Reviews

Rabbit in the Moon: Decade [DVD]

Decade would have sounded fresh, new, and exciting in the mid-'90s; now, it's a case of retro gone wrong, retro before we were ready.


Rabbit in the Moon

Decade

Subtitle: DVD / CD
Label: South Beat
US Release Date: 2007-07-10
Amazon
iTunes

Really? Devotees of Rabbit in the Moon have waited...(counting on fingers)...14 years for a proper, non-remix, non-compilation album from the object of their affection, and they get...this?

Don't misunderstand: Decade is certainly Rabbit in the Moon, through and through. The problem, however, is that it takes this concept too far. Dated audio, dated visuals, dated pretty much everything marks much of Decade; scattered amongst the old is a smattering of the new, indications of what the album could be, not to mention what it should be. What it is, however, is nearly inexcusable.

Both the CD album and the DVD start promisingly, with the relatively recent (2002) single "Time Bomb". Granted, the song is really, really cheesy (lead vocalist Bunny eventually settles into a refrain of "I want to have sex through electronics"), but it's got a great beat, and there's something that's actually appealing about the mid-'80s Wax Trax vibe of the video. It's got Bunny in a straitjacket, suspended and writhing, with all manner of electronic looking lights and stuff behind him. Oh, and the quick cuts to beatmaker Confucius complete the picture wonderfully.

It's actually kind of hilarious in a B-movie sort of way, an homage to decades-old industrial music with updated beats. If the rest of the album and the DVD could have kept this up, Decade could have been a schticky classic, a blacker-than-black disc with great beats that never took itself too seriously.

It's the DVD that betrays the laziness first, immediately as "Time Bomb" ends -- something called "Eye Transformer" comes on, and it is what it says it is: "Eye Transformer" is a transitional bit of cinemawankery that transitions "Time Bomb" into "Diamond Dust" (which, to be honest, is another fine piece of work). The visual cue for the transition? A computer-animated eye, which eventually dissolves into some kind of electric looking stuff, eventually turning into the moon. As a concept, it's a little silly, but not tragic; the dated animation and effects, however, offer a clue as to what is to come.

"Alphatron", which happens after "Diamond Dust", is the nadir, the moment at which the low-budget production quality of the DVD goes from endearing to distracting. Over the course of "Alphatron"'s entire length, we are treated to something that is apparently supposed to be an alien landscape. What we get is an alien landscape as seen in...a planetarium? A still, mostly hand-drawn landscape pans slowly via the camera, and the viewer is left dumbfounded.

This is what we waited all this time for?

On it goes. Rabbit in the Moon classic "Deeper" goes for more dated computer graphics, though at least these, with their largely black and white floral patterns and occasional, photographic splashes of color, are presented artistically. This also makes sense given the fact that "Deeper" is 10 years old at this point; one could make the assumption that the dated visuals are either presented as a contextual clue to the origin of the track, or that the video was simply produced 10 years ago along with the song. That still wouldn't explain the dated feel of everything else, though.

If there is a consistent 'plus' to be found throughout the disc, it is that Bunny, despite what he has created, is totally and utterly invested in his material. Bunny moves and poses like Prodigy's own multicolored mouthpiece Keith Flint; he infuses that bounciness with the dark streak of, say, Skinny Puppy's Ogre; and, for good measure, he changes costumes as often as Madonna. There's the aforementioned straitjacket, the alien spaceman, the koosh ball, the garbage-covered fur coat look, the neon bale of hay in the bubble(?!), and, my personal favorite, the human Christmas tree. They're uniformly ridiculous, sure, but at least they add a fun visual element that will keep viewers' interest the first time they watch Decade from beginning to end. Bunny is an engaging frontperson trapped (voluntarily) by dated material.

Rabbit in the Moon's career began with a track called "Out of Body Experience", a techno track based entirely around samples of Tori Amos' scathing "Precious Things". By stripping the song of the vitriol contained in its words and constructing a track around that oh so memorable piano riff and turning Tori into a dancehall diva in the process by retaining some of her more orgasmic-yet-melodic moans, Rabbit in the Moon devised an incredibly appealing slice of metronomic madness. Listening to it again, 14 years later in the context of Decade, however (it appears as the hidden track on the CD), its reliance on Amos' source material reveals it as a bit of a flimsy foundation on which to build an entire career.

Granted, the majority of Rabbit in the Moon's notoriety comes as a major name in the art of remixing, which makes sense; given the opportunity, these guys (or maybe just Confucius himself...it's tough to see Bunny playing much of a part in a purely musical sense) could make you dance to Enya. As standalone artists, however, they're hopelessly stuck in the era where they got their start. Decade would have sounded fresh, new, and exciting in the mid-'90s; now, it's a case of retro gone wrong, retro before we were ready. Where Rabbit in the Moon could have given us a masterpiece, all we get is cheap rehash, often inexcusably so.

Supposedly, another Rabbit in the Moon offering (all new this time) is on its way, within the next year or so. This is good. None of us will want to wait another 14 years to wash the taste of Decade out of our mouths.

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