The Feelers “Larger than Life”

2003-the-feelers-larger-than-lifeOh, the Feelers. Along comes “Larger than Life”, the first single off their third album, Playground Battle, and yet another top-20 hit. These boys did not stop working.

The song is kind of a love song, but it came right in the middle of the 2003 Iraq War and all the anger and societal turmoil that came with that influenced the Feelers when writing their album. So the song has a lot of testosterone and aggression behind it, sounding less like a sweet love song and more like a caveman dragging off his equally savage cavewoman for some cavelove.

The video gets even more macho. The Feelers are performing outside at night, with an air force helicopter circling them. It’s obviously a cold night – the band’s breathe is visible. Maybe the air force are there to throw them thermal blankets and energy bars.

Then it starts raining and the band don’t look happy. They actually look really uncomfortable out there in the cold and rain, but are channelling that discomfort into dramatic rock faces.

The video looks fabulous. It’s shot in black and white with a golden-brown tint – like a non-nostalgic sepiatone. The choppers and the lights and the rain all look very rock and dramatic. I just hope that when the video shoot was over, there were some hot mugs of Milo waiting for the band.

Best bit: the close-up of a wad of duct tape wrapped around James’ guitar. 4 real.

Scribe “Not Many – The Remix!”

2003-scribe-not-many-remixHere’s a funny thing. The double A-side single of “Stand Up”/”Not Many” spent a total of 12 weeks at number one, but when the “Not Many – The Remix!” single was released, it was kept from the top spot by the debut single of Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian. As it happens, Guy Sebastian has had a longer and more conventionally successful career than Scribe, and even has a song in the New Zealand top 40, as of February 2014.

But the remix of “Not Many” is still a brilliant track with one of the catchiest choruses over. The original was given new life with rhymes from Savage of the Deceptikonz (and his memorable cry of “Pito Saute Aukelagiiiii!”) as well as up-and-coming rapper Con Psy aka David Dallas.

As director Chris Graham told the Grindin blog, he was inspired by P-Money to make the “opposite” of the busy “Stand Up” video, he decided to keep things really simple, paring the video down to just the performers, filmed in colours but with all the players dressed in black and white.

Things start off in a black space, with a shadowy Scribe introducing the song. But suddenly the song starts breaking up and Savage breaks into the picture, a bold presence against a white background. He’s joined by a few other New Zealand hip hop figures (Footsouljahs, the rest of the Deceptikonz daring to wear red).

Then there’s Con-Psy, initially seen from the nose down. He delivers his rhymes in a pretty low key way, but with a few hints that he would mature into the artist he is as David Dallas.

This video just feels right. It captures four of New Zealand’s best hip hop artists doing what they do best. They’re confident but not cocky, and just having a great time.

Best bit: the crazy white dog, enjoying the song just as much as anyone.

Director: Chris Graham
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… cold and wet and just plane scared.

Salmonella Dub “Nu Steppa”

2003-salmonella-dub-nu-steppaGood animated music videos are hard, but Salmonella Dub always manage to get it right. “Nu Steppa” was co-directed by Ash Bolland and Steve Scott, with Scott previously having co-directed by the group’s videos “Problems” and “Platetechtonics (Fartyboom)”.

This time the action takes place away from the wilderness of the previous videos. It’s set in the big city, drawn in black and white and red all over.

At first things seem pretty ordinary. There are lots of scenes of traffic flow, to the point where it’s starting to look like traffic management simulation software. But then – uh oh – suddenly alien robot monsters beam down and cause havoc. Alright!

To the intense bassy rhythm of the music, the robot monsters stomp down the streets, crushing cars underfoot. The aliens don’t seem especially malicious. It’s more like they’re running along some streets that just happen to have all these random little things in the way – just like a human wouldn’t give much thought to (or even notice) stepping on an ant as they walked along.

Oh, but then things get mean. The aliens stop stomping and start using their destructor beams, smashing up remaining cars, as well as the surrounding skyscrapers. It’s a very neat destruction, with each building neatly shattered in turn. Then it’s the turn for a giant white dome of destruction to embrace the city and destroy everything left.

It’s really nicely animated video, with incredible detail. The song lyrics are all about how mighty Salmonella Dub’s music is, so the video is using the robot aliens as a metaphor. Yeah, at their peak, Salmonella Dub were as kick-arse as crazy robot aliens.

Best bit: the very detailed engine of an upturned car.

Directors: Ash Bolland, Steve Scott
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… it’s the remix.

PanAm “Cigars In The Suitcase”

2003-panam-cigars-in-the-suitcaseA horse walks into a music video. Animals aren’t the easiest things to have in music videos, but director Richard Bell uses plenty of footage of a horse in PanAm’s final NZOA-funded video.

The video opens with a close-up of a horse’s eye, but the whole video is shot in black and white, so it’s more artistic than veterinary. The horse shots provide the backdrop for PanAm performing the song in a studio. As well as the horse, we also see Paul from PanAm singing on the backdrop as he simultaneously performs in front of it. Meta. I will also note that by this stage Paul’s hair has grown out of the awkward in-between stage, as seen in the previous video, and is looking longer and more in control. Nice one.

