Hold please

I’m shifting the site to a new web server, so the site won’t be working normally for a while. Maybe a day or two. I’m going to take this week off posting so I can work on getting everything how I like it. Back on Monday 4 August, I reckon.

In the mean time, here’s that Stan Walker Maori Language Week song. Kept off the number one spot in the charts by the ex Good Charlotte bros.

The Fanatics “Models”

2004-the-fanatics-modelsThis electro-gothic song is probably best known as the theme tune for New Zealand’s Next Top Model, what with the repeated lyrics being simply “Give me models! Give me money!”.

The video, by award-winning director Mark Albiston, forgets about the money and puts the emphasis on the models. But this is not the world of smizing. Things are much more sinister here.

In a dark, shadowy factory, a truckload of models have been dropped off. They’re all identically dressed, all walking in unison. They almost seem like aliens and it’s a reminder that, like elite athletes, professional models are where they are partly because of freakish physical characteristics.

Because the song is largely instrumental, the video wisely doesn’t dwell on the band for too long. We get few glimpses of the duo energetically playing the song in a dark room, which just adds to the overall intrigue of the video.

Things get weirder and creepier and Frankensteinier, with the models moving through a production line and end up being dropped in model-size preserving jars, with one sold to a little girl who has the exact same hair and makeup of her catwalk cousins.

The video is ridiculously good looking. Every shot is fabulous. It obviously cost more than $5000, but it’s a reminder of the sort of cool shit that can be achieved in New Zealand.

Best bit: 0:52, the models come walking down the hallway. Fierce.

Director: Mark Albiston
Film Archive

Next… oranges and lemons.

The Exiles “Hear The People”

2004-the-exiles-hear-the-peopleThe Exiles were the next project of Sean Strum after Eye TV called it a day. The band were described as “indie electro/rock” and had a harder sound than the popstastic Eye TV.

The video is a mix of animated backgrounds with live action people moving within them. Specifically, the Exiles are toiling in a prison, watched over by stern female prison guards all wearing tiny leather dominatrix suits because music video.

Life is tough in prison. The food is terrible, there’s only one basketball hoop for amusement, they’re on laundry duty. Black and white stripes is not the new black. Obviously the dudes must escape.

This requires an elaborate plan involving a huge amount of tunnelling, some distractions, and finally the dudes emerge from a muddy drainpipe onto a beach, all spotlessly clean. Waiting for them is an 18th century ship out in the harbour, which makes perfect sense in with the fantasy world logic of the video. Off you go, lads.

The video has various scenes pixellated out, presumedly because the content is too graphic. This includes a guard’s raised middle finger, a man being whipped, and a prisoner being injected with a hypodermic needle. Only the pixellation makes it look like someone is nudging the guy’s arm with their penis.

There’s a lot of goofy fun happening in this video, and the animated penitentiary is one of the most enjoyable animated videoes I’ve come across so far. The video won Best Director for Ed Davis at the 2005 Kodak Music Clip Awards.

Best bit: the various Wizard of Oz references, in both the lyrics and visuals.

Director: Ed Davis
Film Archive

Next… industrialisation.

The Accelerants “Up on Your Heels”

2004-the-accelerants-up-on-your-heelsThe Accelerants were a Wellington garage rock band, known for their live shows. “Up on Your Heels” is a a very ’60s sounding track and the video plays up to that.

The video starts with an LP playing on a vintage record player, and that leads to the band performing the song in a plain studio, with lighting and other equipment stacked at the sides. This set-up is like the t-shirt and jeans of the music video world.

For much of the video things are pretty uneventful. There’s the band playing, wearing suits. Most of the time it’s shot in black and white, but occasionally some colour is thrown in for extra thrills. The result is a video that isn’t very interesting. The band look bored to the point where the most exciting part of the video is when the camera does a whole lot of crash-zooms.

Things get a bit more interesting near the end when a whole lot of Mylar balloons appear. Even though they’re just heart-shaped, it’s hard not to think of the balloons spelling “Robin Thicke has a big dick” in “Blurred Lines” (or Lily Allen’s hilarious comeback). The shadowy silhouette of a go-go dancers also appears at this point, but not even that is enough to inject life into the song.

Maybe this video could work as a gothic parody of 1960s pop culture. Otherwise it’s just kinda dull.

Best bit: things get interesting when the reflection of the band is shot in the shiny balloon.

Director: Richard Bell
Film Archive

Next… a prison break.

