Stellar “Star”

2002-stellar-star“Star” was the last Stellar song to make the charts, interesting timing, given the song is named after the band. It’s a fairly standard upbeat Stellar rock song, but the video has an intriguing concept behind it.

Julian Boshier, director of Stellar’s “What You Do” video has some fun with the new freedom technology offered with digital cameras. The video is basically Stellar performing the song on a plain performance area (all wearing black and denim), while they’re shot by a number of fixed cameras positioned around the band.

Oddly enough, it gives the video similar feeling to that of a Big Brother episode. The cameras are there to capture the action, but the shots won’t necessarily be nicely composed. But it means the cutting between shots can be done flawlessly, with a close-up leading to a perfectly matched, totally continuous wide shot.

The editing carefully creates a bit of suspense. We don’t get a proper look at Boh singing until the first pre-chorus. Before then, it’s the rest of the band pacing and playing, with the occasional glimpse of Boh in her breaks between singing.

The biggest moment happens when the chorus kicks in and it’s revealed that the band are playing under a giant star-shaped lighting rig. It’s slightly sinister, like we’ve just discovered that the band are involved in a weird cult.

I like this video as a document of video production in 2002. But it doesn’t seem like a good video for promoting the song. It’s not a particularly strong single, so having an edgier video is a risk.

Best bit: Boh’s sassy guitar-pick-bite.

Director: Julian Boshier
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… modern art.

Rubicon “Happy Song”

2002-rubicon-happy-song“Happy Song” was the fourth of the eight funded videos from Rubicon’s debut album “Primary Colours. The album had 14 tracks, so more than half of them had music videos made. That beats both Fiona McDonald and Tadpole’s previous total of seven videos from one album.

This video sees Rubicon in spaaaace, with a parody of both Star Wars and Star Trek. Actually, I don’t think you’re allowed to do that. I think mashing up those two strongholds of popular science-fiction culture makes people really upset. And for a song that’s about happiness, that’s a bad thing to do.

The Rubicon trio are on the bridge of a spaceship, each wearing skivvies in primary colours with the group logo, which oddly enough is more reminiscent of the Wiggles costumes than the Star Trek uniforms.

It’s a lighthearted video, with plenty of “we’re under attack!” acting, which involves hurtling oneself across the screen. After fighting off attacking ships, the lads soon discover the alien enemy is on board the ship, requiring doofy laser guns to be deployed.

The song sneaks in a drum solo (Paul Reid is does a Karen Carpenter and sings from his drumkit), and while the band rock out in their civilian world, back on the ship the trio are fighting off a bad guy (who looks like an extra from Hercules) with budget-as lightsabers. The enemy defeated, the group go in for hugs. And so their happy broventures in space continue.

It’s a Rubicon video. They were, for a couple of years, really popular and made fun videos that their young fans enjoyed. And hey, if James Bond can go into space, so can Rubicon.

Best bit: the not-quite-solid lightsaber animations.

Director: Andy McGrath
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… star quality.

Kitsch “Eleven:Eleven”

2002-kitsch-eleven-elevenPunk-pop band Kitsch had a very American sound. It’s like all these local bands go to the effort of singing in their New Zealand accents, then along comes a band who get all punk and piss off the elders by sounding like they’re straight out of the suburbs of America and probably don’t even know where New Zealand is.

Maybe because of this they were ashamed to show their faces, because the “Eleven:Eleven” video is shot in extreme close-up, with many shots of sections of musical instruments and body parts. And when we do see lead singer Sam, he’s hiding under a hat, his eye closed as he sings. It seems like some sort of technical or instructional video, rather than a thrilling music video.

But the video is actually bookended by two good shots. The vid opens with a 25-second continuous shot as the camera follows a microphone lead across the floor and up the microphone stand, where Sam starts to sing. And right at the end the camera dares to do a wide shot of sorts (it’s very low so you can’t see the heads of the band members), zooming in on the bass drum, going right in through the hole, where the drummer hits the pedal on the final beat.

It’s a frustrating video because it seems to be ignoring the song’s theme of troubled love, and isn’t particularly bothered about promoting the band. But maybe that’s the point. The song is short enough that the extreme-close-up style doesn’t have time to become really boring. Kitsch are still together, and I reckon they’re the kind of band who have a loyal following and don’t need to go making a cool music video to expand their audiences.

Best bit: the band’s set list, with the song title circled. Such an attention seeker.

Next… you cannae change the laws of physics.

K’Lee “Can You Feel Me?”

2002-klee-can-you-feel-meYes, K’Lee. I can feel you. Introduced by sweeping aerial shots, our heroine returns in a Jeep, hooning along a beach. She’s not driving (possible because she couldn’t drive). Instead there’s a random blonde woman at the wheel, with two other women and a man standing at the back of the Jeep. They all look too old to be K’Lee’s friends, and the man even looks like some sort of safety expert who is supervising the ride.

