Found videos from 1999

Resting bitch face, actual cows, a red room, Catholic guilt, a scenic boat trip, forecourt drama, romantic Venice, an outdoor TV and and pre-millennium tension.
Continue reading Found videos from 1999

True Bliss “Tonight”

1999-truebliss-tonightTrueBliss is like patient zero of the modern phenomena of reality TV music stars. TrueBliss came from Popstars which begat Australian Popstars, which begat UK Popstars, which begat Popstars: The Rivals (which begat Girls Aloud and it was good), which begat Pop Idol, which begat American Idol, which begat X Factor… and it’s just been announced that New Zealand is getting its own X Factor series in 2013.

The original Popstars was nothing like the slick talent quests we know today. It had a much lower budget, for starters – a church hall instead of the O2 Arena. Popstars was more a fly-on-the-wall doco that didn’t have two of the most vital elements of shows today – no phone vote and no Mr Nasty judge. But it was crazy fun and managed to piss people off, which is always good.

Anyway, the newly formed quintet had to release their first single. “Tonight” was penned by Anthony Ioasa of Grace but it sounds like something taken from the filing cabinet of a middle-aged man: “Tonight’s the night we made love till the eeeeend”. It’s like an older man’s idea of what a young woman should be like. This is New Zealand. We do not “make love”; we root.

The video is better than the song. It sees le Bliss hanging out together in various locations. They’re at a slumber party watching home movies of themselves, hanging out in an edgy urban alleyway, relaxing at the beach, spilling things at a cafe, running around in elegant gowns, and grappling with all sorts of hairdos and make-up, some of which were even in fashion at the time.

But in a way, it doesn’t even matter what goes on in the video. “Tonight” exists as a kitschy document of pre-millennium New Zealand. The possibilities of digital video technology were crossed with the fun yet cynical world of pop and TrueBliss were what happened. They didn’t last long, with Carly leaving in 2000 and the band dissolving soon after. In a way they were a perfect pop group, a great formation story, a couple of hit singles, a tour, and then it’s all over.

Best Worst bit: the awfulness of Joe being excluded from the sexy hula dance.

Director: Matt Palmer
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Watch old episodes of “Popstars”, including an excerpt showing the making of the “Tonight” music video, thanks to NZ On Screen.
And enjoy this vintage 1999 TrueBliss fansite.

Next… just a little reminder.

Weta “Let It Go”

1999-weta-let-it-goLike the video for “Where Have You Been”, there’s only an excerpt of “Let It Go” online. But this time we get well over a minute of footage. It’s also not the greatest quality, so pixelly that I wonder if it was lifted from an old website.

The video seems to be made with a kind of live-action stop-motion animation – or at least I’m assuming it’s stop motion and not the video quality. A small television set features broadcasting a footage of Aaron singing the song, and other footage. He also shows up holding the TV broadcasting that’s himself (meta!) and sans le telly.

Sometimes the video is set in the strange world of music videos, with strange machinery, swimming pools and flying TVs. But other times it’s recognisably Auckland, featuring the St James complex and the motorway.

Because this video is a poor quality excerpt, it’s hard to get a sense of exactly what is happening in the video as a whole. This just adds to the legend of Weta, the idea that the band had a good year or so of amazing rock before they fell apart. The video is like a glimpse inside that world, where it’s always 1999 and everything is good.

Best bit: using old TVs as floaty pool toys.

Director: Reuben Sutherland
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… I know this much is true.

Stellar “Violent”

1999-stellar-violentThere’s a crime wave in the city. Someone is stealing mirrors. Car mirrors, hand mirrors – they’re all game. What nefarious villain is behind this? It’s Boh.

Her minions deliver their latest haul. In villainess form, wearing a dark wig and light contact lenses, she looks totally different from the red-haired rock chick seen in other parts of the video. But what does this femme fatale want with all the mirrors?

It turns out she has a glue gun and precedes to glue fragments of the mirrors to the body of a nervous young man, like an R18 Good Morning craft segment.

The video, directed by Jonathan King and looking really good, teases us with this idea, spending a lot of time lingering on the band just performing the song. All is revealed at the end when the young man appears at a Stellar gig clad head to toe in mirror bits, dancing like a maniac.

The only thing left to do is borrow a gag from the Mighty Boosh and wonder if he has mirror balls.

Director: Jonathan King
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a portable television.

Peter Stuyvesant Hitlist “Freewheeling”

1999-hitlist-freewheeling“Freewheeling” is a pleasant piece of psychedelic pop, so the video takes that and goes with it. It’s rool trippy as, bro.

