelihoods are at stake. Let's start with the names. Presumably, the suit at this boy-band's try out did a head count and the rest is history. Naff history. Luckily, these lads have mostly strong masculine names like Sean, Ritchie and Scott (there's no Pierre or Andre, here). Those that don't - well, one's appropriated the letter, 'J,' while the other, allegedly, takes his moniker ('Abs') from motor vehicle safety tech.
During the dreary concert footage, endless flash-pots explode, smoke billows up, strobe lighting displays and varicoloured lasers are timed to enhance the band's largely tuneless pop drivel, and readily obscure the alarming lack of a minute's worth of talent, or genuine entertainment value beyond the merely stage bound spectacle of a hi-tech transforming set with huge video screens. Through costume changes, various fashion statements are made to assist product identity checks, and in the vain hope that some verve and style from The Matrix will rub off on these initially anorak-clad boys (more gormless than gorgeous, according to my sisters), who seem to need help with things like removing their coats and sitting down on chairs. As singers, they all wear headset pick-up gear, so why bother with handheld radio-microphones for solo spots and camera close-ups? The answer of course is that the mic is prop; something for the poor sod to do with his hands so that he doesn't look like a complete dork.
At 50 minutes into the show, when sane attention spans have long since left the building, the producers bring on the shiny, happy, gyrating dancing girls - just in time, too, after so many chummy, self-congratulatory scenes and habitual mincing about from the boys, taking turns to skip sideways along the stage. It remains unclear, though, why we only see the backing band every now and then. It's amusing to see, not just teenyboppers, but a few very young girls in the audience's front row. Perhaps, that's why the boys are called 5ive - a logo device to certify their material for a particular age group...
This tape includes a Live & Kicking documentary, and a promo video for the group's inane cover version of Queen's We Will Rock You. Rock? They don't, they can't - and, I suspect, they've no idea how. However, what makes this essential viewing for anyone interested in modern pop music is its incalculable value as documentary artifact. It's a proficiently crafted record of the current state of commercial music as an industry not as culture or even artistic expression. Damning evidence of a complete and utter lack of musical ability as it is, you really can't fault the video's effectiveness as a straightforward advert for a product.
for PIGASUS Press