Tadpole “Too Hard”

2004-tadpole-too-hard“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.

The drag race isn’t especially thrilling. It’s like those car ads that feature a disclaimer saying that the ad was “filmed on a closed road under controlled conditions”. Except the “Too Hard” race is so uneventful that it makes the sight of an Audi snaking around scenic Otago roads seem as thrilling as the drag race from Grease and/or the chariot race from Ben Hur.

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.

Director: Tim Groenendaal
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a homecoming.

Brooke Fraser “Arithmetic”

2004-brooke-fraser-arithmeticIt’s curtain up on a stage, revealing a grand piano, a string quartet and several kilometres of fairy lights strung around the place. All this provides the setting for Brooke Fraser to perform her very sweet ballad “Arithmetic”.

It’s a very pretty, very atmospheric video that perfectly works with the tone of the song. Brooke always looks serene in the golden glow of the fairy lights. Sitting on the piano is a frame photo (her inspiration for the song, perhaps) and a glass of water, which – OMG – the number one rule is no drinks on the piano, ok?

Interestingly the string quartet members are all senior citizens. It’s a bit of a cliche having attractive young orchestral players, all long hair and sensual poise, so it really stands out that the video used a group of grandparents for the video. It gives the song’s message – a declaration of long-term love – a more serious context. It’s not just a young girl declaring she’s sooo in love with her bf. No, it’s the message of someone who sees herself growing old with the love of her life, just like the oldies down the back.

NZ On Screen notes that the video was the “winner of the (satirical) award for “Most use of fairy lights in a video clip” at the 2004 Studio 2 Awards”. And a rightly deserved award.

Best bit: the playing face of the granny on cello – she’s seen it all.

Director: Tim Groenendaal
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… Friday night in town.

Dean Chandler “It’s Not Too Late”

2003-dean-chandler-its-not-too-lateSo, the video starts and there’s Dean Chandler performing the song with his band, set up in a television studio with a cheerful orange background. And then I noticed that Dean and the guys in his band all had the same neatly trimmed beards, the kind that look obsessively overgroomed compared to the wild bushy beards of the ’10s. And then I realised – Dean’s band is Dean. Yes, he’s been cloned.

Of course, it’s all done with digital effects, and it would explain why the band are so spread out – there needs to be room to always get a clean border when splicing together the different parts of the shot.

It seems inspired by the Outkast’s epic and wonderful video for “Hey Ya”, where a band of Andre 3000s entertained a hall of screaming fangirls.

The fake “Hey Ya” band all feel like individual characters, not just Andre in eight different shirts. But “It’s Not Too Late” has the strange effect of a band that doesn’t really interact with each other. After seeing Shihad’s loved-up live performance of “Home Again”, the band of Dean clones look like they all hate each other and are on the verge of breaking up. Dean Chandler is a nice enough singer and songwriter, but he doesn’t have much on-screen charisma. Multiply that by four and it’s still not a lot.

The digital splicing is done really well. There’s just one bit right at the end where the drummer’s head suddenly disappears (don’t worry, boys and girls, it comes back). But a digital trick isn’t enough to make a compelling music video. I just wish there was more to it than “hey, a band of Deans!”.

Best bit: drummer Dean, who is probably the one who gets the girls.

Director: Tim Groenendaal
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision


No Artificial Flavours “Sweet As Bro”

2003-no-artificial-flavours-sweet-as-broNo Artificial Flavours was the next project of MC Taaz, previously of Dam Native. “Sweet As Bro” continues with the social conscience of his earlier group, but this time it’s a bleak buzzkill. Check out the chorus:

The streets that I’m from, they say “Sweet as, bro”
Kids going to school are like, “Sweet as, bro”
Top-notch athletes – “Sweet as, bro”
But in reality I know it’s not sweet as, bro

So, the song’s message is “You think your life is ok? Well, it’s not. It’s shit. Here, let me list all the ways in which your life sucks.” It also sounds a bit like the sort of thing a right-on band would perform as part of a schools tour, followed by a workshop in which students are encouraged to discuss all the ways in which New Zealand society is not “Sweet as, bro”.

