Matty J feat. Dei Hamo “Somewhere You’re There”

1994-matty-j-somewhere-youre-thereThe first few seconds of this song seem quite sedate. There’s Marry J doing his soul crooning and it’s all very sweet when suddenly – bam! – here’s Dei Hamo with some rap to make things a lot more interesting.

Dei Hamo is filmed in black and white, with the lyrics of his rhymes jumping around behind him, like a YouTube lyric video. This tantalising and explosive intro is over quickly, and we return to Matty J, walking along a city street.

The camera always films him walking left to right, and we also see split screen shots of different angles of him. I know what’s trying to be achieved here (the spilt screen style was very cool in the mid-’90s) but it seems a bit awkward here. It has been done with some really horrible looking bevelling effects, like the sort of stuff that showed up in webpage design in the mid-’90s. Was there a point where this style was cool? Maybe.

Dei Hamo bursts in again, introduced by Matty J as “the Madd Coconut”. And then Matty J continues on his journey, walking through cityscapes in bold colours, particularly purples and blues. Finally Matty J’s journey ends with him walking right up to his sweetie, but the video abruptly ends before there can be any grand reunion. (This might just be the version that’s online.)

It feels like there are some really good ideas behind this video, but not everything manages to work.

Best bit: Matty J’s simultaneous look of loved-up and cool.

Director: Craig Jackson
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… lying in the sand.

Strawpeople “Crying”

1994-strawpeople-cryingThe Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision describes this video as “Elaborate split screens video monitors”, which isn’t quite accurate. It’s a collection of eight boxes that play footage. To me it looks more like a digital composite rather than eight actual video monitors (and flat screen technology wasn’t that advance back then).

The video is directed by Mark Tierney and Paul Casserly, and it was a style that both would later use in videos they directed for other artists – Casserly for Greg Johnson’s “If I Swagger” and Tierney for Jan Hellriegel’s “Pure Pleasure”. And Matt Palmer used a similar style in his 1994 video for Maree Sheehan’s “Kia Tu Mahua”.

But the “Crying” video throws in an extra element. One of the boxes features Fiona McDonald singing the song straight to the camera and it’s almost totally unedited. Just a few flash cuts along the way.

The other boxes show scenes of urban Auckland. The tank farm features, back in the days when the tanks had utilitarian numbers painted on them, rather than poetic murals. Numbers feature a lot, with mysterious dates flickering across the screen and appearing on a television set in an empty room. There’s also a young women who walks around taking photos, and generally looks cool with her matt lipstick.

I like this video. I like that it’s a bit mysterious and doesn’t try to explain everything. A bit like that song.

Best bit: the giant camera the woman uses.

Directors: Mark Tierney, Paul Casserly
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a loving walk.

The Brainchilds “Tomorrow Never Knows”

1994-brainchilds-tomorrow-never-knowsThe Brainchilds was a pop outlet for musicians Steve Roche, David Donaldson and Janet Roddick (now working as mutli-purpose composers Plan 9). Their cover of the Beatles’ pop masterpiece strips away the more psychedelic elements of the fab four’s production. As a result, Janet’s lovely clear voice makes the song sound more like a hypnotherapy take. Turn off your phone, relax, and float downstream. You crave not ciggies. You crave not ciggies.

The video has relaxing, slightly trippy look, and it’s not a typical rock video. The only member of the band we see performing is Janet’s lip-synch of the song. The rest of the band are left to artfully wander around a forest of empty picture frames. But this all fits with the Brainchilds’ performance art background.

There are a lot of picture frames in the video. The action starts with a number of gilded frames in a dark space, floating around with footage of various outdoor scenes and Janet’s ghostly white face playing in them. The second half of the video puts the frames in a white space and sees the suited members of the group wander artfully amongst them.

There’s something quite pleasing about this. It’s using the latest innovations in digital video effects with some classic arty video tricks. And it doubles as a relaxation tape.

Best bit: man in a frame in a frame!

Director: Nigel Streeter
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… lots of boxes.

Jordan Reyne “A Long Way to Climb”

On the Deepgrooves website, the page for this video described how the iconic record label decided to take all their video production in-house, after getting sick of being quoted exorbitant rates from music video directors who had their eyes on the $5000 NZ On Air grant.