It’s easily PanAm’s best video. It’s shot nicely (though the fake film scratches now look really dated) and the band are confident performers. Even the visual non sequitur of the horse fits right in with the song and the band’s energy.

Over on the Songlines Across New Zealand blog, Paul says this about the video:

“With this one we were tying to do a late 60’s psychedelic idea crossed with a bit of early 90’s (in black and white), we added shots of a big old horse into the mix I and I still think this video is by far the best example of a band performance as we were honed from lots of touring around that time. In fact that video probably represents the high-water mark in terms of the bands powers of entertainment. It was all downhill from there!”

It’s a reminder that making a good music video isn’t necessarily something that a band can do right off the bat. Performing on camera is a different thing to performing on stage. A good director can help, but it takes time to learn that skill. And it seems that PanAm got there in the end.

Best bit: extreme close-up horse nose.

Director: Richard Bell
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… robot smash.

Nesian Mystik “Brothaz”

2003-nesian-mystik-brothazThe Brothaz adventure beings with the group shooting a video for their song “Operation F.O.B”. As far as I can tell, this is a fake video shoot and a full video for this song was never made. That video shoot involves a huge number of extras, all dancing in a tall lobby of a building.

But after the video shoot is over, things get a little quieter. Awa walks away from the video shoot, taking a path that involves walking along all the most gritty and urban looking places around K Road. Like, why walk on the side of West Terrace with a footpath when the road side is that much more picturesque?

This all leads Awa to a support meeting of Brothaz Anonymous, seemingly inspired by the testicular cancer support group scenes of Fight Club. Support groups are great comedy material, but this one isn’t really done for laughs. All the activities at the group are played straight – the group confessions, the trust-building exercises. It all seems like it could be a legit group.

We never see any of Nesian Mystik actually performing the song, so it feels a bit like a short film with a soundtrack by Nesian Mystik. The song – about the importance of male friendships – is sweet and uncynical, but the video seems unsure of how to tackle the subject. The only plot involves a nearby cleaner being invited to join the group, but even that doesn’t feel fully explained. It’s like something is missing. YouTube commenter MrKebabs summed it up when he asked, “there’s a deeper underlying message to this music video, other than unity of brothers, that i can’t quite grasp… anyone??”

Best bit: the pass-the-wink circle game.

Director: David Garbett
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a horse, of course.

Minuit “Menace”

2003-minuit-menaceThis video has a lot of spunk. It’s the first from Minuit, the Nelson electro-pop trio. The song pulls no punches – “You’re a menace to the female sex”, sings Ruth.

She’s performing the song in a dark studio with her two bandmates. At first she looks a little ordinary – her hair looks like it’s a bit wet and she’s wearing an unsexy high-necked top. But gradually it’s revealed that she’s also wearing a PVC miniskirt – complete with the group’s album name “88” emblazoned on it. This is a perfect example of the fashion guideline that a short skirt doesn’t seem so outrageous if you cover up on top – and vice versa. The miniskirt wearing comes across as confident rather than saucy.

But back to the song – just who is this person who is a menace to the female sex? We eventually meet an elderly businessman, who enters on the arm of two attractive young women. Are they his girlfriends or nurse aids? So who is this old guy? What’s he going to do? Push up the price of housing? Write a column in the Herald about how he doesn’t like young people using cellphones or wearing sunglasses on their heads?

Oh no. Like the Cadbury gorilla, he’s going to surprise everyone by turning out to be a really good drummer. He gets behind the kit and joins in with the song, all the while giving Ruth the gladeye.

The two young women leave. If Pops isn’t going to pay any attention to them, why should they stick around? “This chaos has consistency,” sings Ruth.

It’s a standard low-budget video – one location, minimal set – but the performance energy and chemistry between Ruth and the menace make it a rather compelling arrangement.

Best bit: the brief shot of the keyboard with the song’s title showing on its display.

Next… a support group.

Mareko feat. The Deceptikonz “Stop, Drop & Roll”

2003-mareko-stop-drop-and-rollThe phenomenon of “Mareko feat. The Deceptikonz” was like when the Supremes became Diana Ross and the Supremes or Miami Sound Machine became Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine. Except in this case, Mareko isn’t the star – he doesn’t even show up until halfway through the song. Instead it’s Savage who gets the impossibly catchy hook, making it very much Savage feat. the Deceptikonz.

The fire-safety catchphrase of the chorus is turned into a military command for the video – which would be a whole lot easier than shooting people with flaming clothes. It’s filmed at what looks like actual military barracks, complete with the New Zealand flag flying.

The video opens with Mareko broadcasting over the camp’s PA, with his personality flipping between Robin William’s cheerful Good Morning, Vietnam DJ, and R Lee Ermey’s draconian drill sergeant of Full Metal Jacket.

The action alternates between the day and night. In the AM, drill sergeant Savage keeps the troops in line. There are outdoor exercises, head shaving, bunk inspection and some attempts at formation dancing. While at night, the troop’s barracks have been transformed into a party zone, with dancing girls wearing sexy camo. (This is actually what happened with Work & Income’s Limited Service Volunteer programme under Labour.) There’s also a bit of jungle action, where waterguns take the place of serious weaponry.

