The first few seconds of this song seem quite sedate. There’s Marry J doing his soul crooning and it’s all very sweet when suddenly – bam! – here’s Dei Hamo with some rap to make things a lot more interesting.
Dei Hamo is filmed in black and white, with the lyrics of his rhymes jumping around behind him, like a YouTube lyric video. This tantalising and explosive intro is over quickly, and we return to Matty J, walking along a city street.
The camera always films him walking left to right, and we also see split screen shots of different angles of him. I know what’s trying to be achieved here (the spilt screen style was very cool in the mid-’90s) but it seems a bit awkward here. It has been done with some really horrible looking bevelling effects, like the sort of stuff that showed up in webpage design in the mid-’90s. Was there a point where this style was cool? Maybe.
Dei Hamo bursts in again, introduced by Matty J as “the Madd Coconut”. And then Matty J continues on his journey, walking through cityscapes in bold colours, particularly purples and blues. Finally Matty J’s journey ends with him walking right up to his sweetie, but the video abruptly ends before there can be any grand reunion. (This might just be the version that’s online.)
It feels like there are some really good ideas behind this video, but not everything manages to work.
Best bit: Matty J’s simultaneous look of loved-up and cool.
Ted Brown was (and still is!) a great songwriter and performer. I saw him opening for the Mutton Birds in 1993 and he blew everyone away. But yet chart success eluded him. His biggest hit was when the Strawpeople covered “Love Explodes”.
“How is the Air up There” was a 1966 hit for garage rock locals the La De Das. Ted and his Italians keep the crunch of the La De Da’s original version but give it a bit of jangle and some smoothness.
The video has hints of the psychedelic world of the ’60s. The band perform the song against a blue studio background, lit in red. It comes across a little sinister and menacing, with the shadows and red light looking like all that’s missing is a pitchfork and stick-on devil ears.
We also see the band in a more civilian form, shot in colour within a slightly psychedelic oval frame, with Ted in bad-ass mirror glasses. Maybe that’s the problem. The video seems a bit too badass. It’s sarcastic, sneering, aggressive. It’s a great song but the video feels like Ted is angry at me and I don’t like that feeling.
Best bit: Ted’s impeccable pronunciation of “air” and “there”.
Note: in 1995 a DLT remix of the song was used as the theme music for TV3’s New Zealand music show “Frenzy”.
“No Flint No Flame” was originally released when Urban Disturbance were known as Leaders of Style, but they rebranded after they kept being mistaken for a fashion posse. But along with the change of name came a reworking of their killer track. The LOS version was a goofy, fun song with mean samples, lol drugz, and a great chorus. The Urban Disturbance version keeps only the chorus and gets bigger, fresher and funkier and is a self-assured introduction to this group determined to make an impact.
The video sees the band performing in a studio where every surface (including the DJ’s desk) is draped with a crinkled slate-grey cloth. It’s 1993 and the streetwear of the earlier ’90s has been updated with grungy plaids, making Urban Disturbance look like they’d just wandered in from the Milford Track.
Keeping with the literal meaning of the chorus, a fire breather hangs out in the background, hoicking up some fiery entertainment. The trio are also joined by friends, including Dei Hamo.
There’s also a woman with a dalmatian. She’s waiting for a dreadlocked dude who is late. We see him rushing through downtown Auckland, no doubt aware that the dog is cuter and more loyal. This is the only time we see the urban landscape promised by the band’s name. I’m not sure shutting them away with a fire breather is exactly the best way to introduce this group. But their next video, “Impressions” takes it to the streets.
Despite this, the video doesn’t come across as the debut of a nervous young band. These guys feel like pros, and even though they’re stuck with the dramatically crinkled backdrop, it’s apparent that these guys have the moxy to go further.
Best bit: the Dalmatian, being all spotty and cool.
It’s an Urban Disturbance video! The action kicks off outside the grand old Auckland railway station, back when it was still a grand old railway station and not leaky student housing.
We also see the dudes rapping as they walk down a street, and is notable that all the business awning signs are for independent businesses, with no sign of the chain store brands that dominate the high street today. It’s almost 20 years ago and it while it sometimes feels like a memory of a past time, there’s still some freshness to it.
The video is a fairly low-budget job. The budgetary limits are revealed with playback done via headphones. But that fits with the lyrics that declare, “I’m an extension of my headphones and kerbstones”, a nice way to deal with both aspects.
“Impressions” is a cool, cruisy exploration of Auckland. It captures that early ’90s urban Auckland scene and just has a really nice vibe to it.
Best bit: the National Bank ATM sign – is it too early to feel nostalgic?