“A Long Way to Climb” was shot at an alley next to Cafe Alba on Lorne Street, Auckland, just around the corner from Victoria Street. Alba was the setting for Sulata’s “Never” video, and apparently it was close to Deepgrooves HQ. The video is shot in black and white 16mm film, which makes the inner city location look music-video perfect.

It’s a gentle, folky song given an urban treatment. For another artist this juxtaposition might not work, but Jordan Reyne has that slightly unusual, gothic, urban style that works well with the video. Even city girls get the blues.

For much of the video, Jordan sit arounds in the alley, thinking of her lost love. Occasionally we get blue-tinted flashbacks of a shaven-headed young dude messing around in the alley.

The video is moody and mysterious. It doesn’t attempt to literally illustrate things, but does pick up on the tone of the song. And for a low-budget music video, it’s done a pretty good job.

Best bit: the mysterious metal object the dude holds up to his face. Whoa.

Note: This video is now no longer available online.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… can I kick it?

Nathan Haines “Lady J”

1994-nathan-haines-lady-jAw yeah. “Lady J” is a very cool song and the video is the dopeness. Compared to the more polite album version, the video version of “Lady J” has more of a low end, with a rap added courtesy of Sonny Sagala (aka Dei Hamo). That detail lifts the song, taking it a step away from its melodic jazz roots and making it the sort of tune that the Ice TV gang would gush over.

The spunky video is directed by Josh Frizzell and takes on a kind of scrapbook look. Shapes containing Nathan, Sonny and other band members slowly glide or fragment across the screen. It looks a bit like a DVD menu screen from the ’00s, but there’s something that makes it just that bit more sophisticated.

Nathan looks quite different to his usual appearance. He has closely shaven hair and is wearing tinted spectacles. It somehow makes him look much older the young man of 22 he was – but perhaps this was intended. And it was something that hugely appealed to me at age 19 – a video evoking a cool, sophisticated world that seemed out of reach for me in from suburban Hamilton.

In a way, a trick is being played. The video is taking a jazz track and presenting it in such a way that it crossed over to the world of teen pop, like a gateway drug to a cooler world of music.

Best bit: the side silhouette of Nathan’s trousers. Good cut.

Bonus: here’s Nathan in 1995 talking about his album “Shift Left” from TV3’s music show “Frenzy”.

Director: Josh Frizzell
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Head Like a Hole “Chalkface”

1994-head-like-a-hole-chalkface“Chalkface” is a bad-attitude punk metal song and the video is based around a live performance. It looks like it was shot on someone’s home video camera. The footage is really grainy, though weirdly enough what would have looked low budget back in ’94 now has a cool retro tone to it.

The dodgy footage is, er, enhanced with dozens of digital effects, including cheesy filters and superimposed animations. Just to add to the slight feeling of discombobulation, there are shots of a saxophonist on stage, yet no sax can be heard in the clean album version of the song.

But despite all the low budget quirks of the video, it’s actually a pretty good live video. The band are full of extravagant energy and the audience is moshing their arses off. It’s a good document of HLAH’s early years.

Best bit: the giant bouncy ball, painted like a bloodshot eyeball, being throw around the audience.

Shihad “Gimme Gimme”

1994-shihad-gimme-gimmegimmKeeping on with a general run of surreal themes in this funding round, Shihad go for a partially animated video with all sorts of crazy digital effects. Despite this, it’s a much simpler video – there are no goats or goth brides, just the band.

Jon’s mouth appears in strange places – usually taking the place of his bandmate’s eyes, but also replacing his own nipples. Yep, there’s shirtlessness in this video too. But mainly it’s a world of static, bubbling acetate, and Len Lye-like scratches.

But with the visuals based around just the band giving the camera smouldering looks (that is, when they have eyes to do that), the video allows the song to stand out, rather than be swamped by strong visuals. Those Shihad boys, they know how to write a good chorus.

Best bit: Nipplevision.

Director: Glenn Standring
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… shift left for Lady J.

Semi Lemon Kola “Before Heaven”

1994-semi-lemon-kola-before-heavenI’ll say it again – the Red Hot Chili Peppers have so much to answer for. Anthony Kiedis and pals can take full responsibility for all the shirtless, long-haired dudes in music videos.

The video starts with lead singer Tosh strolling past some shipping containers, while a sunbather, businessmen, a goat and and vaccuming housewife play their music video part.