Our journey starts with an ice cream van manned by Chris Anderton (who looks very much like his dad). A kid buys an ice cream and returns to his slobby dad and nice mum, which sounds not unlike a sitcom premise. Asleep in bed the kid, er, goes down a psychedelic wormhole of dreamland.

We meet fez-wearing fellow riding on a magic carpet, another guy trapped in some dense bush, more desert, a beguiling belly dancer and a confused fellow who stumbles after the dancer.

We’re then treated to a ’90s computer-generated desert fortress, complete with totally smooth walls (as adding texture would probably have taken seven years to render). Inside the fortress is an important man being laughed at for eating peas instead of grapes. The wormhole arrived and, hey, everyone’s happy. Enjoy your peas, sir!

It erupts into a groovy harem freak-out, including a genie. Just when things threaten to get carried away, we’re back to reality and the kid is down at his local shops. Yeah, his life is a little troubled, but it seems his crazy dram friends are always at hand to take him away.

The Hitlist always seemed torn between being hilarious and being serious. This video has a lot of that. The bookend plot – that it’s all an escapist world for a troubled boy – takes a bit of the weird fun away from the experience.

Best bit: The rickety NZ On Air animation. Wot, did the official one fall off?

Next… something to reflect on.

Mary “Matt”

1999-mary-mattGirl band Mary have “Matt”, an ode to a troubled skater boy. The video feels like it’s had some money put behind it. Shot in both black and white and in colour, the video has lush footage of Auckland after dark, with Matt and his pals skating around an empty car park building. It looks good, but it feels a quite busy, a little too much going on.

We meet Matt (tall, handsome, shaved head, wallet chain; one of those guys) and his lady, a messy blonde skater chick. The video puts the girl on a train which magically manages to seem like a subway carriage, rather than Auckland’s crappy suburban trains of the ’90s. There are a lot of great shots of Auckland streets and urban areas being skated all over.

The girl and Matt seem to have a caring but troubled relationship. “When are you coming out of your hole,” the chorus asks. Matt seems like the kind of dude who’s got a lot going on in his head and while having a girlfriend is nice, other things keep distracting him. There’s a sense that his hoon along K Road isn’t so much skating as fleeing.

But it’s ok. The Mary godmothers are there for him. “Just let us in on your eternal goal,” they implore. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a girl band with sweet harmonies pop up to prod you along in times of trouble?

By the way, the YouTube uploaders wrote this: “we got paid in chocolate for our skating.but hey it was fun!”

Best bit: Matt’s carefree skate along the K Road overbridge.

Director: Matt Palmer
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Indigenous Funk Company “Take A Flight”

1999-indigenous-funk-company-take-a-flightThe IFC deliver some smooth R&B, a perfect seduction soundtrack. The group were formed by producer Richie Campbell, previous of Ardijah. And that’s about all I can find about them – a short but smooth career.

The very first beat of the song starts with a “yeah-ee-eh” that momentarily tricks my brain into thinking it’s the opening of the “Neighbours” theme tune. That’s unfortunate but the song soon leaves that behind, with a combo of smooth vocals and lightning fast rapping.

The video takes place in an old empty warehouse. Except everyone’s there through the magic of green screen. There’s no pretence that it’s anything but green screen. It’s used as a layer, with rappers and dancers fading in and out over the top.

The video is grittier than the groove the song creates. Rather than a smooth urban romance, the video makes things feel like the slightly awkward seduction efforts of young New Zealanders.

Even the dancers feel less like video booty girls and more like a couple of local fitness enthusiast girls who just happened to end up in this video. There’s odd interaction between the guys and the girls, like the guys are too cool to be smooth seduction dudes. And the two dancers really seem to really be into each other more than the boys. (This sort of confusion would never happen in a Maree Sheehan video.)

Best bit: the super low bucket hat of one of the Company. Take that, LL!

Next… he was a skater boy.

Head Like A Hole “Good Advice”

1999-hlah-good-adviceThe first warning came from YouTube uploader HEADLIKEAHOLENOISE who wrote “Great song with overdubbed sound effects which are way too loud which wrecks the track!” As the video started, it became obvious that someone had got a little carried away with the foley work. It’s a music video – the viewer doesn’t need to hear the flick of playing cards being dealt to get the idea that a tense game of poker is being played.

But it doesn’t stop with that. Something happens that probably required the entire contents of the production fridge to be abused in the name of sound effects. There are zombies.

