Emulsifier “Get On Up”

Like Garageland’s later video for “Beelines to Heaven”, Emulsifier have been inspired by old pop TV shows like “C’mon”. But this ain’t no historically accurate costume drama. Rather, it looks like an explosion in an opshop, with clothing and hairstyles from different pop culture styles of the 1960s and 1970s. But then, being New Zealand it is actually possible that all this stuff could have been in vogue one afternoon in the early ’80s.

The video is shot in bright, rich colours with a slightly jerky style. There’s also some green screen magic where the band gyrate in front of insane psychedelic fractel backgrounds. By this stage I’m almost at the point of wanting to embrace this crazy world of “Get On Up”.

And it got me thinking – what was music television like in the 1970s? Well, some of it was really good and edgy, but other stuff was cheesy as. I’d like to send Emulsifier back in time to see what sort of televisual magic they’d could create with the team at Avalon and their smoke machines of drama.

But maybe this digi-psychedelic-opshop style suits the song. It’s a perfectly ordinary piece of early-’90s, Chili Pepper-inspired pop funk, so maybe it works to also have a video that’s trying to be something cool from another era but isn’t quite getting it. It’s not 1974. It’s 1994 and they’re a bunch of young New Zealanders wearing comedy flares and nylon party wigs.

Best bit: the old opshop granny wigs disguised as shaggy cool dos.

Director: Josh Frizzell
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… showdown at high noon.

Bilge Festival “He’s the Mummy”

The “He’s the Mummy” video begins with a shot of a man’s foot being shaved with a straight razor. In one sense it’s a classic “weird” music video shot, but on the other hand, it’s not an uncommon thing to find in a suburban bathroom. See, no one will ever admit this, but if you’re a lady and you don’t want to appear Hobbity in summer sandals, you will shave any rogue hairs off your feet.

But wait – “He’s the Mummy” is just a music video. It’s all about stylish weirdness and it does that well. The video is strongly edited to the beat of the song, with quick rhythmic cuts.

As well as the shaved foot, there are also shots of a rubber-faced man, a naked, undulating male belly, an anonymous pair of thighs, latex gloves, a typewriter and other random accoutrements of weirdness. Oh yeah, and there’s a mummy.

Even though it reminds me of secret lady grooming, “He’s the Mummy” like a video designed more to dance to rather than to shift units. It’s not unlike their earlier independently produced video for earlier song “Wildebeast A Go Go”. The higher budget means a better looking video, but the crazy DIY spirit is still there.

Best bit: the spinning newspaper, coming to stop on a headline involving a bribe and a goat.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… explosion in an opshop.

Holy Toledos “Love’s Not Fair”

There’s something really adorable about the Holy Toledos. They look like music nerds, the sort of guys who study music theory and are quite serious about making quality guitar pop. “Love’s Not Fair” has a very Crowded House feel to it, especially with the close harmonies on the verses.

The video features the band in three locations: out and about in downtown Auckland, playing live, and enjoying an afternoon jam session in a sunny garden.

In the live footage, three of the band are wearing waistcoats. Is this an attempt at a cohesive visual image, or were waistcoats quite fashionable in the early ’90s? Or does this exist outside the realm of visual identity and fashion?

The band seems a little doomed. While they wrote brilliant songs, there was just something missing from them. No pin-up band member to set girls hearts on fire. No bad boy rock god to admire. They just seemed like a group of really nice guys who formed a band and wrote pleasant songs.

Best bit: the up and down ride in the glass lift.

Note: sadly, this video has since been made private so it’s no longer viewable.

Notes for visiting Holy Toledos fans:

