Able Tasmans “Hold Me 1” (1990)

able-tasmans-hold-me-1And Flying Nun birthday week concludes with something very sensible from the time before NZOA funding.

This video is so grown up, so adult. The first 45 seconds of the song is Graeme Humphreys’ lush piano intro. Subtly – and notoriously – he is revealed to be sporting a rats tail hair tuft. At the time, only bad boys had rats tails.

Slowly the piano starts to build and suddenly the whole band appears, looking very sensible, grown up and adult. The performance space is decorated in bright ’90s colours – strong blues, red, browns.

The band all have their roles, and seem to be working solidly and competantly at playing their instruments. There is no rock star posing. These are professional musicians. Their restraint is very pleasant to watch, especially after seeing videos from bands who try to do the big rock face but don’t quite get it right.

Most pleasing is the scratchy old organ, where its switches are flipped with great importance, like a PhD student (not a mad scientist) conducting valuable scientific experiments.

There are nine people on board – pianist, organist, drummer, bassist, lead singer and guitarist, cellist, two violinists, and a backing singer who only has 24 words to sing and spends most of the time standing very stiffly in the background. In fact, the backing singer isn’t shown singing until three minutes into the song, making his appearance initially very mysterious for the first-time viewer.

This is a very serious, grown up video but it absolutely works. The band have shown up to work wearing their best clothes and they’ve just gone about their business in making a good video that highlights the song.

Able Tasmans “The Big Bang Theory”

1994-able-tasmans-the-big-bang-theoryIt’s full of stars. The Abel Tasmans get all metaphysical with a journey through space.

Explosions, chemical equations, planets, sun spots, a singing moon, constellations, rocky terrain and and the shadowy silhouette of a band that doesn’t want to be in their video. Or, you know, the awesome visuals speak for the music far more than a band performance would.

I’m stuck. It’s a “System Virtue” situation. The song sounds good, but I don’t know what the lyrics are so it doesn’t quite come together. I’m just going to literally assume it’s about astrophysics and enjoy its spacy graphics effects.

Best bit: the disembodied clapping hands.

Director: Ronald Young
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… beached as, bro.

Able Tasmans “Fault in the Frog”

“Fault in the Frog” is based around the urban legend that claims a frog won’t try to escape a gradually heated pot of water because it’s happening too slowly to realise it’s being boiled alive. Therefore, if you slowly ruin everything, no one will notice because they’ll think they’re in a nice hot spa pool. Or something. The band uses this as a metaphor for global warming, though you have to delve beneath the bagpipes and light voices to get the lyrical message.

The video is a montage of swirling scenes of forests, tinsel Christmas trees, which in turn leads to a home movie tour around the world – mad bastards shouting in London, village life in India and more of those swirling forests.

There’s a message here, but it seems like the Abel Tasmans are too timid to do a full-on, loud and proud protest song, instead hiding behind lush production and a video that manages to divert attention from the lyrics.

Best bit: the fellow at Speakers Corner gesticulating at a gold star with a photo of JFK glued to it.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next: the bit of the man brain that wants to root you.