Brooke Fraser “Without You”

2004-brooke-fraser-without-you“Without You” is a short jazzy love song, the sort of thing that is in the repertoire of Saturday afternoon cafe performer.

We find Brooke sitting on a hearty old leather sofa, surrounded by stacks of books. This reminds me of the bar decor trend of having shelves lined with old books purchased from op shop bargain bins, most of which ended up being All Black biographies and Reader’s Digest condensed books. I wonder if Brooke’s collection includes Ebony & Ivory: The Stu Wilson, Bernie Fraser Story.

As well as stationary Brooke on the couch, we also get shots of couples, posing in a portrait style. As well as the obvious romantic and family groups, there’s a punk dad with a punk kid, two beardy bastards, a girl with a horse, and woman with her award-winning dogs and their trophies.

It’s a sweet song and a sweet video, but there’s just not much that’s especially captivating about it. Maybe it’s just the sort of thing to play in a cafe on a Saturday afternoon.

Best bit: the elaborately bedazzled jacket of a young punk.

Director: Tim Groenendaal
Nga Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… swimming in bread.

The Unusuals “Long Time Dead”

2004-the-unusuals-long-time-deadWe last saw The Unusuals in 2002, on the back of a truck at the Birkenhead Santa parade for their “Under the Sun” video. This time they away from the fun distraction of a parade, left on their own in a plain white studio.

This is one of the problems of the video. “Long Time Dead” is a cool guitar-pop song with pleasing harmonies, but the band aren’t compelling enough on their own to be the sole focal point of the video. They look like few friends who’ve got together to play a few songs for a mates wedding, hitting the stage in their best suits with a self-conscious nervousness about their playing. It doesn’t help that the lead singer looks angry most of the time, when the lyrics call for much sweeter emotions.

The only bit of excitement happens right at the end of the video where the animated words “nah nah nah” swirl around the band. But it also has effect of making it look like they’re getting flushed down a drain. Oh dear.

Best bit: the opening shot, which features the drummer flanked by his two headless bandmates.

Director: Tony Drum
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… and now we shall retire to the library.

The Mint Chicks “Opium of the People”

2004-the-mint-chicks-opium-of-the-peopleThere’s something very reassuring about the Mint Chicks videos. They don’t feel like a relic of the mid ’00s. There’s still a certain freshness to them.

“Opium of the People” takes place in a studio with the backdrop decorated with an orange and white vulvic swirl. The band are sharply dressed in black and bring a twitchy but confident energy to their performance.

This is cut with a menagerie of weirdness – a topless woman (with a black bar protecting her modesty) wearing a paper mache lemon head, a person covered in green balloons, other citrus-headed person with long arms and a boombox around his neck.

In a lesser video, this would just be a mess of weirdness, but the direction of Wade Shotter (someone who knows how to have fun with the outré) and the central performance of frontman Ruban Nielson means the video is stylish and consolidated.

Best bit: the 1980s U-Matic video interference waves.

Director: Wade Shotter
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… more men in suits.

The Fanatics “Models”

2004-the-fanatics-modelsThis electro-gothic song is probably best known as the theme tune for New Zealand’s Next Top Model, what with the repeated lyrics being simply “Give me models! Give me money!”.

The video, by award-winning director Mark Albiston, forgets about the money and puts the emphasis on the models. But this is not the world of smizing. Things are much more sinister here.

In a dark, shadowy factory, a truckload of models have been dropped off. They’re all identically dressed, all walking in unison. They almost seem like aliens and it’s a reminder that, like elite athletes, professional models are where they are partly because of freakish physical characteristics.

Because the song is largely instrumental, the video wisely doesn’t dwell on the band for too long. We get few glimpses of the duo energetically playing the song in a dark room, which just adds to the overall intrigue of the video.

Things get weirder and creepier and Frankensteinier, with the models moving through a production line and end up being dropped in model-size preserving jars, with one sold to a little girl who has the exact same hair and makeup of her catwalk cousins.

The video is ridiculously good looking. Every shot is fabulous. It obviously cost more than $5000, but it’s a reminder of the sort of cool shit that can be achieved in New Zealand.

Best bit: 0:52, the models come walking down the hallway. Fierce.

Director: Mark Albiston
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… oranges and lemons.

The Exiles “Hear The People”

2004-the-exiles-hear-the-peopleThe Exiles were the next project of Sean Strum after Eye TV called it a day. The band were described as “indie electro/rock” and had a harder sound than the popstastic Eye TV.

