Having never lived in the suburbs, I view them as extremely foreign yet undeniably romanticized. But unique visions of life in suburbia come alive in Ssion's latest music video, "Earthquake," which was filmed in Kansas City, the hometown of the band's lead singer Cody Critcheloe. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of peeping a Ssion (pronounced shun) video or hearing one of their tunes, the best way I can think to describe them is as something between a cheesy queer discotheque and the inside of John Waters’ dreams. Cody has previously referred to Ssion not as a band but rather as an ongoing “pop project” because their shows are never just about the music. Ssion creates a new and bizarre experience for its audience, and Cody sprinkles his electro-glitter aesthetic on other artists as well (he recently did cartoon animations for Santigold in her music video for “Big Mouth.”) What I find most interesting, however, is that Cody started Ssion when he was still in high school, and teenage fantasies seemingly still haunt his work, especially in the music video for “Earthquake,” released this past week.
In and of themselves, the lyrics of “Earthquake” are pretty simple, bordering on cliché. But Ssion, having grown up on the musical nutrition of the riot grrrl movement of the 1990’s, seems to be satirizing sappy love lyrics, so I suppose we can forgive them for any lingering childishness.
The video, directed by Christopher Good and Cody Critcheloe himself, follows an isolated alien boy and reveals all of the weird that exists under the surface of a seemingly bland and tranquil suburban landscape. It begins with the boy sitting in, where else, but his own personal hideout, aka his bedroom. And it’s an amazing lair at that. The boy's room is an explosion of color and personality, all smiley face collages and lava lamps. It’s a futuristic take on psychedelia that is immediately contrasted when he steps out of his room and walks into his white-walled living room, where his more conventional parents sit in confusion.
Ssion always includes wacky and garish costumes in their work, and "Earthquake" is no exception. In this video my favorite visuals are the images and text displayed on the back of clothing. For example, at one point the alien boy slips on a yellow jacket that says “follow me," and it is later interestingly juxtaposed with a red jacket with a queen bee graphic that Cody wears.
There’s something about watching this video again and again that is both disturbing and yet oddly comforting. Does that make any sense, or is it just me? I guess it's because, although the video draws on a strong sense of whimsy, there remains at the core a substantial sense of realism. We all –perhaps teenagers especially--- are looking for that place to feel secure and to call home. There are little bits of odd magic everywhere in this world if you look hard enough (yes, even in the suburbs), and I’ve found some of that magic right here with Ssion.
Watch Ssion’s video for “Earthquake” below, and stay tuned for their full length album, Bent, due out September 18th, 2012!