The Front Lawn was a film/theatrical duo (or trio). They wrote really good pop songs and made really good music videos, but they weren’t quite mainstream. If they (or a similar band) were around today, would they get NZ On Air funding? Don McGlashan still does, but he writes serious grown-up songs now.
“The Beautiful Things” is a slightly sinister song, looking at the love of material possessions. It’s set in a manic 1960s television advertising world, where the grinning salesmen attempt to convince viewers to buy things to make all their pain go away.
I say “1960s”, but it’s more that kind of retro ’60s style that was big in the ’90s. And there’s layer upon layer of green screen trickery and cheesy computer graphics. All this stuff must have seemed quite cool and cutting-edge back then. Video editing software was cheaper and more accessible, so you didn’t need to be The Cars or Dire Straits to do rad computer animations in your video.
The Front Lawn made short films as well as their live performance work, and they’ve taken full advantage of the music video medium to make an entertaining video that doesn’t just promote the song, but adds another layer to its message.
It was a pleasure to rediscover this song and the video. It doesn’t quite sound like a song of its era, such was the magic of The Front Lawn.
Best bit: Harry snogs his mop wife.
Director: Fane Flaws
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision
Next… The promise of stormy weather.
This is where it begins. The first funding round had only three videos, but they managed to cover the extremes of New Zealand pop. The first was Moana and the Moahunters’ ode to indigenous cultural pride, “A E I O U”.
But was its NZ On Air funding considered newsworthy? A 3 News story makes no mention of that – the focus is more on the message of the lyrics. And it’s noteworthy that back in ’91, a national news story was “Hey, check out this music video!”
Watching the video itself, you can tell the early ’90s have come to New Zealand. Moana’s wearing a peasant blouse and waistcoat – Vanessa Huxtable chic. Moana performs the song with her girl group the Moahunters in front of a green screen, while Māori-influenced graphics swirl around behind her.
There’s no pretending that the world of the green screen is real. There are wide shots that show the edges of the screen, and the cold concrete floor of the studio (warehouse? suburban garage?) they are filming in.
This video features the familiar rotating NZ On Air logo in both bottom corners of the screen instead of the usual one corner. NZ On Air originally get a bit carried away with their branding requirements or was the video’s producer not quite sure what to do with it?
It’s a bright, cheerful music video, that nicely matches the uplifting house beats. It’s a perfect video to begin our journey into the world of NZ On Air funding.
Best bit: Moana’s dad, looking cool as.
Director: Kerry Brown
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision
Next… Don and Harry versus the bright shiny world of consumer culture.
I’ve set myself the challenge of watching every NZ On Air-funded music video.
I’m looking at the golden age of music video funding, where over 2400 videos received the $5000 grant that was issued from April 1991 to June 2011.
So that’s a lot to get through, including some of my faves and a few that I’m not necessarily looking forward to seeing again.
Because I want to share these videos with you, dear reader, I’m going to restrict my viewings to what I can find online. Though if an artist doesn’t have their videos on the web, that in itself is pretty interesting.
I’m going through the videos by the funding rounds they were in, not the release date of the video. Most videos are released just a few months after their funding round, but some can be delayed by several months or even years or released in a different order.
I’ll review one video per weekday, with bonus posts to mourn the missing videos, and I reserve the right to change that or take a break if I start to get all videoed out.
And if you have any stories, factoids or general comments, feel free to leave a comment on the relevant page.