It turns out they’ve come to a cave, all set up with patio lights for a nautical-themed rave. Sometimes K’Lee sits, looking like a Poseidonette; other times K’Lee and a larger group of the slightly older women and a couple of men dancing in the cave. “The beat is pumping and it’s getting krunk,” sez K’Lee. And I can’t help thinking, yeah, it looks pretty fun, but wouldn’t it be just that much more fun with a a whole lot more boys?

Some men arrive in the form of Brotha D and some Dawn Raid dudes, but just before he delivers his rap, K’Lee reminds him where her loyalties lay: “Universal is the label that pays me.” (Which is hilarious as it’s a reference to a line from “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang”.) Lucky Brotha D – at an beach cave rave with K’Lee, her women and the on-site health and safety guy.

I was a bit worried about the cave. It looks tidal so what if K’Lee and her posse became trapped by the incoming tide? Well, over on Vimeo, DOP Dan Macarthur (the man responsible for the rather good composition of the video’s shots) notes, “The scene in the cave was shot in a few hours before the tide came back in, and we had to bail at the end and drag the lights out because the waves were moving in.” Well, I’m glad.

As the evening progresses, the group safely leave the cave and frolic in the sea, which is slightly odd coming in the same funding sound as the Heavy Jones Trio’s “Staring at the Ocean”. What was it in 2002 that made people want to jump in the ocean?

Best bit: the fairy lights wrapped around the patio light, a battle of the twee lighting.

Director: Matthew Metcalfe
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… extreme close-up.

Heavy Jones Trio “Staring at the Ocean”

The Heavy Jones Trio (a four-piece group) was fronted by Kelly Horgan, formerly the guitar half of high school duo Love Soup, along with some chick called Bic Runga. “Staring at the Ocean” is a pleasant tune, a chilled out ode to the ocean. According to, the group made the video in “a hectic week” very soon after relocating from Christchurch to Auckland.

The video begins with fragments of a crazy, boozy night, cutting to the morning after. There we find a bedroom littered with condoms, bottles, CDs and other detritus of modern life. It’s like Tracy Emin’s “My Bed” on steroids.

Kelly wakes up in bed, fully clothed, next to a sleeping, underwear-clad woman. Too pissed to shag? He leaves her standing at the front door, is drenched with water as he walks away (including a fish) and embarks on a long walk.

He wanders along city streets, motorways, train tracks, a bustling market, a sheep farm and over sand dunes, all the while acquiring and losing various colourful performers. He’s like a pied piper whose allure only works in the city.

Finally he reaches the ocean, where upon he strips down to his undies and plunges into the water. Finally there this young Christchurch man can cleanse himself of the decadent Auckland lifestyle that was threatening to swallow him whole.

This video is also noteworthy as being the New Zealand music video debut of director Ivan Slavov, who would go on to be a major player in music video production of the ’00s. On his MySpace profile he notes, “My first New Zealand music video. Man I used everyone I knew in Auckland at the time for this one, no wonder it played so much…”

Best bit: the well behaved sheep, doing synchronised prancing.

Note: This video was available on MySpace, but nothing much is available on MySpace anymore.

Director: Ivan Slavov
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… enchantment under the sea.

Hannah Donald “Thinking Of You”

2002-hannah-donald-thinking-of-youHannah Donald is a Christian singer who was later nominated for Best Gospel/Christian Album at the 2007 NZ Music Awards. “Thinking of You” was a track on that album, released four years after the song was initially funded.

It’s not an overtly Christian song, though I’m sure the spirit of Jesus in there if you know where to look. It’s also not the sort of pop song that was popular in the early 2002. It has more of an ’80s sound, like the sort of thing Sharon O’Neill would have released.

The video is set in Auckland and opens with a great DIY aerial shot of the rain-soaked city, courtesy of the Sky Tower. And because it’s a rainy day, Hannah spends most of the video moping around Auckland, wearing different hairstyles and outfits.

The misery continues until she stops by the Open Late Cafe (RIP) in Ponsonby and has a coffee – and because it’s during the day, she’ll all by herself. But this leads to a more cheerful mood, with a joyful dance in the rain. See, it’s not so bad.

It’s a nice song and a nice video, but it just doesn’t feel strong enough or interesting enough to survive in a pop world alongside Shakira or Avril Lavigne.

Best bit: the old stained glass windows at the Open Late.

Next… a long walk.

Epsilon Blue “u r a star”

2002-epsilon-blue-u-r-a-starIn a post-Strawpeople world, electronica act Epsilon Blue have the chilled-out “u r a star” (all their song titles are in lowercase), with lush guest vocals from Josephine Costain. It was their first and only NZ On Air funded video.

The song’s lyrics primarily consist of “you are a star” repeated over and over, but as my fourth form English teacher said, repetition can be used to get the point across. So what’s the point here? Well, that the subject of the song is a star. Madonna took a similar thematic route with her 1983 hit “Lucky Star”, heavenly bodies and all.

The video takes an astronomical theme, with an elegant assortment of telescopes, monitors, knobs and levers, all culminating in some big old satellite dishes. This all implies that the “you” in question literally is a star, a luminous sphere out in the milky way. If that’s the case, then this video take a tired concept (“baby, you’re a star”) and turns it into an ode to celestial bodies.

