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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » 10,000 Maniacs - Time Capsule (1982-1993)
10,000 Maniacs - Time Capsule (1982-1993)
Warner Music // Unrated // July 6, 2004
List Price: $14.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Robert Spuhler | posted July 17, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Writing in the third person is to invoke a sense of detachment, a sense of being above the fray and objective. Most reviewers strive for that when writing, portraying themselves as capable of giving an unbiased, honest look at the material presented. Only when the material is brilliant, horrible or close to home should a reviewer write in first person.

So, here I go.

I am, and have been since the early 1990s, truly, madly and deeply in love with Natalie Merchant. No, I can't explain it. She was my first celebrity crush. While other boys on my block had posters of Kim Basinger or Nicole Eggert on their walls, I was listening to Our Time In Eden. While other middle-schoolers passed around second generations VHS dubs of softcore Cinemax porn, I stayed awake to watch Merchant perform a cover of Morrissey's "Everyday Is Like Sunday" on late night television.

So, the chance to get a DVD copy of Time Capsule, the early-90s compilation of all things 10,000 Maniacs-related, was too good to pass up.

The disc presents highlights from the band's 14-year existence with Merchant as its lead singer (she would later be replaced by Mary Ramsey, then Oskar Saville). Every music video is here, along with performances from British and American television, student films, concert footage and even home movies of a very young Merchant at home in Jamestown, NY.

Time Capsule was originally released to coincide with the band's 1990 effort Hope Chest, a remastered version of its first two independently released albums. The original presentation is here, along with three bonus clips: The music videos for "These Are Days" and "Candy Everybody Wants," along with the band's final (and biggest) hit, "Because the Night" from MTV Unplugged.

Part of the "college alternative" boom of the 1980s, 10,000 Maniacs found its fans in libraries, in coffeehouses and on campuses around America. Merchant's lyrics started poetic ("Tension") and became increasing political (everything on the 1989 album Blind Man's Zoo), to the point at times of stridency. This was the spoken introduction done by an uncredited male for the video of "Candy Everybody Wants":

Living in Eden has its advantages. As a marginalized member of a spectator democracy, you choose your own dependencies. Lust. Hate. Blood. Love. Don't think of it as manufactured consent. Think of it as the candy everybody wants.

It made her a dividing figure in some ways – not because of her views, but because of the way she brought them up. Those who dislike her (and, by extension, the band) think of her as pretentious.

It's a shame that the lyrics push so many people away, because 10,000 Maniacs was a lot more than her words. Jerry Augustyniak and Steven Gustafson form one of the strongest rhythm sections in popular music, while the late Rob Buck forgot more about playing the guitar in his life than most guitarists in the current top 40 know.

Time Capsule is an interesting exhibition of the band's life. There's all sorts of odds-and-ends here: Archival footage of the band's hometown, Jamestown, NY, set to the labor-organizing "Maddox Table" ("To your benefit we strike or bargain with the waiving fist of a union man"); footage of early band rehearsals set to the aforementioned "Tension;" a fantastic live version of "My Mother the War" from English television show The Tube; even a public service announcement directed by Merchant for Direct Effect.

The music videos range from solid ("Candy Everybody Wants," "You Happy Puppet") to bad (the clip for "Trouble Me" looks like the video that would accompany the karaoke version of the song) to downright disturbing (who thought it would be a good idea for the video for "Eat for Two," a song about teenage pregnancy, to feature detached doll parts everywhere?).

The DVD
Video:


Time Capsule seems to have come to DVD from the same master copies used for the VHS version in early 1990s. There are few if any digital flaws to be found here, but plenty of flaws in the source material, including some tracking issues on "Tension" and "Hateful Hate."

Sound:

Surprisingly, someone at Rhino or Elektra made the call to convert the audio to Dolby Digital 5.1. On most of the older material the difference between the 5.1 and 2.0 tracks is minimal – just some sound pushed to the back speakers. The 5.1 mix only really shines on "Because the Night," an encouraging sign for anyone interested in MTV releasing old episodes of the series on DVD (or, at least, releasing DVD versions of the ones MTV released on VHS).

Extras:

Either none or the aforementioned videos from the Our Time in Eden and Unplugged days, depending on whether you believe the DVD menu (lists the clips as "Bonus Tracks") or the DVD packaging (lists the clips with the rest of the program).

Final Thoughts:

The influence of 10,000 Maniacs is still being felt today; in many ways, Merchant is the bridge between the Lilith Fair generation of confessional women singers/songwriters and folk-pop stylings of Joni Mitchell and company in the 70s. As a group, 10,000 Maniacs took the independent nature of new wave and brought melody back to the table (Merchant could even be described as the first "shoegazer"). Time Capsule is a wonderful introduction to the band for novices and an even better reminder to longtime fans such as myself.
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