Whiz Kidz “Fine Today”

2003-whiz-kidz-fine-todayWhiz Kidz’s bio on Muzic.net.nz describes the Hamilton band as “pop with twists of ska, electronic, hip hop and rock”, which is pretty accurate. That sounds like the sort of band who would have been pretty fresh in the late ’90s, but in 2003 it’s all starting to sound a bit tired.

Their first single was the lively ska tune “Boyracer” from 2002, while “Fine Today” is has some of the electronica, rock and hip hop sounds in it.

The video takes its style cues from the version of 1950s American teen culture that was revived in the 1970s via films like American Graffiti and Grease, not to mention the almighty Sha Na Na. So it’s the 1950s via the 1970s via the 2000s.

Set at a party, the band play a group of nerds, and there’s also a gang of greaser dudes and a girl group who are like the Pink Ladies, only they’re wearing red.

So what goes on at such a party? Well, the punch is spiked (of course) and there’s a dance-off. The lead nerd goes for a stroll with one of the Red Ladies, who is told off by her gal pal (this is actually coming close to the plot of Grease 2).

More punch drinking and dancing ensues, then the nerds take to the stage and become Whiz Kidz, rocking the party with their ska, electronic, hip hop and rock sounds. The song has a brilliant chorus – incredibly uplifting and epic, so this part works really well.

In the end the nerdy guy gets the girl. But – just like in Grease and Grease 2 – the nerd only gets the cool person when they can prove they’re cool.

Whatever happened to Whiz Kidz? This was their one and only NZOA funded video. By 2006 they had changed their name to News of the World. Well, maybe now they’re known as The Sun on Sunday.

Best bit: the nerds’ concern for the guy who drinks too much and passes out.

Next… a shoop-shoop song.

The Mint Chicks “Blue Team Go”

2003-the-mint-chicks-blue-team-goHey, it’s the Mint Chicks! This is where it feels like the last remains of the ’90s have dried up and fallen off and the richness of the ’00s can begin. And yes, let these Auckland art-school hooligans lead the way.

“Blue Team Go” is a mere 77 seconds long, but that’s as long as it needs to be. (I think this actually makes it the shortest NZOA-funded video so far, beating Betchadupa’s 90 second “Bits”). And the video packs more into that 77 seconds that most videos manage in three minutes.

There’s the band playing the song in a black studio. It’s the sort of thing that’s been seen in dozens of other music videos. But suddenly Ruban yells “GO!” and the scene explodes with colour. It’s like 12 years of videos mucking around with green screen and chroma key techniques and this is the first time someone has actually done something amazing with it.

The band’s manic performance energy combined with the equally crazy graphics seem like there’s a mighty gang fight going on, the Mint Chicks versus post-production video editing techniques. The video is directed by Wade Shotter, and I’m reminded of his Augustino video “Into the Grain” where the video itself seemed on the point of disintegration.

Like Supergroove and Goodshirt, the Mint Chicks were one of those bands who made really interesting videos. It seems the philosophy these bands have is if you’re going to make a music video, you might as well do something really epic.

Best bit: the introductory title card that seems to get shaken apart by the intensity of the video.

Note: the video was on MySpace, but it’s since been removed. To watch the video, go to Ziln.

Director: Wade Shotter
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… you’re the one that I want.

Stylus “Backstabbers Incorporated”

2003-stylus-backstabbers-incorporatedHell hath no fury like a rap-rock artist scorned? So, there’s the Stylus dude sitting on the couch playing video cames with his girlfriend who is played by Anna Jullienne, who would very soon go on to play nurse Maia Jeffries on Shortland Street. Hanging out with a hot gamer girlfriend – this sounds like a pretty sweet life for a young dude, right? Wrong. He’s upset.

He’s so upset that he puts down the game controller and picks up a View-Master. You know things are serious when old-school tech is involved. But instead of looking at 3D photos of scenic Amsterdam, he sees his girlfriend on a date with a gross dude.

The magical View-Master offers him other scenes where his girlfriend is being, like, a total bitch. “This will change the way we think of you forever,” warns the chorus. Yeah, that’ll teach her.

All the scenes with the View-Master and the devilwoman girlfriend are really silly. The strongest bit of the video is the band’s performance. They’re fierce and energetic and seem like they might be a good band to see live, even though that whole nu metal thing was getting a bit tired by 2004.

As for the magical View-Master, well, if it were me, I’d switch to the Austrian castles reel and lay off the Red Bull.

Best bit: the Baywatch scenario.

Director: Adam Jones

Next… 77 minty seconds.

Sommerset “Inside”

2003-sommerset-insideAuckland punk-arse punks Sommerset return with “Inside”, a rage against the claustrophobic lifestyle. The adventure begins with a loved-up young couple on a couch. This leads to footage of sperm swimming, and the next thing there’s a baby on the scene.

