Total Magenta “Kamikaze”

2001-total-magenta-kamikazeThe YouTube description for this video notes, “I don’t really know anything about them, just found it on an old VHS tape.” That’s what I like to see. Get those old videos online, especially if they seem obscure.

Total Magenta were an Auckland four-piece, at the centre of which was blonde bombshell Lorna Storm, a “frontal weapon”, claims their Amplifier bio. They sound a bit like the Sneaker Pimps, with chopped up guitar and beat mixed with fragile vocals.

In the video Lorna plays a hip young woman living in a rundown house with a large, old-fashioned working-class family. She refuses to help pregnant Mum look after her six younger brothers and sisters, and instead packs her bag and hustles away, having a Maria Von Trapp moment on a hillside.

Free at last, she is then found playing with her band. Lorna has a guitar, but we hardly see her play it. Instead the camera mainly stays on her face and occasionally her handsome band.

The video shows this young woman running away from home (and flinging away her suitcase), but I can’t help but wonder what happens next. Does she show up at band rehearsal all, “Hey guys, does anyone has a couch I could crash on for a few days…?”

This was the only NZ On Air video funding that Total Magenta had. They quickly came and went, with Lorna Storm left doing some telly in the mid ’00s. But this video captures the band doing some good weirdness, like a less commercial version of the videos Goldenhorse ended up making.

Best bit: the family dog, who also runs away.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… from the church to the palace.

The Ross Brothers “Yippie Ki Yay”

2001-the-ross-brothers-yippie-ki-yaySometimes the world of NZ On Air-funded music videos throws in some real gems. Presenting the Ross Brothers, a high school band from Oamaru. Their big break was from winning a song competition for a national Coke ad campaign, and soon after came a profile on the Holmes show. This got them the attention of Universal, and soon enough they had some NZ On Air funding to record their single and make a video.

“Yippie Ki Yay” is about Hollywood, with charmingly adolescent lyrics. As one of the brothers explained on the Holmes interview, “It’s kind of questioning Hollywood, and if it’s really all its cracked up to be.” But in this video the elegant Edwardian streets of Oamaru stand in for Hollywood.

The video centres around a red carpet event. We see Oamaru’s most glamorous A-listers piling out of fancy cars and making their way through hoardes of screaming fans into an old bank building. This is what they did for fun in Oamaru before the whole steampunk thing happened.

While all this is going on we find the Ross Brothers playing in an old building. They’re no Evermore. Lead singer Dylan sings with a strong American accent, putting a lot of effort into doing the gravelly grunge voice that was trendy in the ’90s. It’s odd hearing him sing “nice to see you, to see you nice” – the catchphrase of English variety king Bruce Forsyth – in that voice. The song also namechecks another Bruce (Willis) as well as Jim Carey, and is packed full of cinematic references.

The crowd and the A-listers are drawn to this young band of non-celebs, and abandon the red carpet to rock out with the boys. A tardy starlet, furious at the empty red carpet, storms in and scowls at the band who have stolen her thunder. She’s learning the hard way that being world famous in Oamaru is not all it’s cracked up to be.

I really like that this video exists. The Ross Brothers don’t seem to have done anything after “Yippie Ki Yay” – not even as individuals. But their short pop career was worth it for this video. Oamaru doesn’t usually feature in music video, especially not in ones where it seems like the whole town has been involved.

Best bit: the 13-year-old drummer giving the gladeye to a glamorous A-lister lady.

Also: Here’s the Holmes profile from 2000, and there’s a video for the demo version of the song made from the Holmes footage.

Director: Paul Sparkes

Next… she’s leaving home.

The D4 “Party”

2001-the-d4-partyAfter three missing videos, finally the D4 turn up with “Party” a song about partying. By this stage the group had a little chart success in the UK (something they never experienced in New Zealand) and were well regarded as part of the cool new rock ‘n’ roll scene that was shaking up the early ’00s. The Face magazine featured the band in their “40 messed up new bands” special, noting the group’s upcoming “rev-your-bike-up new single” called “Party”.

