“Twinkle” was the only single from Tim Finn’s fifth solo album, the self-released “Say It Is So”. It’s a very simple video and seems on par with other indie efforts from the era.
The video starts with a mysterious woman smoking a cigarette. This is a subtle change from smoking in music videos from the mid-’90s. In this video, it’s not the artist smoking, but rather a character. It’s used to convey unease, not coolness.
Tim plays a businessman. He comes home, flops his briefcase down on his bed, pours himself a scotch and sits in an easy chair. What happens next is very interesting. He’s sitting in his chair, looking at the camera, singing the song. And it looks like a webcam.
There’s the same blue screen light and unflattering angle. It actually looks like someone who’s settled down for a good, long Skype session with their sweetie in another town. But back in 1999, webcam technology wasn’t that advanced. The best you could manage on dial-up was ever-changing black and white stills.
So, ok, Tim isn’t Skyping or vlogging. He’s just sitting in his chair getting sloshed. He briefly gets up to make a phonecall and paces about for a bit, but the video is largely him just sitting.
But suddenly drama! Cigarette girl gets all “Hunger Games” on Tim. She pulls back a crossbow and shoots him in the back, through the chair. I’m not sure how this works out as she appears to have been shooting from outside and yet the arrow comes from inside the apartment. I don’t even think Katniss can shoot that well.
Bic Runga does vocal duties on this cover of the Cars’ bleakest song. It’s the highest charting Strawpeople song, reaching number 7, but yet I don’t think it’s held up as well as the original.
Perhaps it’s just down to music trends. The moody synths in the Cars’ version are right back in fashion, whereas the drum and bass styles of the Strawpeople’s version sound like an awkward trend from the late ’90s. Perhaps in another 10 years, this version will sound just fine.
The video is computer animated and its quality is a sign of how advanced CGI had become in the late ’90s. Sure, the lip-sync isn’t precise, but it’s better than the pixelly comedy worlds of earlier videos.
Bic is represented as a blue chanteuse performing in a bar with an insect band. Disappointingly, the insect DJ does not take advantage of his many legs and just uses two for his turntable work. Bic has a far off look in her eyes, as if she’s seen too much.
Hey, we’re in New York City, cruising on the Hudson River, past the Statue of Liberty (yay!) past the World Trade Centre (oh…). Combined with the bleak tone of the song, the appearance of the WTC – only two years from its end – takes on a somewhat tragic tone.
The trio also put in an appearance at Grand Central Station, with the sped-up commuters bustling behind them. There’s a sense that the gravity of the song has created a bubble around the trio, making them immune to the outside world. All that matters is this seriousness.
Are any music videos ever set in boring flats? The kind with beige-walled, under-decorated rooms that are so common in real life New Zealand. Music videos always seem to take place in a world of interesting spaces, and the setting for “Undone” is one of those.
It’s a song about the importance of chilling out and the video takes a similarly relaxed feeling. Boh and the boys relax in their cool flat. It’s that minimalist style with modern furniture, strategically placed interesting things and a few touches of shabby chic, like a Pinterest board in video form.
Boh relaxes on a beanbag while listening to music and reading a magazine, she does a crossword puzzle with heir hair in a towel, she contemplates life while enjoying a cup of Nescafe, she swivels in a chair while dressed in casualwear and generally hangs out on the staircase.
The rest of the band also have some relaxing activities. They read the paper, make a phone call on a mobile phone (remember, this was the ’90s – that’s all you could do on a mobile phone), race cars on a Scalextric set, assemble a model plane, puzzle over the crossword and play a game of pinball. Actually, it sounds like the boys get to have more fun than Boh.
The video seems like a good match for the song. It’s just a nice video that lets the song do its thing without any sense of great ambition.
Not to be confused with Sola Rosa or Solaa, Sola Monday was the stage name of Dunedin artist Ingrid Ekdahl. The video is remarkably slick and I think much of the video is taken from Stephen Downes’ 2000 Otago noir short film “The Somniloquist”.
The video is set at some sort of institution, probably a hospital for the criminally insane. It’s full of foreboding corridors and stern people in uniform. The video shows early signs of literally presenting the lyrics (“Sucking milkshake through a straw” = Sola Monday as Kate, drinking a milkshake), but this doesn’t continue. Just as well, considering the lyric “there was no clean underwear” could be asking for trouble.
Shuffling into a fancy office, Kate sits down and watches some telly, which is where the short film footage starts. It involves an old-style black and white noir thriller and a colour film styled in a similar era. There’s an electric chair, some pocket-watch hypnotism, Sophia Hawthorne and a whole lot of drama, which bleeds in with the reality of Kate.
The video ends with Kate shuffling off, leaving me most intrigued about the short film clips that have made up the video. The video still works as a teaser for the film, but I’ve googled, but sadly there’s no sign of it online.
Post office boxes didn’t used to be bright red. They used to be a subdued grey, in keeping with the general greyness of the New Zealand Post Office. When NZ Post was born, post office boxes got a lick of red paint and a bold new backdrop was born.
The last NZOA video that took advantage of this setting was Love’s Ugly Children in their “Voodoo Girl” video. That explicitly used the space as a post office box lobby, but with Slim it’s more abstract. The camera hardly ever focuses on the boxes, so the walls become giant crimson slabs of colour, a perfect backdrop for some energetic punks.
