The Brainchilds “Thinking About You”

1994-brainchilds-thinking-about-youAt first “Thinking About You” seems like a wistful song from someone getting in touch with a long-lost love. There’s a Front Lawn-style quirkiness to the song but it initially seems rather restrained.

We find the Brainchilds playing their song on a beach. It’s a rough New Zealand beach, but everyone seems quite cheerful, so yay. This is cut with footage of and elderly woman writing notes on pieces of paper cut from the margins of newspaper pages. She’s filling up an envelope with these notes, which seem to contain the song lyrics.

This is a very intriguing start, but when the chorus comes along, the video loses steam. The Brainchilds just seem really dull performing on the beach and even the old lady can’t spice things up.

But very slowly things get weird. The old lady isn’t just stuffing the envelope with the notes; there’s hair in there too. And she feeds her cat an entire can of budget jellymeat. Lucky cat?

Back on the beach, as the song intensifies and gets more manic, the Brainchilds are slowly being swallowed up by the sand. The old lady has a mad glint in her eye.

The video was directed by Grant Lahood, who at the time was riding high on a series of three popular short films full of a similar kind of offbeat humour. So it’s a pleasant surprise to discover that he also got to have a go with a music video.

Best bit: the old lady’s lawn water bottle, back when it was thought those scared off pooing dogs.

Director: Grant Lahood
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a massage with extras.

3 The Hard Way “All Around”

1994-3-the-hard-way-all-aroundOver at the Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, this video is ominously described as “LA style, basketball, moving images of cars etc projected in background”. The video does have a bit of a West Coast flavour, but there’s no mistaking its Auckland location.

“All Around” is a compass-points-themed shoutout, which also pays a fair bit of homage to A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It?” (“You know we can!”) It made it to number 22 in the pop charts, and it’s a really upbeat track and actually had me bopping along, swept away by its infectious fun-time charms.

The video is set in various locations around central Auckland. There’s the trio in front of a pile of logs (?) with some green screens playing footage of old videos and the Auckland skyline behind that. They’re also in front of a large graffiti mural being done by DLT – and think this might be the first appearance of live graffiti in a NZOA video. (The second I’ve seen is Joint Force’s “Burntime” video, also featuring DLT.)

The video is accented with some animation – the flickery kind that was popular in the ’90s. Occasionally a compass, a globe, a cool dude playing a saxophone pops up to underscore the lyrics or music.

All this might seem influenced by LA, but this is how a lot of young Aucklanders were back then. There was a specific street culture that took its cues from America but mixed it up with its Pacific location. And this video captures a bit of that scene.

Best bit: hanging out under the Auckland Harbour Bridge, all pylons and security fencing.

Director: Clinton Phillips
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Bonus: here’s a 1994 interview with 3 The Hard Way on TV3’s New Zealand music show “Frenzy”.

Next… alterno angel.

Inchworm “Come Out Come Out Wherever You Are”

1994-inchworm-come-outDespite Hamilton having a reputation for hard-rockin’ bogan metal bands, there was actually a really good indie scene in the early-mid ’90s. Inchworm were one of the bands who regularly played around town and this song was their first funded video.

The band shared singing duties and drummer Rob is at the mic on this track. But here’s the thing – director Greg Page never made a Karen Carpenter-like demand that he come out from the drumkit. Whenever we see him sing, he’s surrounded by his rapidly flying drumsticks, concentration face in full effect.

The video looks great, set in an old hospital and lit for maximum spookiness. There’s rain, dramatic shadows and the camera takes an uneasy journey along a corridor. But there’s never any hint that something sinister might happen. At its heart, it’s just a band performing their song in a cool old location.

Despite this promising start, it wasn’t until 1997 that Inchworm received their next music video funding.

Best bit: drummer Rob’s rapidly flying drumsticks.

Director: Greg Page
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Tufnels “Husky Vooms”

1994-tufnels-husky-voomsAnother video newly online for NZ Music Month. The Tufnels are one of my favourite New Zealand groups. They were a later incarnation of the Bird Nest Roys and self-released one album, “Lurid”, which is full of brilliant indie pop.

“Husky Vooms” was the first of their three NZOA-funded music videos. Starting with some plinky-plunky piano, the song explodes into a repeated question: “Wouldn’t you like to see me?” The video takes its cue from this line, making the star of the video a blind man, using a cane to navigate around central Auckland. Impressively and/or suspiciously, the blind man confidently walks down the steep steps at the top of Myers Park.

The sepiatone adventures of this guy then make way for some grainy black and white footage of the band performing. But these two worlds don’t remain seperate. A guitar (sometimes seen with its human) is let loose in the blind man’s world, captured by a camera strapped to the guitar head.

