Putting a band in a car is a pretty ordinary music video trick, but with “Exit to the City”, Greg Page takes things to a whole nother level, mercilessly shoving the D4 into the back of a van.
For a start there’s no green screen or trailer involved. It’s a real van driving through the streets of Auckland. And there’s no attempt to romanticise it as a road trip. There’s the band hunched over in the van, attempting to play the song while they’re hurled about as the vans takes corners. The outside – fairly ordinary looking streets of suburban Auckland – passively passes by the background windscreen.
The van is covered with egg cartons, presumedly to offer a bit of padding as the group is bumped around. But the pulpy protection starts to fall off, with large bits of the van’s bare metal interior exposed in some shots. This band suffers for their art.
The video is amusing, but it never goes for gags, rather letting the focus be the physical comedy of a band desperately trying to stay upright and rock out in a moving vehicle.
As well as the driver and the band, Greg Page is the sixth person in the band, crouched down below the camera, with his hand popping up to adjust a rogue microphone stand, hold up a pedal and finish with an “APPLAUSE” sign. I’m going to randomly declare this to be the most legendary of Greg Page’s videos.
Best bit: the disappearing and reappearing album cover.
Wellington’s finest purveyors of barbecue reggae have the first of their many NZOA-funded videos, after debuting with the self-funded “Keep on Pushing“. “Hey Son” is a fun one, of the “dressing up in crazy costumes and doing crazy things” type that Blerta pioneered back in the 1970s, or like an above-average 48Hours entry.
So, the Black Seeds have been charged with the offence of “civil unobedience” and have gone down to the office of The Man to sort out this problem. Only the long queues and unhelpful staff mean the only way things will get sorted is with a little comedic violence.
There’s running, jumping, firing soda cans from a vending machine, and use of a rubber stamp as a weapon. There’s also proper martial arts and the use of staple guns like pistols. And amid all this chaos, band member and future Grammy winner Bret McKenzie has a FIGWIT moment as a long-haired fellow in a Michael Jackson-style military jacket.
Meanwhile, Barnaby Weir has gone from smashing up a computer monitor to getting the band to smash up the mainframe. It’s not quite as epic as Dave killing HAL in “2001”, but it’s a lot more entertaining.
Back in the main office, a tardy courier has finally turned up with an official letter cancelling the infringement notice. “We hope this reaches you before you do anything drastic,” it says. I can’t help wonder if this crazy-arse bureaucracy actually wanted the Black Seeds to come and smash up its stuff.
While their later videos were more straight-up music videos, it’s cool to have this goofy adventure as the introduction to the Seeds.
Best bit: the furious rubber-stamp action – DENIED!
“Condition Chronic” was the third single from Tadpole’s second album, an ode to the pain of unrequited love. The video is directed by Wade Shotter, and like his earlier Tadpole video “Better Days”, this one is also based on animation, but the band make a real-life appearance too.
The video is set in a stylish snow-covered forest. Renee is alone in this forest, with a fur stole to keep her warm in the chilly environment. (Though evidently not cold enough to warrant covering her shoulders.) Beneath her wintry wrap, her heart is full of love.
Through the forest we also find Tadpole rocking out. They’re shot in silhouette, black shapes against an orange sky. It’s all about the hair, with dreadlocks, spikes and a mighty clip-on ponytail all getting a workout against the fuzzy sunset.
Nothing much happens in the video. The big climax involves Renee’s heart animation getting pierced with an arrow and bleeding because love hurts. Otherwise it’s a slow, moody video that works with the tone of the song.
The song is ok but doesn’t seem like a good choice for a single, particularly when the frequently repeated chorus lyric “I’m enamoured of you” always sounds like “I’m a man with a view”.
This video never quite felt like it did the song justice. “Taken” is a cool, sophisticated and very romantic number, but the video feels like it’s gone for laughs and blokey-sexy instead.
The video opens with Boh Runga cruising down the green-screen motorway, flirting with a couple of unremarkable guys who drive past. Boh makes a pit stop and has her vintage car serviced by the rest of the band who bumble around. Then Boh does some more hooning, proving she’s an independent woman because she drives her own car.
Then we see her driving through a bush-flanked road, standing up in the car and wearing what looks to be a blue bedsheet upcycled into a top. No one is driving the car (because it is on a trailer), but there’s no attempt to explain why this is. Maybe Boh is such an independent woman she can make her car drive itself.
She pulls over and the band are there again to polish her car. The motorway men appear and Boh stands seductively with her bedsheet top. But the blokes aren’t interested in her. They just want the car and are more interested in her petrolhead bandmates.
It all annoys me. It’s like the video is too scared to deal with the emotional sentiment of the song and so has just gone for the great music video cop-out of putting the band in a car. But then the song reached a very respectable #6 in the charts, so perhaps the video did a perfectly good job of promoting the song.
Best bit: Boh puts on her driving gloves while hooning down the motorway.
I remember this video being a staple of the golden age of M2. The song’s title comes as a warning for the star of the video, a skeleton. Even though he’s wearing a sun-smart hat, we find Simon le Bone alone in a desert, buzzards circling overhead.
But being a skeleton in arid conditions has its advantages – no need for food or water. So our skeletal hero sets off, eventually coming to a lush green rainforest. (Yeah, where was that when he was alive?)
