Chris Knox “My Only Friend”

2000-chris-knox-my-only-friendThis is a love song. Chris Knox might be best known for his iconic love song “Not Given Lightly”, but “My Only Friend” takes things to a whole nother level, with his heartfelt declaration of love for his then partner Barbara Ward.

The video has the usual DIY feeling of Chris’ previous solo and Tall Dwarfs video, but there’s a real sense of vulnerability here in both the song and the visuals.

The video consists of film projected onto different parts of Barbara’s body. It starts with a simple animation of two hands passing a love heart, projected on Barbara’s belly. In another animation, a hand caresses her skin. It’s pretty cute.

But things get more personal. Chris’ face is projected on the side of Barbara’s head. As the song progresses, we also see Chris’ face projected onto Barbara’s face, with almost perfect alignment, making two become one. The song is about having an all-consuming love for another person and the video depicts this with raw honestly. It works in both general terms and also as a very personal, very specific statement.

It’s sad to watch this now and to know that Barbara and Chris are no longer a couple, but I look to the title of the song – “my only friend”. I get the feeling that while they may no longer be sweet lovers in the night, that friendship remains.

Best bit: the animated hand stroking the real belly button.

Director: Chris Knox
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… drop me out!

Tall Dwarfs “Fragile”

1998-tall-dwarfs-fragileThe Tall Dwarfs only had two music videos funded by NZOA, but in both cases they took the funding and made it go far. In this case, the video utilises the magic of green screen to have four layers of video.

The background layer is Queen Street upside down, and I think this is the first time Queen Street has been seen in its less glamorous daytime form. It’s a chance to revisit the street before most of the pink pavers were ripped up in favour of serious bluestone.

So what’s the purpose of this wander around town? Why, it’s to visit the record company. The upside-down camera visits Flying Nun, which looks about as cool as I’d have imagined. Posters and photos adorn the walls, and the camera come across stacks and racks of CDs and LPs. Oh yes.

But remember, this is just the first layer of video. The second is another upside down video, inset in the main image. It shows a bleak urban landscape, weeds, motorway rails, sometimes mirrored in two halves. On top of this is Messrs Knox and Bathgate on percussion and guitar. They have bandages wrapped around their heads and are wearing what look like surreal, fragmented lucha libra masks.

And the fourth layer is the mask-and-bandage-clad dudes popping up again, either separately or together. When the chorus comes along, they’re joined by a hand-drawn “FRAGILE” wobbling over them. This might count as a fifth layer. Crazy.

For a song that’s about fragility, both Alec and Chris and the video itself is wrapped in layers of protection. What’s it protecting? Well, at its heart, it’s a really fine song.

Best bit: the Flying Nun office visit.

Director: Chris Knox
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… inside a Hawke’s Bay art deco gem.

Chris Knox “Half Man Half Mole”

1995-chris-knox-half-man-half-moleThe video is – as its end credits note – made by Barbara Ward and her boyfriend Chris Knox. So as it’s a Chris Knox joint, there must be animation involved. This time the medium is claymation and we follow a little orange fellow, like a rougher, pointy-nosed Morph.

This indie Morph is a troubled character, tormented by not fitting in, getting hassles from other plasticine characters, and with thoughts of death running through his squishy head.

With making an animation, it can be tempting to cut down on the laborious process by repeating footage. There is a big repeated scene in this, but it cleverly follows a reprise in the music and adds something new the second time around.

“Half Man Half Mole” is clever, cute and a little edgy. He made good videos, that Mr Knox did.

Best bit: the spooky Halloween wall.

Director: Chris Knox, Barbara Ward
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Chris Knox “One Fell Swoop”

1994-chris-knox-one-fell-swoopThe first time I heard “One Fell Swoop”, it sounded like a sequel to or a reworking of “Not Given Lightly”, both musically and lyrically. It manages to both be an intense declaration of love, but it also sounds like an apology for perhaps earlier forgetting to express such feelings.

The semi-animated video is a classic Chris Knox work and is as homemade as his music. During the verses a left hand (bare but for a ring on the middle finger) opens and closes with the beat, unfurling to reveal a piece of paper with the last word of each line.

But it’s not all a hand job – at almost the halfway mark, Chris’ head and shoulders turn up for the power chorus. Set against a green screen of rapidly changing images (lots of abstract art pics, as well as album covers from The Stooges’s first album and The Clean’s recently released “Modern Rock”). I like to think that Chris rounded up his favourite LPs, making the song as much about love for music as love for another person. Priorities, yeah.

Best bit: the lyrical hand actions – so much easier than Daft Hands.

Directors: Barbara Ward, Chris Knox
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… Dave gets naked.

Tall Dwarfs “Fork Songs”

“Fork Songs” was a four-song EP, and the Tall Dwarfs got one single funding grant to make videos for all four tracks. Four videos for the price of one? With the Tall Dwarf’s DIY chops, this is business as usual!

“Wings” has an animated border, with the small centre square showing Chris and Alec mucking around in the Knox lounge room. Dancing with an umbrella and a wheel? Oh, why not?

“Lowlands” is animated, with the animations drawn on the phone book. Starting from the emergency pages at the start, each page moves the animation, with people’s faces morphing into one another. Each chorus is live-action footage of a TV, and then it’s back to a replay of the phone book, but getting blacker and scratchier with each reprise.

“Oatmeal” takes the food theme to extremes, with stop-motion animated foodstuffs messing up the place. Dancing chickens, baked beans, bacon, and identifiable edibles. Just when it starts to look palatable, Chris puts a face on it and makes it look at me.

And finally “Two Humans” is a quickly cut montage of still images of many humans. It’s fun to randomly pause, and check out the snapshots of ordinary people in their best ’90s fashions.

The “Fork Songs” videos – each costing an average of $1250 – is evidence that pretty good videos are possible on a very low budget. Of course, it helps when your art already has a low-budget, DIY aesthetic anyway.

Best bit: Chris being caught fiddling with his home recording gear.

Director: Chris Knox
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… Maree goes awol.