“Too Hard” was the first single off Tadpole’s third and final album. It’s a lot more upbeat than the gloomier tracks that were coming off second album The Medusa. This time around, Tadpole seem to be influenced by the rock ‘n’ roll revival that was a thing in the early 2000s. But the crunchier guitar sound is an odd match for Renee’s jazzy pop vocal style and over all it sounds like a band that’s lost its way.
The Wikipedia article for the self-titled third album tragically notes that “The album’s launch party in Auckland was also the band’s final ever performance.” The NZOA database has funding for two further videos, but I haven’t been able to find them online. So in a way, “Too Hard” marks the end of Tadpole’s video life. Their videography from the late ’90s and early ’00s was strong and they seem like just the sort of world-famous-in-New-Zealand group that would be a perfect match for NZ On Air funding.
So, what does Tadpole’s video swansong look like? A drag race. It’s a Ford versus Holden race, which I believe has some sort of cultural significance within the bogan/petrolhead community.
When they’re not in the cars, we see Tadpole rocking out on a stage near the race scene, both at daytime and night. As has happened in some previous Tadpole videos, “Too Hard” is largely focused on Renee, looking super cool in rockabilly styles with new dark hair.
The band’s previous few videos from 2001 were all based on fantasy worlds, so it’s really refreshing to see Tadpole get back to their rockier side. Renee is full of energy and seems to have unleashed years of pent-up rock power in that one video.
It feels like a good place for the Tadpole story to end. They didn’t quite go out when they were on top, but as a rockstravagant drag race is a good enough finale.
Best bit: Renee’s sneering drag-race face to the other car’s driver.
“I like the girly things, I like to feel pretty” sings Renee, in this rage against stereotypes. With the last few Tadpole videos having been for pretty sedate songs, it’s nice to experience Tadpole embracing their rockier side. But because of the subject matter, this song feels like a bit of pastiche. The band being as rock-rock-rock as they can be to show that while Renee might be a bit of a nana who likes an early night, the band can still rock out when required.
So the video follows this path, showing the band at a live gig. It’s all looking pretty grunty, and Renee swaggers about the stage like a boss. But if you look close, she has these funny little white mesh puffy things atop her black singlet, which seems like something out of Astar’s craft segment on Good Morning.
This rockstravaganza progresses for about two-thirds of the video. But then suddenly things get very interesting. The band jumps on a plane and flies to East Timor to provide entertainment for New Zealand defence force personnel stationed there.
There’s a bit of footage of island life, a welcoming haka by the troops and the chance to hang out with some tanks. Then the band hit the stage. There are no fairy wings this time. Renee is sensibly dressed in a singlet and cargo pants.
All the East Timor footage is a million times more interesting than the generic Tadpole concert footage at the beginning. I’d much rather the video had taken spent more time there, rather than tacking it on the end like a postscript.
Best bit: the travel map, tracking the band’s north-western journey.
There’s also only one video missing from April, Che Fu’s uplifting number “Top Floor”. As it happens, I wrote a summary of this video in 2002. It sounds amazing:
Che Fu and his posse are hanging out on the front porch of a large wooden lodge. A young lady hands out pieces of chocolate cake and MC OJ and the Rhythm Slave pass out cups of instant coffee. With a very laid-back vibe, Che Fu spends most of the video sitting in a rocking chair, knitting. But just in case you think he’s turning into an old gran, in the middle of a song he turns into a robot and does a rap. But then it’s back to the porch. At the end of the song he’s finished knitting. He admires the, er, long red thing he’s made, tosses the ball of wool up in the air and it magically transforms into a snow ball and then Che’s snowboarding off into the sunset.
Along came the Fast Crew, which included Kid Deft who later reverted to his maiden name, Dane Rumble. “Mr Radio” was their debut single, a rant about the difficulty of getting play-listed – something that would soon cease to be a problem for the Crew. The single reached #15 on the Independent NZ chart.
Christchurch band Fuce have their final NZOA-funded video “Restless”. The group had plans to relocate to Auckland in 2003, but I don’t know what (if anything) happened next.
