It’s clear that the video for TrueBliss’s second single takes a lot of its inspiration from French film director Luc Besson’s stylish sci-fi film “Fifth Element”. For “Number One”, the mana of Milla Jovovich is diluted between the five members of TrueBliss, making it fall short of Besson’s futuristic vision. Instead it’s Carly, Keri, Erika and Megan in orange lycra scraps, with Joe in orange lycra clothes.
Their futuristic costumes are also accompanied by futuristic makeup, with Carly wearing what looks like a futuristic monobrow, as well as a futuristic pointy fringe. There are also attempts at formation dancing, and some of the ‘Bliss are better at it than others. So sometimes it looks slick and smooth, other times it looks like a regrettable beginners Zumba class. There’s also one scene where they appear to be worshipping a giant orange apple because… just because.
Then things get weird. The girls run into a chamber and lean over five tanks filled with blue goo. What’s inside the tanks? Why, hot boys, of course. The ‘Bliss bring the goo boys to life with a highly symbolic explosion of goo. TrueBliss welcome the lads onto their scifi Marae with some more not-quite-right dancing. The adventure ends with the ladies walking off with their new blue dudes, whose orange-thong-framed blue buttocks glisten in the sci-fi light.
The old glitchy VHS copy of the video adds to its charms. In fact, it all feels like what the year 1999 was supposed to be like back in the 1960s, complete with elaborate hair, make-up and redefined gender roles.
It all sounds pretty ridiculous, but it’s hard to not be charmed by this crazy world. The Anthony Ioasa-written track made it to number 12 in the charts and the video seems like a bold attempt at promoting a group who were enjoying a short but significant burst of fame and success. This isn’t just an attempt to make a music video; it’s an attempt to make popstars.
Best bit: the lone shot of the group all dancing in unison – you can do it, guys!
And this video seemed like a good one to end the year on. 5000 Ways will now be taking its annual break, back on Monday January 14 with the new millennium. Thanks to you, dear reader, and to everyone who’s commented and shared stories, and to all the people who’ve got around to uploading videos. Merry Christmas, happy New Year and see yiz in 2000!
Dog poo. Rounding out the Mutton Birds’ dozen NZ On Air-funded videos, “As Close As This” opens with dog poo. It makes a bit more sense when it’s revealed that the video is partly shot from a dog’s perspective, so there’s the dog running around a park, weeing up against a tree, sniffing another dog’s poo. But still. Dog poo in a music video. This never happened in the early days with the glorious Fane Flaws-directed vids.
Having been based in the UK, it’s the first Mutton Birds video in about five years to be shot in New Zealand. It’s also a solo Don video, which is probably the result of the other three-quarters of the band still living in the UK.
The video imagery is rather disparate, including Don cruising along in a motorcycle with the dog in a side carriage, the dog inspecting some road kill, and black and white animated footage of Don with Warhol-style colour that gives him a drag queen look. The dog also has a wander in a K Road sex shop and it makes sure to have a good look at a display of fake boobs, as dogs do.
By the time the dog is drinking water out of a filthy toilet, I started to wonder if everyone had just given up. There is too much poo in this video. It doesn’t seem like a music video for a band who wants to be successful. It’s like a deliberate attempt to undersell the song, ensuring the band wouldn’t be burdened with popularity and the demands of touring.
Perhaps they got their wish. The song didn’t chart and the Mutton Birds didn’t release any more studio albums, eventually calling it a day in 2002.
Best bit: faux FM radio DJs Greg and Phil, who are happy to play the track on their station.
Dean Hapeta, the frontman of Upper Hutt Posse went solo as Te Kupu – the word. “Vision” is a smooth tune reaffirming his social and political stance. Te Kupu’s vocal style goes from a raspy growl to a spoken word drawl to cool chanting.
The video, directed by Chris Graham, focuses on Te Kupu in various locations around Wellington. Wearing a trenchcoat, sunglasses and beret (Cold War chic), he hangs around an alleyway where a small girl joins him, nicely diffusing his menace. But just in case you thought he was too soft, he sets fire to a table. And it’s a hearty blaze, making me wonder if there was any nervousness at the time on the video set.
