From the Stereo to Your Screen: SOUL ASYLUM’s Can’t Even Tell from Clerks

SOUL ASYLUM’s Can’t Even Tell from Clerks

 

“You know what the problem with music videos is? They never address the problems of the common man.”

I love the irony inherent in Jeff Anderson as Randall talking about the common man and meta-commentary on music videos while actually starring in a music video himself. It’s an idea furthered by the fact that while Dave Pirner and the rest of Soul Asylum are in the video, they don’t actually do any musical performing. The Minnesotans play hockey on the roof of the Quik Stop and RST Video, recreating a scene from Clerks, while the actual musical performance is mimed by a pair of drug dealers on the sidewalk below.

As a commentary on “the common man,” the premise gets even more ridiculous when you consider that the fact that the scene they’re recreating runs about 1/3 the length of the video, was originally shot in black and white, and the film of which it was part cost less to shoot than this thing for MTV. It’s patently ridiculous, if you dig deeply.

All that aside – it still worked perfectly as a promotional tool for the film. Most kids such as myself who were watching MTV in the mid-’90s didn’t have access to the sort of theater where Clerks would play. I saw this video something like a dozen times before Clerks came out on video. By the time I actually got my hands on a copy of the VHS tape, I was amazed to see how much of the movie itself made it into Can’t Even Tell.

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It’s almost as if Kevin Smith condensed some of the film’s highlights, and made them into a short film, rather than just something to move units of the soundtrack. There’s the hockey game, Randall monologuing, and Jay and Silent Bob rocking out in front of the store. If you like what’s on-screen here, you’re likely going to snag the movie and watch it enough times to turn into a quote-spitting machine, as I did for most of high school.

The best part of all of this is that the video works as a stand-alone short film, even if you have no idea what the hell Clerks is at all. You just wonder why Soul Asylum is playing hockey on the roof of a convenience store – and, honestly, considering the various strange premises of music videos over the decades, “dudes playing hockey on a roof” doesn’t even crack the top 50 in terms of “weird shit in music videos.”

Fun fact: My brother and I rented this the week it came out on video, and my mom came home right at the beginning of the “You fucked a dead guy?!?” scene. She let us finish watching it anyway.

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Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek writes about films scores in his monthly OST column for Starburst Magazine (http://www.starburstmagazine.com), and can be found talking about movie soundtracks via the From & Inspired By podcast (http:///www.fromandinspiredby.com). He was once a punk, but realized you can't be hardcore and use the word "adorable" as often as he does.
Nick Spacek
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