There’s the song and there’s the visuals and there’s not much connection between the two. The “Radio Crimes” song is a big, bold indie rock number, tempered with Pluto’s trademark delicate falsetto harmonies. But the video pushes Pluto right back. It puts Baby in the corner.
The video is based around a bank of television sets, which broadcast parts of members of Pluto. That immediately puts distance between Pluto and the viewer. But then Pluto themselves are all hiding behind sunglasses and scarves and the other accoutrements of rock they’re so fond of. The end result is a band who seem like they’re too cool to star in their own video.
There’s no rule that says a band must appear in their own music video. New Order even used a youthful stand-in group in the “Crystal” video. Instead we get Pluto coming across as concentrating so hard on emoting into the microphone that they lose all connection with the viewer.
Some of Pluto’s earlier videos were pretty goofy. I get the feeling that in later years Pluto wanted to be portrayed as an edgy rock band. They managed that with the super “Dance Stamina” video, but “Radio Crimes” goes too far, making them seem to inhabit their own world, totally removed from their audience.
Best bit: when the TVs show a whole lot of cartoons.
Director: Adam Jones
Next… chickens in spaaaace.
In Auckland, it is possible to walk from Queen Street to Federal street through buildings, using a series of private escalators (and one lift) to avoid the treacherous incline of Wellesley Street West.
The “Levitate” video is set on one of these escalators, the super narrow ones in the lobby of the old ASB building between Albert and Federal Streets, which conveniently enough looks like something out of a 1960s sci-fi film. This provides the location for Opshop’s theatrical rock number.
In the world of “Levitate”, people are trying to escape via the escalators, but two heavies wearing gas masks usually pull any runners back. Jason makes a few goes at it, but there’s always something that brings him back down – a mysterious woman, a man with a briefcase full of money and general tiredness.
Finally, pursued by the masked men, he makes it to the top. The ending of the video is ambiguous. Has he made it to freedom (across the road to the casino!) or has he somehow disappeared, because this is a mysterious sci-fi world?
Best bit: Jason angrily hurls a suitcase full of money into a water feature. He has no need for your space dollars!
Director: Adam Jones
Nga Taonga Sound & Vision
Next… radios and televisions.
How many female MCs have we come across so far? There’s Ladi6, Nemesis of Ill Semantics and Emcee Lucia, whose video is missing. And now comes Tauranga MC Nytemare with her ode to women and girls from the ghetto.
We meet Nytemare sitting on a couch in the middle of a set evoking a suburban living room. Also in the room is a young girl, who becomes an older girl (picking up the grown-ups’ empty bottles), then a young woman.
This young woman then becomes the star of the video. Out in the real world, she is hassled by her loser boyfriend/drug dealer and walks past some street hookers (subtext: it could be her). All the while Nytemare is in the background, rapping words of support.
Fortunately a life of P or car park handjobs is not to be for the ghetto princess. She shows up to a playground, dressed in a very modest long skirt and high-neck shirt, and hands out booklets to all the kids. Some sort of religious tract? No, it’s an educational pamphlet called Body Safe, which appears to be an actual sex education programme.
Whatever happened to Nytemare? This was her one and only funded video. And the URL nytemare.co.nz (seen on a sweatshirt in the video) no longer works. She released a video called “Real Hip Hop” in 2011, but it seems she’s now an MMA fighter, going by the name Tha Nytmare.
Best bit: the awkward vibe of the lady handing out safe sex pamphlets in a kids’ playground.
Director: Ivan Slavov
Next… the escalator of eternity.
Mumsdollar were a punk-pop band made up of Christians, though I don’t think their music was overtly Christian. But it says a lot that, according to Wikipedia, the band got their name when one of the members was putting in for a church offering but only had one dollar – his mum’s dollar.
The “Nevertheless” video puts the group out in the bush. A mysterious woman’s voice says “hey”. Instead of going to see if maybe she needs their help, instead they freak out and run away. So begins a series of misfortunes, brought on by their panicked state.
Steve (they all have a freeze frame with a name caption) passes out and dreams of three girls wearing pink tops. Tim almost drowns, but comes to just as one of his bandmates is about to give him mouth-to-mouth (eew, gay). Ben trips over and gashes his leg, and we’re treated to some special effects make-up of his injury (hey, someone put their NZQA film make-up training to good use), Dave is enchanted by a country band getting down in the woods. And poor Pete hallucinates a roast chicken on the head of one of his band mates and almost eats him (eew, gay).
After running all night, the five dudes have almost escaped The Lady Who Said ‘Hey’. But suddenly five chicks appear down by the river. Are they sirens, about to love them up and turn the band into horny toads? Or are they just fives girls on a camping trip? We never find out. The Mumsdollar five run away, eventually emerging from the woods, alone in a grassy field. Oh, ok.
I get the concept of the video, but there’s too much of the band running through the woods and not enough plot or rock. I feel like with the combination of their mum’s dollar and NZOA’s $5000, the band could have made a better video.
Best bit: Steve’s flirt face – watch out, ladies.
Next… community outreach.
Misfits of Science seem like the kind of band who has been buoyed along by their one bona fide hit single, “Fools Love”. Nothing they have done since has been as good, but they’re still there, still making music.
Like their previous videos, “Chemical Madness” involves digital trickery. This time the Misfits have been shrunken down and are hanging out amongst the balls on a pool table. (Judging by the red and yellow balls, it’s a game of blackball, a British variant of eight-ball, though the sky-blue baise is more an American style. And yes, five minutes ago I did not know this.)
Obviously the balls have to move. The balls have to chase the rappers around the table. And this happens. The problem is the computer animation isn’t all that great. The balls are too perfectly spherical and they move without friction. If this was made using 2014 technology, each of the balls would be different, with its own personality, its own backstory. But the technology of 2005 makes it look like looks like a sci-fi attack of the 5cm cyber Jaffas and their albino Jaffa cousins.
