Unique “Outspoken”

2002-unique-outspokenOh, what the hell is going on here? It’s some sort of attempt at a soft porn parody that makes the unrated version of “Blurred Lines” look like a profound feminist statement in comparison.

Unique plays both himself (the cocky young MC) and an Afro-wigged plumber who is attending to a major plumbing emergency at the home of the cocky young MC (seriously – every bit of plumbing in the house seems to have something wrong with it). As Plumber Unique gets to work, he discovers the house is full of party girls. Unlike most people, they find the sight of a man in a $8 nylon party wig to be highly arousing.

The song is a standard bragging anthem, but it features some really unusual lines, like this one: “I fantasise that in the future every day will be just like Easter.” What, a life of chocolate bunnies, egg decorating and church services to remember how Jesus Christ died for our sins? If you insist.

The non-wigged version of Unique can be found in his kitchen, where a party girl starts stripping off and Unique begins humping her on the kitchen bench. In the bathroom, Plumber Unique fixes the shower, whereupon two of the party girls get in and do a bit of awkward topless faux lesbianism. It is so awkward that it gives me newfound respect for pornstars and the directors of porn who make it all look so natural.

I found a description I wrote of the video in 2002, nothing that “in the middle of the video suddenly a fake ad comes on featuring the two ladies, naked in the shower.” This is missing from the version online. The shower action is just presented as part of the regular video, with no break into a fake ad. Curious.

After all this, the video seems to run out of ideas (and really, where can you go from that?), so it just peters out with a montage of the party girls and the two Uniques trying to be cool dudes.

It’s such a lame video. Apart from horrible stuff like the women being in the video merely as sexual accessories, it looks and feels really cheap. But most revealing – every room in Unique’s crib is painted the same bland beige colour.

I have this memory of the video playing on some late night music video show and the presenters having a dilemma like “It’s a bit rude, but we really want to support New Zealand music.” But no – supporting New Zealand music doesn’t mean having to support shit.

Best bit: n/a

Warning: This video is totally Not Safe For Work. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this post alone actually triggered some keyword filters to kick in at some workplaces. Be warned.

Next… New Zealand has got talent.

Mama Said “Point of View”

2002-mama-said-point-of-viewMama Said were from Hamilton, fronted by Jarod Brown. He recently made it to the bootcamp round of The X Factor under the name Vegas Brown. His brother Shannon was the band’s original bassist, but by the time this video was made, he had left to play in Tadpole. The brothers later went on to form punk-pop group 48may, but we’ll come to them later.

“Point of View” was their only NZ On Air-funded video. It begins with a snippet of the group’s previous single, a cover of Che Fu and DLT’s “Chains”, with strangely soundalike vocals. We find Jarod strolling along Alma Street, one of the few streets in central Hamilton to have a bit of character – though the video is careful to keep the great big Novotel out of frame.

Jarod pulls out his cellphone, calls someone and begins singing the song into the phone. All around him other people are busy on their mobiles, but is he actually doing some sort of mass broadcast? Is his message about understanding others going to touch the lives of strangers?

This outdoor footage alternates with the band performing in a warehouse, but the phone call hasn’t ended. Jarod tapes the phone to the side of his mic and continues his sung phone call.

But here’s the weird thing. About halfway through the video, all the outdoor scenes suddenly stop. It doesn’t conclude in any way, we just never see the people with cellphones again, with the video focusing solely on the band performing.

It’s like there’s a conclusion missing from the video – who was on the other end of the phonecall? It makes me wonder if something else was intended but they couldn’t film it on the day. Or maybe they just ran out of time editing.

Best bit: the girl talking on the giant 1980s brick-style phone, apparently without irony.

Stellar “One More Day”

2002-stellar-one-more-day“One More Day” was the final single to be released from Stellar’s second album, and it was the first single not to chart, after a solid run of eight singles in the top 40 from 1998 to 2002.

It’s a pretty standard Stellar song, all epic motivational lyrics and Boh Runga sassing. But there’s nothing special about it, and it’s not at all surprising that it didn’t chart.