For a song about partying, the Greg Page-directed video stays well clear of any attempt to create a party scene. It’s really hard to do in a music video, mainly because it’s very hard to get a bunch of people to look like they’re having a really amazing time for hours on end, especially when they’re not getting paid.

Instead the band can be found playing inside an empty building. The rhythm section are in a back room, while Jimmy and Dion rock out next door. The video is black and white and red, something that now gets classed as a lame digital trick, but in the early ’00s is was kind of amazing and cool. The red wall, red lanterns and a red-shirt stand out amid the black and white.

The camera is like a drunken partygoer. It seems to stagger around, fading in and out of focus. It’s like a guy who’s showed up to his mates’ band practice and with nothing better to do, he’s just drunk a whole lot of beers until the urge to do some daggy dancing hits.

It’s a very basic video, but it works, making good use of the simple set up. The D4 comes across looking like cool musicians, hot guys, and probably quite fun to get on the piss with. No wonder they took over the world for a few months in the early 2000s.

Best bit: the drum breaks. Yes.

Director: Greg Page
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a big night out in Oamaru.

Te Vaka “Pate Pate”

2001-te-vaka-pate-pate“Pate Pate” is an ode to having a good time dancing to the sweet rhythms of the pate log drum. Sung in Tokelauan (a rarity in the world of NZ On Air video funding), it’s an upbeat and highly danceable number. According to Wikipedia, the song was “number one in the South Pacific”, but, uh, citation required.

The video is on-the-road footage of Te Vaka touring Europe. There are even some shots of a WOMAD gig, so I’d guess this is life on the world-music circuit.

The group have made good use of their travels, fitting in a lot of sightseeing (and video making) in their downtime. We see them wobbling in comedy-size clogs in Amsterdam, checking out the sights in Glasgow, doing the tourist thing in Piccadilly Circus, strutting in front of the Eiffel tower, enjoying sunny European canals and dancing wearing a coconut bra.

And we also see them gigging, playing to large festival audiences. Everyone’s up and dancing to this exciting musical group from the other side of the world.

Phil Collins set the bar pretty high with his video for “Take Me Home”, shot in different locations around the world as he was touring. Te Vaka obviously have a much lower budget than ol’ Phil, and their video has more excitement to it. Rather than making a deep statement about travel, the video captures the thrill of a band who are touring Europe. Seeing the two Te Vaka girls dancing in front of Madame Tussauds, it has a sense of, “Can you believe it? We’re actually in London! This is awesome!”

Best bit: the alarming early shot of a festival performer with large fake boobs.

The video can’t be embedded, so head over to YouTube to watch it.

Director: Julie Foa’i
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… red light special.

Tadpole “Better Days”

2001-tadpole-better-days“Better Days” was the final video of the seven songs released off “The Buddhafinger”. Tadpole’s previous videos have all had their own style and “Better Days” continues that with the Wade Shotter-directed video being done in anime style.

We meet the band in their Japanese-style animated form being taunted by their nemesis, a thuggish, green-skinned chap. Like the Power Rangers, Tadpole are colour-coded in red, blue, yellow and Renee in pink. They also come complete with their own collector cards.

The four friends are determined to slay the golly green giant, each blasting him with powers derived from their musical talents. Even Renee’s supersonic scream has no effect. And the group’s little frog friend just ends up getting splattered.

So what can slay their emerald enemy? Why, the buddhafinger, of course. The figure from the album cover smiles benevolently, granting them powers. And with one touch, the green guy becomes mushy peas.

It’s really good to see an animated video that’s got it right. Animation is time-consuming and takes a lot of thought and planning to get right. Other animated music videos haven’t been so successful. Having said that, I can’t help feel that the song would have been better served by a live-action video, but the crazy world of “Better Days” works well enough.

Best bit: the actual tadpole. It tried.

The video was given a special award at the 2002 New Zealand Music Video Awards.

Director: Wade Shotter
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… European vacation.