It’s 2012. Zombies are now a pop culture relic of the late ’00s, along with ninjas and bacon. So while there’s part of me that rolls me eyes and feels like “Ugh, zombies, woteva”, I must recognise that in 1999, zombies weren’t so naff.

So, yeah, there’s a high-stakes poker game, with both money and body parts on the line. And meanwhile, the adjacent bar is full of zombies, including undead doppelgangers of the band. What follows is a sound riot of chainsaws, “braaaains”, moans, growls and other noises that actually manage to drown out the song most of the time.

It’s bewildering. The video looks good and has a fun, early Peter Jackson feel to it. But the torrent of sound effects are poorly done (they sound like sound effects, not natural sounds) and with no restraint. The song itself feels like a contractually obligated afterthought.

If you want to have some acting in a music video, take a break from the song, but never let the song be second to the video. An example of doing it right is what Joint Force got away with in their vid for “Static (Part 1)”.

HLAH disbanded in 2000 and their next funded video wasn’t until their reformation more than a decade later. Given that HLAH have been cranking out rather energetic, fun and entertaining videos since 1992, it’s sad that they ended with this mess. But there’s hope – it’s just waiting for someone to remix the video with the album track.

Best bit: Zombie Tom’s “Lesbian” t-shirt. Duuuude.

Next… smooth moves.

Garageland “Not Empty”

1999-garageland-not-empty“Not Empty” was the first single off Garageland’s second album. And while guitarist Debbie Silvey had left the band, she made an appearance doing backing vocals on this track. “I wanna be free! No empty!” goes the chorus, in a song about the search for meaning in life.

The video goes with this, focusing on a situation of classic emptiness – the modern office. The band members are dressed up in office finery, but they shuffle around the office with a dead look in their eyes because they are empty.

I don’t quite buy it that there’s an entire office full of people who have become completely numbed by their jobs. Surely it’s far worse to be the only one suffering in an office full of people happy with their mediocre lives.

But, ok, for the purposes of this music video, I will accept the seventh floor of this office is full of extremely unhappy people. That’s not even the focus of the video – the focus is bullet time!

The technique had been popularised by The Matrix, released earlier in the year, but bullet time had first been popularised in music videos, including Michel Gondry’s quite good vid for the Rolling Stones’ 1995 cover of “Like a Rolling Stone”.

The bullet time in “Not Empty” is a little clunky – the shape of the camera perimeter is apparent and makes it feel like a very obvious attempt at a gimmicky effect, rather than something that adds to the story. Is the viewer supposed to feel more sympathy for a man who knocks the mouse off his desk if we see it in 360 degrees?

The video ends with one of the workers jumping off the roof onto Vulcan Lane below. But don’t worry – he’s ok. He survives the fall and – in possibly some Groundhog Day-like cruelty – he gets up, unharmed. It’s much easier to just hand in your resignation.

Update: Commenter Dan reveals the bullet time was faked by getting the actors to stay very still, moving the camera around then speeding up the footage. So that’s why it looks clunky!

Bonus: And here’s a clip of the band performing the song live on Ground Zero.

Best bit: the olden days of massive CRT monitors.

Director: Paul Swadel, Marc Swadel
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next…. brains, and lack thereof.

Fiona McDonald “Damage Control”

Uh oh – Fiona’s in jail. The second single of her post-Chickens solo album sees Ms McDonald locked up in a futuristic prison cell, prisoner number 710N4 (geddit?). A stern, suited man makes his way through a room full of pipes and valves, ready to interrogate his prisoner.

Fiona may be locked up, but she has the upper hand. She’s fiercely confident, self assured that she may not be innocent, but she is not the guilty party. The video, directed by Jonathan King, is shot in black and white, with little spots of colour when the drama needs it.

“Damage Control” is dark, electronic pop, a tail of a soured relationship – not unlike the stuff she was making with the Headless Chickens in their last days. But with this being a solo work, the focus is very much on Fiona looking both rough and glam in her prison cell.

We see the suited man walking through a forest with two others. They come across a terrifying scene, which leads the man do hold a hankie over his mouth – cinematic shorthand for “Eww, an old decaying body!” Oh dear.

What terrible thing happened in the woods? The only hint given is a shot of Fiona sitting with a man lying in her arms. It seems a religious pose, Catholic-y (and now I regret not doing art history at school), and there’s no way of knowing if he’s dead or alive.

Back in jail, Fiona is angry. She hurls and thrashes about in her cell, greatly unnerving her accuser. But in the end Fiona’s collapses on her bed, all angried out.

Best bit: Fiona’s bare prison cell – no cushy flatscreen telly here.

Director: Jonathan King
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a day at the office.