February 2008: Streetwise Scarlet, Ted Brown, The Checks, The Rabble, Young Sid

Bleak and comforting, singing and flirting, a letter to a friend, and a post-apocalyptic ferret.
Continue reading February 2008: Streetwise Scarlet, Ted Brown, The Checks, The Rabble, Young Sid

Mary “Kissing Booth”

1999-mary-kissing-boothWhat’s inside Mary’s kissing booth? Let’s take a look. The video is set at night at a fun fair, with all the romance and intrigue that brings.

The fairground is populated with a number of interesting people. There’s a guy in a cowboy hat, a bearded dude, a fortune teller, an older woman, a candyfloss girl – some of whom are played by members of Mary.

All these people are drawn to the kissing booth. From the outside it looks like a simple tent, but it turns out to have a Tardis-like interior. Inside it’s not just the band playing the song, but a selection of fairground attendees who’ve been drawn to the pash shack.

These people also give spoken testimonies of the kissing booth experience. The older woman gushes, “I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. It was beautiful – just beautiful.” What? It’s just a tent with some smoochy people in it. The older woman is so taken by her kissing booth experience that she goes on a fairground ride and throws up. I hope the booth has some Listerine.

“Kissing Booth” is another fun guitar pop tune from Mary and the video is a perfect match to the song. By the way, if you think this video makes kissing booths looks appealing, here’s a cautionary tale. A couple of years ago some friends of mine had a kissing booth at a party. Everyone who took part in the kissing came down with a bad cold. Be careful out there, ok?

Best bit: one of Mary flirting with herself dressed as a guy.

Director: Matt Palmer
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… mud, mud, glorious mud.

True Bliss “Tonight”

1999-truebliss-tonightTrueBliss is like patient zero of the modern phenomena of reality TV music stars. TrueBliss came from Popstars which begat Australian Popstars, which begat UK Popstars, which begat Popstars: The Rivals (which begat Girls Aloud and it was good), which begat Pop Idol, which begat American Idol, which begat X Factor… and it’s just been announced that New Zealand is getting its own X Factor series in 2013.

The original Popstars was nothing like the slick talent quests we know today. It had a much lower budget, for starters – a church hall instead of the O2 Arena. Popstars was more a fly-on-the-wall doco that didn’t have two of the most vital elements of shows today – no phone vote and no Mr Nasty judge. But it was crazy fun and managed to piss people off, which is always good.

Anyway, the newly formed quintet had to release their first single. “Tonight” was penned by Anthony Ioasa of Grace but it sounds like something taken from the filing cabinet of a middle-aged man: “Tonight’s the night we made love till the eeeeend”. It’s like an older man’s idea of what a young woman should be like. This is New Zealand. We do not “make love”; we root.

The video is better than the song. It sees le Bliss hanging out together in various locations. They’re at a slumber party watching home movies of themselves, hanging out in an edgy urban alleyway, relaxing at the beach, spilling things at a cafe, running around in elegant gowns, and grappling with all sorts of hairdos and make-up, some of which were even in fashion at the time.

But in a way, it doesn’t even matter what goes on in the video. “Tonight” exists as a kitschy document of pre-millennium New Zealand. The possibilities of digital video technology were crossed with the fun yet cynical world of pop and TrueBliss were what happened. They didn’t last long, with Carly leaving in 2000 and the band dissolving soon after. In a way they were a perfect pop group, a great formation story, a couple of hit singles, a tour, and then it’s all over.

Best Worst bit: the awfulness of Joe being excluded from the sexy hula dance.

Director: Matt Palmer
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Watch old episodes of “Popstars”, including an excerpt showing the making of the “Tonight” music video, thanks to NZ On Screen.
And enjoy this vintage 1999 TrueBliss fansite.

Next… just a little reminder.

Mary “Matt”

1999-mary-mattGirl band Mary have “Matt”, an ode to a troubled skater boy. The video feels like it’s had some money put behind it. Shot in both black and white and in colour, the video has lush footage of Auckland after dark, with Matt and his pals skating around an empty car park building. It looks good, but it feels a quite busy, a little too much going on.

We meet Matt (tall, handsome, shaved head, wallet chain; one of those guys) and his lady, a messy blonde skater chick. The video puts the girl on a train which magically manages to seem like a subway carriage, rather than Auckland’s crappy suburban trains of the ’90s. There are a lot of great shots of Auckland streets and urban areas being skated all over.

The girl and Matt seem to have a caring but troubled relationship. “When are you coming out of your hole,” the chorus asks. Matt seems like the kind of dude who’s got a lot going on in his head and while having a girlfriend is nice, other things keep distracting him. There’s a sense that his hoon along K Road isn’t so much skating as fleeing.

But it’s ok. The Mary godmothers are there for him. “Just let us in on your eternal goal,” they implore. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a girl band with sweet harmonies pop up to prod you along in times of trouble?

By the way, the YouTube uploaders wrote this: “we got paid in chocolate for our skating.but hey it was fun!”

Best bit: Matt’s carefree skate along the K Road overbridge.

