Tadpole “Condition Chronic”

2001-tadpole-condition-chronic“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”.

Best bit: Renee’s ponytail power flicking.

Director: Wade Shotter
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… taking a stand.

Stellar “Taken”

2001-stellar-takenThis 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.

Next… the forest of unrequited love.

Sola Rosa “Don’t Leave Home”

2001-sola-rosa-dont-leave-homeI 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.

Best bit: the skeleton’s OMG jaw-drop moments.

Director: Richard Shaw
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… going for a ride.

SJD “A Boy”

2001-sjd-a-boySJD’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.

Best bit: the layers of dancing monsters.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision
Director: Kieran Donnelley, Dominic Taylor

Next… dem bones.

Salmonella Dub “Tha Bromley East Roller”

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.

Director: Greg Riwai
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… squiggles and wiggles.

PanAm “Long Grass”

2001-panam-long-grassPanAm 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.

Director: Greg Page

Next… post-apocalyptic dub.

Nurture “Did You Do It All For Love?”

2001-nurture-did-you-do-it-all-for-loveChristopher 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.

Director: Joe Lonie
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… the golden age of air travel.

Mightyscoop “Sunny Daze”

2001-mightyscoop-sunny-dazeMightyscoop are a curious band. At their core were Dave and Sebastian, a Kiwi and an Aussie who met on their OE in England, formed a band and ended up back in New Zealand as Mightyscoop.

“Sunny Daze” is an infectious pop number, with some of that ’80s keyboard that Goodshirt were also having fun with. It didn’t chart, but I believe it had some luck with radio play. And who – apart from the KLF – could get away with a lyrics that go “I like driving my ice cream van! I like driving my ice cream van!”?

The video sees the group making a music video. Ah yes, it’s a bit meta. They’re in a studio performing in front of a rippling silver backdrop. Dave has Lance Bass-style frosted hair, while Sebastian is just wearing a scarf instead of a shirt. A short, angry director frequently yells at them.

When the chorus comes along, a couple of dancers show up, wearing the same combo of shiny bikini tops and hot pants that K’Lee’s dancers wore. Only in this video, the camera goes full-on male gaze, with many close-ups of gyrations and Sebastian’s leering face. Let’s just think back to 1991, to the lycra ladies of James Gaylyn’s “Body Fine” video. Oh, how far we’ve come in just 10 years.

The shoot is going well until Sebastian makes an inappropriate remark to one of the dancers. She storms off, which makes the director even angrier. He yells at Sebastian, who sasses back with the song lyrics, “It doesn’t really matter what you say!” Who wants to work with a dick like that? The director also storms off, leaving the band to play the rest of the song in the dark.

In real life, a new band who acted like this on a music video shoot wouldn’t get far in their career. Mightyscoop didn’t get very far either, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. As it happens, this video was nominated for Best Independent Video at the Juice TV Awards.

Next… giving it everything.

Lucid 3 “Smooth Machine”

2001-lucid-3-smooth-machineGood equipment is everything, as Lucid 3 demonstrate in the “Smooth Machine” video. It’s all about Victoria’s epic journey to get a microphone.

Cooped up with the band in a rehearsal room in the wilderness, Victoria suddenly realises her microphone is inadequate. She grabs her Discman and runs through the bush. A magical tunnel transports her to downtown Auckland, where she keeps on running until she reaches the Rock Shop on K Road. She she grabs a microphone and resumes her epic jog.

That leads her through another tunnel, over some sand dunes and back to the other two band members setting up in their rehearsal space. She puts her new microphone in place, straps on her guitar and suddenly she’s all glammed up and the cabin in the bush is aglow with rock lighting.

“Smooth Machine” has a bit more fun than previous Lucid 3 videos, even when it’s playing on the themes of performance anxiety in the lyrics (“I’m shy about opening my throat/A song might not fall out”). The rapid shifts between the idyllic coastal location and the busy city seem like a perfect match for Lucid 3 – a bit urban, a bit hippy. And all a result of that magic mic that makes everything ok.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… the importance of being nice.

K’Lee “1+1+1 (It Ain’t Two)”

2001-klee-1-plus-1This is a magnificent track. First, the Matty J-penned lyrics. These are the top five lines from the song:

  1. “These ain’t my panties and that ain’t my skanky bra!”
  2. “While you’re getting your sex education, I’ll be smashing your new PlayStation!”
  3. “Treating our love like some twisted menage a trois!”
  4. “Playtime is over and your ass is history!”
  5. “Clean out your locker!”

The video of this angry tirade against an unfaithful lover focuses on K’Lee and her posse of six backing dancers. They go through different looks in different settings – there’s edgy street K’Lee, fun K’Lee, blonde Britney-style K’Lee and a J-Lo-style DJ K’Lee.

The backing dancers do a lot of formation dancing behind K’Lee. They’re good, but seem to be in need of a few more rehearsals to get to world-class music-video-dancer quality. But then, K’Lee’s dance moves are retricted to the waist up, which makes me think she wasn’t skilled enough to join in with the formation dancing. Instead she gets a few arm movements and some clever editing and camera angles.

Directed by fancy Australian director Mark Hartley, it’s comes across like an attempt at a modern pop video, but it doesn’t quite get there. There’s not an obvious point of failure, it’s just a bit weak all over. But if you tone down your expectations, the video ends up being highly enjoyable camp fun. The wardrobe changes are entertaining, particularly the frequent bra-as-a-top aesthetic. And it’s strangely refreshing to see bra-wearing women in a music video that doesn’t also involve male performers asserting their desirabilty.

K’Lee ends up as a master of disguise, predating Britney’s wigtastic “Toxic” video. And even though K’Lee’s different looks are done more minimally than Britney, somehow K’Lee ends up looking quite different with each look. Her sassy DJ seems staunch and mature, while the blonde fedora character is too cool for any relationship drama.

This is the most unashamedly pop video I’ve come across so far. It has set its sights high, hasn’t quite got there, but is still a wonderfully entertaining video.

Best bit: K’Lee’s sneering turntablism.

Director: Mark Hartley

Next… an unexpected journey.