In 2002 I wrote this about the “Restless” video: This video uses two visual clichés, one old, one getting old. The first is where the camera jerks about as if it’s trying to find something to focus on. The second is when the camera moves as if the power of the music is making the camera shake. Yeah, it’s a low-budget NzonAir video, but it’s looking ok. It just could have looked better if it had just shown the band playing the song, instead of all the dumb camera tricks.
Lavina Williams featuring Emily Williams “Higher Lovin'”
Ex-Ma-V-Elle singer Lavina Williams teams up with her younger sister (and future Australian Idol star) Emily for the soul jam “Higher Lovin'”. Their sisterly harmonies sound fabulous.
Crystal Fitisemanu “Sunny Summer’s Day”
I’m not sure if the video for Crystal Fitisemanu’s song “Sunny Summer’s Day” was made. There’s no mention of it online, but there is a brief mention of a $3000 grant in 2001 from Creative New Zealand for Crystal to record five songs.
P-Money featuring 4 Corners “The Xpedition”
“The Xpedition” is another track from P-Money’s debut album, this time featuring 4 Corners on vocals.
This month’s consolation video is “Verbally Decapitating” by DJ Logikal. It was the winner of a competition that TVNZ’s after-hours music show M2 held, with the prize being a $10,000 fancy music video made for the winning track. This is a throw-back to how things were in the days before NZOA, where TVNZ (and its predecessors) made music videos for bands. Though in this case, it was a heavily promoted contest with an alcohol sponsor. The video – which is a really is a proper fancy video – sees DJ Logikal infecting downtown Auckland with his scratched-up beats, and it features pre-development Britomart for some gritty urban decay. It visually name-checks P-Money, and incorporates the song’s samples by having people on the street lip-syncing the words. The video rightly won Best Editor for James Anderson at the 2003 Kodak Music Clip Awards.
How did Tadpole end up making such bleak videos? Their earlier ones were lively, cool works that showcased the band’s pop-rock talents. But it seems that in later years the band got very very serious, like a teenager dying their hair black.
Yet “Nothing New” is a very stylish video, with Renee dressed as an ice princess of sorts, queen of a winter wonderland, elaborately decorated with flamingos, a bird not usually found in cold climates.
The rest of the band is arranged behind her – guitarist to the left, bassist to the right, drummer directly behind her. And here’s the thing – they barely move. All the band members stand as still as possible, moving only for the slightly effort required to play their instrument or sing. The contrast is noticeable in the chorus where it’s clearly audible that the band are rocking real hard as, yet they’re only shown doing their little twitching movements.
It results in a tension. The song is about a relationship breakdown and the video does help portray that stress, so good on the video makers for achieving that.
But there’s another part of me that is annoyed with the video. “Nothing New” is a good single, but the video shuts down a lot of the energy the song has. The visuals manage to suppress the wilder rock side and make it feel like a ballad. And, ok, Renee looks fabulous dressed as the ice queen, but I remember when she used to jump around a lot. I want Tadpole to party like it’s 1999.
Best bit: the bass player’s flick of the head, the one concession to the lure of the rhythm.
“Condition Chronic” was the third single from Tadpole’s second album, an ode to the pain of unrequited love. The video is directed by Wade Shotter, and like his earlier Tadpole video “Better Days”, this one is also based on animation, but the band make a real-life appearance too.
The video is set in a stylish snow-covered forest. Renee is alone in this forest, with a fur stole to keep her warm in the chilly environment. (Though evidently not cold enough to warrant covering her shoulders.) Beneath her wintry wrap, her heart is full of love.
Through the forest we also find Tadpole rocking out. They’re shot in silhouette, black shapes against an orange sky. It’s all about the hair, with dreadlocks, spikes and a mighty clip-on ponytail all getting a workout against the fuzzy sunset.
Nothing much happens in the video. The big climax involves Renee’s heart animation getting pierced with an arrow and bleeding because love hurts. Otherwise it’s a slow, moody video that works with the tone of the song.