Director: Matt Palmer
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

MC OJ and Rythmn Slave “Money Worries”

I am so happy that this video is now online. When I started 5000 Ways, “Money Worries” was one of the first missing videos I came across, breaking my heart. Last year the brilliant guys at NZ On Screen asked me for some suggestions of videos and this one was at the top of my list, and at last here it is.

OJ and Slave were very Auckland, and indeed their first video, “Positivity”, was shot around downtown Auckland. [You know what? It wasn’t – it was also shot in Wellington.] So it’s surprising to discover that “Money Worries” was very openly filmed in Wellington.

Much of the video is shot in and around Shed 21, one of the old wharf buildings on Wellington’s waterfront. It’s now been converted into cool loft apartments, but back in 1991 it was still a grotty old warehouse. But with its large stylish windows and brick walls, it was perfect to fill with old cars, dancers and Mikey Havoc in a phone box.

Mr Havoc provides guest vocals on the chorus (“Moneeeeeeeey! Moneeeeeeeeeey!”). He squirms and wriggles in the artfully placed phone box and old cars, suggesting neither are really able to contine his energy.

The video looks amazing. Directed by Matthew Palmer, it makes good use of the natural light, shooting the dancers in silhouette and capturing the physical energy of Otis and Mark.

The boys are also allowed out, with high-speed adventures as they travel around Lambton Quay, The Terrace and Featherston Street. And suddenly the Wellington location makes sense.

This is not the cool Wellington of today. The Absolutely Positively Wellington campaign was in its very early stages. Wellington was still a dull grey town of bureaucrats and businessmen. Here were two young Auckland guys rapping about being poor, surrounded by the high-rise offices of some of the richest and/or most powerful people in New Zealand.

The video takes the ambition of the song and amplifies it. These guys aren’t going to be penniless forever, and when they do get money, it will be on their terms. The old warehouses were soon to become cool apartments, Wellington’s grey reputation was about to be washed away by a vibrant new image, and these two guys were about to make their mark on the world of New Zealand pop culture. Yeah, something like that.

I really like this video. Coming from the first full funding round, it seems exactly the sort of video that the NZ On Air funding was designed to help out with.

Director: Matt Palmer
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Maree Sheehan “Kia Tu Mahea (To Be Free)”

“Kia Tu Mahea” is positive, bilingual HI-NRG dance track, though it’s just hitting the end of this particular musical style’s life in the pop charts.

The video is great – bold, colourful and sometimes split into Mondrianesque segments. Maree is joined by kapa haka performers, children, an African man, dudes in fresh urban threads, and fly girls.

Maree Sheehan always comes across with great confidence in her videos. She’s never taken the traditional video babe route (no rolling around with/in silver spandex for her), but the early ’90s feels like a kinder, gentler time when no one with NZ On Air funding was doing the hard-sell sexy video. At least not yet.

Best bit: Maree and pals in casual shorts, doing casual dancing.

Director: Matt Palmer
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… the bleak, urban wasteland that represents the soul.

Missing videos from 1993

There are 17 videos missing from 1993, including two Hamilton bogan rock classics, early work from guys who’d go on to more success in Stellar and Splitter, and the return of Kiwi rock legend Larry Morris.
Continue reading Missing videos from 1993

Dead Flowers “Plastic”

I wished for a video with crazy stuff in it and my wish was granted. “I’m in love with myself,” Bryan Bell sings, dressed as a vampire. While the video seems to be going for a sexy vampire theme, it comes across more like a flat of goths having a party. They are seen eating cherries and drinking goblets of red wine (or possible Ribena) but it would be more authentic if they were eating real goth party victules such as corn chips and those pre-mixed dips and drinking cider.

There seems to be a minor plot with Vampire Bry being torn between his vampire bride and some other goth chick. But they might be the same person. Those goths, they all look the same.

“Plastic” is a cheerful song, so it’s strange that it’s been paired with fairly serious, sexy visuals. I guess it’s like a teen goth striving to look cool and be sexy, but looking like a dick with too much makeup.

Best bit: meaningful over-the-shoulder goth glances.

Director: Matt Palmer
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… scenic Rangitoto thrills!

JPS Experience “Breathe”

The internets have really come to the party with this one. Not only is the “Breathe” video on YouTube, but there’s also a making-of video. Director Matt Palmer talks about the process of making the film, and admits it was made with only $5000. Not that he’s bragging – the video should stand up on its own.

The video does look cheap, but not terrible. It takes the concept of breathing “cool, cool air” by contrasting an icy cold environment with flaming fire. The coldness looks to be replicated by smoke, rather than using an actual cold environment (Excessive? A few years later another band would do just that.) There’s also a bit of fancy layering of the visuals, but at its heart it’s a really basic music video. In fact, the tightly shot live band combined with the fire visuals remind me of Push Push’s “What My Baby Likes” vid.

But I like that even in 1992 people were taking music videos quite seriously. Oh, and the making-of reminds me of the older New Zealand term for music videos: film clips.

Best bit: white feathers start flying around the band for no apparent season.

Director: Matt Palmer
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… Lady LL Cool J stylez.