The lyrics suggest the song is a reaction to the relentless slog of a touring band (much like what Boh’s sister mused over on her song “Get Some Sleep”). The video avoids the temptation of literally depicting this with a “life on the road” montage, and instead just puts the band on a stage.

The band are performing the song on a slightly grimy looking stage, with steel grey walls and a tomato-soup-red floor. It’s reminiscent of Stellar’s first big video, “What You Do” – the band performing on a stage, with stylish coordinated outfits. The band seem so much more mature since their earlier days, but that seems to have taken away a bit of the crazy energy of their early days. Boh’s trademark neck shimmies are very restrained.

The song isn’t especially remarkable, and neither is the video. It seems like a band who have run out of ideas and have just turned to a kind of autopilot mode.

Best bit: Boh’s kaftan – it flows.

Director: Greg Page
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… call of duty.

Tadpole “Rock ‘n’ Roll”

2002-tadpole-just-not-rock-n-roll“I like the girly things, I like to feel pretty” sings Renee, in this rage against stereotypes. With the last few Tadpole videos having been for pretty sedate songs, it’s nice to experience Tadpole embracing their rockier side. But because of the subject matter, this song feels like a bit of pastiche. The band being as rock-rock-rock as they can be to show that while Renee might be a bit of a nana who likes an early night, the band can still rock out when required.

So the video follows this path, showing the band at a live gig. It’s all looking pretty grunty, and Renee swaggers about the stage like a boss. But if you look close, she has these funny little white mesh puffy things atop her black singlet, which seems like something out of Astar’s craft segment on Good Morning.

This rockstravaganza progresses for about two-thirds of the video. But then suddenly things get very interesting. The band jumps on a plane and flies to East Timor to provide entertainment for New Zealand defence force personnel stationed there.

There’s a bit of footage of island life, a welcoming haka by the troops and the chance to hang out with some tanks. Then the band hit the stage. There are no fairy wings this time. Renee is sensibly dressed in a singlet and cargo pants.

All the East Timor footage is a million times more interesting than the generic Tadpole concert footage at the beginning. I’d much rather the video had taken spent more time there, rather than tacking it on the end like a postscript.

Best bit: the travel map, tracking the band’s north-western journey.

Director: Wade Shotter
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… nightmare on Alma Street.

Paul Ubana Jones “One”

2002-paul-ubana-jones-oneThis is folk musician Paul Ubana Jones’ cover of the U2 song from 1992 – reportedly done with Bono’s approval. The song feels like something from the ’90s. It’s a pretty simple arrangement – the man, his guitar and some hip hop beats – and judging by the YouTube comments it touches many people.

The video keeps it just as simple, and also feels like something out of the ’90s. Most of the video is Paul singing the song, alone with his guitar in a black space. He’s a very striking person, with his big Afro and expressive face, and the video lingers makes good use of this visual.

Cut with this is footage of people (mostly women) posing artfully – a pregnant woman, a couple of little girls playing, an elderly woman and her daughter wearing saris, another old lady holding a picture of a solider, a farmer holding a gun and a teen couple having a moment. It feels a bit like a by-the-numbers ’90s music video. It’s nothing remarkable.

But I don’t think it needs to be. The YouTube comments are full of remarks from people who have had emotional reactions to the song (as well as teens excited to discover that their guitar teacher is so cool).

With so much of NZ On Air funding (rightly) being given to music that is so hot right now, sometimes it’s nice to find a song that exists in its own universe, away from the world of pop.

Best bit: little girl swinging on a washing line.

Next… more of the shimmy.

Jester “Enemy”

2002-jester-enemyThis was Jester’s final NZ On Air-funded video. “Enemy” is a crunchy rock song (a change from the gentle “Fries With That”, but its main riff is rather reminiscent of the intro of “Plush” by Stone Temple Pilots. I don’t like unexpected wormholes into the ’90s.

The band themselves are absent from this video, replaced by animated robots. “Enemy” takes place in a dystopian robot world where a robot scientist has made an experimental rock band. It’s not such a flash build – eight-ball stands in for one of the lead singer’s robo-eyes. The eight-ball starts off the video on a journey seemingly inspired by the groovy pinballs of the Sesame Street counting song.