Tha Feelstyle “Su’Amalie/Ain’t Mad At You”

2004-tha-feelstyle-aint-mad-at-youThe very first video to be funded by NZOA was Moana and the Moahunters bilingual dance track “A E I O U”, but since then funded songs have been dominated by English language lyrics. So it’s thrilling to come across Tha Feelstyle delivering a supercool song that’s largely in Samoan. The song also uses an old Eurovision trick – have a hooky, singalong chorus in English and the non-English parts of the song won’t seem so isolating. The end result is a track that reached 27 in the singles chart.

The video is set in Samoa, with Tha Feelstyle returning to the islands after 20 years away. Right from the very start every shot is bustling with people and energy. Tha Feelstyle stomps around his village, surrounded by adoring kids who join in on the chorus.

There’s a sense that he’s the big dude from New Zealand returning to his hometown – and there’s a cool scene where Tha Feelstyle steps off the plane, wearing a lei of funsize Crunchie bars, and kisses the tarmac. This is followed by a lovely scene where the aunties and uncles warmly embrace him. But it’s not all adoration. About halfway though the song stops for a small scene where an uncle had some words for Tha Feelstyle, who looks suitably told.

There’s a lot packed into this video. It serves as both a record of Tha Feelstyle’s homecoming and just him mucking around with some local kids. And then there’s the scene with Tha Feelstyle mucking around with a machete in some long grass, like a kid who’d rather pretend to be a warrior than do his chores.

Best bit: one does not understand much Samoan, but one understands the international gesture for “smoking a jazz cigarette”.

Director: Chris Graham
Film Archive

Next… some guys in suits.

Tadpole “Too Hard”

2004-tadpole-too-hard“Too Hard” was the first single off Tadpole’s third and final album. It’s a lot more upbeat than the gloomier tracks that were coming off second album The Medusa. This time around, Tadpole seem to be influenced by the rock ‘n’ roll revival that was a thing in the early 2000s. But the crunchier guitar sound is an odd match for Renee’s jazzy pop vocal style and over all it sounds like a band that’s lost its way.

The Wikipedia article for the self-titled third album tragically notes that “The album’s launch party in Auckland was also the band’s final ever performance.” The NZOA database has funding for two further videos, but I haven’t been able to find them online. So in a way, “Too Hard” marks the end of Tadpole’s video life. Their videography from the late ’90s and early ’00s was strong and they seem like just the sort of world-famous-in-New-Zealand group that would be a perfect match for NZ On Air funding.

So, what does Tadpole’s video swansong look like? A drag race. It’s a Ford versus Holden race, which I believe has some sort of cultural significance within the bogan/petrolhead community.

The drag race isn’t especially thrilling. It’s like those car ads that feature a disclaimer saying that the ad was “filmed on a closed road under controlled conditions”. Except the “Too Hard” race is so uneventful that it makes the sight of an Audi snaking around scenic Otago roads seem as thrilling as the drag race from Grease and/or the chariot race from Ben Hur.

When they’re not in the cars, we see Tadpole rocking out on a stage near the race scene, both at daytime and night. As has happened in some previous Tadpole videos, “Too Hard” is largely focused on Renee, looking super cool in rockabilly styles with new dark hair.

The band’s previous few videos from 2001 were all based on fantasy worlds, so it’s really refreshing to see Tadpole get back to their rockier side. Renee is full of energy and seems to have unleashed years of pent-up rock power in that one video.

It feels like a good place for the Tadpole story to end. They didn’t quite go out when they were on top, but as a rockstravagant drag race is a good enough finale.

Best bit: Renee’s sneering drag-race face to the other car’s driver.

Director: Tim Groenendaal
Film Archive

Next… a homecoming.

SJD “Rising, Falling, Rising”

2004-sjd-rising-falling-risingVideos like this are hard to write about. They exist outside the realm of popular music videos. There’s no hard sell going on here. Instead the video has artful visuals that complement the music but are also visually pleasing in their own way. And – OMG – I’m almost in a coma from how boring that sounds.

So instead of relying on words, I shall instead turn to the medium of the animated gif to review “Rising, Falling, Rising”.

There. It’s black and white. It involves cars and bits of old analogue equipment. SJD is also in it. It’s ok.

Best bit: SJD’s head nod, this video’s one moment of choreography.

Next… what a drag.

Savage “Swing”

2004-savage-swing“Swing” is the dancefloor gift that just keeps on giving. The first solo release for Savage was released in 2005, but enjoyed American success in 2008 thanks to a remixed version featuring Soulja Boy, then in 2013 it topped the Australian charts via an EDM remix by producer Joel Fletcher.