In the YouTube description, director Marc Swadel notes the video was “a three way directorial race on this between myself, Slim singer Aaron Hogg, and Italian director Simona Lianza”. Whatever was going on behind the scenes, the finished product doesn’t show it.
The band perform the song in the narrow space, performing to each walls and with different combinations of band members. The camera is usually locked off in the same place, with a few shots near the end taken against a different wall, and a shot of a rotating skull in the middle. Adding a bit of variety, lyrics from the song and random graphics flash up on screen, making it look a lot slicker than a bunch of guys in a post office.
Best bit: “Open a bank account”, commands a random graphic.
The video for “The General Electric” takes its inspiration from the cover of the album with the same name. The video even starts with a literal portrayal of the CD. A young woman walks into a record store and browses a rack of CDs, an activity that now feels oddly old fashioned.
She comes across the new Shihad CD, opens it and finds the disc itself in the case, which surely means some employee is going to get in trouble for not storing the disc behind the counter. It turns out to be a magic CD which transports the young woman into a stark white world filled with Shihad and an army of amps.
There’s a bit of Jon performing against evening scenes of downtown Sydney, but most of video is the band surrounded by giant, pulsating amps, probably inspired by the stockroom scene in “The Matrix”. My 1999 memory of the video was one of really slick CGI animation for the amps, but by today’s standards, it looks chunky and cheap.
But beyond the animation, the video serves as a good portrayal of Shihad’s energy. There’s no mad scientist plot, just a reasonably plain background for the group to do their thing.
Best bit: Jon looks down on the trapped visitor in four-sided Shihad box.
Note: This video was previously on Shihad’s Daily Motion account, but that’s gone. It can now only be found on MTV UK.
Bonus: There’s an alternate video for “The General Electric”. It’s directed by Reuben Sutherland who also did the previous two videos for the group. The video goes for a mental asylum theme and rounds out his trilogy of the similar “Wait and See” and “My Mind’s Sedate”. And with spiky hair, glasses and a wide-collar shirt, Jon strangely resembles comedian Sue Perkins.
Like “Daisy Mad Cow”, the previous song from She’s Insane, “Baby One” doesn’t quite feel like a fully formed song. The lyrics are simple and repetitive, like dummy lyrics made up in a jam sessions that were never quite fleshed out into a substantial song.
But the song is kind of a lullaby, so in that sense She’s Insane can get away with some simple repetitive lyrics. Though it doesn’t quite work when the repeated phrase is “Little baby, I’ll; little baby, I’ll; little baby, I’ll.” And it’s even more iffy when the line sounds like “little baby eye” and is accompanied by a giant baby eye.
The video uses lots of silhouettes, sometimes shot against a flapping sheet with a visible seam. The aforementioned giant baby fades in and out with green screen technology. (I think the last baby in a NZOA music video was the pyromaniac infant in Push Push’s “What My Baby Likes”.)
It’s a sweet, very girly song with an adequate low-budget video, but it just feels a bit dull. I wish She’s Insane would live up to their name and make a music video with some crazy in it.
There’s something entertainingly mad about Deep Obsession videos. The formula seems to be create an eye-catching set, plonk Deep Obsession in it and have them seductively slide along the walls.
We meet the two Obsessettes in a futuristic corridor. It’s a cool blue-grey colour with tall strips of light at regular intervals making it feel a bit like the set of a sci-fi drama. The floor is covered with rocks, so, er, perhaps it’s a mining ship.
Like Deep Obsession’s earlier “Cold” video, little is done to distinguish between Vanessa and Zara. They’re not given much screen time together and there’s little interaction when they are together, which makes it seem like there’s an off-camera feud between them. Or perhaps they’re feuding over the “one and only” of the song.
We meet the object of their affection/s, a young man who is lost in the futuristic corridors. The video uses techniques last seen in 1980s-era Doctor Who to make the one corridor set seem like a never-ending labyrinth. Actually, this video would be vastly improved by a few Daleks.
Wait. Maybe the video can manage some next-level crazy on its own. What it needs is Zara and Vanessa sitting in a room full of goldfish bowls, each bowl with a mysterious cable going in and a light dangling above it. Oh, there it is. Being the late ’90s, I wouldn’t be surprised if this had been done as a super feng shui technique, bringing great wealth and abundant harmony.
The lost guy never finds the girls and nothing happens with the fish. In the end, we leave Deep Obsession wandering the futuristic corridors. And it is said that on a very quiet night, you can still hear them wandering to this very day.
dslAfter labouring in the world of indie, Breathe attracted the attention of Sony and emerged with the ambitiously titled second album, “Don’t Stop the Revolution”.
“Landslide” was the first single from the album and it has an epic sound, with both hints of the Beatles and Oasis (it is the late ’90s, after all). The video is just as epic as the song, shot in artistic black and white with the band playing inside a photogenic old warehouse.
The video is a perfect introduction to the band, making it all about the band and the performance. This is a serious rock band writing serious songs. Lead singer Andrew Tilby is given plenty of screen time, but never in an over-the-top rock star way.
Occasionally we see a long shot of the room with a man sitting at a reel-to-reel tape recorder, no doubt recording the band because they are so epic that their performance needs to be captured for future generations.
But here’s the thing – Breathe didn’t set the charts on fire. This song only made it to #28. And when I look at this video, it seems lacking in charisma. They come across as a very serious band who take themselves and their music very seriously, but I don’t think that’s entirely who they were.