Windswept beachiness, urban Balkan, Christchurch in the before time, racial unity, straight down, a ’90s fashion parade, tattoos, Auckland cool, velvet painting, getting seductive, and a bad lip sync. Continue reading Found videos from the 1990s
“Guess Who’s Here” asks Alphrisk. The answer is Alphrisk. He’s joined by fellow Deceptikon Savage, and notes that the “Deceptikonz are going places”. There’s a live performance of the song on the short-lived New Zealand version of Top of the Pops.
Bennett “Stop Holding Us Back”
Bennett’s second and final funded video is the assertive “Stop Holding Us Back”.
The weirdest entry in the old NZ On Air database was funding for a Blindspott song called “Trevor Sue Me”. No song (or video) with this name exists, so I assume it’s a placeholder title. That raises the question: who was Trevor and how did he earn the ire of Blindspott?
Michael Murphy “How Good Does It Feel”
I’m not sure if a video was made for NZ Idol runner-up Michael Murphy’s second single “How Good Does It Feel”, but it’s on the list. If so, it was his one and only funded video. This seems like such a luxury – a reality show contestant being allowed to release an album full of original songs. Murph’s post-Idol solo career didn’t have a future, but he will later show up with his band 5star Fallout. (Bonus: long-term readers of my online oeuvre may wish to think back to #sodamncontroversial and laugh and laugh and laugh.)
Sommerset has the dramatically titled “Magdalene (Love Like a Holocaust)”, which sounds like the aftermath of a bad break-up. It was the final of Sommerset’s five funded videos.
The New Trends were a high school duo from Taradale. They were finalists in the 2004 Rockquest, the same year Incursa won and Kimbra was the runner-up. But they had their most success with the song “Five Minutes with You”, which placed second at the Play It Strange songwriting awards in 2004, including a performance of the song by Michael Murphy.
The consolation video for this month is a charity single. “Anchor Me”, the Mutton Birds’ nautical love song, was recorded by an all-star line-up to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the sole act of international terrorism in New Zealand.
“What You Owe” was the third single by Rockquest winners The Have. The group were one of five New Zealand acts to perform at South by Southwest in 2004, with “What You Owe” being included in a best of SXSW CD included with UK music industry publication Music Week.
Director: Adam Jones
Falter “Fear Of Heights”
Christchurch punk-pop band Falter, the 2003 Rockquest winners, have their second single “Fear of Heights”. The single was recorded at York Street Studios as part of their Rockquest prize package.
The saga of the missing video for Crumb’s song “Got It All” has the best story. Basically, the band had agreed to work with a director who was planning an ambitious semi-animated video. It involved something like the lead singer performing at a gig, seeing a mysterious girl who zaps him and he’s sucked into a cartoon world. The production was all going well until the band saw the finished product. It was terrible. No one was happy. The label refused to pay and the video never saw the light of day. No known copy of it exists, just some raw footage and a few stills. One can only hope that some day “Got It All” will surface in all its glory.
“Case” is the final video from Dimmer’s second album “You’ve Got to Hear the Music”. It’s one of those great Dimmer tracks that sounds like the soundtrack to the best/worst weekend. The video used to be hosted at Amplifier and a lone screenshot is all that remains.
The Heavy Jones Trio song “Free” was their second funded video and the first single off their debut album. Director Ivan Slavov vaguely but intriguingly noted that the band “gave us freedom of expression which lets us do our job.”
“Homeland” was the follow-up single from No Artificial Flavours, but also their final NZ On Air funded video – though I’m not actually sure if a video was made. There was talk of an album, but that doesn’t seem to have happened. But I found a 2009 profile of frontman Taaz where there’s mention of new music.
Salisha Taylor “I Saw An Angel”
Young singer Salisha Taylor had her debut single “I Saw An Angel”. There’s little trace of her online, but I found a post on the soc.culture.new-zealand newsgroup where an enthusiastic member of her team described her as “a real diva but she still replies to all her fan mail.” This prompted someone to cruelly reply: “It’s good to see New Zealand music in the international spotlight. It’s a shame its shit New Zealand music.”