  1. Hey, how’s it going?
  2. I am not a journalist. I’m just a person who writes stuff online. (I dropped out of journalism school in 1996.)
  3. This website is dedicated to reviewing all the videos that have received NZ On Air funding from 1991 to 2011. The About page has more info.
  4. So this page is a review of the Holy Toledos’ music video for “Love’s Not Fair”. I wrote it in 2012. And as it’s a review, it’s all based on my opinion.
  5. I thought what I’d written was quite positive, really.
  6. When I say things like, “They look like music nerds” or that the band had, “No bad boy rock god to admire”, I’m just talking about how the music video appears to me. And again, I don’t consider these negative attributes.
  7. I’ve never ever met the Holy Toledos, but they seem like nice guys. (But is that what you’re trying to tell me: that they’re actually not at all nice? Badass!)
  8. Don’t like my story? Tell your own. Why not set up a fan page on Facebook dedicated to the history of the Holy Toledos? Or expand the band’s Wikipedia page. There’s hardly anything about them online, but you have the power to fix that. (As of March 2016, this has not happened.)
  9. But most importantly: you guys actually know the Holy Toledos, right? Tell them to put all their music videos online. And keep pestering them until they do it. This is all I care about: getting more sweet New Zealand videos online, especially from the ’90s and the ’00s.
  10. Ok, thanks.

Hallelujah Picassos “Rewind”

A song about relaxing and taking it easy, which seems to be the national genre of New Zealand. The “Rewind” video is a cruisy collection of a lively studio performance and scenes from New Zealand.

It’s a fun video that nicely captures the spirit of the song, with green screen used quite thoughtfully. The background images, scenes of both rural and urban New Zealand, are contrasted with the laid-back band.

The video also features the nice bright, highly saturated colour palette that was cool in the ’90s, and I think this kind of colour use has come back around. Now all we need is for chunky green screen to become cool again.

Best bit: the green-screened turntable.

Directors: Clinton Phillips, Peter McLennan
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Bonus: Peter McLennan of the Hallelujah Picassos has again been kind enough to share his experience of the video:

We worked with Stratford Productions on this video, as we did for the previous video Lovers Plus. The latter video was directed by Bruce Sheridan, and for this one we worked with Clinton Phillips. I co-directed the video with Clinton, which was very generous of him, as he did a lot of the work, really. We shot Rewind at the Powerstation, using the stage for the band footage, and shooting from the balcony for the verses, looking down on Bobbylon, singing. We bounced round the stage Roland and myself wearing turntables strapped on like guitars, and Johnnie playing his korg synth, nicknamed the Hog.

The black and white footage in the verses was shot on super 8 film by me, while we were on tour. I gave it to Clinton to send off for telecine transfer over in Sydney and never saw it again, which was a bit sad. There’s also footage shot on video of us clowning round on the roof of Civic House, next to DKD, which also makes a brief appearance in the video. The only green screen is on the record on the turntable, which also serves up my fave shot in the video, at 2.09 – Roland doing his best Michael Jackson tippy-toes dance move.

This song will be included on the forthcoming collection of Hallelujah Picassos tunes, remastered for CD/digital. Out before the end of the year.

Next… do the wildebeast

Straitjacket Fits “Cat Inna Can”

This time Shayne Carter keeps his shirt on. “Cat Inna Can” is filmed in a warehouse, and there’s something funny going on with the colours. The warehouse is blue and the band’s skintone is a golden colour. It’s easy to do stuff like that with modern colour grading software, but how did that happen in the early ’90s? Witchcraft?

About halfway through there’s a thrilling dolly zoom – that’s when the camera physically moves in while at the same time the lens zooms out. So the band largely stays the same size in the picture, but the background warps and looks vertiginous.

The video is a bit of a grab bag of fun film tricks, with its central effect being the camera swirling around the band members. It feels almost out of control, as if Shayne Carter’s animal magnetism is having an effect on the cameras too.


Best bit: the really strict cutting to the beat on the verses.

Director: Andrew Dominik
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… the New Zealand national genre.

Shona Laing “Mercy of Love”

My introduction to Shona Laing was her angry phase in the ’80s, with US college radio hit “Soviet Snow” and “Glad I’m Not a Kennedy”. So when Shona grew out her punky mullet and returned to her barefoot folk singer roots, it was a bit of a shock to me.

“Mercy of Love” is a pretty song about how love comes along and changes your direction, makes you do stuff you can’t control, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

It’s a bit of a cafe song, and the video is a simple performance of Shona singing the song, with some symbols drawn on her face. At other times, the kinder, gentler Shona shrinks into a tiny box in the middle of the screen – about one-third of the screen size – and performs in front of green-screen superimposed static and some more symbols.

Best bit: chilled out Shona, relaxing in a chair.

Director: Karyn Hay
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… oh, meow.