But back in 2005 it was a mini Savage in a laundrette surrounded by a bunch of ladies in hot pants putting a lot of effort into their weekly washing. This video surely took some inspiration from the iconic 1985 Levi’s commercial, featuring some very DIY stonewash jeans.

At the time this video came out, I wrote a review of it for NZmusic.com declaring it was terribly terribly sexist because of all the girls in hot pants and excessive booty shaking. The director, Sophie Findlay, wrote me a really nice email saying she was “definitely going more for sexy”, and that because it was a booty song “the record company are going to insist on girls, but I did my best to create a situation in the video where they were being revered by Savage, and in control.”

And now I pretty much agree with her. As part of the 5000 Ways experience, I have seen far worse. “Swing” lets the laundry girls be characters, not just anonymous dancers or body parts. And when you compare it to the video of a contemporary booty song like “Wiggle” by Mr Derulo, “Swing” seems a lot more innocent and female focused.

The laundry setting takes two forms. There’s the bright pastel world of honey-I-shrunk-the-Savage and the laundry ladies. Then there’s a darker version with full-size Savage, his Deceptikonz pals and the washer women, all grinding on it like it’s a night club. This sort of stuff never happened at the Wash Inn in Mt Eden.

A twist of sorts comes at the end of the video when it’s revealed that it was all a dream – Savage had fallen asleep while waiting for his laundry. And he’d been cuddling a flagon of moonshine as he slept – an uncomfortable way of promoting his next single and/or debut album.

The curious thing is, the song didn’t rely on this video for its 2008 or 2013 revivals. In 2008 it was part of the Knocked Up soundtrack, and in 2013 a new video was used featuring some people having a house party. But you know what? Seth Rogen doing daggy dancing or some Australians partying in an abandoned house just aren’t having as much fun as Savage was down at his local laundry.

Best bit: Mareko’s perfect 1960s flip hairdo.

Director: Sophie Findlay
Film Archive

Next… lack of words.

Mo’Reece “No Reason Why”

2004-mo-reece-no-reason-whyMo’Reece was a R&B pop duo comprised of singer Maurice Banse and everything-else-man Jonas Widjaya. According to their bio on Amplifier, their album was called The Shining (!) and their second single was “promoted on Xtra’s home page”.

“No Reason Why” starts with a period film being shot on the very modern platform at Britomart, with Maurice playing the leading man. All the acting isn’t going well, so the director calls cut and yells at “Morrissey, or whatever your bloody name is”. And – whoa! – the director is played by Anthony Starr, post Shortland Street and Mercy Peak, but pre Outrageous Fortune and almost a decade away from Banshee. Being a charismatic and handsome young actor, he basically steals every scene, making Mo’Reece seem like minor players in their own music video.

While all that’s going on, the station’s security team (including Jonas) view the drama on the CCTV monitors. It turns out this is unauthorised filming. Jonas goes running after rogue actor Maurice, and finds his prop suitcase which contains, er, a Matrix-style trenchcoat and dark glasses. So, ok, let’s throw in a Matrix parody while we’re at it. And then let’s end with everyone dancing together.

There’s a lot going on in this video, with many subtitled conversations that demand the attention of the viewer. So the song ends up seeming like the soundtrack to someone’s 48Hours film. Both are fun on their own, but together there’s a battle to come out on top.

Best bit: the IRL crew member laughing at Anthony Starr’s angry director rant.

Film Archive

Next… fluff and fold.

Marvey King “Perfect Lullaby”

2004-marvey-king-perfect-lullaby“Perfect Lullaby” was the second and final funded video for a Marvey King song, after “Rosary” from 2000. The video was shot in Sydney and made by the Australian director and animator Simon Rippingdale.

The video is shot as a serious of still images, all animated together. So there’s a jerkiness to the video, but it also means being able to include cool timelapse effects that a video camera wouldn’t be able to capture.

There’s a bit of fun had with the stop-motion. At one point Marvey is sitting on a chair, she gets up, takes a few steps and the chair is suddenly ablaze. She’s also shot standing in the middle of a metro station concourse while a blur of commuters rushes either side of her.

But the video spends most of its time in a windowless room, which contains some fancy furniture, a rocking horse and two cabaret girls. While Marvey is in this room, most of the time her hair is crawling all over her face, which makes me wants to comb her hair back in a ponytail until it can learn to keep still.

Because of the stop-motion production, there’s no lip synching, so Marvey feels a bit distant. This is compounded by the video being set in Sydney. It’s like instead of Marvey being the singer, the song is being sung about her.

Best bit: the clock on the wall in the windowless room – time passes!

Director: Simon Rippingale
Film Archive

Next… underground, overacting.

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