Cinematic Music Videos: Machine Gun Blues/Public Enemies

I am familiar with Mike Ness and his band Social Distortion. I can't in good conscience call myself a fan, but every song I've heard of theirs, I've enjoyed. I just don't often seek them out, nor do I own any of their albums. I can't, in the words of Rob from High Fidelity metaphorically "shave my head and claim I've always been punk." However, when Ball and Chain, or their cover of Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire comes on the radio I am glad to hear it. I am also glad to hear Mr. Ness' thoughts on music. In a recent interview, Ness claimed that punk rock and country have more in common than people are willing to admit. The reasoning behind this assertion is that both genres are class music. Which is to say they were both spawned and played by the working class. I couldn't agree more with this connection, and it may explain why many punk bands have at least one rockabilly song on their set list.

This class connection is reinforced perfectly in Social Distortion's latest video for their single Machine Gun Blues. In the video, Ness and his band mates channel John Dillnger in a wonderful homage to Michael Mann's film Public Enemies. Dillinger, while a criminal, was often painted as a folk hero to the common man during the great depression. While people were losing their farms, he was fighting against the system-screwing over banks-the very banks that were taking people's farms and homes. Fighting against the system is one of the tenants of punk music, so picturing Social Distortion as 1930's bank robbers is not a stretch. And in this current economic climate, I doubt this connection has been lost on Mr. Ness and his colleagues.

While this video isn't a direct homage to Mann's film, the visual inspiration is definitely there. Beginning with the low camera, the wide angles and the final shoot out are very reminiscent of Public Enemies, but the video also ends on the "crime doesn't pay" moral, a theme that was often employed in the crime films of the late 20's and 30's. This video works well is a short film itself. It tells a self contained story and complements the song. The video is also a little homemade and low budget, but it never pulls you out of the story. Also, it's refreshing to see rough edges on a music video after having lived through a decade of slick but hollow rap and pop videos.

If you can't tell already, I really dug this video and may have to check out their new album. I also appreciate the visual storytelling and the fact that the images perfectly complimented the song they were singing. This was a video that was seems small in budget but bigger in scope than most videos these days...and isn't that punk rock?

-Rob Out.