The mother lays the baby to sleep in his bedroom, and from there we see him grow up, never leaving the room. “I get so sick of being inside!” shouts lead singer Ryan. It suggests this kid is never actually allowed to leave his room, like his parents are some weird extreme home-schoolers. Well, at least they give him a sweet guitar for his birthday.

The kid grows up watching his favourite hair metal band on TV. They bear a suspicious resemblance to Sommerset, hanging out in the back of a limo, pouting to the camera. We also see the band rocking out in a studio, complete with some truly outrageous guitar licking.

Now, I think the idea is that the kid grows up to be Ryan from Sommerset. The next thing we see is Ryan driving in a car. Is he on the road to freedom? No, he’s off to play with his band, in a basement.

The implication seems to be that life is all about being stuck inside, with no option of being outdoors. It’s a curious idea, especially considering how many New Zealand music videos are set in the great outdoors. Is this the first video that’s honestly acknowledging the life of a musician – spending hours inside, rehearsing, creating, gigging?

Best bit: the glam metal limo party zone.

Director: Andrew Morton
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… bad medicine.

Soane featuring Tha Feelstyle & Boh Runga “All I Need”

Soane mixes up some freshness featuring Tha Feelstyle on the verses and Boh Runga delivering a killer chorus. The video is a blue screen job, with Tha Feelstyle, Soane and various cool kids dancing in front of a urban themed background.

One of the cool kids is a girl with a broken arm. That’s not something you normally see in a music video. Usually people are healthy and intact, but here’s a girl (looking about 15) doing a slightly awkward dance with her right arm plastered right up to her elbow.

The style of the video doesn’t change. It’s just people – or silhouettes – moving in front of interesting backgrounds. But here’s a curious thing. The chorus of the song is a lot stronger than the versus, so much so that the mood of the video seems to lift when the chorus comes along.

Soane only makes an appearance at the end of the video, shown at work with his decks. And then the video ends with a wide shot reveals Soane hard at word in front of the blue screen, surrounded by film equipment that had previously been digitally removed.

That’s something that isn’t normally seen in New Zealand music videos – the final show of “Oh, none of it’s real!” But in this case, I don’t think anyone would have previously been under the impression that Soane and pals were grooving in front of a purple sky with giant red and white butterflies flapping about. So what does the shot signify? Hey, here’s the busy modern hip hop producer, hard at work having just finished his latest music video.

Best bit: the breakdancing on turntable top.

Director: Miki Magasiva
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… cabin fever.

Salmonella Dub “Slide”

2003-salmonella-dub-slideSalmonella Dub’s three previous videos have all been animations, which I always assume is the result of a band too busy touring to shoot a video in person. The other way of handling that dilemma is to shoot the video on the road, and that seems to be what the Dub has done for “Slide”.

The video is shot in Sydney, as part of the band’s 12-date tour of Australia in August 2003. Much of the video is shot at a gig at the Metro Theatre. It’s a relaxed song, an ode to letting the worries of the world just pass you by.

We see the various members of the band up on stage, but there’s no sense that they’re performing to the cameras. It’s more like the camera is an audience member, just passively checking out the band as they perform.

But just in case things were getting a little claustrophobic in the club, the action moves outside. There we meet a skateboarder who is blissfully hooning down a hilly suburban street. You know you’re not in New Zealand when the footpath is smooth enough to confidently race down on a skateboard.

He then moves to the CBD, skating through a grey pedestrian mall past guys in suits (take that, guys in suits!), then it’s around a few corners and in the front door of the Metro and into the gig. Just in time for the song to end.

The video feels like a quickie, and more effort seems to have gone to filming the skateboarding scenes than the live footage. But I think Salmonella Dub have always been an album band and a live band more than they’ve ever been a singles or music videos band.

Best bit: the quality moves from the skateboarder.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a broken arm.

Pluto “Dance Stamina”

2003-pluto-dance-staminaHere’s Pluto sounding very cool, with hints of the Stone Roses and early U2. Far removed from the comedy world of “Bananas in the Mist”, “Dance Stamina” gets very moody and sexy. Oh yeah.

The video opens with Pluto silhouetted in red light against a screen. When we meet the band, they’re bathed in red and blue lights, with lead singer Milan looking all hot and bothered. Also – fabulous cheekbones.

The video is directed by Kezia Barnett, who has previously proven her talent for using quality choreography in music video with “Buck It Up” and “Cement” for Goodshirt. But rather than the extravagant formation styles of the Goodshirt videos, “Dance Stamina” just uses one dancer, who is dressed very similarly to the disco goth vamps of “Cement”. Only this time there’s no ironing board. She dances in a separate space to the band. Are they even aware of her existence?

As the band are playing it so very straight and so cool, the dancer – with her black wig, pale make up and bloody mouth – is a lively contrast. But how much dance stamina does the dancer have? Three and a half minutes into the video, she collapses, but then rises again in silhouette form.

What if she’s an immortal vampire who can dance for a long time? Things would have been good with the dance marathons on the 1930s, but it’s slim pickings in the 2000s when indie bands would only record songs that are a measly four minutes long.

