Second Child “Crumble”

Second Child was the early band of Damien Binder, also featuring future Stellar guitarist Chris van de Geer. But the video strongly focuses on frontman Damien, to the point where it could easily pass for a solo video.

“Crumble” has a dark grungy sound, a song of bitter defiance. The video, directed by Jonathan King, is shot in sepiatone, filmed in an old rusty building. The lighting is dramatic, giving Damien plenty of opportunities to pout and sneer his way through the lyrics.

When we see the band, it’s only briefly and they’re left lurking in the shadows, a distant blur. But given that the song is about someone who’s succeeded against expectation, perhaps it’s better that the emphasis is on Damien, the man alone.

It’s a really good-looking video – something that I’ve come to recognise as a hallmark of director Jonathan King. He has an eye for sophisticated, artistic mise-en-scene. (OMG, I just used “mise-en-scene”. Well, I have to put my tertiary education to use.)

Best bit: the awesome setting for the guitar solo – a grungy concrete platform.

Director: Jonathan King
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a weather report.

Cinematic “Already Gone”

In a Wellington flat, a group of young people sit around a kitchen table. They’re cracking open fortune cookies, sharing coffee and having a very involved conversation. Meanwhile in the adjacent lounge, Cinematic are sitting around performing the song, an upbeat folk number, not unlike their Christchurch peers the Holy Toledos.

It comes across looking like the theme song of a TV series about some hip young adults living in the city – not unlike what “The Insider’s Guide to Happiness” did a decade later.

In a strange way I find myself more interested in the action in the kitchen than the band in the lounge. It’s because the people gathered around the table are more lively and engaging. The band are just getting down to business with playing the song, though frontman Jeremy Taylor (a food blogger and record store nerd these days) has a great presence.

Another notable thing is cigarettes. A couple of the chatting group are smoking. Less than a decade later, casual smoking in music videos has pretty much died out altogether. Now it just seems pretentious and irresponsible. Oh, you think you’re cool with that cig?

This video feels like there’s a lot of lost potential. The song should have been more successful and the kitchen table group should have had their own series. Oh well, there’s still the video.

Best bit: the montage of lingering glances, across-the-table drama.

Director: Jonathan Brough
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a grungy crumble.

Andrew Fagan “Exciting”

“Isn’t it exciting,” Andrew Fagan asks, kicking off two and a half minutes of psychedelic glam pop. We find Fagan playing with his band Swirly World (a name that more famously also belongs to the small yacht he uses for his solo voyages). It’s revealed that bars separate the band from the camera, but who are the bars for? Is the band kept locked up because they’re just so exciting?

As well as this performance footage, we also get quick flashes of random things. The cover of Fagan’s current album “Blisters” pops up a few times, as do gig posters. There are also glimpses of the band on the road, various photos and objet d’art. There’s a even a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it naked lady boob. Series of words pop up, spelling sentences. “It’s… completely… subjective” announces one message. Hey cool! So’s this blog.

While Fagan has plenty of rock star swagger, his Swirly World band just looks like a fairly ordinary bunch of musos, getting down to business in jeans and t-shirts. Isn’t it exciting? Er, no, not really. But maybe that’s what the shots of the random interesting thing are. Throw in a nipple or three (Mr Fagan’s are also on display) to add some excitement.

Best bit: the background whiteboard with some sort of mathematical workings written on it.

Director: Karyn Hay
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… man, he hates this band.

Dead Flowers “Watch Her Play”

Hey, you want some early ’90s digital video effects? Well, this video has them. There’s so much going on that it’s a little overwhelming in the beginning. Animation! Green screen! Pixillation! Solarisation! Things calm down a little once the verses get started, but it still feels like overkill.

Most of the video is based around the band performing in front of a green-screen backdrop. The background images involve swirly rainbow waves, giant flaming flames, and something I will describe as microwave pizza vomit. There’s a lot going on.

We see the crazy girl of the lyrics burning a Barbie doll in a fireplace. Actually, she’s not so much burning it as just holding it near the roaring fire. Maybe Barbie is cold and needs to be warmed. Maybe the girl is conscious of hazardous fumes that might come from burning plastic.

But, ok, it’s 1993. This was new technology and there was a kind of 1960s psychedelia revival happening, though it also feels like the extravagant visuals were trying to disguise a lacklustre song. But while “Watch Her Play” isn’t as strong as the Dead Flowers’ later work, it’s still not terrible – especially considering it was the first single from their second album. I think that while the video likes the song, it likes itself more.

Best bit: Bryan furiously flips through a 1994 wall calendar of scenic New Zealand.

