Fast Crew “Suburbia Streets”

2005-fast-crew-suburbia-streets“Suburbia Streets” is the Fast Crew being honest about their upbringing. They didn’t grow up on troubled inner-city neighbourhoods. No, they came from safe middle-class suburbs, where it’s “safe for child’s play, and there’s minimal homeless”.

The video is also an ode to this environment. We see the Crew rapping and singing around the suburbs, wandering the empty streets, inside an empty house and travelling on an empty bus. This is a fairly accurate portrayal of suburbs – during the day they do indeed empty out.

And that’s one of the big weaknesses with the video. For a song that is celebrating the depth and variety of the band’s suburban roots, the video isn’t doing such a great job of showing all that variety. In direct opposition to the lyrics promising that “suburbia is packed with all them cats you’d like to know” and talk of “street hustlers to band geeks, architects to police”, the only life seen in the empty suburbs is from Fast Crew, who are presumedly just there to shoot the video.

There are plenty of videos showing vibrant block parties in poorer neighbourhoods, but maybe this sort of carry-on just doesn’t happen in a nice middle-class area. Perhaps they’d find more suburban life down at the local Lone Star restaurant on a Thursday night.

Best bit: the very serious vocoder tube-singing bit – “suburbiaaaaaa”.

Director: Tim Groenendaal
Nga Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… urban and dirty.

Dave Dobbyn “Welcome Home”

I have a theory about this song. After Dave Dobbyn saw “Loyal”, a song about a relationship breakdown, used to foster national pride in a sports contest, he decided to write an actual proper song about pride in New Zealand. And so “Welcome Home” was born, and I imagine Dave has done quite well performing it at all those sports, military and civic ceremonies, all in honour of people who have “sacrificed much to be here”.

The video starts in black and white, with Dave walking down a busy street. He occasionally turns to wave and smile at people off camera, and you just know it’s people who are just shouting “DAVE DOBBYN!” because, hey, it’s Dave Dobbyn.

A bit of colour comes to the video via portraits of immigrants, all posing next to the flags of their former home country, and longer established New Zealanders. There’s a meat worker, schoolkids, dairy owners, a kebab shop couple, a taxi driver, and a forklift driver. There’s also refugee Ahmed Zaoui and a couple of brothers from the Dominican Priory where he lived at the time.

The oddest person to feature is a Westpac teller. She’s standing in front of a partition with “welcome” on it, and for a brief moment the video suddenly feels like an ad for Westpac. But New Zealanders work in banks as well as kebab shops, hardware stores and freezing works.

A lot of New Zealand music videos try to capture an essence of New Zealand, but trust Dave Dobbyn to just layer on the New Zealandness so deep that it goes beyond a cliche and actually becomes how New Zealanders happily see themselves. This is New Zealand.

Best bit: Dave’s thumbs up to one of the “DAVE DOBBYN” yellers.

Director: Tim Groenendaal
Nga Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… nothing ever happens in the suburbs.

Breaks Co-Op “The Otherside”

2005-breaks-co-op-the-othersideIn between Breaks Co-Op’s first album Roofers and their second album The Sound Inside, group member Zane Lowe had moved to the UK and become a BBC Radio 1 DJ. But he had not forgotten about his music project back home. Along with Hamish Clark, the duo teamed up with singer Andy Lovegrove, who brought a rootier, folkier sound to the group with his newfangled lyrics.

The video goes for a standard New Zealand music video theme – the scenic road trip. Away from the city, the lads get into an old Kingswood (it’s always an old car) and head for the coast.

Much of the video is just them driving along 90 Mile Beach. I’m assuming it’s 90 Mile Beach because the sight of a Ratana church suggests they’re in the Far North. And New Zealand doesn’t have all that many epically long beaches.

Very pointedly, Hamish and Andy are in the front, with Zane slouching in the back. It seems like a deliberate choice to downplay his presence in the video, putting the emphasis on Andy’s vocals instead of the famous UK media star in the back. If you weren’t paying attention, you might not even notice he was in the video.