We also see Dean in casual streetwear, sitting outside the old National Museum building. It now houses Massey University, but back in 1999 it was empty, with the museum having moved down the hill to its new home at Te Papa. It’s all highly symbolic – an angry young Maori man holding ground outside an empty symbol of a colonial institution. There are also scenes of protest, breakdancing in downtown Wellington and an urgent run along under the motorway.
We find Cold War spy Dean also hanging around an abandoned industrial site, all overgrown and exposed. Again, it’s a good symbolic location, a sign of something from a previous New Zealand that doesn’t have a place any more. Well, either that or it’s just a cool place to shoot a music video.
Something funny is going on here. This video features people in animal masks with subtitles revealing their inner thoughts. That also describes Garageland’s video for “Kiss It All Goodbye”. I don’t know who directed either video, but I wonder which came first and if there was any crossover intended.
The subtitles surely take their inspiration from Jake Scott’s video for REM’s “Everybody Hurts” video, which popularised useing subtitles to show the inner monologue of characters. I like how groundbreaking video techniques slowly trickle down to New Zealand videos, twisting and mutating and taking on their own life.
Anyway, this video shows a black and white world where everyone wears animal masks. As well as scenes of inner city hipsters doing cool things, we also see children in animal masks. In particular there’s a young boy with a toy aeroplane. He hurls his plane off into the air and a his bog-standard fox mask somehow has an expression of joy on it.
We also get glimpses of a distant figure running across a lush green field towards a group of wind turbines, later echoed by a girl twirling a flower with all but three petals removed, resembling a wind turbine. This video was only shot about three years after the first group of windfarms opened in New Zealand. It was exciting and new.
The mask-clad urbanites are bothered by their thoughts, things like, “I’ll show them! They’ll see!” “Was she looking at me funny?” and – lol – “Animals!” So it’s a troublesome, bleak place. But will anyone have the guts to pull off their animal mask and escape? Why yes, the child will.
The lone figure on the field is revealed to be a boy – I assume the model plane boy from earlier. He’s running towards the wind turbines and the video takes on a weird feeling, a cross between a profound statement about man’s place in the world and a Meridian corporate promo video.
Best bit: extravagant animal mask bartender sloshing out a line of cocktails.
This is a quality song. It’s the sort of song that is sometimes described as “perfect pop” but it never managed to bother the charts the way that the similarly perfect pop of Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys or Westlife did at the same time.
Maybe “Birthday” was a little too depressing to get higher than #26. But it’s a good kind of depressing. “Today is your birthday and not mine,” sings Dave Yetton, looking miserable.
The video is a simple affair. It focuses on brightly lit close-ups of band members. Dave is shot against a white background, the rest of the band against a black background. And while it’s Dave’s voice we can hear, the lip-sync is shared amongst the band.
Cut between that are shots of brightly coloured sweeties. There’s Tim Tams, Cadbury DMCs (Dairy Milk Centres aka off-brand M&Ms), Pink Smokers, Jet Planes, eerily corpse-like Eskimos, licorice allsorts, Shrewsburys… Oh, I’m starting to feel a little ill now.
“No, you can’t have your cake and eat it too,” admonishes Dave. And the video conveys that well – the dark side of celebrations. Whether it’s a child stuffing their face until they turn green or an adult dealing with the end of a relationship, life has a funny tendency to get in the way of the best laid plans.
Why was I not previously aware of She’s Insane? If Stellar were a New Zealand version of Garbage, then She’s Insane are Aotearoa’s answer to Veruca Salt. Two girls with tight vocal harmonies, two random guys bulking out the band and a grunge-pop sound – that’s so Veruca!
The lyrics are repetitive and sound like they’d been knocked up minutes before the song was due to be recorded. Example: “Come along, sing a song, you’re a mad cow.” But lead singer Maria knows how to do a good “yeaaah”.
The video even feels like Veruca Salt. Everyone’s wearing white (sometimes straitjackets, other times just white clothing) and they’re looking slightly gothic. There are attempts to give the other two band members some screen time, but they’re pretty unremarkable. What’s better is the double power of Maria and drummer Tasha. Lying down and looking up, like a hairy yin-yang symbol, they look very cool.
But the video seems to dwell to much on less successful shots. Like, someone has gone to the effort of shooting the ginger bassist, so they’re going to put it in the video, dammit.