Quirky semi-animated videos seem to be the Misfits of Science style, but I’d like to see something a bit different, away from the green screen, into the real world.
Best bit: the two Misfits being chased by a giant yellow ball, Indiana Jones style.
Next… the mystery of the lady who said ‘hey’.
The default Katchafire video has the band performing at a live venue, surrounded by fans, friends and whanau, with everyone having a great time. “Close Your Eyes” is one of those videos.
The band are found playing at the Junction Bar in Frankton, their local. The video follows them from setting up to performing. And everyone in the bar, from little kids to oldies, are all grooving to the band and having a good time. (Diabolical thought: wouldn’t it be amazing if a music video showed a real audience looking bored and talking during the band?)
The video is cut with still photos of the same event. The photos are a better quality than the video. And because the photographer has ventured out onto the streets of Frankton (the most interesting part of Hamilton), the photos tend to be more interesting than the video. Smiling kids playing in the fountain, biker dudes posing across from the iconic Forlong’s furniture shop and a boy enjoying a massive battered sausage – so Frankton.
It’s a really low-key video, but it’s Katchafire doing what they do best.
Best bit: the hongi – this is not America.
Nga Taonga Sound & Vision
Next… a lot of balls.
The video centres on a clown. We meet him alone at his house, before he sets off into the city. The futuristic looking Britomart station has been used a lot in music videos, so it’s really refreshing to see the clown take a train to Britomart and walk through it as a commuter, not as a cool dude in music video.
The clown entertains some kids in QEII Square, but sadly loses his colourful bunch of balloons. Seriously bummed out, he goes to drown his sorrows at a corner bar where Greg Johnson has also been drinking.
At this point I should also note that none of the geography in the video has been faked. It would be actually possible to replicate the clown’s journey from the train station to the bar.
The sad clown gets a drink and begins to remove his wig and makeup and – hey now – it’s comedic actor Jon Gadsby! It’s a really good piece of casting. Gadsby can properly act and does a decent job of both the clowning and the sadness.
It’s a really nicely shot video too. Every scene is pleasingly framed and the overall video has a dusky palette like the Brannan Instagram filter. In the end, when Greg joins the sad clown for a drink, it seems like the perfect way to spend an afternoon.
Best bit: sad clown popping up in the transparent lift.
Director: Tim Groenendaal
Next… one afternoon in Frankton.
A common theme is emerging with Gramsci’s videos: he doesn’t like to be seen. With the exception of his first video, “Complicated”, all subsequent videos have shown Paul McLaney but kept him obscured with shadowy lighting and/or computer graphics effects. “Code” follows this aesthetic, with McLaney and band placed in a murky back and white world of boulders and skeletal trees.
The song has a really epic chorus, which would suggest a perfect opportunity for the band to rock out. Instead when the chorus hits, the ground beneath them collapses and they fall down a rocky shaft. It’s only when the calmer verses return that they’re allowed to return to solid ground.
And this solid ground leads various band members to a strange forest, a fancy train tunnel, a really long bridge and, eventually, an iceberg. The graphics remind me of something from a basic video game. But if it was a video game, it would be totally rubbish because nothing much happens.
When there’s a kick-arse rock chorus, I want see something more thrilling than a guy running along a footbridge for a minute.
Best bit: the shoe-grabbing tree roots, like arboreal chewing gum.
Director: Ed Davis
Next… tears of a clown.
Goldenhorse’s early videos were deliciously weird – the proto Twilight romantic vampire angst of “Golden Dawn” and the surreal sci-fi caravan of “Baby’s Been Bad”. Then the band went through a period of making very straight pop videos. But with “Out of the Moon”, the band have returned to their weird roots. Or have they?
Singer Kirsten is sitting inside a house, the epitome of quirky glamour in a corset top and fur stole. Outside, the suited men of Goldenhorse are working hard on a DIY project, which turns out to be a wooden moon which they hoist up into the sky.
It’s weird, but not weird enough. It’s like the band wanted to return to the surreal fun of their earlier videos, but also didn’t want to scare of their winery tour audiences by making something too strange.
Nah, it’s one or the other. Either go for a spooky romantic video like Evermore’s “It’s Too Late” or go for something really weird. But when it’s somewhere in between, it just ends up being dull.
Best bit: the DIY montage, stylish yet productive.
Director: Adam Jones
Next… take it to the bridge.
The description on Amplifier was so alluring: “Gasoline Cowboy get urban and dirty”. Aw yeah, urban and dirty. After the Fast Crew’s recent journey into boring suburbia, it’s about time that a band brought things back to the bad city, etc.
So what does “urban and dirty” mean? It’s the lead singer of Gasoline Cowboy in an underground car park, slowly walking from the staircase to his car. He’s shot in profile, which is not a flattering angle on most people. And that’s cut together with footage of him in a bar playing pool with some others.
Early bar scenes show him striking out with a blonde woman at the bar. Later she’s shown to be playing pool with him, but it’s not clear what their relationship is. Is she some chick he’s just met that evening? Or his she is long-term girlfriend? Whatever their relationship, he’s going home alone. He lazily trudges over to his Ford Falcon and drives off.
The video doesn’t work for me. It seems there’s meant to be a story unfolding as the video progresses, but whatever it is, it’s just not clear enough to make sense. Frustratingly, the song is pretty good, with plenty of upbeat sass. It doesn’t need an “urban and dirty” treatment. Just something fun that isn’t mired in confusion.
Best bit: the lingering shots of the green 1978 Ford Falcon. Someone loves it.
Director: Duncan Cole
Nga Taonga Sound & Vision
Next… celestial DIY.