Crankshaft And The Gear Grinders

-Kevin’s Take-

Earlier this year, in late spring, I had the privilege of reviewing Crankshaft & The Gear Grinder’s What You Gonna Do?. I say without hesitation it is my favorite album I heard all summer, and almost six full months later it hasn’t left my short list. Needless to say, I was excited when I was asked by Alex Larson, Mr. Crankshaft himself, to review his series of videos coming out later this year.

Now, I’ll try not to gush like the gigantic school girl I become when I get excited about music; this happens from time to time, but it should be noted, it’s never frivolous. “Oh, they are from my town, so they are awesome!” or “I love this band – they have a neat-o gimmick that covers the fact that they can’t really play skillfully or write creatively” or “My boyfriend is the bassist” are TERRIBLE reasons for loyalty to an act. So rest assured – if I am excited and endorse an act, my twitterpation (not a real word) is legit and justified.

Ok… Commence restrained gush-fest. Three videos have been made for songs on this album, and as an added bonus in my opinion, they also happen to be my three favorite tracks on the album. “Waiting For Me,” “Kingpin” and “Fill It Up” were all three produced, directed and edited by Alex which, admittedly, immediately made me a little wary. I mean, on the TV show “Survivorman” Les Stroud did EVERYTHING on that show, and only one of them was done well – surviving. Fortunately for everyone, it turns out Alex is not only a damn fine guitarist, singer / song-writer and performer, but seems to know his way around making a video as well.

“Fill It Up” is a GREAT song and an even more awesome video about getting back at the man who’s been messin’ with your woman. And let me assure you, the video has the recipe down: Comic-book style flashes to Crankshaft driving and singing, hot chicks, gorgeous cars and killer guitars. Cowboy Mel makes for a great villain, and our hero Crankshaft gets his revenge. Fantastic mini-movie and the world is a better place for it.

“Kingpin” is also a brilliantly made video in a different vein altogether. Completely captures the vibe of the song in that modern rock-a-billy way – jeans, chucks, button up shirt and some grease in the hair for the guy; tats, piercings, Betty Page hair, black top and leopard print skirt on the girl. Bowling alley, some classic cars and the band playing in suits with a retro styled horn section round out the elements to what could be one of the best videos I’ve ever seen.

In sort of a ‘boy-meets-girl’ format, the protagonist arrives alone and leaves with the girl after charming her… except this girl you wouldn’t take home to mom, and she drinks beer from a bottle – a bottle she would not have any qualms smashing over your head in a bar fight. I think I’m in love…

Finally, “Waiting For Me” is a beautifully shot video that certainly falls into the “say what you see” type that well captures the reality of being a working musician. Showcasing Crankshaft getting ready to leave the house and later performing at a bar with a great crowd jamming along with him, cutting back and forth to his wife (side note: you hit a home run, mate!) making dinner for one, reading, leftovers in the fridge, etc.

A couple things stand out to me. First, the two sides of the coin. The guy on stage is working, and he’s having a good time, but he misses his bride. Meanwhile, she has seen him play thousands of times, heard him rehearse every note, and now when he gigs, she stays home and does her thing. Secondly, the “domestic” shots at home, both of Crankshaft and his wife, are all done in black and white, until he gets home and they are in color, presumably symbolic of them being whole when she is no longer waiting for him. Sweetly, it closes on an old home movie on the bedroom TV of the two of them goofing off for the camera, very much in love.

In his stellar book, Fargo Rock City, author Chuck Klosterman analyzes at length the effects the video era had on the music industry, noting, “As the emphasis on video-making moved away from its original objective – the unconditional goal of pushing albums – the videos became more interesting but less effective… The goal of the record company was to: A) let people see the band, and B) convince them to hear a song listeners might otherwise ignore”

While Crankshaft’s music stands on its own merits, this is a prime example of not only the vision of the song being captured well (which, when the same guy writes the song AND directs the video, you’d HOPE that would be the case), but ultimately an entertaining visual product to go along with it. All three videos were unique in execution, true to concept and insightful to the artist’s personality. Fantastic job by Alex and I hope these make their way into regular rotation for you soon.

*At the time of this post, the videos have not yet been released…yet. We are just too excited to not share our feelings now.