Finally, the previously monochrome world of the video erupts into a colourful animation, as the blind man finds himself in a crazy lurid world of excitement.

I like that this video doesn’t focus on any rock star antics from the band. The lowkey adventures of the blind man lets the song stand out. It’s not a big sexy hard-sell music video, but it works just fine.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Throw “Falling Inside Me”

1994-throw-falling-inside-me“I’m not really sure what this video is supposed to be about,” Failsafe Records note on this YouTube clip, adding that “it varies greatly from the agreed script.”

Well, it didn’t seem that confusing to me. The Jonathan King-directed video sees a depressed young woman wandering around the streets of Auckland. She fantasises about suicide, specifically jumping off a building.

She stands on a rooftop, looking all windswept and depressed. No, don’t do it! You are young and beautiful!

The fantasies intensify, with a floating likeness of her superimposed over the buildings. But does she go through with it? The video is ambiguous, but it seems to end with a slight smile on her.

I wonder, though, what the original script for this video was.

Best bit: the old buildings of Britomart.

Director: Jonathan King
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… some desktop scribblings.

Supergroove “You Freak Me”

1994-supergroove-you-freak-me994 was Supergroove’s golden year. Average age 19 (still), they had a run of top ten hits and toured New Zealand in their stain-disguising black dress code.

“You Freak Me”, the sixth release from their debut album, is a tense eruption of young male energy. See, there’s a girl and, well, she freaks them. It’s four minutes of pent up sexual tension, with the band playing the song in a starkly lit, smoke filled environment.

The smoke seems to be fulfilling a symbolic purpose – it’s the only thing that gets any release around these parts, billowing quite clouds in quantities that seem excessive in a normal rock situation.

The band also smoke cigarettes, which again seems totally outrageous to see in a music video. Nearly the apex of a musical climax, Che Fu lights a cigarette which – if we’re going to get Freudian on it – manages to both represent a penis and a nipple.

Karl’s refined his image with a black suit jacket, showing signs of the John Waters look that he would grow in to. Supergroove feel like they’re slowly figuring out their own personal identities, the individuality beneath the dress code.

Best bit: the bad-ass Che Fu attitude explosion.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a depressive contemplation of an urban landscape.

Strawpeople “Sweet Disorder”

1994-strawpeople-sweet-disorderThe vocal collaborator on this track was Leza Corban, who gives the group a rootier, jazzier feeling. I know this song inside out due to a flatmate who played it all the time. Yeah, not quite two minutes into it, a trumpet solo kicks in.

The video is clever. It’s a way of shooting in an exotic location on a low budget. The video starts by establishing that Leza’s in a busy, noisy Asian city – Hong Kong, as it happens. She puts earbuds in her ears and peace settles. This is how they get away with shooting a music video in a busy city without having to play the song out loud for miming.

The result is a holiday video transformed into an ultra cool video for an equally cool song.

Best bit: the low-passing aeroplane, coming in to land.

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

Next… suits, cigarettes, badassness.

Maree Sheehan “Past To The Present”

1994-maree-sheehan-past-to-the-presentMaree gathers her friends and family to an inner city park (Emily Place, I think) to have a singalong (over and over to the same song, with the requirement to look lively and happy all the time).

I really like the video’s setting. They haven’t taken the easy route and gone for a beachside park. They’ve plonked the action right in the middle of Auckland, surrounded on all sides by tall buildings. And it’s not out of the question that a group of family and friends would actually have a picnic here. Though Albert Park would perhaps be a more logical choice.

Everyone looks like they’re actually having a good time, and it suggests that even after the music video taping had concluded, they probably would have kept on dancing. I wish I’d been invited.

Best bit: the little girls who turn the “under the bramble bushes” claping game into “under the Bambi bushes”.

Director: Jonathan Brough
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… an exotic holiday.

Hello Sailor “New Tattoo”

1994-hello-sailor-new-tattootattHello Sailor made a comeback in the ’90s, with an album called “The Album” and a new single. “New Tattoo” sounded a bit like “Gutter Black” and a bit like “Blue Lady”, so they weren’t going off in a radical new direction.

“I’m as blue as a new tattoo,” Graham sings, and the video takes us into the world into the “state house back in Blockhouse Bay”, and the sign of a West Auckland youth.

This is not what popular music sounded like in the ’90s. There’s no attempt at picking up a younger audience. Hello Sailor are acting their age, and this is a song for other dudes like them.

Cruising around the suburban streets in a classic car, the video illustrates a man who is both revelling in the good times of his youth but also mourning what he’s lost. He’s never going to be 19 again.

Best bit: the glamorous woman in a studded leather bustier who doesn’t look like she’s just been thrown in for some sex appeal.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… Maree’s family fun day.