Semi MCs “Trust Me”

Semi MCs were five high school students who could sing, dance and rap well enough to form a posse. They’re like the natural predecessors of Nesian Mystik, but with lyrics more about general themes of love and getting down and having a good time.

“Trust Me” has a new jack swing flavour, and a fairly ambitious video. The guys are hanging out at night in a colourful courtyard area. All around them people are dancing in only the freshest of streetwear.

It’s a fairly bangin’ video and I can’t help wonder why this song didn’t chart higher than 27. Maybe it was just a bit behind the times. When it was released at the end of 1992, grunge had well and truly got a stranglehold on the world of pop.

The music video begins after two and a half minutes. Also worth watching is this interview from “3.45 Live!”. Phil From The Amazing Race and Dr Hine prod the shy lads who excitedly reveal they’ll be playing at DTM (DTM!!!) with MC OJ and Rhythm Slave.

Best bit: the looks of heartbreak and disappointment on the face of a girl when the guys drive off in their fancy convertible.

Director: L Baker
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… the case of the missing shirt.

Dribbling Darts “Hey Judith”

From a suburban state house to K Road, “Hey Judith” is a sunshine in a music video. Matthew Bannister, all gussied up in red lipstick, has a minor meltdown as he sings for the love of his life, covering the wall in lipstick kisses.

The video also includes a musclewoman, dog poo, a cardboard replica of K Road, Auckland suburban trains, the old yellow ARA buses, the old Auckland CPO, complete with the bank of public phones out the front.

I’m intrigued by a brief shot of a pillow booth at the train station. I assume this was something made for the video, but I like to think that back in the ’90s, there was a booth at the train station that gave people pillows for their train journeys, or for carrying around town in search of their special honey.

And just to prove how ’90s it is, the video ends with the band donning virtual reality googles. (Remember virtual reality? Remember how it was going to change the world?)

It all leaves me thinking that I’d like ’90s-era Matthew Bannister to be my boyfriend.

Best bit: the Ken and Barbie cardboard K Road adventure.

Director: Karyn Hay
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… it’s a matter of trust, girl.

Annie Crummer “See What Love Can Do”

Before Annie Crummer was vamping it up as the Killer Queen in the Australian production of “We Will Rock You”, she presented a softer, gentler side with “See What Love Can Do”, the first single from her debut solo album.

Just to prove how ’90s it is, not only is she wearing a peasant blouse, she’s also shown with a “Blossom”-style hat with a giant flower on it.

The video is shot in high contrast black and white, not unlike Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” video, only without the fierce dancing. Annie is joined by the fullas from Herbs to add some grunt on the verses and a choral sound on the chorus. Hey, these are the guys who dah-dah-dah-boom-boom’d “Slice of Heaven” into a hit for ol’ Dave Dobbyn.

Somehow I thought the song would demand a warmer, more communal video than what was produced, but perhaps it was decided to emphasise Annie and her backing singers, no one else.

Best bit: the enthusiastic ooo-ing from Charlie Herbs.

Director: Fred Renata
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… kissy-kiss fun times.

Hallelujah Picassos “Lovers +”

Roland Picasso has a dilemma – he has two lovers and would rather like to keep it that, only one of the lovers wants him to be true to her. It’s a simple, almost underplayed song, and the video matches this minimal vibe.

There are a few green screen and digital tricks – dripping paint, flames, but most of the video is restrained, with simple layering of Roland (in colour) over the band (in black/blue and white), as well as an outdoor excursion. While it’s not as fun as other Picassos videos, it’s still a fine early ’90s video.

The only thing that worries me is the song title – it reminds me of Paper Plus, Flooring Plus and all those other ‘plus’ businesses that sprang up in the ’90s. It’s not so appealing being in a menage à retail.

Best bit: the remote appearance of Greg Johnson on guest trumpet. See, he does end up online sometimes.

