Found videos from the 1990s

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

Urban Disturbance “No Flint No Flame”

“No Flint No Flame” was originally released when Urban Disturbance were known as Leaders of Style, but they rebranded after they kept being mistaken for a fashion posse. But along with the change of name came a reworking of their killer track. The LOS version was a goofy, fun song with mean samples, lol drugz, and a great chorus. The Urban Disturbance version keeps only the chorus and gets bigger, fresher and funkier and is a self-assured introduction to this group determined to make an impact.

The video sees the band performing in a studio where every surface (including the DJ’s desk) is draped with a crinkled slate-grey cloth. It’s 1993 and the streetwear of the earlier ’90s has been updated with grungy plaids, making Urban Disturbance look like they’d just wandered in from the Milford Track.

Keeping with the literal meaning of the chorus, a fire breather hangs out in the background, hoicking up some fiery entertainment. The trio are also joined by friends, including Dei Hamo.

There’s also a woman with a dalmatian. She’s waiting for a dreadlocked dude who is late. We see him rushing through downtown Auckland, no doubt aware that the dog is cuter and more loyal. This is the only time we see the urban landscape promised by the band’s name. I’m not sure shutting them away with a fire breather is exactly the best way to introduce this group. But their next video, “Impressions” takes it to the streets.

Despite this, the video doesn’t come across as the debut of a nervous young band. These guys feel like pros, and even though they’re stuck with the dramatically crinkled backdrop, it’s apparent that these guys have the moxy to go further.

Best bit: the Dalmatian, being all spotty and cool.

Director: Craig Jackson
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… summer, autumn, winter and spring.

Unitone Hifi “Sitting by the Phone”

“Sitting by the Phone” was Unitone Hifi getting very very pop. Peter at DubDotDash has the interesting tale behind the song – after Teremoana previously had a song rejected from Deepgrooves due to it being too political, Unitone Hifi teamed up with her and went in totally the other direction.

The video is even more pop, positively revelling in the song’s popfulness. In a bright cartoony world, Teremoana and two pals hang out by a swimming pool. Over behind a wire fence, we also see three dudes hanging out, playing cards – presumedly they are too busy shuffling to phone Teremoana.

Bobbylon busts in with a verse, offering the male perspective (he <3’s her too). MC Just One pops up for a rapped verse, but his argument is less convincing. “I’ll tell you one thing, G, I’ll call when I call,” he raps. Seriously, a guy calling a girl “G” is at least as awful as being called “bro” or “dude”. Instant deal-breaker.

Now, the important thing to remember is that back in 1992, the only people who had cellphones were businesspeople. So when Teremoana sings of sitting by the telephone, she’s talking about the landline in her house. But it is to the video’s credit that there is no phone in the video. Instead Teremoana’s hanging out in the sun, with her friends – not a lovesick shut-in. It’s a sunny, optimistic video – just right for seeing in the summer.

Best bit: the green screen pool, a good use of technology.

Director: Josh Frizzell
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… extraterrestrial.

Al Hunter “I Don’t Wanna Go To Work Today”

Country music singer Al Hunter’s ode to slacking was a single from his 1993 album “The Singer”. He was might not have been as cool as the Warratahs, but his album was critically acclaimed and, they say, should have turned him into a big star. Instead he’s more a cult figure, the discussion subject of many web forums.

We meet a sepiatone Al having his morning shave, going through the motions while his heart is in on holiday in St-Tropez. It appears he works in a dairy factory, which could be problematic if you weren’t really into milk. Then, away from this fantasy world, in colour, Al is performing the song with his band in front of a small crowd. Women with chambray shirts smile and awkwardly sway from side to side. That’s his fanbase.

Other things that Al would rather do instead of working: go for a hoon along the Southern Motorway, fantasise about “some film star in a negligee” (Keanu Reeves?) and get pissed in Paris. Man, if he’s that unhappy, why doesn’t he just quit?

Well, he does. He calls up his boss, gives notice and racks off to the Civic to see a film. Nice one. And the video ends with Al in the cinema watching a film of his favourite thing – playing with his band in front of the enthusiastic crowd.

