Like Push Push, Dead Flowers emerged just at the point when hair metal was being nudged out of the way by grunge. So the hair-flailing video for debut single “Lisa” was their once chance to just get their Salon Selectives all up in the air. It was as if they knew their moment to be mëtal gödz was running out, and a haircut was on the cards.
The video alternates between black and white performance footage (reminiscent of Push Push’s video in both the composition and the follicular action), and cut with black and white silhouettes against a background of flowers. Because that is the band’s name.
By this stage it’s noticeable that music videos are getting slicker. Is it a result of having more cash to spend on videos? Is the video production industry getting cleverer and more creative? Or has there been an moment of collective consciousness where everyone has simultaneously realised that naff green screen doesn’t make anything look better?
Actually, my new challenge is to find a whole funding round where none of the videos have naff green screen. Fingers crossed!
Best bit: the guitarist wearing demin overalls with no shirt, boyband style.
There’s a second “Dominion Road” video, the “UK version”. In it, the Mutton Birds play the song in a empty warehouse, filmed with blue filters, flash editing, random out-of-focusness, and Don McGlashan’s wearing sunglasses. It looks like a mid-’90s attempt at turning The Mutton Birds into an antipodean Oasis.
But thankfully we don’t need to concern ourselves with that video. The one we care about is the earlier version promoting what was their debut single.
The original video alternates between black and white footage of the band performing the song in a stark white studio, and the troubled subject of the song walking around Dominion Road.
Don McGlashan looks like Norman Cook with his short back and sides, possibly going for a cleaner look from his curly days with the Front Lawn. Oh, speaking of which – it’s nice to see Don back after his previous appearance with the very first funding round.
The scenes of a worn down inner Auckland suburb may not have the edge of an empty warehouse, but it’s those shots that give the song its context. This is not a love song, but it’s where This Is Not A Love Shop used to be.
The Dominion Road of 1992 feels different to the Dominion Road of today. It’s less multicultural and didn’t have as many posh bits. You’d probably have to get three-quarters of the way down Dominion Road to have the same effect today.
Best bit: Don’s scared-of-heights acting during the “up 10,000 feet” part.
Inspired by the impact of the conflict from the Croatian War of Independence upon the ordinary people of Croatia, “Isabelle” was Greg Johnson’s attempt at connecting with the country on the other side of the world while he was “stuck on an island”.
The video does a good job of creating a landscape that might be New Zealand or might be Croatia. Though if, as Greg sings, Isabelle comes from the modern metropolis of Zagreb, what’s she doing living in a little Borat-style shack in the woods? And the more we see of the woods, they more they look like New Zealand. Perhaps Greg’s longing is starting to transform downtown Zagreb into a New Zealand national park.
Isabelle is played by Gina From Shortland Street, who wears black and looks mournful because all her people, they are dying. Greg, meanwhile, is wearing a waistcoat with a skivvie (for it is the ’90s) and occasionally pops up with his mandolin to make everything better.
Best bit: Isabelle’s numb reaction to seeing a crashed military vehicle with injured passengers.
The second time around, Maree Sheehan’s video is to be found online. “Dare to be Different”, a sultry dance track on the theme of acceptance, seems to take more than a few cues from Madonna.
There’s Maree in a mansuit, but because it’s the early ’90s she’s wearing it with a peasant blouse (ok, that’s a drink). This is also the first video to bust out some serious dance moves. Sure, Moana had a few in “A E I O U”, but in “Dare to be Different”, Maree is getting down too.
Also in a Madonna style, Maree is seated with two gal pals in a convertible, a la “True Blue”. This is cut with posh ladies at a dinner party and some bros huddled and/or dancing around a fire in a barrel. Homelessness: just because it’s different don’t mean it’s wrong (?)
While the video has a lot of big ideas behind it, there’s one that feels the most dated – the fly girls. As soon as the MC Hammer-style dancers start doing their thing, it feels like the video ought to be given to a ’90s culture exhibition at Te Papa. That is, until this stuff becomes fashionable again, which won’t be long.
Best bit: a woman with a towering beehive chowing down on a banana.
D-Faction were a perfect slice of South Auckland funk. Their specialty was originally funked-up covers, but the chilled-out soul track “Babe I’m Not Original” is actually an original single. While the video can’t resist a tiny bit of green-screenery, it mainly consists of a straight studio performance cut with footage around the Otara markets.
It’s a stark contrast – the smooth studio style cutting to scenes of raw fish, only to have the raw fish footage repeated later in the video. Whoa – there’s a glitch in the matrix.
I’m really happy that YouTube user slydogmania has taken it upon himself to upload heaps of D-Faction videos, including this absolute doozy: D-Faction on the TV3 kids show “Yahoo” in 1990, interviewed by Moana, talking about producing music for Ngaire, and then they perform a cover of “Stuck in the Middle” only two years before Quentin Tarantino was to recontextualise the song beyond redemption.
Best bit: the cool dude little boy hanging out by the rack of rugby league t-shirts.