Windswept beachiness, urban Balkan, Christchurch in the before time, racial unity, straight down, a ’90s fashion parade, tattoos, Auckland cool, velvet painting, getting seductive, and a bad lip sync. Continue reading Found videos from the 1990s
So here’s the concept: Dave Dobbyn, with bleached blonde hair and wearing red and white striped pyjamas, wanders around the army training area at Waiouru with a tank in the background. Pretty awesome, right? And it’s Dave Dobbyn’s first NZ On Air-funded video.
“Don’t Hold Your Breath” is a stark song, mostly just Dave’s voice and guitar, with the occasional burst of drum thrown in. The lyrics are political, imagining an end to many of the world’s troubles, then adding “don’t hold your breath”. It’s not an obvious choice for a single, but it seems like no attempt was made to sweeten things up. The video is as stark as the song.
As well as Dobbyn’s military manoeuvres, the video quickly cuts in clips of important world events (the same sort of stuff Billy Joel sang about in “We Didn’t Start the Fire”). But all that is less interesting than Dave in the desert. He even has a knife that he occasionally stabs into the ground just because that’s the kind of thing he does.
I’m most intrigued by the utility belt that Dave’s wearing with his pyjamas. It’s like something woke him up in the middle of the night, leaving him to flee the house in his PJs with his prized possessions – guitar, stabby knife and utility belt. Well, that’s all you need for the apocalypse.
The video also has pretty quick editing, giving it a feeling of urgency. This isn’t just a lone man wandering around a barren landscape – he has a message for everyone.
Best bit: Dave’s funky strut along the top of a ridge.
Second Child was the early band of Damien Binder, also featuring future Stellar guitarist Chris van de Geer. But the video strongly focuses on frontman Damien, to the point where it could easily pass for a solo video.
“Crumble” has a dark grungy sound, a song of bitter defiance. The video, directed by Jonathan King, is shot in sepiatone, filmed in an old rusty building. The lighting is dramatic, giving Damien plenty of opportunities to pout and sneer his way through the lyrics.
When we see the band, it’s only briefly and they’re left lurking in the shadows, a distant blur. But given that the song is about someone who’s succeeded against expectation, perhaps it’s better that the emphasis is on Damien, the man alone.
It’s a really good-looking video – something that I’ve come to recognise as a hallmark of director Jonathan King. He has an eye for sophisticated, artistic mise-en-scene. (OMG, I just used “mise-en-scene”. Well, I have to put my tertiary education to use.)
Best bit: the awesome setting for the guitar solo – a grungy concrete platform.
In a Wellington flat, a group of young people sit around a kitchen table. They’re cracking open fortune cookies, sharing coffee and having a very involved conversation. Meanwhile in the adjacent lounge, Cinematic are sitting around performing the song, an upbeat folk number, not unlike their Christchurch peers the Holy Toledos.
It comes across looking like the theme song of a TV series about some hip young adults living in the city – not unlike what “The Insider’s Guide to Happiness” did a decade later.
In a strange way I find myself more interested in the action in the kitchen than the band in the lounge. It’s because the people gathered around the table are more lively and engaging. The band are just getting down to business with playing the song, though frontman Jeremy Taylor (a food blogger and record store nerd these days) has a great presence.
Another notable thing is cigarettes. A couple of the chatting group are smoking. Less than a decade later, casual smoking in music videos has pretty much died out altogether. Now it just seems pretentious and irresponsible. Oh, you think you’re cool with that cig?
This video feels like there’s a lot of lost potential. The song should have been more successful and the kitchen table group should have had their own series. Oh well, there’s still the video.
Best bit: the montage of lingering glances, across-the-table drama.
“Isn’t it exciting,” Andrew Fagan asks, kicking off two and a half minutes of psychedelic glam pop. We find Fagan playing with his band Swirly World (a name that more famously also belongs to the small yacht he uses for his solo voyages). It’s revealed that bars separate the band from the camera, but who are the bars for? Is the band kept locked up because they’re just so exciting?
As well as this performance footage, we also get quick flashes of random things. The cover of Fagan’s current album “Blisters” pops up a few times, as do gig posters. There are also glimpses of the band on the road, various photos and objet d’art. There’s a even a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it naked lady boob. Series of words pop up, spelling sentences. “It’s… completely… subjective” announces one message. Hey cool! So’s this blog.
While Fagan has plenty of rock star swagger, his Swirly World band just looks like a fairly ordinary bunch of musos, getting down to business in jeans and t-shirts. Isn’t it exciting? Er, no, not really. But maybe that’s what the shots of the random interesting thing are. Throw in a nipple or three (Mr Fagan’s are also on display) to add some excitement.
Best bit: the background whiteboard with some sort of mathematical workings written on it.
The more Greg Johnson videos I see, the more appreciation I have for his video oeuvre. There are are some rippers in there and “Sun Beat Down” is one of them.
Directed by Mark Tierney and Paul Casserly, it has a slick, ’90s western feel to it, probably influenced by the work of Robert Rodriguez.
Shot with a hazy orange filter, the video is set in a dusty yard between a warehouse and a railway track and a big ol’ Cadillac pulls up. So cinematic is the setting that I was even wondering if it was shot in New Zealand, but the car’s number plate and registration sticker reveal its Aotearoan origins.