48May had funding for their song “Spinning Around”. There’s no sign of the video, but instead here’s “Into the Sun”. It seems to have been made around the same time and includes outtakes from “Home By 2”, as well as ever reliable live footage.
Red Drum “Resurrect Jim”
Red Drum was a rock band fronted by Garageland frontman Jeremy Eade and “Resurrect Jim” was their funded song. A 2003 blog from Arch Hill Recordings mentions the production of a Red Drum song called “No Cross in the Crossroads”, but there’s no sign of that either.
This month’s consolation video is Steriogram’s lively “Walkie Talkie Man”, directed by the perpetually creative French director Michel Gondry, far removed from the world of NZOA. By the mid 2000s Monsieur Gondry was well established as one of the cool-dude video directors, so he was the go-to guy for Capitol Records when they needed an impressive music video to attempt to launch Steriogram in America. The stop-motion-animated woolly world was created by production designer Lauri Faggioni and her team of knitters. (This is also a good enough place to link to Gondry’s enigmatic video for “Sugar Water” by Cibo Matto, one of my favourite videos ever.) Seeing a big budget video like this makes all the New Zealand videos set on beaches seem like roughly made home movies (and in some cases that’s just what they were). Sometimes it’s just nice to revel in the world of the fancy international music video in all its glory. (Director: Michel Gondry; Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)
Hey, this is the halfway point!
In almost three years, I’ve reviewed 777 videos, which is quite a lot, really. There are also 350 videos that aren’t currently available online (like the ones above), though there are definitely more videos available from the mid 2000s than there were from the early ’90s. And 57 previously awol videos have since turned up online, which is splendid. I just need to get around to catching up with those ones.
When I started 5000 Ways, I didn’t have a specific end date in mind, but I realised that I don’t want to do it forever (oh God). So I’ve decided that a good enough end goal is June 2011, the final funding round of $5000 grants before that was replaced with the current Making Tracks scheme. I’ve roughly calculated how long it’s going to take to complete it and I will reveal this: it’s going to take a bit longer than three years. It’s ok. It’s not like I have anything better to do.
The one thing this project has done is completely kill the joy of nostalgia for me. When I look at a video from the olden times, it’s like I’m seeing it how I saw it back then. And when I’m not watching old music videos, I only listen to contemporary music. Anything older than five years just makes me feel depressed. Yay.
Anyway. This is still loads of fun. Most videos are a pleasure to watch and there’s a lot of good stuff out there. The only ones I have trouble with are ones that are just really boring – because no one deliberately sets out to make a boring video. But at least now when I come across a difficult video, I can at least console myself that I’m over the hump.
Ok, on we go. Here’s a video right from the beginning, “The Beautiful Things” by the Front Lawn one of the first three to be funded.
Strawpeople return with the first single off their last album, Count Backwards From 10. This time the song’s vocals are provided by Pearl Runga, whose sister already did guest vocals back in 1999.
Like a lot of Strawpeople videos, this one doesn’t show the musical artists involved. Instead the video features an audition, but being a Strawpeople video, it’s unusual and stylish. It’s directed by Joe Lonie, moving well away from the visual larks of his earlier work.
A number of young model/actresses are each standing in front of a camera. Their first task – to write their name on a piece of cardboard and hold it up to the camera. So, hello to Jessica, Nicola, Andrea, Amelia, Rachael, Jennifer and Polly. As they stand in front of the camera, they lip-sync the song lyrics. (It’s funny to hear the old technology used to illustrate a busy life – “I’ve got my radio on but it don’t drown the fax machine.”)
Next, they appear to have been asked to remove their clothes, stripping down to just their underwear – and they’re all wearing strapless bras. They all look a bit annoyed. Yeah, someone’s agent is getting a phone call.
The strange audition continues, with the women all required to put on a strapless crimson dress, put their hair up in a bun, secured with chopsticks (or if they’re blonde, wear a dark wig in that style), wear some pearl earrings and particular eye makeup.