“Dance Stamina” doesn’t seem like it had the larger budget of Goodshirt’s videos, but the simple set, dramatic lighting, fab performances from the band, and of course the dancer all come together to make something very slick.

This video was a finalist at both the Kodak Music Clip Awards and the Juice TV Music Awards.

Best bit: the dancer’s layers and layers of faux pearl necklaces.

Director: Kezia Barnett
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… Sydney skate.

Opshop “Saturated”

2003-opshop-saturatedMost enticingly, the YouTube description says this song was “featured on the hit TV series The Hills“. But “Saturated wasn’t listed on MTV’s official list of all the songs used on the popular scripted reality show, so I’ll never know if it was the Speidi love theme. Actually, given the that the main refrain is “let’s stay up all night”, the song was probably used for a scene where some characters – Speidi, perhaps – stayed up all night.

I did discover a couple of songs from other New Zealand artists that had been played on The Hills. Greg Johnson had “Save Yourself” on ep 208, and two years later Savage was there with “Swing”. And if you count Natasha Bedingfield as New Zealandish, well, she did the series theme song.

My searching also revealed that Opshop had another song on another MTV show. “One Day” was on episode 213 of 16 and Pregnant, where “Emily faces the pressure of starting over in a new school and new town” among other things.

Anyway. Back to the lecture at hand. The “Saturated” video is Jason walking along a beach, and that’s basically it. It’s shot in several continuous bits, with edits to show the passing of time or to change the action happening on the sandy ground behind him. There’s no sign of the rest of the band, letting Jason be the face of Opshop.

It’s just all regular beach activity – a dude hooning on a dune buggy, a couple strolling, a dog playing (Jason throws him a stick), a couple of surfers and a bit of beach cricket.

Sometimes the lighting makes it look like Jason has been superimposed on a beachy background, but as he replied to an accuser on YouTube, “I was definitely at the beach. true story.” And when you think about it, filming it in a studio would be a lot trickier than doing it for real.

It turns out all the walking has a purpose. Right at the end, as the sun is setting, he walks up and there’s a lady. His body language is all “Sorry I’m late. Do I still get a shag?” Oh, so that’s why all those people on NZ Dating put “long walks on beaches” in their profile.

Best bit: the impressive one-handed dive catch from a beach cricket player.

Next… can’t stop, won’t stop.

Katchafire “Bounce”

2003-katchafire-bounceThe video starts with Katchafire in a shed, performing a song about marijuana. I feel like this is the group’s default mode, and if you were to pay them a surprise visit at any time of day or night, they’d be in a shed performing a song about marijuana.

“What do you say we do ‘Bounce’ then get up out of here?” asks Logan. It’s an agreeable suggestion and the band start playing the song. And that’s basically the video – shot in black and white, Katchafire in a shed, performing a song.

The implication that it’s a sound check, setting up for a later evening show in the shed. It actually looks like it would be a great venue at night, complete with the “No Patches” sign and chickens scratching around the front.

And maybe that’s the problem. It’s a funky tune, but the video is like sitting in on basic soundcheck but being denied the band in full force at the main event in the evening. I suspect this is the eternal problem of Katchafire’s music videos – how do you capture the magic of their live shows without being able to replicate that smoky vibe?

Best bit: the chicken pecking at a cob of corn.

Director: Ivan Slavov
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… long walks on beaches.

Goodshirt “Cement”

2003-goodshirt-cementKezia Barnett, the director of Goodshirt’s previous video “Buck It Up”, is back for another adventure inside her gothic world of dance.

Like “Buck It Up”, the “Cement” video is set inside an eerie old building – this time it’s a spooky looking house on a moonlit night. The band are playing outside the house which comes to the attention of a Rapunzel-like resident, who flips down her long blonde braid for singer Gareth to climb.

They curl up in bed together, but then Rapunzel mysteriously vanishes, leaving Gareth alone in the bedroom to face five dancing 1940s housewives who menacingly iron a tea towel with his face printed on it. And just to make things odder for poor Gareth, the women then begin to dance with their ironing boards, and then turn into 1980s disco goth vamps. Chaos ensues.

While all this is going on, the rest of the band are still playing away, chipping in backing vocals. But we only see them via a photo on the wall of the house, suggesting they’ve been magically transported inside the photo.

I’m slightly confused by the video’s ending. Gareth finds a dark-haired woman drowning in a bath and rescues her. Is she the Rapunzel lady with her blonde utility wig removed? Well, whoever she is, she’s the girl of Gareth’s dreams. They embrace, and we discover the rest of the band frozen in the framed photo.

I like the style of this video. It’s a lot more ambitious than your typical New Zealand music video. It’s always good to see dancing in a music video – especially when it’s not done as a parody of dancing in music videos. This video almost inspires me to drag out my ironing board and rhythmically flail about with it.

Best bit: the fierce dance of the irons.

Director: Kezia Barnett
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… the chook look.