The chorus has some black and white live footage, then Tosh finds himself on a yellow ARA bus. He leaps off and runs through the old Britomart bus terminal. It’s strange seeing the familiar older buildings of Britomart but with the giant 1950s wet dream of a car-centric bus terminal plonked in the middle.

Tosh is running because he’s being chased by a carload of silver-wigged children, who eventually catch him and get up to no good in some public toilets. I really like these videos that try to be really really weird but years later the old bus terminal is more interesting than the deliberate collection of curiosities.

Best bit: the bus window decorated with names of Mt Eden streets and suburbs.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… the singing nipples.

Pumpkinhead “Water”

1994-pumpkinhead-waterFailsafe Records has a crazy account of Pumpkinhead’s rise and fall, from being “Christchurch’s premier grunge outfit” to being ruined by a junkie spending the band’s funds on smack. Failsafe also describes the “Water” video as having “cliché genre-styled efforts”, that is indeed a fair comment.

The video starts with a foetus morphing into an eye, and then we’re introduced to an old man dowsing on the Canterbury Plains. A bit of live footage follows, then the band plays its “November Rain” card with a wedding. A bride and groom look adoring at each other, but, you know, with sinister undertones.

There’s a shot of the band dressed as some sort of preachy Christians hanging out in Cathedral Square, in the light of golden afternoon sun. But looking at it now, in 2011, it takes on a sad undertone that strangely fits into the video’s theme.

Chorus time sees the band hanging out in a room kitted out in surrealistic overdrive – dead fish, an old dentist’s chair and a green screen background of falling rain. The video then turns into a mish-mash of the (un)happy married couple, the old man, the band and the flaming flames of fire and desire.

It is indeed packed full of genre cliches, but there’s nothing wrong with making a genre video.

Best bit: the Nevermind money-on-a-fishing-line tribute.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… hanging around the old bus terminal.

OMC “How Bizarre”

1994-omc-how-bizarreGuys, we did it. This song was in the August 1994 funding round, but the video wasn’t released until very late 1995, and didn’t become a bonafide massive global hit until 1996. Someone knew they had a hit on their hands.

A bit of history about the video. A first version of the video was made by directors Gideon Keith and Marcus Ringrose (who later directed the Headless Chickens’ “George” video). But their version was rejected because, among other reasons, the lighting made Pauly Fuemana look like “a raisin”.

So a reshoot was ordered, this film directed by film-maker Lee Baker who had also played the memorable guitar part on the song. So Pauly, singer Sina and a Filipino guy named Hill was stood in for Brother Pele cruised in a Chevy Impala along the gardens at Ellerslie racecourse.

Record label owner Simon Grigg notes that the video “had over 15,000 TV plays in the US between 1997 and 2000 and cost a total of $7000 to make.” And indeed it doesn’t look particularly fancy, with most of the action taking place in the lyrical Chevy or on a circus themed stage.

And Simon tweeted some more info about the making of the video.

it was a real rush job as we had rejected the first. It went to number 1 in NZ without a vid.

…and the opening sequences – the car – was copied countless times in the US. The director was offered heaps of US work

Then we left NZoA logo off accidentally and brendan rang asking if we could please add it. Happy to of course.

It’s the first video I’ve seen so far that has proper dancing girls – wearing sequinned bras and not playing any significant role in the video, other than to shake their booties. It’s a clever move – a lesser video would have had clowns in it.

Listening to the whole song for the first time in years, I suddenly realised that there’s a lot of accordion in it. This make it seem even more improbable that it would become a massive worldwide hit, and yet it did.

But at the centre of “How Bizarre” is Mr Fuemana, Mr Pauly Fuemana, looking dapper-as in a cravat. “How Bizarre” seems like a moment in time when Pauly Fuemana stood on top of the world, with unlimited possibilities in front of him. Knowing how the story ended is sad, but doesn’t stop the spirit of “How Bizarre”.

Doof it up, Pauly.

Best bit: Sina’s practical sports bra.

Note: Can things get more complicated? There are at least two versions of the music video. This version has the NZ On Air logo so I assume it was the first to be made.

And this video looks to be the second version. It’s based on the same clips at the first, but with less of the car and more of the dancing girls.

Director: Lee Baker
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… playing the November Rain card.