Director: Jonathan Coates
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

The 3Ds “Man on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown”

The 3Ds are grand. “Man on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” is David Mitchell’s grunty, crunchy, tense journey into the mind of a troubled man. The video is set in an industrial wasteland, both outside in a mound of rubble and in a derelict building.

With the previous two 3Ds videos fronted by David Saunders, it’s nice to have the wild-haired Mitchell taking the lead, with the quartet rounded out by Dominic on drums and Denise holding down the low end on bass, with workladylike concentration.

Then, like many great 3Ds songs, the song veers into a wild, feedback and sample-laced wig-out, and the video practically becomes sentient, threatening to actually have a nervous breakdown and leaving the band wondering where their video funding went.

The video starts at four minutes, but the interview with the band before that is worth watching, especially if you like crunchy Hot Cakes.

Best bit: Denise’s sensible sweater.

Director: Andrew Moore
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… ladies who write.

Maree Sheehan “Kia Tu Mahea (To Be Free)”

“Kia Tu Mahea” is positive, bilingual HI-NRG dance track, though it’s just hitting the end of this particular musical style’s life in the pop charts.

The video is great – bold, colourful and sometimes split into Mondrianesque segments. Maree is joined by kapa haka performers, children, an African man, dudes in fresh urban threads, and fly girls.

Maree Sheehan always comes across with great confidence in her videos. She’s never taken the traditional video babe route (no rolling around with/in silver spandex for her), but the early ’90s feels like a kinder, gentler time when no one with NZ On Air funding was doing the hard-sell sexy video. At least not yet.

Best bit: Maree and pals in casual shorts, doing casual dancing.

Director: Matt Palmer
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… the bleak, urban wasteland that represents the soul.

The Exponents “House of Love”

“House of Love” is one of those Exponents songs that doesn’t get sing-shouted at rugby games. Tracking the demise of a relationship, where Jordan both walks in and walks out of the house of love, the video shows the Exponents playing the song in a doll’s house.

Actually, that makes it sound much cooler than it actually is, like some special effects have made it look like the Exponents are actually playing in the tiny rooms of a doll’s house. Actually, it’s just footage of the band superimposed over the front of a doll’s house. And it’s raining on the doll’s house and there’s some sort of straw strewn about in front of it. What a depressing house. No wonder Jordan’s leaving it.

The band are performing the song under colourful lights, and with window shapes projected behind them. Sometimes the band are wearing carnival masks, and sometimes Jordan takes his shirt off. I’m going to blame the Red Hot Chili Peppers for the rash of shirtlessness that started happening in music videos of the early ’90s.

Best bit: the tiny painting inside the doll’s house.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… casual shorts.

David Kilgour “No No No”

This is the David Kilgour video with a clear storyline. I like that. The “No No No” video images David Kilgour as an indie superstar, living like a rap star with his entourage of ageing boho friends.

Dave starts at his bohemian den, wearing his famous spotted shirt. Then he and a couple of pals get into a limousine where another boho fellow meets them. The three are driven around, drinking champagne and making phone calls on one of those giant old brick cellphones, only back in 1994 it wouldn’t quite have been hilarious old technology, but what a cellphone actually was.

All this action cuts between David playing at some sort of student gig. He’s also wearing his famous spotted shirt, so presumedly the gig is on the same night as the boho adventures.

Then it’s back to the boho den, where his boho posse is in full effect, drinking lots of wine and getting crazy. Why, one boho lady even takes off her shirt and dances around in her bra. Crazy!

Then Dave is out on the the street with all the unwanted attention of the paparazzi trying to get all up in his face because he is famous.

Best bit: David reading “L5 News”, the newsletter of the L5 Society, which promotes space colonies. Seriously.

Director: Stuart Page
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… Jordan takes his shirt off in a tiny house.

Annie Crummer “Let it Shine”

It’s a Christmas single! Interesting that the funding was given in the same month as the song was released. The video must have been made with lightning pace, right?

“Let it Shine” is a delicate Christmas song, with the same sentimental theme that Annie’s other singles had (for the children, y’all).

The video is black and white, alternating between Annie singing the song, and shots of children. The kids are either outside playing, or in the studio, sitting on a lazy susan, rotating for the camera. This makes me imagine some production hand whose job it was to lie on the ground, out of camera shot, rotating the kids, trying not to get hit by their legs.

New Zealand has never had a strong tradition of Christmas songs, especially not the upbeat style that ravages the UK charts. It seems that if a Christmas song in New Zealand is going to do anything (like each number 11 on the charts), it’s going to be a serious song like this one.

Best bit: the slightly surreal array of rotating kids.

Update: It looks like Annie Crummer’s videos are no longer available on the New Zealand MTV website. Until someone uploads them somewhere else, there’s currently nothing to watch.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… David’s big night out.