Steriogram “White Trash”

2001-steriogram-white-trashThis was “the video that started things off for us in New Zealand,” notes the Vimeo description. And indeed it was, with the sight of a skinny-arse, grease-covered, mulleted lead rapper Tyson kicking off the band’s burst of fame.

Tyson is in character as a hardcore westie/bogan type, with a hairdo reminiscent of Dave Spade’s “Joe Dirt” character. Being a mechanic, he’s covered in so much grease that I wonder if he’s some sort of holistic mechanic who fixes cars using his entire body.

The rest of the band arrived and with them are a couple of westie chicks. Tyson degreases and puts on his fancy going-out threads – a t-shirt reading “FAT AND PROUD”, which is funny because he’s only one of those.

Comedian and marriage celebrant Ewan Gilmour also joins the group, instantly attracting the attention of one of the chicks. That’s serious westie mana.

The video climaxes with some formation dancing, done with a similar ironic style that Fur Patrol did in “Andrew”. There’s something to be said when dance routines finally show up in New Zealand music videos, they’re done with tongue in cheek.

Steriogram’s videos have a lot of that cheeky spirit that forebears Supergroove had in abundance before they got all serious. The ‘Gram are happy to get all greased up and mulleted in the name of a fun video. And Ewan the Westie gets his girl.

Best bit: Tyson’s mullet preening.

Director: Adam Jones
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… mighty morphin’ power popstars.

P-Money “Scribe 2001”

“Scribe 2001” was a P-Money track (and the opening track on his debut album) but the song was undeniably about the young rapper Scribe. The early 2000s were good for Scribe, the golden years before things started to get complicated. With P-Money’s sophisticated beats, “Scribe 2001” is an introduction to this fresh MC who had a way with words.

The video is incredibly low budget and was made by P-Money himself. There’s even a brief shot of him reflected in a mirror as he films Scribe, holding the tiniest of video cameras. If P-Money is ever in the shot, the camera is stationery.

The video begins with the duo and pals in a car on a rainy afternoon. They have the freshly released CD single of the track and they blast it in the car stereo, relishing this moment of awesomeness. The video then has a quick montage of New Zealand music personalities of the era – there’s Otis and Slave, Jane Yee, DJ Sir-Vere and Che Fu. And then here’s Scribe telling us his story’s just begun, implying he’s the logical next step in that line-up.

The low-budget video camera gives everything a dull grey, washed out look. Even Scribe and P-Money look less like a respected DJ and MC and more like a couple of friends mucking around with a video camera. But back then, that’s kind of what they were – a couple of dudes who knew they had a cool song that needed a video.

The video is totally lacking in glamour. They’re hanging around in a hotel room, by some lifts, in a stairwell, in a record shop. It’s a bland utilitarian landscape, brought to life by the killer track.

At one point Scribe is sitting at a table in a nondescript hotel room. In front of him is some cash. Not stacks of Benjamins, rather a more modest Hillary and a Queenie. P-Money flicks a 20 at the camera. The scene comes across as both a parody of hip hop videos and the sincere swagger of two guys who know one day they’ll be able to do that in a fancy hotel suite and with big stacks of Rutherfords.

But whatever flaws the video might have, none of it really matters. The song is so strong that the video doesn’t need to be super slick. Hey, it’s Scribe and he has some rhymes for you.

Best bit: the people who share the lift with Scribe: frozen; horrified.

Director: Peter Waddams
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… take out the trash.

Evermore “Oil & Water”

2001-evermore-oil-and-waterIt’s Evermore, the triple-bro guitar-pop group who’s had more success in Australia than New Zealand. “Oil & Water” was a track on the Hume brothers’ second EP (also titled “Oil & Water”) and it’s a pleasant enough song, but nothing remarkable.

The video takes the trio and puts them in an interesting old building full of bunches of twigs and pools of water. Or is that pools of oil? Either way, it’s not oil and water.

