Dark Tower “You Beauty”

2000-dark-tower-you-beautyThis is Dark Tower at their flyest. The video starts with the duo experiencing inner city pressure. While hanging out in front of a large graffiti wall, they find themselves bothered by another couple of rival homies, one played by Jon from “Ice TV”. Homeboy Jon consults his “Hip-Hop Rulebook”, confused at this pair who rap in New Zealand accents and wear a lavalava.

Dark Tower leave the oppressive city and head for a farm, where they will be free to be themselves. Wandering the pastures, they unleash some brilliant rural lyrics, raping about how it’s “a hard task chewing grass down through Lewis Pass/I saw 10 dags dangling off a dead nag’s arse.” You definitely wouldn’t find that in the Hip-Hop Rulebook.

Their mates Rubicon come to the farm to join them, playing on the back of a ute and in a woolshed (where else?). Jody DJ with a potato sitting near his turntables, and we also see a baby sitting in a vegetable garden because that’s what happens on farms.

“You Beauty” is a fun, lively video that shows Dark Tower doing what they did best – throwing the hip hop rulebook out the window and rapping about what they know.

Best bit: Paul from Rubicon’s trademark joy-mouth drumming.

Director: Marc Swadel

Next… I’ve seen the future.

Tim Finn “Twinkle”

1999-tim-finn-twinkle“Twinkle” was the only single from Tim Finn’s fifth solo album, the self-released “Say It Is So”. It’s a very simple video and seems on par with other indie efforts from the era.

The video starts with a mysterious woman smoking a cigarette. This is a subtle change from smoking in music videos from the mid-’90s. In this video, it’s not the artist smoking, but rather a character. It’s used to convey unease, not coolness.

Tim plays a businessman. He comes home, flops his briefcase down on his bed, pours himself a scotch and sits in an easy chair. What happens next is very interesting. He’s sitting in his chair, looking at the camera, singing the song. And it looks like a webcam.

There’s the same blue screen light and unflattering angle. It actually looks like someone who’s settled down for a good, long Skype session with their sweetie in another town. But back in 1999, webcam technology wasn’t that advanced. The best you could manage on dial-up was ever-changing black and white stills.

So, ok, Tim isn’t Skyping or vlogging. He’s just sitting in his chair getting sloshed. He briefly gets up to make a phonecall and paces about for a bit, but the video is largely him just sitting.

But suddenly drama! Cigarette girl gets all “Hunger Games” on Tim. She pulls back a crossbow and shoots him in the back, through the chair. I’m not sure how this works out as she appears to have been shooting from outside and yet the arrow comes from inside the apartment. I don’t even think Katniss can shoot that well.

Director: Marc Swadel

Next… behind the bamboo curtain.

Slim “Rise Up”

1999-slim-rise-upPost office boxes didn’t used to be bright red. They used to be a subdued grey, in keeping with the general greyness of the New Zealand Post Office. When NZ Post was born, post office boxes got a lick of red paint and a bold new backdrop was born.

The last NZOA video that took advantage of this setting was Love’s Ugly Children in their “Voodoo Girl” video. That explicitly used the space as a post office box lobby, but with Slim it’s more abstract. The camera hardly ever focuses on the boxes, so the walls become giant crimson slabs of colour, a perfect backdrop for some energetic punks.

In the YouTube description, director Marc Swadel notes the video was “a three way directorial race on this between myself, Slim singer Aaron Hogg, and Italian director Simona Lianza”. Whatever was going on behind the scenes, the finished product doesn’t show it.

The band perform the song in the narrow space, performing to each walls and with different combinations of band members. The camera is usually locked off in the same place, with a few shots near the end taken against a different wall, and a shot of a rotating skull in the middle. Adding a bit of variety, lyrics from the song and random graphics flash up on screen, making it look a lot slicker than a bunch of guys in a post office.

Best bit: “Open a bank account”, commands a random graphic.