By the way, this song has one of the greatest lines in New Zealand hip hop, where Devolo tells all opponents to bring it on, adding, “I’ll pay for your minibus!” Yeah, that’s serious.

This is a really fun video, playing along with the cheeky spirit of the song. After the previous branding-intense video for “Mareko (Here to Stay)”, it’s very refreshing to just have the Deceptikonz being these cool dude MCs.

Best bit: the lack of discipline during the bunk room inspection. Eyes front!

Director: Sophie Findlay
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision “dirty” version and “clean” version

Next… a menace II society.

King Kapisi “Stomping”

2003-king-kapisi-stomping“Stomping” was directed by the fellows of Mukpuddy, a superfun Auckland-based animation house. There’s a ton of talent at Mukpuddy, but the “Stomping” video feels troubled by the same sort of troubles that often strike animated music videos. That is, it feels a bit slow and empty, like there wasn’t enough time and/or money to fill out the animation with enough footage to give it more movement and excitement. At one point, there’s a totally blank white screen for almost two seconds, which feels really long. For a song that’s all about stomping, the video has a strangely placid feeling to it.

The video starts by zooming in on Bill’s Electronix shop, where a TV screen shows a video game promising combat between King Kapisi’s team and some monster types. “Start” flashes on the screen, but that’s the last of video game grammar we see. There’s no sense of any gameplay in the video.

I should say, the animation is great. It’s colourful and funny and expressive. I almost feel like taking a bunch of screenshots of all my favourites stills. Maybe the visuals would work better if the animation was given a new audio track with just voices and sound effects, not having to rely on the song. It’s one of those rare cases where the song is good and the visuals are good but together they just don’t quite work.

Best bit: the detailed and rather pretty background of the space scenes.

Director: Mukpuddy
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… basic training.

Jorge & The Woodcut Crew “2 Can”

2003-jorge-and-the-woodcut-crew-2-canThis song features vocals from singer Jorge (aka Lee Morunga), with a guest rap from Mase, produced by Juse of the Woodcut Crew. It’s a R&B track, of the “relationship drama” subgenre, and the video is set in the unconventional location of an industrial dystopia, seemingly influenced by the film classic Metropolis.

This isn’t the first time a music video has used a setting like this. Back in 1995, D-Faction used a dramatic industrial setting for their “Down in the Boondocks” video in 1995. And, of course, Madonna’s empowerment dance anthem “Express Yourself” was set in a similar world – only she had semi-naked hot guy workers sweating it out.

The factory workers in the “2 Can” video are a lot more ordinary looking, like actual factory workers, not Herb Ritts models. As they clock in to the job, a sign warns “Do not let Woodcut infect your children with unsanctioned music!” No, the sanctioned audio is messages of productivity and prosperity. I can’t dance to that.

On the factory floor, someone has slipped Jorge some of that illicit Woodcut music, probably in one of those newfangled mp3 players. She secretly listens to it via an earpiece, but she’s spotted by Mase who has her taken away and threatens her with all sorts of alarming looking medical equipment.

The video ends with Jorge in a strange white room, suggesting she’s moved onto a higher state of consciousness, or perhaps she’s off at a dystopian day spa. It all seems rather bleak, but then the song isn’t much of a happy pill either.

It’s a very stylish, very good looking video. I’m going to assume it was not done with a huge budget (“Shot on mini DV using 5 people, some clothing changes and a bunch of beer,” says the director’s website), so it’s very impressive how much ordinary has been turned into spectacular. The video’s director was Dale McCready, who went on to do the cinematography on a bunch of television, including recent two Doctor Who episodes!

Best bit: Mase’s series of mad-scientist crazy faces.

Director: Dale McCready

Next… big smash.

Katchafire “Colour Me Life”

2003-katchafire-colour-me-lifeHow’s this for a story set-up? A hedgehog is minding its business in the woods. A stoned-as Rastaman drives up in a BMW and throws a guitar case of of his car. The hedgehog investigates the case, crawls inside it and entered a trippy-as rainbow world (i.e. the hedgehog is now also stoned-as). Well, it’s a much better then the hedgehog getting squashed.

This magical rainbow world is animated, with a sandy beach, Rangitoto across the water, some singing palm trees and flowers, as well as a cheerful Rasta snail. Katchafire also appear in the video, superimposed on top of the colourful world, but not actually part of it.

Things are just really nice and chilled out in this rainbow world, in that very Katchafire way. When the song’s sax solo is played, a stream of rainbow-coloured musical notes come floating out of the sax, then Rangitoto erupts with similar rainbow juice.

Eventually the hedgehog returns to reality, where he crawls out of the guitar case, still powered up with the magical rainbow vibes. Along comes another car. This time it looks like Katchafire’s wheels. They pick up the guitar case and head off, no doubt for another magical rainbow experience.

By this stage Katchafire had settled nicely into their sound, becoming a well liked summer festival act. A video like this is pretty goofy, but it feels like an authentic Katchafire experience.

Best bit: the real hedgehog – superb animal acting.

Director: Ivan Slavov
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… overtime is quality time.