This release presents a second collection of twisted stories from VH1’s short-lived anthology series, “Strange Frequency” – “The Twilight Zone” with a Rock’n’Roll twist.
An anthology of Rock’n’Roll-themed cautionary tales in the vein of The Twilight Zone and Tales from the Crypt, Strange Frequency is VH1’s attempt to produce ‘original’ programming which actually deserves that title. As one might expect from the genre, the humour is consistently dark, enjoyably so, and never fails to lead up to an over the top, twist ending. This release presents a second collection of four episodes, each with an emphatically brief introduction by The Who’s lead singer Roger Daltrey.
The first of the episodes, Soul Man, stars James Marsters of Buffy/Angel-fame as struggling musician Mitch Brand, who finds in a thrift store what is supposedly the sheet music to Jimi Hendrix’s last ever song, the Jimi Hendrix Blues, and buys it for fifty dollars. A small price to pay, he thinks to himself, unaware that if he does manage to play it, he will summon the devil. Roger Daltrey also features in the episode as the mysterious manager Simon Rathbone, who is able to grant Mitch his every wish. A typical deal-with-the-devil caper, the plot is obviously nothing new, and is the most predictable of the four episodes as a result; however, the excessive amount of fretwork wankery present means that fans of Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, et al, should at least find something of note here.
Cold Turkey is the second in the collection, and with such a similar premise to Soul Man it seems somewhat questionable to place the two together (unless of course these are all in chronological order). John Hawkes plays another struggling guitarist, although this time the problem is that he can only write songs while high, and so suffers from writer’s block after coming out of rehab. Another mysterious figure appears, this time in the form of Patsy Kensit’s music journalist, and effectively becomes his muse. As per usual, nothing is what it seems, and he soon realises that she is actually the physical manifestation of his addiction. Seeing how he acts in this altered state renders the ending unsurprising, but it’s so gratifyingly ironic that it remains effective.
Continuing to validate the various stereotypes of the music industry, in Instant Karma we have Jason Gedrick as rock star Vince Brava who takes advantage of an implausibly naïve groupie. A supernatural moment at his next gig allows her to switch bodies with him, and, taking advantage of this unlikely occurance, she immediately goes about telling everyone he knows what he is really like. As you can probably guess from the title alone, Vince gets his comeuppance, but the nature in which it happens is surprisingly well thought-out. This is the best of the four.
Finally, the most conventionally ‘dark’ episode in the collection, Don’t Stop Believin’, explores how we assign certain memories to certain songs, and the recollective power that goes with this. The first non-musician lead character, Peter Strauss plays Ben Stanton, a man running for Senate who has recently lost his 23-year-old lover in a car accident. Every time his campaign song is played he is transported back to the moment before the crash, allowing him to potentially change the future for the better. However, despite his attempts, each time he makes things just as bad, if not worse, culminating in one final decision that is disastrous for both himself and his lover. With both the subject matter and the general atmosphere differing so significantly from the previous stories, this seems particularly out of place in the collection, and, coupled with it being one of the weakest of the four, hardly provides a definitive, or even satisfactory, ending.
The overriding problem here is that none of the episodes are original even in the slightest. The writers have simply taken familiar horror stories and fitted the musical atmosphere around them, resulting in overly predictable output with no discerning style or selling point to set them apart from the countless number of other variations, let alone the original tales. Had they at least tried to create new stories rather than relying on tired genre-clichés, this collection might have been worth a view, even if it would have been purely out of curiosity. As it is though, there’s little to recommend here.
A recent TV Show, there should really be no reason for a transfer to be anything less than acceptable. And, to be fair, it is perfectly acceptable – and, at times, even a little better than that. The colour tones are all accurate, coping equally well with both natural lighting and the strong colours of the stages, bars, and other such environments. Contrast levels are also fine, although occasionally the transfer seems a little too dark. The picture itself could be a little more detailed and sharp, and although not a common occurrence, can be distractingly soft.
Given the nature of the show, a surround track would have been nice, but realistically this was only ever going to be given a stereo track. It’s adequate, but fares much better with the guitar-heavy music than dialogue, with the latter often not being as clear as it should. Inexcusably, there are no subtitles.
There are no special features.
As has already been mentioned, there is nothing new to be found here. Those who have worked in the music industry might perhaps get more out of this than others, but then again, with practically every aspect of each story relying so heavily on tired stereotypes, maybe not.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
Continue the conversation over on The Digital Fix Forum