Slim “Real World”

2001-slim-real-worldThe video begins with Aaron from Slim dressed as yuppie scum. This is signified by him wearing a suit and talking on a cellphone. Yes, kids, once upon a time only wankers in suits had cellphones.

Aaron’s an important businessman having and important business call near the entrance of the Lyttelton Tunnel (Slim were from Christchurch, so good on them for using local locations) when two heavies kidnap him.

In their secret lair, Aaron is given a few off-camera kicks and dragged through the building. His previously neatly coiffed hair has taken the form of wild spikes. That’s the first step in brainwashing – they get the hair. One of the heavies then spraypaints an “S” on his shirt, with the downward slash of his tie making it a dollar sign. Yeah, how’d you like that, yuppie boy? Now you have a dollar sign painted on your shirt.

While all this has been going on, Slim have been playing as a three-piece. They seem to be coping, with a guitarist singing his middle-eight part, but they are obviously in need of a proper lead singer as suddenly a reprogrammed Aaron bursts in and starts rocking out. Obviously having that dollar sign painted on his shirt was all he needed to successfully front a punk band.

The song is all about conformity (or lack thereof), so the question is, are Slim conforming to the cliches of a punk-pop music video, or are they subverting the genre with irony? Also, some dry-cleaning fluid will get that paint off the shirt.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… shaken and stirred.

SJD “Tree People”

2001-sjd-tree-peopleThe “Tree People” video takes place within an actual pop-up book. It’s a handmade work, with scenes sketched out in watercolour paint. A pair of hands pushes and pulls the levers and opens the flaps, bringing movement and depth to the story.

The video opens with a large outside a nightclub (Club Sandwich), waiting to see the sold-out SJD gig. Inside, SJD takes to the stage and the audience wave their hands in the air like they just don’t care.

The next day SJD goes for a ride in his lowrider (which I’m sure is an accurate real-life detail) and head to the beach. The beach is full of hot chicks in bikinis, who wiggle their bottoms in appreciation. I feel a bit sorry for them. There they are at the beach, but for some reason there are no guys. Then along comes beardy musician in corduroy with a drive-through mic. Well, any port in a storm.

But this life of bitches and money isn’t for SJD. He relaxes on a hillside and sweetly watches the sunset with a bunny rabbit friend. Of course.

This is a very enjoyable video to watch. A lot of effort has gone into the pop-up book, but behind it is a solid narrative, so it’s real pleasure to see all the bits working together.

Best bit: the slowed down beachside bum wiggles – the male gaze on cartridge paper.

Director: Gerald Phillips

Next… reprogramming.

Savant “Solitary”

2001-savant-solitarySavant (who sometimes spell their name with a metal umlaut – Savänt) are here and they’re going to rock. I was delighted to discover that the “Solitary” video is shot in the same old warehouse location where Lucid 3’s “Shiver” video was filmed. I think it might be the since demolished old warehouses on Quay Street. While Lucid 3 were content to build a stage, add a bit of water and pose artfully, Savant have gone to the extreme for their Soundgraden-inspired track.

The band’s bio at notes that the video was filmed using the fancy new world of digital cinematography “as used on Star Wars Episode 2.” It also reckons that this was the first time a digital video had been produced in Australasia. Well, that’s an important milestone.

The video starts with the band playing in the warehouse during the day. We know it’s daytime because of all the sunlight that’s flooding in through the many windows and skylights. The light has been digitally enhanced to resemble strong hazy sunbeams. It’s been manipulated to shine around the singer, like some sort of bad Christian film.

Then night falls and the lighting tricks get even tricksier. The warehouse is dark on the inside and the band are lit by areas of green, gold and brown light. And just in case this was not extreme enough, we then find the bass player floating in the air (i.e. hanging from a cable) because this is how hard Savant rock.

The thing is, this song has the lyrics “I’m a solitary man / Yes, I am”. Clearly a band who write big crunchy rock numbers like this do not care for subtlety. They’re going to go as extreme as they can manage. And I can’t help think that the band would have been really pleased with the finished product.

Best bit: the bass player’s extreme röck facïal exprëssions.

Next…pop-up pop.

Rubicon “Bruce”

2001-rubicon-bruceThis was Rubicon’s big hit. It peaked at #22 on the charts and I remember it being thrashed on Juice TV. It’s golden novelty pop-punk.

The song is based around the assumption that Bruce is an awful name, blaming parents for naming their innocent babies Bruce. But there’s nothing back up the claim, with the song’s message being little more than, “Hey Bruce, Rubicon says your name’s dumb.”

The video is set in the grand old Auckland railway station. Paul Rubicon walks in and finds the place swarming with people in funny costumes. In fact, I’m pretty sure the Village People could be formed out of the crowd.

After musing on how Bruce sucks as a name, the chorus comes along and everyone bursts into dance. I think this means I can official declare that big, ironic formation dancing was a thing in the early ’90s. It’s pretty basic steps (at one point, everyone stands still and twirls their arms around), but it’s just the sort of thing that could have been copied at home by eager fans.