He wanders through the forest, finally coming to an inviting waterfall. The down under Skeletor jumps up – soaring high above the clouds – then down into the waterfall. But his dramatic leap appears to have overshot the target, as he ends up in the chilly southern part of the South Pacific Ocean. Well, that’s a change from the desert.
The video, directed by Richard Shaw of Turtleneck, is a pleasingly quirky accompaniment to Sola Rosa’s sassy instrumental track. I’ve been trying to figure out how the video was made and I can only conclude that it’s some sort of stop-motion/puppetry/CGI voodoo.
SJD’s second video starts with the song title scrawled across the screen in childish handwriting. Only it’s back to front, which automatically makes me think it’s a YouTube copyright takedown avoidance trick. Or maybe it’s just the writing of a kid who hasn’t learned to write left to right. I used to do that.
The handwriting turns into child-like drawings, stick figures with swords, giant rolling heads, morphing cats and other delights. Only the drawings are animated and have a sophisticated flow, suggesting it’s the work of someone who can draw properly.
Primitive stick figures joyfully run around, jumping through hoops. It’s weirdly alarming to see something as simple as a stick figure move so smoothly and naturally. It makes me feel quite inadequate about the quality of my attempts at stick figure.
Sometimes we see an eerie shadow looming over the screen. So who is behind this animation? It’s a boy, of course. We meet the (real, not animated) boy sitting at a desk in a strange CGI room. It seems all there is to do in the room is draw cartoons. And he’s not very happy. Well, with that experience he could always get a job at Weta Digital.
“A Boy” is a groovy number, but the video goes a bit darker (though the lyrics kind of match that tone). It doesn’t take the obvious video promo route, instead making something that is artistic in its own right. But that seems to be an SJD hallmark.
Salmonella Dub get all cyberpunk with their drum and bass track “Tha Bromley East Roller”. It feels like the offspring of the Headless Chickens “Donde Esta La Pollo” video, a nocturnal meeting of freaky friends.
It’s all set in a car wrecker’s yard, a quick and easy set for a music video. Among all the heaving masses, we find a sinister preacher man, a cyberpunk Tiki Taane and a Maori warrior doing some mau rakau with a taiaha.
The video also features a performer in a metal bikini, shooting sparks off herself with an angle grinder. It’s all feeling a bit like a Lollapalooza sideshow, circa 1992. But, ok, trends take longer to reach New Zealand. Or maybe this takes place in a post-apocalyptic distant future where young women must wear spark-shooting metal bikinis for practical reasons.
For a group like Salmonella Dub that’s all very outdoorsy, these Mad Max styles actually seem like the logical way to depict the group’s adventures in D&B. There’s the drummer bashing out some tribal beats amid scrap metal, and some tight bass next to a flaming column. There we go – it’s organic…ish.
Best bit: the raver extras, recalling their favourite moments at the Gathering.
PanAm were an Auckland four-piece Flying Nun band, going for a noisy punk-pop sound. “Long Grass” was directed by Greg Page and uses puppets to depict the band. They’re a bit like three-dimensional versions of Terrance and Phillip from “South Park”, with big flappy mouths. The inside of their mouths even look a bit like half a 45, but upon closer examination, it’s just a black semi-circle with a red bit in the middle.
The band are playing in front of an aeroplane, with a glittery “PanAm” logo (which, I assume for legal reasons, is enough from the airline Pan Am). They’re wearing black turtleneck tops with the initials of their names on it, jeans and sneakers – all made with just enough detail to look as authentic as puppet clothes can.
We also see the trio dressed in cammo gear and military helmets, looking like they’d gone and formed a puppet junta. It gives the video a slightly dangerous edge, especially coming so soon after 9/11. Perhaps the puppet PanAm hijacked the aeroplane just so they could use it in their music video. Yeah, that’d be it.
But this time, most of Greg Page’s music video were live action, so it’s cool that he’s had the opportunity to go back to his non-human video roots. Only with a significantly bigger budget than his Hamilton student video days, “Long Grass” is a slicker production.
For PanAm’s debut, it’s a bold choice to not feature the band in the video. But the video turned out to be well liked, scoring nominations for the Juice TV Awards and the Squeeze People Choice Awards in 2002.
Update:Songlines Across New Zealand talked to Paul from the band about the music video. He revealed that the band themselves were operating the puppets. And the puppets and set were all designed by Greg Page.
Best bit: the little kazoo toot mouthed by puppet Paul.
Christopher Banks, the mastermind behind Deep Obsession, teamed up with singer-songwriter Phil Madsen to form Nurture. “Did You Do It All For Love?” was their second single. It has a bit of an ’80s electropop sound, but, damn, that bridge has a killer hook.
The video is another Joe Lonie work, and it’s an extreme form of the “torture the band” method. In this case, Nurture are shown making a music video. They start off wearing clean white suits (and eyeliner) and end up covered in a little bit of everything.
They endure: bubbles, smoke, strobelights, snow, paint (lots of paint), glitter, feathers, pyros, fire, and water, all in the name of pop. It’s like Joe Lonie has hired every possible special effects machine in New Zealand, and bought up Briscoes’ stock of feather pillows.
The first half of the video is really fun, but things change once the feathers come out. Suddenly the band are unrecognisible and look more like B-grade horror film monsters than popstars. The anonymous director character ends up being the focal point of the video. And I don’t care about him. It’s a funny video, but it feels like the video gives up on the song and just focuses on completing the chaotic format of the video.
Best bit: the serious-faced pillow-ripping feather-throwers.