The song is ok but doesn’t seem like a good choice for a single, particularly when the frequently repeated chorus lyric “I’m enamoured of you” always sounds like “I’m a man with a view”.
“Better Days” was the final video of the seven songs released off “The Buddhafinger”. Tadpole’s previous videos have all had their own style and “Better Days” continues that with the Wade Shotter-directed video being done in anime style.
We meet the band in their Japanese-style animated form being taunted by their nemesis, a thuggish, green-skinned chap. Like the Power Rangers, Tadpole are colour-coded in red, blue, yellow and Renee in pink. They also come complete with their own collector cards.
The four friends are determined to slay the golly green giant, each blasting him with powers derived from their musical talents. Even Renee’s supersonic scream has no effect. And the group’s little frog friend just ends up getting splattered.
So what can slay their emerald enemy? Why, the buddhafinger, of course. The figure from the album cover smiles benevolently, granting them powers. And with one touch, the green guy becomes mushy peas.
It’s really good to see an animated video that’s got it right. Animation is time-consuming and takes a lot of thought and planning to get right. Other animated music videos haven’t been so successful. Having said that, I can’t help feel that the song would have been better served by a live-action video, but the crazy world of “Better Days” works well enough.
Tadpole’s sixth NZ On Air funded video is a short rant against the scourge of “manufactured” bands. It seems a bit like barking up the wrong tree. New Zealand never had all that many manufactured groups, and the ones that were around didn’t exactly enjoy long, successful careers. TrueBliss – who also had a single called “Number One” – were over and done within a year of forming. It seems a little like punching down – here’s this successful rock band dissing struggling manufactured pop groups.
And indeed the “Number 1” video captures Tadpole at the top of their game. They’re performing on the main stage at the Big Day Out. Like Shihad’s “Bitter” video, the video uses editing tricks to disguise the fact that it was shot at a music festival and not their headline stadium gig. The stage is never shown in a wide shot and shots and the footage has been given a washed-out filter, all helping to masking the Big Day Out branding and town down the festival colour.
Lead singer Renee is wearing the most remarkable outfit. It’s a halterneck top with tight trousers that erupt in massive flares. It’s the sort of thing that would have last been seen on “Ready To Roll” in the 1970s, but the 2000s were the decade of bling and Renee wears those crazy bellbottoms with attitude.
It makes me realise that the early 2000s have refreshingly seen videos get a bit more showbiz. The keeping-it-real days of grunge are fading fast and bands aren’t afraid to give ’em the old razzle-dazzle. Of course, being New Zealand it’s toned down, still trying to keep it real.
It’s a nice day in the suburbs and a young man prepares to go for a jog. He cues up some tunes on his Sony CD Walkman, straightens up his Dickies hoodie and starts the stopwatch on his Casio G-Shock. That’s three brands in 25 seconds. I don’t think I’ve seen this much product placement in a New Zealand music video before.
But anyway, the dude starts off running (in slow motion) and – whoa! – he’s on fire. As he jogs, fiery flames dance on his back. Down at the Westmere shops, bystanders gaze at this remarkable sight, and indeed he is rather the centre of attention wherever he goes.
“No Man” seems like a quiet moment in the massive run of videos from Tadpole’s hugely successful “Buddhafinger” album. The song is serious and dramatic and the video reflects this with its subdued colour palette and slow movement.
The camera freezes on some of the bystanders (young men and – oddly enough – one old lady), digitally zooming into their faces. The footage pixelates a little (and I keep expecting a crime drama “video expert” to shout “Enhance! Enhance!”).
The flaming jogger continues his exercise as Tadpole sing their cautionary tale of getting your priorities straight. At the video’s end, we revisit the zoomed-in shots of the bystanders, zooming out to reveal – gasp! – they’re also on fire! Let’s hope these folks are also rewarded with a G-Shock and a Discman for their troubles.
Best bit: The sign advertising fresh boiled beef, on sale at the Westmere butcher.