This roboband proves a hit, with their songs lighting up the hit song meter and causing a media fuss (in this robot world, there are still newspapers). But it’s all too much for these metallic musicians. Like a real band, they burn out – but that’s literal burn-out, falling apart and exploding in front of the horrified scientists.

It’s chaos. The roboband runs wild, creating havoc. I’m sure it’s some sort of statement about manufactured pop, about how put-together bands will never last. Except Jester themselves broke up in 2003, with a final gig that didn’t involve exploding robots.

The animation is of average quality. It’s not the worst-case scenarios of a half-finished mess, but there are lots of short cuts and scenes with little movement.

All the drama is concluded when a scientist pulls the plug on the roboband. The screen goes blank and the message “Support NZ music” appears along with Jester’s (now defunct) website address. It’s lazy to expect people will support New Zealand music just out of national loyalty. First the music and the band have to be good.

Best bit: the “Cuss 2000” device, fitted to bleep out the song’s one swear word.

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

Next… hair acting.

Elemeno P “Everyday’s a Saturday”

2002-elemeno-p-everydays-a-saturdayThis really kicked off the Elemeno P that would soon become a beloved live band. Lani, previously in Foamy Ed, had joined the group on bass, with the bonus being that she could sing, adding extra dimension to their songs. Also – Lani has the best hair.

“Everyday’s a Saturday” is pretty much an optimistic take on the miserabilistic anthem “Everyday is like Sunday” – the feeling when every day feels really awesome. The lyrics are more about how being in love makes everything feel perfect, but the video takes a more literal interpretation.

Like the “Fast Times in Tahoe” video, the band are again to be found in luxury surroundings. But this time they’re playing themselves – regular Elemeno P who just happen to be larging it in a fancy St Mary’s house overlooking Waitemata Harbour. It’s good-time, nice-guys fun band Elemeno P – much more likeable than the country club toffs of “Tahoe”.

The video opens with the band lounging around the pool, before heading into the kitchen for a hearty breakfast of Elemeno P-branded food (even though Weet-bix gets a direct mention in the lyrics), while a newspaper headline proclaims “Elemeno P rise to stardom”.

Then it’s time for a party, with the house guests getting a wrist stamp at the door. The video really dwells on the wrist-stamping scene, as if they’d spent so much effort setting it all up, they didn’t want to waste any of the shots. Hey guys, the drummer is stamping the wrists of the partygoers. Like at a gig. Lol.

The day (and the video) ends with a poolside concert, with all the wrist-stamped punters rocking out and not falling in the pool. But the big question is what will the next day be like? Will it be a Groundhog Day existence, the band forever doomed to live every day in their party house of Weetbix and wrist stamps?

Best bit: Lani’s very glam return from the shops, assisted by two shirtless beefcake helpers.

Director: Rachel Davies
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a band’s very public breakdown.

D2S “Ride with Me”

2002-d2s-ride-with-meYou know on shows like the X Factor, sometimes at an audition a judge will say “You look like a pop star”? Well, D2S don’t look like popstars. They look like some lads from a rugby club who have got together and made a music video to raise money for their club’s upcoming tour of Canberra.

But as it happens D2S (which is short for Destined 2 Shyne, which is long for for Destined to Shine) were a real pop group and “Ride with Me” was their Neptunes-inspired single. It had a lot of airplay on Mai FM and reached 14 in the pop charts.

It’s a pretty generic piece of early 2000s R&B pop. The lyrics are like a grab bag of genre cliches, a world of ballers, players and shorties. And then there’s the bit where “trust me” is rhymed with “oooh weee”.

The video is set in the showroom of a car dealer on Great North Road. It seems like they’ve chosen that setting for a bling take on the “ride with me” theme, but given that no one touches the cars – they only dance around them – it literally seems like a band who’s been allowed into a car dealer to shoot their music video with the proviso that no one’s allowed to touch the cars.