During the instrumental, the band take a break from dancing to get behind their instruments, shot in colder light to demonstrate that they have a 4 real side to them.

As the video concludes, all the costumed dancers strip down to “Bruce” t-shirts and do a joyous can-can to celebrate the name. (All except Rubicon who are wearing their own band t-shirts). We also get a close-up of a young man, smiling appreciatively. His appearance seems odd if you don’t know that in 2001 he was a Juice TV presenter named Bruce. Hey, celebrity cameo!

Any New Zealand band that can reasonably pull off a moderate Busby Berkeley-style dance routine is ok with me. But it’s a bit weird having that with lyrics that cheerfully demand “Hang his head in shame! Hang his head in shame! Hang his head in shame!”

Best bit: the bass player’s bum dance that goes on for slightly too long.

Director: Paul Reid
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… get your shed on.

Pluto “Stick With It”

2001-pluto-stick-with-itIf there’s one band that can do dress-ups without an awkward self-confidence, it’s Pluto. “Stick With It” sees the band as cabaret performers, dressed in dapper suits and hats, entertaining a small club. (Bang on trend for that “Great Gatsby” look, plus eyeliner.) And it all seems like a real performance in front of a real audience, so there’s a refreshing lack of the “Woo! I’m watching a live band!” style of music video audience acting.

As well as the band, we also see glamorous party girls, similarly dressed in that 1920s style. But given that that flapper style has long been a fancy dress cliche, their costumes aren’t as effective. It’s hard to buy into that world when I’m thinking “Oh, those satin gloves were $5 at Geoff’s Emporium, right?” This detail spoils it for me. Up until that point, it went from a cool Pluto cabaret gig to something on par with Napier’s Art Deco Weekend.

But the party girls are a small part of the video. Most it is dedicated to Pluto, who are properly into their fabulousness. Witness Milan pull out a cardboard heart from his suit for the “love!” lyric. He does it with flair and conviction, but there’s just the slightest hint of “OMG, check me out!”

This kind of dress-up is rare in New Zealand music videos – especially with a rock band. It’s nice to see some guys who aren’t afraid to make an effort with wardrobe.

Best bit: Milan breaks character and gives someone the finger.

Note: The audio on this version of the video is out of sync by quite a lot, so all the dramatic flourishes don’t match up.

Next… the name of the game.

KAOS “2000 Beyond”

2001-kaos-2000-beyondKAOS were a hip hop group that was part of the Dawn Raid family. “2000 Beyond” was of two KAOS tracks that featured on Dawn Raid’s 2001 sampler album “Southside Story 2: International”. I’m going to assume that 1960s spy comedy “Get Smart” was the source of the group’s name, but I’m also hoping that the track title was inspired by the Australian futuristic technology TV series “Beyond 2000”.

The video begins with one minute of acting. The guys are hanging out at their place when a mysterious stranger delivers the “Southside Story 2” CD. They pop the CD in their five-disc changer and the fresh beats colour their previously black and white world. Just like in “The Wizard of Oz”.

This takes them through a wormhole into a world of so many gratuitous CGI effects that it makes Supergroove’s “Can’t Get Enough” look restrained and subtle by comparison.

There are different rooms of effects, including a room of flaming fiery flames and a room of booming speakers. There are cameos from label mates the Deceptikonz and bossman Brotha D himself. There’s also an awkward moment where the DJ finds himself with two party girls dancing either side. He seems kind of embarrassed and even a little annoyed, like, OMG, can’t you girls see he’s busy trying to DJ?

We also see the group in a more ordinary situation – partying amongst a large crowd. That footage looks and feels better than all the CGI stuff. Somehow a heaving crowd of people is more exciting than a room of CGI flames.

It’s a good song, but compared to the Deceptikonz, KAOS have something missing. They just seem like a group of four dudes who like to make hip hop tunes together, rather than the big stars that the Deceptikonz became.

Best bit: the persistence of the party girls.

Note: I found this video over at Yahoo, which seems to be another side effect of Warner’s weirdness with old videos. It’s since been removed from Yahoo and it doesn’t seem to be available anywhere else. But here’s the audio, at least.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next: Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome!

Goodshirt “Sophie”

2001-goodshirt-sophieThe “Sophie” video is one of those classic, beloved New Zealand music videos. It won Best Video at the New Zealand Music Awards in 2003 was on the Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision’s list of 100 iconic music videos.

It’s the third of Joe Lonie’s four Goodshirt videos, and probably the best known. In classic Lonie style, it’s all shot in one take and played for laughs, this time with a stationary camera.

The video centres on a young woman. Let’s call her Sophie. It’s her birthday and she’s just taken a shower. Wrapped in a towel, she sits on her couch and puts on headphones to listen to her favourite song, “Sophie” by Goodshirt.

And she really like the song. She’s so wrapped up its pop-rock charms that she doesn’t notice the four cat burglars who break into her flat and steal all her stuff. There’s obviously a strong demand on the black market for quirky vintage furniture.