Best bit: when the milk bottling plant gets jammed, which also serves as a metaphor.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… put your grunge shorts on.

The Mutton Birds “Giant Friend”

With all the missing music videos, it’s nice to find a band whose singles are consistently on YouTube. The Mutton Birds third single is noteworthy for several reasons:

1. Throughout the song, there are guitar chord charts along the bottom of the screen so you can play along at home. It’s very satisfying to watch the chord changes correspond with the song.

2. It contains the first instance of a sexy lady in a NZ On Air music video. At one point we see a woman in a yellow swimsuit tied up bed. But because it’s the Mutton Birds, it’s all subversive and she’s kicking the bed apart.

3. Don is wearing a red military jacket with a blue sash, not unlike what Prince William wore at his wedding.

The sexy lady turns out to be the giant friend, called into action to come and keep a small boy company. They play some games, she impresses him with her ball-crushing ability (a squishy toy ball, that is), and generally keeps him company. The video ends with the boy standing alone, outside. Has Don run off with the giant friend?

Best bit: the Alan vs Don game of Paper Scissors Rock (Alan wins).

Director: Fane Flaws
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… spark it up

Maree Sheehan “Fatally Cool”

Maree Sheehan crouches in the grass in One Tree Hill and, in a low, quiet voice, she raps like Prince Be of PM Dawn in “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss”.

It’s an unusual mix. The video is full of kapahaka performers, and yet the songs is a slow jam that sounds more like a female Aotearoan LL Cool J. Later in the video, we see Maree standing outside an office building and driving across the harbour bridge, both times wearing the same clothes she’s wearing in the One Tree Hill scenes.

So here’s my theory – when we see her in the city and alone on the hill that’s real life. When we see the kapahaka dancers, that’s her fantasy; being in love is so awesome, it feels like being surrounded by a whole troupe of kapahaka performers doing their thing.

Best bit: the finest poi work in a NZ music video since the “Poi E” video.

Director: Josh Frizzell
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… Don pre-empts William’s wedding suit.

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.

Headless Chickens “Juice”

I’d forgotten what videos look like when they’ve got more than the minimum $5000 (or less!) behind them. The vid for “Juice”, Fiona McDonald’s ode to childhood, is a slick black and white job. Fiona sings on a windy shore, clad in jeans and a baggy sweatshirt (as a possible middle finger to haters who reckoned she’s only joined the Chickens as a bit of sex appeal).

This is cut with footage of young girls running around some craggy trees, , playing hopscotch, swinging on a tyre (that’s a childhood 101 signifier), as well as plenty of shots of those dark menacing trees.

That’s what makes this video work. Yeah, it’s a song about childhood but it’s a Headless Chickens song too, so it’s never straightforward. There’s the pleasant reminiscence of childhood, but that’s tempered by the knowledge that childhood will end and the darkness of adulthood will eventually swoop in.

Best bit: near the end, Fiona briefly breaks character and smiles at someone.

Directors: Grant Fell, Bruce Sheridan
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… cool, cool air.

D-Faction “First Cut is the Deepest”

D-Faction are back with a reggae-tinged cover of the PP Arnold/Cat Stevens/Rod Stewart classic. Tony T and Maryanne sing the song against a green screen with images of a family fun day at the beach superimposed behind them. Both singers are grooving as they sing, but combined with the outdoors backgrounds, looks like they’re walking but never getting anywhere.

Maryanne’s also undergone a remarkable makeunder from her funkier days in the “Babe I’m not Original” video. She now seems to be dressing in the style of a modest Christian woman, something not usually seen in pop videos.

I’m quite disappointed with this video. D-Faction have done so much better. Their previous video for “Babe I’m Not Original” wasn’t perfect, but it looked great and had plenty of charm. This one just feels like they’ve given up and couldn’t be bothered making a decent video that had anything to do with the song.

Best bit: the two naughty dogs hanging around the beachside picnic table.

Director: Jonathan King
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… the creepiness of childhood.