Director: Bruce Sheridan
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Bonus! Peter McLennan of the Hallelujah Picassos and now of Dub Asylum and the brilliant blog Dub Dot Dash has been kind enough to share his music video experiences both in front of and behind the camera.

We’d made a few videos prior to doing the Lovers Plus video. I directed a video for our song Clap Your Hands, made with the help of TVNZ’s music show CV (the replacement for RWP). TVNZ supplied filmstock, processing, telecine (film to video transfer), and editing. We covered the other costs – we made that video for $138. So going to a NZOA-funded video to the tune of $5000 was a step up.

It basically meant we were able to pay people and hire better gear and so on. It also resulted in a video that was more likely to get repeat viewings on tv, due to higher production standards.

At the time I was studying at Elam School of Fine Arts, working in film and video, so I took a keen interest in the video-making side of things. Bruce Sheridan at Stratford Productions directed and produced the Lovers Plus video, with input from us. We also managed to convince them to let Roland use a welding torch, as he was doing a welding course at the time. Singers playing with fire, always fun.

The use of green screen was pretty popular at that time, from what I recall. It allowed you to layer up imagery and mix and mash it up.

We also did a video for our song Picasso Core, a mate of ours shot that on video one afternoon with our singer Roland. TV3’s late evening news show Nightline screened it once, which amazed us, as every chorus features the f word.

Next… average age 17.

The Mutton Birds “Nature”

Don and the lads are back, and Jan also makes an appearance with the Mutton Birds’s second single, “Nature”. A fuller, noisier cover of Fourmyula’s psychedelic ode to the great outdoors, the video takes its cue from the 1960s and utilises all the psychedelic visual effects the ’90s have to offer. So there’s colour tints, swirling animated backgrounds and green screen layering. It’s like a mashup of all the previously viewed green screen vids.

Don lays on a bit of Front Lawn-style comedy with his sideways glances at the little singing people who keep popping up, and there’s the crazy mouth-to-mouth transfer of, uh, nature, not unlike the controversial mouth-to-mouth transfer in Head Like a Hole’s “Fish Across Face” video. Only animated nature power isn’t a public health risk.

The video shows that the band aren’t quite buying into Fourmyula’s original hippy-style nature loving. The Mutton Birds’ version is more like someone who’s got high and suddenly realised that, HEY GUYS NATURE IS REALLY AWESOME!!!! But nature is also scary with those beetles and lizards that suddenly appear.

Best bit: the interpretive dance in the middle, which ends with the dancers in a heartfelt embrace. Such is the power of nature.

Director: Fane Flaws
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… the challenges of polygyny.

Jan Hellriegel “The Way I Feel”

In 2009, the Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision had a public vote for the top 100 New Zealand music videos. The top video was the dramatic “Maxine” by Sharon O’Neill, while number two was the glorious “Way I Feel” by Jan Hellriegel. Hell yeah.

It was the first song of her debut solo album “It’s My Sin” and great effort was made to make sure she really kicked off. “The Way I Feel” is a stylish black and white video directed by Chris Mauger. Layers of windswept Jan, night-driving Jan, moody poolhall Jan, and guitar-playing Jan float on top of each other. Oh, and some boy scouts too. The video is as cool as the song, which is as cool as the video.

Night-driving Jan features a lot, and that’s what I enjoy the most about it. It captures that feeling of driving on a still night. Not hooning up and down Queens Street, but going out on a quiet night to visit your secret lover.

Jan is again rocking a peasant blouse, but you know what? She totally owns it. Hey, isn’t it time for a peasant blouse revival? Yeah, I think it is.

Best bit: an old man blinks rhythmically.

Director: Chris Mauger
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next: Nature is really awesome!

Ngaire “So Divine”

What the hell is this? “So Divine” is a great dance track, an ode to the feeling of love. It demands a video with colour and spark and movement. Instead it gets this weird 1960s Barbarella thing. Actually, it’s more like someone throwing a Barbarella-themed fancy-dress party on an extreme budget, and buying up all the silver metallic fabrics at Spotlight.