I like She’s Insane – they seem nice – but in the end the video starts to feel like those really dead-on music video parodies that French and Saunders do. This feels like a parody of Veruca Salt rather than a band confidently doing their own thing.
Best bit: the random shot of one of the guitarists bouncing.
“Baby, how it slides in and out of you,” sings Greg. Something about a flower, yeah?
“Hibiscus Song” is like an old folk ballad given a contemporary arrangement, but it’s all the work of Greg Johnson himself. At the centre of the video is a young woman who “smelt like red geraniums, wore hibiscus in her hair”. When we meet her, she’s dramatically applying make-up, seeming startled at her reflection in the mirror.
Out in the street, Miss Hibiscus hurriedly walks, holding a violin case. While she looks like the sort of person who’d fit in with such an urban environment, she is very ill at ease here.
In the choruses, Greg Johnson sings the song against a plain black background. He fades in and out, as if he is the dream and the Hibiscus lady is real. But then she appears in the same black space with her violin. Did Greg summon her?
Back on the street, she wanders. She stands in a fountain (the old one outside the Auckland Art Gallery, I think). Guys, it’s not looking good. Greg Johnson comes to the spot to scatter some flowers. Oh no.
Both the video and the song remind me a little of Nick and Kylie’s “Where the Wild Roses Grow”. But where Nick Cave was going for a traditional ballad, the song and video for “Hibiscus Song” have a modern flavour. It’s like a folk ballad for a troubled young woman who’s come to a bad end in a big city. Yeah, take that, Nick Cave.
“Kiss It All Goodbye” takes inspiration from Pop Up Video, the VH1 series that combined music videos with pop facts and was insanely popular in the late ’90s. The video begins with one such ‘fact’ – “Garageland members are famous for having personalities like animals”, and the shocking revelation that bassist Mark isn’t just like a tiger, but he wears a tiger mask. Of course, today a dude in an animal mask just looks like a hipster, but kids, back in the ’90s it was really weird.
Mark wanders around Newmarket (and passes a Truetone record store), baffled by strangers’ cruel reactions to his tiger mask. Meanwhile, Jeremy is tormented by many cups of decaf as he waits in a cafe, Andrew G is a football-loving office worker, and a bound and gagged Andrew C fights to escape from a dark room.
Subtitles give us further insight into the four. Mark is very baffled; Jeremy is very tormented, Andrew G really loves football and Andrew C is trying hard to escape.
When the chorus comes along, we take a break from this chaotic world and experience Garageland performing the song in a simple, sepia-tone setting. It’s a nice break because all those subtitles and crazy adventures are a little exhausting.
The video doesn’t quite deliver on the premise. It has a good sense of humour, but it just feels like a lot of effort has been made to set up something that doesn’t really go anywhere.
The four finally reunite at Jeremy’s cafe, sharing tales of man-tiger discrimination, soccer love, daring escapes and truckloads of decaf. The video concludes and threatens “To be continued…” Oh, I hope so.
Best bit: The irate music story owner, banning man-tiger Mark for something terrible that happened “last time”.
Set in a spotless suburban home of the 1950s, Fiona plays a frustrated housewife – and that’s a Betty Draper level of frustration.
The problem is her husband (played by Ian Hughes, who we’ve previously seen in a Greg Johnson video and a Bike video that was also directed by Jonathan King). He just doesn’t notice her. Fiona brings him his dinner (meat and three veg) and she’s perfectly dressed – elegant hair, a fine ladysuit and pearls.
Husband continues to be uninterested in Fiona even as she drapes herself over him as he watches telly, sensually writhes on the bed as he trims his nose hairs, snuggles up next to him as he reads his Adventure Annual in bed, and erotically plays with an ice cube as he practises his golf swing. What’s a girl gotta do to get a little affection?
But in the end, she can’t take it any more. A leg of lamb, previously destined for the oven, gets a new use… as a murder weapon. And this neatly evokes the dark Roald Dahl short story “Lamb to the Slaughter”, which adds a perfect conclusion to the saga.
A few times there’s black and white footage of Fiona in the present day, a reminder that she’s not actually a frustrated housewife; she’s a pop singer. But to me, it feels like the fun that Fiona has playing the frustrated housewife – especially her hilarious efforts at bedroom seduction – reveals more about her than any moody black-and-white footage could.
Best bit: A man, a woman, an Adventure Annual – there’s only room for two.