The lyrics are intent on using the oil and water not mixing as a metaphor to represent relationship tension. But oil and water aren’t all that bad. If it’s a petroleum-based oil, it can produce a cheerful rainbow. And add a few spices and herbs and you’ll have a delicious salad dressing.

Instead the video goes for a gothic tone. The brothers may be performing in front of a bright window, but they inhabit a world of stark silhouettes and those wintery twigs. It feels a bit post-grunge (is that a thing?), pulling away from the bright guitar pop of the late ’90s and bringing a bit of serious back.

Best bit: the awesome hair silhouettes, bringing an artful quality to a remnant of the hair metal days.

Bonus! Here’s a documentary on the 2000 Smokefreerockquest, where Evermore (aged 13-16) took out the big prize. Hugh Sundae also chats to other finalists Nesian Mystik and an early version of Die! Die! Die!

Next… the beginning of the story.

Dark Tower “Alright Now”

2001-dark-tower-alright-nowThe Dark Tower lads are back and this time they’re having an adventure in a central Wellington neighbourhood. Jody and Eli are cheerfully walking home, not realising that in their flat is the dastardly Mario. He’s eating their cornchips, drinking their beer, farting on their couch and macking on Jody’s girlfriend (as explained by on-screen titles). They walk in mid-mack and Mario makes a run for it, sparking off an epic chase on foot.

It’s not exactly a geographically accurate chase, more a patchwork of chainlink fences, narrow alleyways, paved backyards and bits of flat and hilly Wellington. At one stage the duo are overtaken by a jogger. This doesn’t stop them catching up with the corn chip thief, but he surprises them with a posse of thugs. Fortunately a deus ex machina arrives in the form of Jody’s mum, who flips off the goons and rescues the lads.

But is it too late? Back in the flat, Mario has returned to continue his dance of seduction. Jody’s girlfriend is enjoying herself as Mario shimmies, with his giant belly overhanging his giant Y-fronts. Aw yeah.

At this point I’m wondering what the motivation behind the chase was. Jody’s girlfriend seems much happier with Mario (and what woman wouldn’t want a bearded fellow who’s not afraid to dance in his undies?). Surely corn chip theft is a pardonable crime. But perhaps for Dark Tower, doing a curry fart into someone’s couch is the worst crime of all.

It’s a fun video with great editing, capturing the anarchic spirit of Dark Tower.

Best bit: the birthday boy who gets a face full of cake, thanks to the disruptive chase.

Note: there are two slightly different versions of this video. In one, Dark Tower are credited as Earl Deviance and Eel, in the other they’re Jody and Eli.

Director: David Stubbs

Colliding Traits “Sometimes”

2001-colliding-traits-sometimesColliding Traits were, the internet tells me, overall winners of the West Auckland Battle Of The Bands Regional Final, and had crossover with the Christian pop scene. They were also appreciated for their songcraft. And “Sometimes” feels like a well-crafted song, like a mellower Feelers or a less showbiz Opshop.

There’s only 1:43 of the video online, but it’s not hard to guess what the missing first half of the video would be like. Basically, the band perform the video in a black studio while they are showered with water, like it’s raining. This might be a reference to their 1999 EP “Through the Rain”. Or it might just have been done because it looks cool.

The band are good sports, not looking all that bothered by the torrent coming down on them (apart from the occasional defensive nose scrunch).

While the rain doesn’t serve any purpose other than to spice up an otherwise ordinary performance video, wetness in a music video does look great (as Tex Pistol demonstrated in 1987). Everyone looks dramatic and bothered, and the water crashing down on the cymbals is visual poetry. It’s like the old Hollywood saying about Esther Williams – dry they ain’t much, but wet they’re stars. Kind of.

This was the first and only NZ On Air-funded video that Colliding Traits had, eventually breaking up after releasing their debut album in 2002. But this isn’t a bad way of remembering them.

Best bit: the dramatic saturated hair flicks.

Note: the band’s website is still online, last updated in 1999. It’s a classic turn-of-the-millennium minimalist website design, complete with tiny Verdana text.

Next… who’s been eating my corn chips?