Even though they’re all identically dressed, they’re still not clones. The individual personalities of the auditionees stand out. Some are smily, some serious, some flirty, some bored looking. Finally, they all hold up their name signs again. Who to pick? They’re all so different. Oh, let’s just use them all.
The Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision describes this video as “Elaborate split screens video monitors”, which isn’t quite accurate. It’s a collection of eight boxes that play footage. To me it looks more like a digital composite rather than eight actual video monitors (and flat screen technology wasn’t that advance back then).
The video is directed by Mark Tierney and Paul Casserly, and it was a style that both would later use in videos they directed for other artists – Casserly for Greg Johnson’s “If I Swagger” and Tierney for Jan Hellriegel’s “Pure Pleasure”. And Matt Palmer used a similar style in his 1994 video for Maree Sheehan’s “Kia Tu Mahua”.
But the “Crying” video throws in an extra element. One of the boxes features Fiona McDonald singing the song straight to the camera and it’s almost totally unedited. Just a few flash cuts along the way.
The other boxes show scenes of urban Auckland. The tank farm features, back in the days when the tanks had utilitarian numbers painted on them, rather than poetic murals. Numbers feature a lot, with mysterious dates flickering across the screen and appearing on a television set in an empty room. There’s also a young women who walks around taking photos, and generally looks cool with her matt lipstick.
I like this video. I like that it’s a bit mysterious and doesn’t try to explain everything. A bit like that song.
Wikipedia lists 20 artists who’ve covered “Under the Milky Way”. But you know who got their first? Strawpeople, that’s who. Go, New Zealand!
Their version take away the ’80s post-punk sound of the original and gives it some smooth ’90s dance sounds. The video sticks with this vibe, making a sophisticated experience.
Stephanie Tauevihi is the star of the video, in an elegant black suit, big hair and bold make-up. When we see the other Strawpeople – Mark Tierney and Paul Casserly – they’re both playing guitars. This doesn’t normally happen in Strawpeople vids – they tend to lurk in the background, looking all mysterious. Here it’s like, oh, they’re just musicians. How disappointing.
But there’s plenty of oddness to make up for it. We see scenes of a nerdy woman hunched over a typewriter (like what I am doing *right now*, only with a laptop), a reprise of those fabulous Ioasa cheekbones, and a small boy with a globe of the world.
A lot of the footage is out of focus, as if we’re not quite allowed to see everything that’s going on. The rapidly panning camera isn’t going to show us everything. It feels like being a casual observer, with only a connection to Stephanie. Everything else that’s happening doesn’t quite concern us.
Strawpeople videos intrigue me. They simultaneously manage to seem very superficial and shallow, and yet also genuinely deep and meaningful. And I reckon that’s a perfect match for their music.
Best bit: the astronaut hugs nerd girl. Baby, he’ll take u 2 the milky way.
Bic Runga does vocal duties on this cover of the Cars’ bleakest song. It’s the highest charting Strawpeople song, reaching number 7, but yet I don’t think it’s held up as well as the original.
Perhaps it’s just down to music trends. The moody synths in the Cars’ version are right back in fashion, whereas the drum and bass styles of the Strawpeople’s version sound like an awkward trend from the late ’90s. Perhaps in another 10 years, this version will sound just fine.
The video is computer animated and its quality is a sign of how advanced CGI had become in the late ’90s. Sure, the lip-sync isn’t precise, but it’s better than the pixelly comedy worlds of earlier videos.
Bic is represented as a blue chanteuse performing in a bar with an insect band. Disappointingly, the insect DJ does not take advantage of his many legs and just uses two for his turntable work. Bic has a far off look in her eyes, as if she’s seen too much.
Hey, we’re in New York City, cruising on the Hudson River, past the Statue of Liberty (yay!) past the World Trade Centre (oh…). Combined with the bleak tone of the song, the appearance of the WTC – only two years from its end – takes on a somewhat tragic tone.
The trio also put in an appearance at Grand Central Station, with the sped-up commuters bustling behind them. There’s a sense that the gravity of the song has created a bubble around the trio, making them immune to the outside world. All that matters is this seriousness.