There’s one bit of the video that is a little disturbing. One of the guys sings “you know I want to be in you, girl” and he has a really aggressive look on his face. It’s scary, not sexy. This is why R&B videos typically have girls in them – to stop things feeling like a bunch of guys who have been in prison too long. (Check out Ja Rule and Bobby Brown’s magnificent “Thug Lovin'” for bling and girls and music done extravagantly well.)

That’s the problem. D2S had a decent song and just wanted to make a cool music video, like the sort of R&B videos they saw on TV. Curiously enough, a couple of years later Dei Hamo came out with the similarly themed “We Gon Ride”, that actually managed a properly blinged-out music video. But it’s hard to make a $5000 video grant look that fancy, even more so when you surround the group with $50,000 cars.

Best bit: the walk along the Great North Road, glistening in the rain.

Next… everyday is noisy and bright.

Concord Dawn “Morning Light”

2002-concord-dawn-morning-lightIn a way “Morning Light” was a breakout track for Concord Dawn. I remember at the time people who’d never previously listened to drum and bass were in love with its atmospheric charms and the emotion brought into a drum n bass track.

The video takes its inspiration from the lyrical mention of morning light, but the video is primarily based around the tempo and dynamics of the music, as well as the city of Auckland.

The video opens with pretty dawn scenes of the Auckland skyline, an orange sun rising over the dark city silhouette. The sun brightens and clouds float across the sky and it’s all kind of abstract.

But as soon as the big drum and bass bit kicks in, we’re down on the ground – the corner of Queen Street and Victoria Street, to be precise. Supergroove paid a visit to the corner in 1994 for “Sitting Inside My Head”, but they took a chilled out, slow-mo walk across the road. Concord Dawn’s experience is sped-up, capturing the hectic pace of the city.

Then we move onto the roads, with more sped-up action along the North-Western motorway. But this isn’t just a random drive. This journey out west leads to Piha beach for a reflective pause as the sun sets.

Once night is there, we’re off to a live gig, full of people dancing like they just don’t care. With Concord Dawn not being the most visually interesting group to watch perform (two dudes hunched over equipment), it’s a way of capturing the magic of their live shows without requiring them to fake it as big video stars.

Things conclude with some footage of the night sky, dark clouds ominously parting to reveal a full moon.

Best bit: the hoon along the North-Western – the traffic is good.

Next… after hours at the car dealer’s.

Carly Binding “Love Will Save Me”

2002-carly-binding-love-will-save-meThere’s quite a cool set-up to this video. We see Carly at home, at work and in the club, but it’s how she gets from place to place that is interesting. The three sets are built side by side, so Carly jumps on the camera trolly and travels across the sets – a perfect set-up for the modern lazy girl.

Carly wakes up in her bedroom that somehow looks most like a set, with walls that seem on the verge of wobbling. Scooting along to work, she ties on an apron and begins a shift at a greasy spoon diner. There’s another waitress wearing a traditional American diner waitress uniform and she seems a bit miffed that Carly gets to wear a tank top, jeans and sneakers. But it’s that simple outfit that takes her from home, to work, then to the club. And so it happens every day. Every top Carly wears – even the off-the-shoulder one – is suitable for all three places. It’s like a masterclass in smart-casual.

The song is a really sweet, radio-friendly pop tune. Carly works hard to overcome her bitchy resting face, but sometimes it just seems like she’s trying very hard to look happy and in love. But to be fair, that sort of pop video requires a demanding performance.

I feel a shoutout has to be given to Kylie Minogue’s “I Should be so Lucky” video, which also involved three rooms that were obviously a film set. It has a different feel to it than “Love Will Save Me”, with Kylie’s girl-nextdoor charms bringing cheer.

“Love Will Save Me” was directed by Greg Page. It’s remarkable that around the same time he was making videos for metallers 8ft Sativa and indie rock dudes PanAm, and pop-rock band Elemeno P. All different, all good.

Best bit: the sneer of the sassy waitress at the diner.

Note: The video is geoblocked for New Zealand (and Germany) on YouTube, but ok for everywhere else. Alternatively you can watch a good quality version over at Greg Page’s profile at Fish ‘n’ Clips.

Director: Greg Page
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a hoon down the north-western.