The burglars are played by Goodshirt, only the singer Gareth wasn’t available for the video shoot so a stand-in was used. Gareth’s absence is why the concept of the black-masked burglars was created.

While enjoying a piece of birthday cake, Sophie turns around and discovers that all her stuff is gone. The bastards even took her toilet paper. She drops her cake in shock. Don’t sorry, Soph – you still have your stereo and Goodshirt CD. And that gift of music is the most precious taonga of all.

The video has nothing to do with the song lyrics (a yearning for an unrequited love), but it picks up on Goodshirt’s charms. “Sophie” is a strong song, but I reckon the video is what really helped get it to number one.

Best bit: Sophie versus the sticky piece of tape on her gift box.

Note: The below version of the video is a bit pixelly and the sound isn’t balanced. But over at Joe Lonie’s portfolio at Fish’n’Clips, there’s a really good quality version.

Director: Joe Lonie
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… we’ve got a futuristic cyber realm and we aren’t afraid to use it.

Goldenhorse “Golden Dawn”

2001-goldenhorse-golden-dawnGoldenhorse had previously enjoyed some success with campus radio hit “American Wife”, but “Golden Dawn” was their first video and the track that started to get them noticed. With two members of the band coming from Bressa Creeting Cake (one of their videos featured a tale of the love between a lady and a weta), it’s not surprising that Goldenhorse have a bit of that art-weird.

The song is a fairly pleasant love song, which manages to have that instant coffee advertisement vibe. But the video takes things in a different, more complicated direction. There are vampires.

As anyone who’s watched “TrueBlood” or a “Twilight” film will know, human-vampire relationships are fraught with all sorts of complications. Lead singer Kirsten plays the vampire. She comes home, pets her dog and removes her robe to reveal all sorts of scratches and bit marks on her back. She snuggles down in bed and dreams of the cute guy she saw in a passing car.

Her fantasies are troubled. An attempt at a doorstep snog is messed up when her urge to bite takes over. Dreams of a romantic rose petal bath are similarly disrupted by her yearnings for his sweet tender neck.

But finally it happens. She manages to dream of having a good snog with the guy and doesn’t sink her teeth into his neck. She wakes up happy and gives her dog a scratch. Maybe now if she can dream it, she can be it.

It’s a fun video, and refreshingly removed from the winery-tour style that Goldenhorse would settle into.

Best bit: the splash war in the rose-petal bath.

Next: worst birthday ever.

Fur Patrol “Spinning a Line”

2001-fur-patrol-spinning-a-lineUp to this point, Fur Patrol’s videos have been a lot of fun, with the band trapped in a swimming pool, strapped to a truck, exploring a surreal world, shooting daggers at a clone and doing a dance-off. But with “Spinning a Line”, things go back to basics.

The band are to be found playing the song in an empty Hopetoun Alpha. They’re not even playing on stage, rather they’re set up on the floor in the middle of the hall. The lighting is dramatic, with the background space almost invisible with the shadows.

The camera slowly glides around the band, and it also looks like the footage has been slightly slowed down to give a dreamy feeling. The video lets the song take over, with the band being almost a secondary consideration.

“Spinning a Line” was the final single from the band’s hugely popular “Pet” album. And it feels like the “Pet” era Fur Patrol are wrapping up, about to grow into the next stage of their career – the adventurous move to Melbourne.

Best bit: the close-ups of the bass, long vibrating strings and all.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… fangtastic.

Che Fu “Misty Frequencies”

2001-che-fu-misty-frequenciesIn the beginning there was Che Fu’s head. It pops up in a black void, before it’s suddenly revealed that Che and the nine members of his band are standing atop a strange brown platform. They discover that, oddly enough, they all have cables trailing from their backs and they can make musical sounds from their mouths. No one seems alarmed by this situation, and they excitedly plug their biocables into jacks.

Plugged in, the song starts with the sound graphing itself on the wall below the platform. Such is the power of the song that even unplugging it keeps the visual tricks going, with frequency graphics bouncing around the posse’s shirts.

The location is slowly revealing itself to be like a real-life video game, though with no apparent challenges, enemy to fight or princess to save. The gang throw Tetris blocks off the wall, then the wall turns into a Mario-inspired universe, with mushrooms and coins flying around. A flower pot appears and – obviously – Che plugs a cable into it. This transports the group to a real-life outdoor scene, some proper New Zealand bush.

The guys groove on, and are visited by one of the giant mushrooms from the earlier location. There’s no sign of Princess Peach. The video ends with the bush scene falling away in Tetris-like pieces, suggesting it’s no more real than the video game location.

The video feels like Che Fu, at the top of his game, making the music video he wants to make – and it was nominated for Best Video at the 2003 New Zealand Music Awards. It’s him and his mates reliving an ultimate childhood fantasy of exploring a video game for real. And maybe that’s the videos weakness – it feels a bit too much of “Hey, check out this cool shizz!” with little more to it. Unless I’ve overlooked a metaphorical commentary on the nature of the music industry.

Best bit: the pounamu piece smashing the Tetris blocks.

Director: Che Fu
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… it’s great when you’re straight.