Greg gets out of the car and he is a troubled man. As he swelters under the hot noon sun, he experiences flashbacks (shot in black and white) of himself getting up to no good with an attractive young woman and another man.
Back to the orange present and we discover the woman’s body in the boot of the car. Greg grabs a spade and wanders off, presumedly to bury her. So how did she die? Well, through flashback we see Greg and the woman in bed, having a good old pash. Then he’s on top of her, thrusting away and suddenly she’s dead, making him a certified dud root. (Before I saw this video I originally predicted he’d do a sex-face in the video. I didn’t realise how accurate that would be.)
It’s a stylish world full of sharp suits and big cars. There aren’t many bands that can get away with such a bold video, but the directors ensure everything in the film looks good. And it helps that Greg Johnson plays a perfect oily crim. Just don’t end up in bed with him.
Update: Director Paul Casserly tweeted some behind-the-scenes details of the shoot. The exterior was shot at “the old AFFCO works out the back of Onehunga” and the interior was shot at Hotel DeBrett (a popular video location due to its photogenic men’s toilets that feature in other videos). Paul’s nieces play the two dancing children and the playwright Linda Chanwai-Earle is the lady in the “weird devil costume”. Richard Long was the DOP.
Best bit: the little girl doing and Irish jig by the side of the train tracks. Fiddly-dee-dee, Riverdance!
Like Garageland’s later video for “Beelines to Heaven”, Emulsifier have been inspired by old pop TV shows like “C’mon”. But this ain’t no historically accurate costume drama. Rather, it looks like an explosion in an opshop, with clothing and hairstyles from different pop culture styles of the 1960s and 1970s. But then, being New Zealand it is actually possible that all this stuff could have been in vogue one afternoon in the early ’80s.
The video is shot in bright, rich colours with a slightly jerky style. There’s also some green screen magic where the band gyrate in front of insane psychedelic fractel backgrounds. By this stage I’m almost at the point of wanting to embrace this crazy world of “Get On Up”.
And it got me thinking – what was music television like in the 1970s? Well, some of it was really good and edgy, but other stuff was cheesy as. I’d like to send Emulsifier back in time to see what sort of televisual magic they’d could create with the team at Avalon and their smoke machines of drama.
But maybe this digi-psychedelic-opshop style suits the song. It’s a perfectly ordinary piece of early-’90s, Chili Pepper-inspired pop funk, so maybe it works to also have a video that’s trying to be something cool from another era but isn’t quite getting it. It’s not 1974. It’s 1994 and they’re a bunch of young New Zealanders wearing comedy flares and nylon party wigs.
Best bit: the old opshop granny wigs disguised as shaggy cool dos.
The “He’s the Mummy” video begins with a shot of a man’s foot being shaved with a straight razor. In one sense it’s a classic “weird” music video shot, but on the other hand, it’s not an uncommon thing to find in a suburban bathroom. See, no one will ever admit this, but if you’re a lady and you don’t want to appear Hobbity in summer sandals, you will shave any rogue hairs off your feet.
But wait – “He’s the Mummy” is just a music video. It’s all about stylish weirdness and it does that well. The video is strongly edited to the beat of the song, with quick rhythmic cuts.
As well as the shaved foot, there are also shots of a rubber-faced man, a naked, undulating male belly, an anonymous pair of thighs, latex gloves, a typewriter and other random accoutrements of weirdness. Oh yeah, and there’s a mummy.
Even though it reminds me of secret lady grooming, “He’s the Mummy” like a video designed more to dance to rather than to shift units. It’s not unlike their earlier independently produced video for earlier song “Wildebeast A Go Go”. The higher budget means a better looking video, but the crazy DIY spirit is still there.
Best bit: the spinning newspaper, coming to stop on a headline involving a bribe and a goat.
Moana teams up with Andrew Fagan for “I’ll be the One”, a big, fast soul-infused rock number (or is that a rock-infused soul number?). Moana’s bold voice dominates the song, perhaps better suited to the genre than Fagan’s punky drawl. Nonetheless, they’re both in the video together.
It’s a high energy song and the video builds on that with an almost manic pace. Moana and Fagan are joined by an array of colourful characters. There’s a cute little girl, drag artistes, b-boys, an old lady, kapa haka perfomers, modern dancers, rock dudes, and of course the Moahunters. Everyone is happy as they dance around in front of different coloured bright background. A few people seem to be reacting to a “do something crazy” direction, but mainly it’s people dancing and having fun.
Meanwhile, Moana and Fagan are wearing black skivvies (she’s accessorised with a red hat, he with fingerless gloves) and there’s a choice chemistry between them. Moana even gets to pull Fagan on a leash, which manages to be more comedy than kinky.
The video is directed by Fagan’s missus Karyn Hay and the colour and energy reminds me of other videos she’s done – like “Hey Judith” and “Arm and a Leg”. It looks like a low budget video but the simple concept is executed well and it matches the tone of the song.
Best bit: “DISPARITY” chalked on a wall, possibly a first for a New Zealand pop song.