In a 2012 Facebook post, my friend Genevieve posed the following question: “What’s the song you like the best that has the video you hate the most?” Since I’m not on Facebook, I never had the opportunity to answer that question before now. By a landslide, my #1 is “Maybe We Should Just Go Home” by the Joel Plaskett Emergency. Plaskett’s music has given me great happiness over the years, but the video traumatized me when I first saw it. (I refuse to link to the video; it’s easy enough to find with a web search if you feel you must. It’s my favorite song in his extensive discography, so I’m sincere when I say that you’re better off buying it and listening without the burden of the disturbing visuals.)
What does this have to do with the recently-reunited Memphis band The Grifters, you ask? Well, if “Maybe We Should Just Go Home” is my undisputed wonderful-song-with-terrible-video winner, the Grifters’ “Last Man Alive” strongly contends for the #2 slot. I first heard the song in college on a CMJ compilation, and was thrilled to find it on the 2013 Oxford American Tennessee music issue CD. Originally appearing on the band’s 1996 release Ain’t My Lookout, “Last Man Alive” combines Scott Taylor’s Jonathan Richman-esque lead vocal, a classic ’90s indie-rock guitar charge, and eerie background voices to great effect. It chugs charmingly before careening into an ending that sounds just wrong enough to compel you to listen to it all again. I never knew there was a video until a few months ago, but the following images completely disconnect from the song’s majesty in my head.
After watching the video again, I’ll admit one thing. Steampunk Dodgeball would be a fantastic name for a band.