Director: Marc Swadel, Aaron Hogg
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… Otago noir.

The Stereo Bus “Birthday”

1999-stereo-bus-birthdayThis is a quality song. It’s the sort of song that is sometimes described as “perfect pop” but it never managed to bother the charts the way that the similarly perfect pop of Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys or Westlife did at the same time.

Maybe “Birthday” was a little too depressing to get higher than #26. But it’s a good kind of depressing. “Today is your birthday and not mine,” sings Dave Yetton, looking miserable.

The video is a simple affair. It focuses on brightly lit close-ups of band members. Dave is shot against a white background, the rest of the band against a black background. And while it’s Dave’s voice we can hear, the lip-sync is shared amongst the band.

Cut between that are shots of brightly coloured sweeties. There’s Tim Tams, Cadbury DMCs (Dairy Milk Centres aka off-brand M&Ms), Pink Smokers, Jet Planes, eerily corpse-like Eskimos, licorice allsorts, Shrewsburys… Oh, I’m starting to feel a little ill now.

“No, you can’t have your cake and eat it too,” admonishes Dave. And the video conveys that well – the dark side of celebrations. Whether it’s a child stuffing their face until they turn green or an adult dealing with the end of a relationship, life has a funny tendency to get in the way of the best laid plans.

Best bit: the old-style H2GO bottle.

Director: Marc Swadel
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… renewable energy.

Dark Tower with Dave Dobbyn “The New Outlook”

1999-dark-tower-new-outlookDark Tower team up with Dave Dobbyn, reworking the DD Smash hit “Outlook For Thursday” into a manifesto promising a new outlook for the New Zealand music industry.

The video starts with a young woman giving a weather forecast, recalling that ’90s television trend for hot chicks reading the weather. Meanwhile, the Dark Tower lads are summoned by Dave Dobbyn, who is cooler than the young ‘uns, as this subtitled dialogue demonstrates:
Dave: Now is the hour of the Tower.
Dark Tower: Yo! Yo! Yo! The OG godfather wants us to kick it. Let’s bust a move, yo! Word.

We meet two versions of Dark Tower. In one, they’re three blinged-out hip hop gangstas, surrounded by a harem of hotties, ticking all the boxes of hip hop video cliches and inventing some of their own (cask wine!). In the other, they’re three New Zealanders, casually dressed, hanging out in the bush. Does this represent the conflict Dark Tower feel, torn between being pop stars and musicians?

Both versions hang out with Dave Dobbyn – in the first, he’s dressed like a Bond villain, in the second he’s casually hanging out in the recording studio.

There’s a lot to the song and the video. It’s pretty meta, criticising bands who sample old songs while doing the same thing themselves. (“Look around – all you see is grave robbin’… to the hook of David Dobbyn.”) There’s also room for a relevant Bible verse – Matthew 16:26.

But is the conflict between the two Dark Towers resolved? Two lift doors open and each version of the group emerge, acknowledging each other before moving off in different directions. A graphic asks “What’s the ‘real’? You decide.” Whoa.

Best bit: Dave Dobbyn as the OG godfather.

Director: Marc Swadel

Next… female problems.

Garageland “Not Empty”

1999-garageland-not-empty“Not Empty” was the first single off Garageland’s second album. And while guitarist Debbie Silvey had left the band, she made an appearance doing backing vocals on this track. “I wanna be free! No empty!” goes the chorus, in a song about the search for meaning in life.

The video goes with this, focusing on a situation of classic emptiness – the modern office. The band members are dressed up in office finery, but they shuffle around the office with a dead look in their eyes because they are empty.

I don’t quite buy it that there’s an entire office full of people who have become completely numbed by their jobs. Surely it’s far worse to be the only one suffering in an office full of people happy with their mediocre lives.

But, ok, for the purposes of this music video, I will accept the seventh floor of this office is full of extremely unhappy people. That’s not even the focus of the video – the focus is bullet time!