But anyway. The video is black and white, with a lot of shots of Taaz wearing a rugby league shirt, walking down a suburban street. With vibe assassin lyrics telling of babies running out of formula, power cuts and being too poor to afford medical care, the video shows people standing around their non-sweet-as neighbourhoods, both in Auckland and rural Northland. There’s also some slow-mo footage of those “top-notch athletes” (i.e., community football) playing a non-sweet-as game.

Along comes the song’s bridge and it’s singer Cherene on the back of a trailer driving around a suburban shopping centre, which is also not sweet as. She also shows up later doing the same drive at night.

The main problem with this video is that everything actually looks ok. The people (especially kids) look happy, the neighbourhoods look tidy. If the video is trying to convince the viewer that it’s hard out here, it’s not doing a very convincing job. But then, would it work to make the video as much of a buzzkill as the lyrics?

Best bit: the disembodied head of an old man, poking up out of a pool.

Director: Tim Groenendaal
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a circle of mystery.

Katchafire “Getaway”

2003-katchafire-getawayIt took me a while to figure out what was happening in this video. On the surface it just looks like lead singer Logan is going for a walk around some Auckland suburbs, but it’s a little bit more complicated than that.

This top 10 single is all about taking time out from the pressures of life, even if it’s just the desire and fantasy of taking a break to a “special place”, rather than actually doing it. So the video treads that line between fantasy and reality with two versions of Logan (one wearing a green sweatshirt, the other a red hoodie) taking a walk. It’s like a version of Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow played by a chilled out dude just going for a walk.

Red Logan sets off from his home and goes to a park where he meets his bandmates for some fish ‘n’ chips and a jam. He takes off his sweatshirt and becomes Green Logan, but Red Logan is still out there, taking a walk past his local dairy. Green Logan leaves his mates and also goes for a walk. So the two Logans are both out there, both walking.

They each pass by a number of landmarks – a bushy hedge, a vintage car, a power pylon – as well as some one-offs like M2 presenter Jane Yee walking a huge dog. Halfway through the video the two pass each other on the street and then go past the landmarks the other has just been near.

Red Logan ends up at the park, where his bandmates don’t seem to notice that their bandmate is mysteriously wearing the hoodie he took off before he went walking. And Green Logan returns home.

I’ve seen this video many times before back in the day, but this was the first time I actually realised it was more than just the guy from Katchafire going for a walk. Discovering the parallel worlds of “Get Away” was a nice surprise.

Best bit: the kids jumping on the trampoline, appearing over the bushy hedge.

Director: Tim Groenendaal
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… big heads.

Dean Chandler “Waiting”

2001-dean-chandler-waitingAfter a previous attempt at the world of music with the duo Before Friday, Dean Chandler went solo and reached 42 in the charts with debut single “Waiting”. He has a light voice, like Robbie Williams on his more playful tracks.

The video was shot in Dean’s hometown of Wellington and we him Dean sitting at a bar. He’s sitting with a beer (label turned away from camera) and has something in front of him that might be a notebook, a fancy cocktail menu or maybe even the lyrics to the song.

Dean spends most of the video sitting at the bar, alone, earnestly singing to the camera. But this is cut with scenes of him walking the rainy city streets, being all moody. There’s no excuse for it, really. In reality, he can take advantage of Wellington’s excellent public transport system and catch a bus to somewhere warm and dry.

He’s shown walking outside the Wakefield Hotel in Maginnity Street. A friend once told me this is the only street in Wellington that doesn’t feel like “Wellington”. You can’t see the hills or the sea from there, and that’s probably why it’s a popular location for film shoots. Most of the other outdoor shots are like this – locations that look cool and urban and aren’t iconic Wellington scenes.

So basically Dean waits at this bar and sings “I’m sick of waiting”. And the “you” of the song never shows up so he leaves, and from there he wanders around in the rain.

It’s a nice, inoffensive song, but the video drags it down and makes it more of a bummer than it needs to be. Like, dude, go and buy that other girl in a bar a drink and stop being such a miserable c-word.

Best bit: the Elvis sneer, a little moment of freedom.

Director: Tim Groenendaal
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… the ice king cometh.