Jules Issa “Dangerous Game”

Jules Issa made a moody dance version of “Dangerous Game”, originally by New Zealand reggae band Diatribe. Peter at Dub Dot Dash has a bit about both.

It’s a very stylish music video. Similar to the look of Moana and the Moahunters videos, Jules is elegantly dressed in contemporary Maori fashion. She’s shot in a black studio, dramatically surrounded by carved pou, with subtly changing mood lighting.

In another setting, Jules is accompanied by the dramatic shadow of a man brandishing a taiaha, busting some mau rakau moves. (I’ve said ‘dramatic’ twice already; it’s a very dramatic video). In this setting, Jules is also joined by another warrior and two women who join her in dancing, everyone but Jules is lit in shadows.

So far it seems inspired by the video for Soul II Soul’s 1989 hit “Back to Life”, but we can’t stay cooped up with that groove forever. It’s out onto the streets, where Jules and three cool dudes are casually hanging around the back of a building, behind a chain-link fence – music video shorthand for gritty and urban.

I like what this video has done. In the early ’90s, formation dancing was very popular, and with this being a dance track, it makes sense to have dancing in the video. But rather than go for generic club moves, “Dangerous Game” digs deeper into the themes of the song and uses both traditional and contemporary Maori movement.

Best bit: the urban excursion, getting a bit of fresh air.

Director: William Roberts
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… February 1992: tuck in your t-shirt.

Supergroove “Here Comes the Supergroove”

Let’s kick off New Zealand Music Month with this newly uploaded cultural taonga, thanks to NZ On Air – Supergroove’s very first music video from 1992. As the title suggests, the song is an introduction to the group and the video also acts as a simple primer for this young and energetic group.

The video starts with a sophisticated lady putting a Supergroove CD in her modern compact disc player. So intense is the CD, the player blows up. The lady doesn’t look too concerned.

The smoke clears and we meet the band wearing colourful ’90s clothes. This is how they dressed in their very early days, before their manager took them aside and gave them a bunch of styley monochrome threads. It’s crazy, colourful ’90s garb, and hilariously this sort of stuff is very slowly coming back into fashion. As is the monochrome. Another hallmark of the ’90s is the appearance of a full-screen graphics emphasising select words from the song. FUNK. BEAT. RETREAT. BURNED. HEAT.

The video alternates between this colourful footage of the band in a white studio and grainy footage of the band playing live. It’s like the two natural states of Supergroove – making cool music video and bringing the house down at a gig.

There are fewer of the video tricks that became the hallmark of later Supergroove videos. But there is some back and forth between Karl and Che, shot as black silhouettes against a white background. It’s reminiscent of a similar later bit in the “Can’t Get Enough” video, and – Generation X alert – it was surely inspired by the Electric Company’s silhouette word song.

It takes guts and/or naivety for a bunch of 18-year-olds to burst into the world of music and declare, “We bring the funk”. But Supergroove didn’t do a bad job of following through.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… heavenly creatures.

Missing videos from 1992

There are 22 videos missing from 1992, the most enticing being “Licence to Love” by metal band Scarf who had just come along just as the rawness of grunge was pushing out the extravagance of hair metal.
Continue reading Missing videos from 1992

Dead Flowers “Be Someone”

The last time we saw Dead Flowers, they were flailing their hair about in the last days of hair metal. By now grunge had taken hold, so they had to up their game if they wanted to survive in the ruthless world of popular music.

The “Be Someone” video – the only video available online from this funding round – is shot in grainy, scratchy black and white, and takes place at a sinister “CHEMISTRY LABORATORY”. It looks highly influenced by the videos Nine Inch Nails were making.

The basic plot involves a bothered scientist running around the CHEMISTRY LABORATORY, while the band plays. I’m not sure why the band is playing in the lab, but this seems to greatly torment the scientist, causing him to go mad and then be particlised by a crazy science experiment.

The video keeps a consistent level of manic energy, but it could have done with a few pauses, moments to reflect. Even when the scientist pauses at a locked gate, he still has to madly scramble for his spectacles.

Best bit: the guitar-head-mounded camera capturing the scientist’s neverending torment.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next: old vids for new.

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.

Upper Hutt Posse “Ragga Girl”

Girls of the world, do you love the ragga? Upper Hutt Posse like girls who like the ragga and have gone on a musical mission to inform the world of this.

The video takes part at an impromptu performance by la Posse down a graffiti-covered alley. The MC and his trio of backup singers have attracted a substantial audience of ragga-loving girls. There’s a lot dancing. The ragga girls are really digging it.

The camera work is based around a ton of crash zooms, which gives the video a hand-held, “Breaking the Waves” feel. Take that, Lars von Trier – Upper Hutt Posse did it first.

My favourite part of the song is when Teremoana sings that ragga “make me feel so irie”, except the way she sings it sounds like “make me feel so irate”.

I wish Upper Hutt was really like this. Instead of the half-tenanted mall and lunch bars with white bread sandwiches in plastic compartments, instead you could wander down a dark alleyway and come across a crowd of cheerful, smiling people, getting down to rap group, the world alive with music.

Best bit: the woman wearing a gold flat-top hat with giant black polka dots on it.

Director: Dean Hapeta
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a look back at Pat and his sister’s old group.