Shihad “I Only Said”

Another music video that has a creative debt to the videos of bands like Nine Inch Nails and Tool.

“I Only Said” is a messed up world of strange medical contraptions, blood flowing through tubes, mice, and housewives wearing paperbags on their head.

It probably seemed really cutting edge at the time, but looking back at it now, it all seems pretty dated, and just a little naive. It’s all a bit, “Look! We’re being alternative and subverting the mass media.”

Or was the fact that this was being done by a New Zealand band worth celebrating?

Best bit: the adventures of the lab rat.

Director: Nigel Streeter
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… Shona gets symbolic.

The Mutton Birds “Your Window”

“Your Window” starts off sounding like a pleasant slice of suburban New Zealand, but then the chorus comes along and – ahoy! – it’s about sex. It’s about sneaking in to root your sweetie.

The Mutton Birds switch between two universes. Dressed in tapa-print shirts, they perform the song outside a bungalow. It’s the same sort of cosy Kiwiana that flows through all Mutton Birds songs. The other universe is a ’60s pop performance. Dressed in matching black suits and white skivvies, the band perform in front of a stylised window set.

What do these two realities say? One is the present, in a definite place, with acknowledgment of multicultural contemporary New Zealand. The other is in the past, with only a symbolic connection to the lyrical content of the song. The Mutton Birds are caught in the middle, struggling to find a connection between these two worlds. Struggling to find an open window?

Maybe the song is about former children of the ’60s struggling with ageing. Maybe it’s not actually about sex.

Best bit: the backwards guitar solo

Director: Josh Frizzell
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a bunch of tools.

Herbs “Till We Kissed”

Despite Ray Columbus and the Invaders being generally held in high esteem in the world of New Zealand music, their back catalogue hasn’t fared too well when being covered by other artists. There was Double J and Twice the T’s “She’s a Mod/Mod Rap”, a Fat Boys-style reworking of “She’s a Mod”, and then came Herbs with a cover of “Till We Kissed”. Not that either songs were originals for Ray and the ‘Vaders. But that’s just how the world of pop worked back in the ’60s.

So, Herbs teamed up with old Ray and gave the song Herbs’ trademark Aotearoa reggae sounds, with lashing of cheese.

The video alternates between three situations – people kissing (usually parental pecks), Herbs playing on a porch in the golden sunshine, and Herbs and Ray playing in a studio, dressed in tuxedos.

The studio performance is a little odd. The band looks like they’ve put on suits for their niece’s wedding, and have been joined by old Uncle Ray on the bride’s side for a bit of a singalong. It doesn’t help that Ray is wearing giant 90s spectacles – the sort that hipsters wear nowadays.

But, hey, it’s uncles who have the most fun at weddings.

Best bit: Charlie from Herbs’ “Wow!” face after getting a double peck on the cheek.

NB:Sadly Warners have made this video private so it’s no longer available to watch. Le sigh. Instead here’s Ray Columbus and the Invaders performing their original version.

Films Archive

Next… a window is left open.

Supergroove “You Gotta Know”

Finally, here come the Supergroove. Average age 18, they look so young in this video. Led by a fresh-faced Che and a mono-fringed Karl, the band lark about, channeling their pop forefathers The Beatles in “A Hard Day’s Night”. There’s a great energy coming from the video. It’s like they’re not trying to be crazy; they’re 18-year-old guys so they just are crazy.

The song is jam-packed full of everything. When Che is singing, Karl is yelling bits in the gaps, and vice versa. When one instrument quietens down, another blasts in the gap. The video is like this too. Non-stop goofball.

Contrast this with the second version of the “You Gotta Know” video, which I think was made for a later Australian release. It relies on one of Joe Lonie’s comedy video concepts – walking backwards, taking off their clothes – and it feels like they’re relying on a gimmick to make up for their natural energy.

In the funny mixed-up chronology of NZ On Air funding applications, “You Gotta Know” was the third Supergroove single. The second was “Scorpio Girls”, but that’s not coming up till later in ’93. The video also won Best Video at the 1996 New Zealand Music Awards – the second win in a row for co-director Joe Lonie!

Best bit: the hammer smash shot. Rock!

Director: Sigi Spath, Joe Lonie

Next… Uncle Ray gets smoochy.