The video is a mix of animated backgrounds with live action people moving within them. Specifically, the Exiles are toiling in a prison, watched over by stern female prison guards all wearing tiny leather dominatrix suits because music video.

Life is tough in prison. The food is terrible, there’s only one basketball hoop for amusement, they’re on laundry duty. Black and white stripes is not the new black. Obviously the dudes must escape.

This requires an elaborate plan involving a huge amount of tunnelling, some distractions, and finally the dudes emerge from a muddy drainpipe onto a beach, all spotlessly clean. Waiting for them is an 18th century ship out in the harbour, which makes perfect sense in with the fantasy world logic of the video. Off you go, lads.

The video has various scenes pixellated out, presumedly because the content is too graphic. This includes a guard’s raised middle finger, a man being whipped, and a prisoner being injected with a hypodermic needle. Only the pixellation makes it look like someone is nudging the guy’s arm with their penis.

There’s a lot of goofy fun happening in this video, and the animated penitentiary is one of the most enjoyable animated videoes I’ve come across so far. The video won Best Director for Ed Davis at the 2005 Kodak Music Clip Awards.

Best bit: the various Wizard of Oz references, in both the lyrics and visuals.

Director: Ed Davis
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… industrialisation.

The Accelerants “Up on Your Heels”

2004-the-accelerants-up-on-your-heelsThe Accelerants were a Wellington garage rock band, known for their live shows. “Up on Your Heels” is a a very ’60s sounding track and the video plays up to that.

The video starts with an LP playing on a vintage record player, and that leads to the band performing the song in a plain studio, with lighting and other equipment stacked at the sides. This set-up is like the t-shirt and jeans of the music video world.

For much of the video things are pretty uneventful. There’s the band playing, wearing suits. Most of the time it’s shot in black and white, but occasionally some colour is thrown in for extra thrills. The result is a video that isn’t very interesting. The band look bored to the point where the most exciting part of the video is when the camera does a whole lot of crash-zooms.

Things get a bit more interesting near the end when a whole lot of Mylar balloons appear. Even though they’re just heart-shaped, it’s hard not to think of the balloons spelling “Robin Thicke has a big dick” in “Blurred Lines” (or Lily Allen’s hilarious comeback). The shadowy silhouette of a go-go dancers also appears at this point, but not even that is enough to inject life into the song.

Maybe this video could work as a gothic parody of 1960s pop culture. Otherwise it’s just kinda dull.

Best bit: things get interesting when the reflection of the band is shot in the shiny balloon.

Director: Richard Bell
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a prison break.

Tha Feelstyle “Su’Amalie/Ain’t Mad At You”

2004-tha-feelstyle-aint-mad-at-youThe very first video to be funded by NZOA was Moana and the Moahunters bilingual dance track “A E I O U”, but since then funded songs have been dominated by English language lyrics. So it’s thrilling to come across Tha Feelstyle delivering a supercool song that’s largely in Samoan. The song also uses an old Eurovision trick – have a hooky, singalong chorus in English and the non-English parts of the song won’t seem so isolating. The end result is a track that reached 27 in the singles chart.

The video is set in Samoa, with Tha Feelstyle returning to the islands after 20 years away. Right from the very start every shot is bustling with people and energy. Tha Feelstyle stomps around his village, surrounded by adoring kids who join in on the chorus.

There’s a sense that he’s the big dude from New Zealand returning to his hometown – and there’s a cool scene where Tha Feelstyle steps off the plane, wearing a lei of funsize Crunchie bars, and kisses the tarmac. This is followed by a lovely scene where the aunties and uncles warmly embrace him. But it’s not all adoration. About halfway though the song stops for a small scene where an uncle had some words for Tha Feelstyle, who looks suitably told.

There’s a lot packed into this video. It serves as both a record of Tha Feelstyle’s homecoming and just him mucking around with some local kids. And then there’s the scene with Tha Feelstyle mucking around with a machete in some long grass, like a kid who’d rather pretend to be a warrior than do his chores.

Best bit: one does not understand much Samoan, but one understands the international gesture for “smoking a jazz cigarette”.

Director: Chris Graham
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… some guys in suits.

Tadpole “Too Hard”

2004-tadpole-too-hard“Too Hard” was the first single off Tadpole’s third and final album. It’s a lot more upbeat than the gloomier tracks that were coming off second album The Medusa. This time around, Tadpole seem to be influenced by the rock ‘n’ roll revival that was a thing in the early 2000s. But the crunchier guitar sound is an odd match for Renee’s jazzy pop vocal style and over all it sounds like a band that’s lost its way.