The technique had been popularised by The Matrix, released earlier in the year, but bullet time had first been popularised in music videos, including Michel Gondry’s quite good vid for the Rolling Stones’ 1995 cover of “Like a Rolling Stone”.

The bullet time in “Not Empty” is a little clunky – the shape of the camera perimeter is apparent and makes it feel like a very obvious attempt at a gimmicky effect, rather than something that adds to the story. Is the viewer supposed to feel more sympathy for a man who knocks the mouse off his desk if we see it in 360 degrees?

The video ends with one of the workers jumping off the roof onto Vulcan Lane below. But don’t worry – he’s ok. He survives the fall and – in possibly some Groundhog Day-like cruelty – he gets up, unharmed. It’s much easier to just hand in your resignation.

Update: Commenter Dan reveals the bullet time was faked by getting the actors to stay very still, moving the camera around then speeding up the footage. So that’s why it looks clunky!

Bonus: And here’s a clip of the band performing the song live on Ground Zero.

Best bit: the olden days of massive CRT monitors.

Director: Paul Swadel, Marc Swadel
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next…. brains, and lack thereof.

Missing videos from 1999

February 1999

Bailter Space “So Am I”

“So Am I” was Bailter Space’s final NZOA-funded video from the ’90s. They took a break and showed up again in 2012.

Cabbage Bomber “You’re a Sun”

Cabbage Bomber included Mark Petersen who had previously replaced Andrew Brough in Straitjacket Fits. Their first single was “You’re A Sun”, extravagantly described by Kiwihits as “an unashamedly melodic slice of guitar pop, laden with hooks and harmonies.”

Director: Marc Swadel
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

D-Faction “Take a Little Piece”

After having all their videos online, it’s sad that D-Faction’s final video, “Take a Little Piece” isn’t around. YouTube uploader slydogmania notes the group “disbanded in late 1997 before this final single was ever released”

Head Like a Hole “Hot Sexy Lusty”

Head Like A Hole have “Hot Sexy Lusty”, another single from their sex album, Are You Gonna Kiss It Or Shoot It? Guys, in googling for this video, I saw things I wish I hadn’t seen.

Mika “Angel”

Mika, last seen in Jan Hellriegel’s “Geraldine” video, has his own single “Taniwha Angel”. Here’s a live performance.

Director: Kerry Brown
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

April 1999

Brett Sawyer “When It Happens”

Brett Sawyer has the song “When It Happens”. I’m most interested to discover that he and Pearl Runga sang New Zealand’s official millennium anthem, “I’ll Meet You There”, written by sister Bic and James Hall.

Director: Jonathan King
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Delta “Slather”

Delta! “Slather”! I saw them play a few times and I happily bought the “Slather” single. It was a fun burst of pop that should at least have enjoyed one-hit wonder success. But anyway, here’s Delta performing the song at a 2010 reunion show. Nice one.

Director: Garth Maxwell
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Ma-V-Elle “Angel”

Girl group Ma-V-Elle had lost a member (but weren’t renamed V-Elle). “Angel” was the first single from their new album as a duo. Here’s a Tangata Pasifika profile of the group enjoying their early days of success.

Strong Islanders “Shining On”

Kiwihits notes that Jonah Lomu’s cousin is in “Strong Islanders”. Their song “Shining On” is ok, but their main MC has a somewhat lacklustre delivery.

Director: Joe Lonie
Nga Taonga Sound & Vision

June 1999

Ardijah “Do To You”

There’s no shortage of Ardijah videos from the ’80s, but the ’90s are AWOL, including “Do To You”.