It’s a very attractive video, with the camera slowly gliding around the scientific equipment. Most of all I’m pleased that a video can be set in a scientific setting without resorting to the old “mad scientist” trope.

Best bit: The R&B hands that Josephine briefly does near the end. So 2002.

Director: Paul Redican

Next… what to do when it rains.

Eight “Moments Gone”

2002-eight-moments-goneAfter the very serious video for previous single “Whale” (starring the lone traveller and his crossroads conflict), Eight return with a much more lighthearted video for “Moments Gone” – but a song with the same epic rock scope as “Whale”.

This time the action centres around the unusual goings-on in the lobby of a building. Away in a dark room, a man with a neckbrace and a stern bespectacled woman review a security tape, trying to get to the bottom of the incident that saw him end up with a neck injury.

On the tape we discover an assortment of wacky zany madcap characters causing chaos in the lobby. There’s a cleaner who seems more interested in using his mop like a mike stand, a naked guy, shifty fellows in trenchcoats and fedoras, aloha party office workers, a girl on rollerskates, a flasher and, in a special cameo, the traveller from “Whale”.

The tape also shows the source of the man’s injury – he slipped on a banana peel. But how did the banana get there? Why, it was dropped by a giant gorilla. The woman quickly works up a sketch of the culprit. But is this fair? Surely the cleaner should have noticed the banana peel and picked it up. But no – he was too busy pretending to be a rock star to do his job properly.

Here’s my dilemma. It’s a fun video, but it seems completely at odds with the tone of the song. It’s more like the sort of goofy adventures drummer Paul Russell’s old band Supergroove would have had in their early videos. These guys have a mature rock sound. Their video should be more advanced than a high-school-quality romp.

Best bit: the sketch artist’s detailed likeness of the gorilla.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… written in the stars.

Bic Runga “Get Some Sleep”

There’s the old maxim “write what you know”, which comes with a caution in the world of pop. As soon as an artist becomes successful, their ordinary life becomes that of a constantly travelling entertainer and soon bands start writing epic songs about “the road”.

With the first single off her second album, Bic Runga had also reached that point, with this ode to the tiring routine of a promo tour. Thankfully the video avoids the temptation of showing Bic having Groundhog Day moments in record shops around America. Instead the video sees her driving around New Zealand in a mobile radio station van. And radio is so much more romantic than sleep deprivation.

As she travels through picturesque New Zealand towns, picturesque young people listen to her broadcast. It makes everyone happy. It inspires people to dance. Life is sweet.

The mobile studio’s technology is interesting. Bic plays a CD, but there’s also an LP spinning (that van must have serious shock absorbers). And occasionally we see a tiny grainy, digital shot of Bic broadcasting, which I’m guessing is a webcam shot, back when webcams were tiny and grainy.

With the chorus wondering if Bic is having fun (she believes she might be), the video gives a more definitive answer. Yes, she is. She’s hooning around the country with a dog and a dude, playing records, meeting fans and enjoying herself. And the final shot of Bic finally taking the wheel of the van makes it clear that she’s in charge.

Best bit: the appearance of dudes with stretched earlobes.

Note: There’s an alternate version of the video, which I assume was made for international audiences. It takes a more literal and more glamorous angle, with Bic rolling around on a hotel bed, before running off into a limousine. It was directed by UK director Alexander Hemming, who around the same time had directed the slick-as “Just a Little” video for UK Popstars rejects Liberty X.

Directors: Ann Kim, Graham Sinclair
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… caught on camera.

Augustino “Captain Zero”

2002-augustino-captain-zero“Captain Zero” is an unusual song in that it’s quite good, but also not. It’s a hook-laden pop-rock number, but yet it somehow feels a bit too clean. It’s like if there was a movie about an indie rock band that had one big hit record, this would be it. And it wouldn’t quite be convincing.

The video is just as nice. The video starts with shots of the band lazing around a bar. While the song is kicking off with great energy, the band looks tired and depressed as they slouch in the bar’s booths. But as soon as the first verse begins, the band are suddenly in position with their instruments, rocking out.

The proper bandmanship continues until the chorus, a laid-back bit regarding Captain Zero himself. This sees the band return to their lazy-arsed positions, all looking fairly disappointed by this Captain Zero chap.

This alternating style continues, but as the song approaches its end, things get shaken up a little. The camera begins to wobble and go in and out of focus, as if it’s been overcome by the intensity of strange world of Captain Zero. This is a bit of a trademark of Greg Page, something that has taken on an uneasy new meaning after the earthquakes of recent years.

New video editing technology is put to use with a filter that keeps only red colours, rendering everything else in black and white. Now it’s the sort of thing you could now do with an iPhone app, but back in 2002 it was a cool new thing.

Maybe I’m inflicting really high standards on Augustino based on their previously brilliant videos and songs. “Captain Zero” is a good video and a good song, but it just feels like there’s something missing.

Best bit: the serious jacket pocket zip-up.

Director: Greg Page
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… pirate radio.