A lot of videos in this style play as porn for homesick expats, but there’s something a bit different about “The Otherside”. The lyrics deal with overcoming depression and the visuals of the beach landscape sometimes feel quite lonely and isolated. Maybe this is the first New Zealand video that uses majestic scenery as more than just a pretty backdrop.

Best bit: the chilly bin in the back with Zane.

Director: Tim Groenendaal
Nga Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… hey, Dave! Dave!

Blindspott “Yours Truly”

2005-blindspott-yours-truly“Yours Truly” was the first single from Blindspott’s second album, End the Silence. The band had moved away from the nu metal stylings of the first album and had gone for a more traditional metal sound. And as drummer Shelton explained, “It doesn’t really fit into a genre, like the whole ’emo’ sound that’s around now.”

The non-emo “Yours Truly” opens and closes with an animated swoop around a city, where all the buildings are adorned with religious symbols: a star of David, a Dharma wheel, the star and crescent, and a cross. Completely separate from this, Blindspott are rocking out on a front lawn in front of an old villa at night.

The video is full of meaningful symbols. Inside the villa, a glass of milk bleeds, white lilies burn, and a statue of the Virgin Mary hangs out on a table. Shelton takes a nice hot bath, except he also has a mouthful of blood. Purity! Innocence! Ebola!

But that’s all basic music video stuff. Blindspott then bring out some classic Tool stylings from the ’90s. Damian finds himself with large tree branches sprouting from his back. And then there’s a bald-headed dude (dudes?) with two torsos and no legs. I’d like to see follow-up on this. What’s everyday life like when you have a tree growing out of your back? How does your girlfriend feel when you have another head instead genitals?

Blindspott have always paid a lot of attention to their music videos. “Yours Truly” isn’t anything amazing, but yet it’s still a quality Blindspott video and more ambitious than what most New Zealand metal bands of the era did.

Best bit: the two-headed dude manages to do a push-up.

Nga Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… going for a drive along the beach.

Ben Novak “Love Breakdown”

2005-ben-novak-love-breakdownBen Novak is the singer-songwriter who had the curious fortune of writing the song “Turn Your Car Around” which scored well on a hit-determining computer algorithm, and later became a bona fide hit for ex Blue singer Lee Ryan. The algorithm also said that “Love Breakdown” would be a hit, but without a former boyband member matched with it, it’s just up to Ben Novak on his own.

The video takes inspiration from the opening line, “Today I heard a love break down in a supermarket line”. It uses footage from the 1950s (circa series one Mad Men), showing housewives and the fellows in their lives tackling supermarkets and domestic life. It’s like a first-year film student’s editing exercise.

Cut with that is Ben Novak performing with a band, complete with an anachronistic female bass player. Ben is not the most charismatic performer and comes across like a really bored Robert Palmer, so the video spends most of the time exploring the bright shiny world of the 1950s. It’s a strange situation when vintage film footage outshines the video’s star.

Best bit: cars with engines in the boot, leading to the curious sight of groceries being loaded into the space under the bonnet.

Nga Taonga Sound & Vision

Next: what’s it really like to have a tree growing out of your back?

4th Element “Break U Off”

2005-4th-element-break-u-off4th Element were a hip hop duo from Ranui, West Auckland, and those western suburbs are the star of the “Break U Off” music video. It threatens to be yet another “life in the suburbs” video, but it’s a lot more sophisticated than that.

We see the duo rapping around the streets of Ranui, and in front of a graffiti-covered wall, but things soon get interesting. The video tells the stories of two Ranui residents – a young woman who’s left home, and a young guy who’s playing basketball. In each case, a frame of the character has been painted as a mural on the wall behind 4th Element. It’s really clever and ambitious.

Over all, the video has a very sophisticated, cinematic feel to it. So it’s surprising to discover that this was 4th Element’s one and only funded video, and it doesn’t appear that the group had much of a life beyond 2005. But this portrait of Ranui is a fine way to remember 4th Element.

Best bit: a suburban Auckland train ride, a pleasant change after all the videos shot at Britomart station.

Director: Kristian Eek
Nga Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… bright shiny supermarket life.