Nga Taonga Sound & Vision

Ma-V-Elle “Never Say Goodbye”

Ominous foreshadowing! “Never Say Goodbye” was Ma-V-Elle’s penultimate funded video.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Trip To The Moon “Sexual Healing”

The final NZOA-funded video for Trip to the Moon is their cover of “Sexual Healing”, a duet by Bobbylon and the ethereally voiced Rachel Weatherly. NZ Herald reviewer Russell Baillie dramatically described it as having “all the charm of a lavish STD-treatment jingle”.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

August 1999

3 The Hard Way “Front Back Side”

Well, I dunno. This song is on the list of videos that were completed, but I can’t find any sign of a 3 The Hard Way single called “Front Back Side”, or indeed any releases from this time. But there might have been some shuffling – there’s a 3 The Hard Way video for their 2004 single “Girls”. It’s set in the same sexy club world as “It’s On (Move to This”), only it’s so much cheesier.

Bike “Gaze”

Bike’s final NZOA-funded single is “Gaze”, which also appeared on the “Scarfies” soundtrack.

Brett Sawyer “Where We Wanna Be”

“Where We Wanna Be” is Brett Sawyer’s ode to his partner for sticking out a decade in Britain with him.

Delta “The Baddest”

Delta’s second single was “The Baddest”. It’s ok, but it’s not “Slather”. Here’s a live performance from their 2010 reunion gig.

Fiona McDonald “Wish I Was a Man”

Fiona McDonald gets dirty and grungy with “Wish I Was A Man”.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Moizna “Summer Goodbye”

Moizna’s final NZ On Air-funded video is aptly titled “Summer Goodbye”, a sweet tale of a break-up.

Satellite Spies “Please Never Leave”

Satellite Spies apparently had a song called “Please Never Leave”, but it’s ungooglable.

TrueBliss “Freedom”

TrueBliss’s third single was a cover of the Wham song “Freedom”. I’ve found an 2001 Australian documentary about the “Popstars” phenomena that shows a short clip from “Freedom” at 8:01. It features the group dressed in red, white and blue costumes, performing on stage in front of thousands of screaming fans.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

October 1999

DNE “Be There”

DNE was a “cyber collaboration” between Aly Cook and David Horizon – their name for the now commonplace practice of online collaboration. Their old bio at Amplifier promised a fabulous web experience with “CLUBDNE interactive”, and directed viewers to NZmusic.com to watch their video for “Be There”. Sadly all is but a cyber memory now.

Greg Johnson “Beautiful Storm”

Greg Johnson gets drench in meteorological metaphors with the upbeat “Beautiful Storm”. Nga Taonga describes the video as, “Greg Johnson tours an Asian city and sings “Beautiful Storm” to camera as the surroundings move rapidly around him.”

Director: Bernadine Lim
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Ma-V-Elle “Don’t Be So Shy”

Ma-V-Elle have “Don’t Be So Shy”, described by the Kiwi Hit Disk as a “cool slice of original, soulful pop”. It’s the final Ma-V-Elle track funded by NZOA. The duo was to eventually disband, with Lavina ending up in the Australian Idol final 12 in 2006, among other achievements.

December 1999

Ardijah “Way Around You”

I’m pretty used to Ardijah videos not being online, and indeed “Way Around You” isn’t available.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Breathe “Sick & Tired”

“Sick & Tired” is another track from Breathe’s second album, the one that seemed really big at the time, but has now faded into history.

Fiona McDonald “Bury Me”

Described in a review I found on a vintage website as a “edgy, emotionally charged” song, “Bury Me” is another single from Fiona McDonald.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Garageland “Good Luck”

Garageland have the blusey “Good Luck”, another track off their second album “Do What You Want”.

The D4 “Come On!”

Another early track from The D4. “Come On!” is an typical piece of energetic rock. Here’s a fan video, setting the song to clips of rally cars sliding around corners.

Director: Alex Johnson
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

The Exponents “Big World Out Your Window”

“Big World Out Your Window” was the final Exponents track funded by NZOA. It was a single off their 1999 album “Hello, Love You, Goodbye”, a half-studio, half-live collection. There’s no sign of the “Window” vid, but I do know it was filmed on Mt Eden.