The Wikipedia article for the self-titled third album tragically notes that “The album’s launch party in Auckland was also the band’s final ever performance.” The NZOA database has funding for two further videos, but I haven’t been able to find them online. So in a way, “Too Hard” marks the end of Tadpole’s video life. Their videography from the late ’90s and early ’00s was strong and they seem like just the sort of world-famous-in-New-Zealand group that would be a perfect match for NZ On Air funding.

So, what does Tadpole’s video swansong look like? A drag race. It’s a Ford versus Holden race, which I believe has some sort of cultural significance within the bogan/petrolhead community.

The drag race isn’t especially thrilling. It’s like those car ads that feature a disclaimer saying that the ad was “filmed on a closed road under controlled conditions”. Except the “Too Hard” race is so uneventful that it makes the sight of an Audi snaking around scenic Otago roads seem as thrilling as the drag race from Grease and/or the chariot race from Ben Hur.

When they’re not in the cars, we see Tadpole rocking out on a stage near the race scene, both at daytime and night. As has happened in some previous Tadpole videos, “Too Hard” is largely focused on Renee, looking super cool in rockabilly styles with new dark hair.

The band’s previous few videos from 2001 were all based on fantasy worlds, so it’s really refreshing to see Tadpole get back to their rockier side. Renee is full of energy and seems to have unleashed years of pent-up rock power in that one video.

It feels like a good place for the Tadpole story to end. They didn’t quite go out when they were on top, but as a rockstravagant drag race is a good enough finale.

Best bit: Renee’s sneering drag-race face to the other car’s driver.

Director: Tim Groenendaal
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a homecoming.

SJD “Rising, Falling, Rising”

2004-sjd-rising-falling-risingVideos like this are hard to write about. They exist outside the realm of popular music videos. There’s no hard sell going on here. Instead the video has artful visuals that complement the music but are also visually pleasing in their own way. And – OMG – I’m almost in a coma from how boring that sounds.

So instead of relying on words, I shall instead turn to the medium of the animated gif to review “Rising, Falling, Rising”.

There. It’s black and white. It involves cars and bits of old analogue equipment. SJD is also in it. It’s ok.

Best bit: SJD’s head nod, this video’s one moment of choreography.

Directors: Dominic Taylor, Simon Taylor
Nga Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… what a drag.

Savage “Swing”

2004-savage-swing“Swing” is the dancefloor gift that just keeps on giving. Savage’s first solo single was released in 2005, but he enjoyed American success in 2008 thanks to a remixed version of “Swing” featuring Soulja Boy. Then in 2013 “Swing” topped the Australian charts via an EDM remix by producer Joel Fletcher.

But back in 2005 it was a mini Savage in a laundrette surrounded by a bunch of ladies in hot pants putting a lot of effort into their weekly washing. This video surely took some inspiration from the iconic 1985 Levi’s commercial, featuring some very DIY stonewash jeans.

At the time this video came out, I wrote a review of it for NZmusic.com declaring it was terribly terribly sexist because of all the girls in hot pants and excessive booty shaking. The director, Sophie Findlay, wrote me a really nice email saying she was “definitely going more for sexy”, and that because it was a booty song “the record company are going to insist on girls, but I did my best to create a situation in the video where they were being revered by Savage, and in control.”

And now I pretty much agree with her. As part of the 5000 Ways experience, I have seen far worse. “Swing” lets the laundry girls be characters, not just anonymous dancers or body parts. And when you compare it to the video of a contemporary booty song like “Wiggle” by Mr Derulo, “Swing” seems a lot more innocent and female focused.

The laundry setting takes two forms. There’s the bright pastel world of honey-I-shrunk-the-Savage and the laundry ladies. Then there’s a darker version with full-size Savage, his Deceptikonz pals and the washer women, all grinding on it like it’s a night club. This sort of stuff never happened at the Wash Inn in Mt Eden.

A twist of sorts comes at the end of the video when it’s revealed that it was all a dream – Savage had fallen asleep while waiting for his laundry. And he’d been cuddling a flagon of moonshine as he slept – an uncomfortable way of promoting his next single and/or debut album.

The curious thing is, the song didn’t rely on this video for its 2008 or 2013 revivals. In 2008 it was part of the Knocked Up soundtrack, and in 2013 a new video was used featuring some people having a house party. But you know what? Seth Rogen doing daggy dancing or some Australians partying in an abandoned house just aren’t having as much fun as Savage was down at his local laundry.

Best bit: Mareko’s perfect 1960s flip hairdo.

Director: Sophie Findlay
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… lack of words.