So there’s Ngaire in a decently shaped but cheap looking silver dress made from that faux sequin fabric, and she’s rolling around on some silver metallic fabric, at one point cuddling up to a cushion that looks like a bladder from cask wine (and perhaps it is, because that would actually explain a few things).

But the best bit is the others in the video. Ngaire is joined by two men who appear to be eating her ears. Perhaps they are a two-headed alien and that is how they greet friends on their planet.

Ngaire also has three gal pals who have also been shopping at Spotlight. They’re decked out from head to toe in metallic silver. At one point Ngaire hangs from a swing and her spacettes huddle around her. Again, I think this is an alien custom.

It’s the fruitiest video, but you know what? Ngaire is a trouper. Despite the ridiculous set-up, she sings the song with the joy it requires and looks like she knows she’s wearing a sticky plastic dress but she’s still having a good time. Also, after a while “so divine” starts to sounds like “soda vine”.

Best bit: Ngaire’s female posse flicking up their glitter-laiden hair, causing a glam glitter shower.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… Jan goes for a drive.

The Chills “Male Monster from the Id”

Martin Phillipps takes on the male monster from the id, aka the impulse-driven brain bit what wants to root you. The video, which legend has it cost much more than the $5000 NZ On Air funding, is a slick black and white number.

Grim objects move about, a wunderkammer of complexity. A doll head, skulls, brains, scissors, a fish, a key, lightbulbs, a bald dude’s head. These are a few of my favourite things.

But do these objects really represent the male id, the “animal behaviour” that Martin sings of? The trouble is, if you were to fill the video with id fantasy objects, you’d probably end up with an indie version of a gangsta rap video – Martin larging it with booty girls, smoking cigars and drinking Hennessy, laid back with his mind on his money and his money on his mind.

Best bit: the eyeball hanging out with its friend the pair of scissors.

Next… an extravagant world of silver.

Able Tasmans “Fault in the Frog”

“Fault in the Frog” is based around the urban legend that claims a frog won’t try to escape a gradually heated pot of water because it’s happening too slowly to realise it’s being boiled alive. Therefore, if you slowly ruin everything, no one will notice because they’ll think they’re in a nice hot spa pool. Or something. The band uses this as a metaphor for global warming, though you have to delve beneath the bagpipes and light voices to get the lyrical message.

The video is a montage of swirling scenes of forests, tinsel Christmas trees, which in turn leads to a home movie tour around the world – mad bastards shouting in London, village life in India and more of those swirling forests.

There’s a message here, but it seems like the Abel Tasmans are too timid to do a full-on, loud and proud protest song, instead hiding behind lush production and a video that manages to divert attention from the lyrics.

Best bit: the fellow at Speakers Corner gesticulating at a gold star with a photo of JFK glued to it.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next: the bit of the man brain that wants to root you.

Dead Flowers “Lisa”

Like Push Push, Dead Flowers emerged just at the point when hair metal was being nudged out of the way by grunge. So the hair-flailing video for debut single “Lisa” was their once chance to just get their Salon Selectives all up in the air. It was as if they knew their moment to be mëtal gödz was running out, and a haircut was on the cards.

The video alternates between black and white performance footage (reminiscent of Push Push’s video in both the composition and the follicular action), and cut with black and white silhouettes against a background of flowers. Because that is the band’s name.

By this stage it’s noticeable that music videos are getting slicker. Is it a result of having more cash to spend on videos? Is the video production industry getting cleverer and more creative? Or has there been an moment of collective consciousness where everyone has simultaneously realised that naff green screen doesn’t make anything look better?

Actually, my new challenge is to find a whole funding round where none of the videos have naff green screen. Fingers crossed!

Best bit: the guitarist wearing demin overalls with no shirt, boyband style.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… set a-sail or shipwrecked?