Director: Andrew Moore

Instead…

Here’s a video from the world of non-NZOA funding. Director Marc Swadel made the “Crystal Chain” video for Flying Nun group The Subliminals for “300 bucks and one re-used 100 foot reel of 16mm film”. As a NZ On Screen commenter notes, 100ft of film is only two minutes, 45 seconds. The solution? “A lot of repeats, keying over footage with footage, and other lo fi tricks”. It’s a moody delight.

Director: Marc Swadel
Nga Taonga Sound & Vision

Slim “Bullet in my Hand”

1998-slim-bullet-in-my-handShihad’s labelmates Slim came from the remains of Pumpkinhead. “Bullet in my Hand” is a satisfactory short and punky tune that looks to have been directed by guitarist/singer Aaron Hogg.

It’s obviously a low-budget job. Most of the video is static shots of the band playing in a bare studio, almost as if they set up the camera on a tripod, hit record and went for it. The shots aren’t always framed with much artistry. A lot of the video involves the lead singer’s head right up close to the camera. That’s fine, but some contrast would be good.

The unremarkable studio footage is spiced up a little with digital graphic flashing in quick succession. It’s a reminder that effects like this were becoming cheaper and more accessible.

And things get even more exciting when the lights go out, Aaron loses his shirt and the video becomes a rapid kaleidoscope of darkness, colour, skin and scowls. These bits are more effective than the main studio shots, but for a DIY effort without a major label behind them, it’s not a bad effort.

Best bit: the power leap, an injection of rock showmanship.

Director: Marc Swadel
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… feelin’ it on the road.

Head Like A Hole “Juicy Lucy”

1998-hlah-juicy-lucyHead Like A Hole: The Porno Years continues with “Juicy Lucy”. I think this song is about delicious fruit smoothies, or something.

Taking a break from the leather ‘n’ latex fetish world of their previous video, the HLAH boys head to the country, where an old barn is their base for this video. They’re also dressed in business suits, which makes the video feel like something produced on a team-building away day.

The band all come across like they’re very pleased with themselves for having made a hilarious video in a barn. But it lacks the charm of older videos, feeling like they’re going through an awkward transition from their younger rapscallion selves to more a grown-up version.

Just to keep the slightly unusual style going, a dalmatian wanders around, and we see a 30 km/h road sign and a marching band glockenspiel. There’s a bit of Beatles/Monkees-esque malarky, which makes me wonder how much cooler the video could have been if they’d moved even further from the sexy lyrics and just made an all-out mental-as video.

Best bit: the cool dalmatian and his canine friend.

Director: Marc Swadel
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… unhappy holiday.

Trillion & Duff “Doin’ It On My Shadow”

1998-trillion-doing-it-on-my-shadowTrillion is back and this time Jody Lloyd has teamed up with frequent collaborator Mark Duff. The pair find themselves in the sticky hot Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur. “Nice budget though haha”, says a YouTube commenter, and indeed it’s a nice little mystery how the duo came to make their video in KL.

The video, directed by Marc Swadel, sees the lads being cool around a Sunway Lagoon, an expansive amusement park. It’s almost like a parody of all these Tarantino wannabe videos. Here are two guys in sharp suits hanging out at a fun family water park, posing for pics with tourists, enjoying the thrill rides. They even manage some music video sexface (Duff is the pro at this).

But just when all the amusement park fun gets a little too much fun, night falls and the action moves to “Duff’s secret underground disco bunker”, where a foam rave is in progress. We’re treated to shots of happy, smiling people getting their foam rave on, a reminder of a particularly malodorous part of the ’90s.

It’s a really fun, crazy video. And weirdly enough, it actually sells KL as a tourist destination. I want to go there and hang out at a water park. But I’ll skip the foam rave.

Best bit: the foam ravers looking like teachers on holiday.

Note: There’s an alternate version of the video that has Trillion’s rap turned into an instrumental break, with an earlier part of the video playing again to take the place of the rap performance.

Director: Marc Swadel
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… put your dog collar on.