Emulsifier “Get On Up”

Like Garageland’s later video for “Beelines to Heaven”, Emulsifier have been inspired by old pop TV shows like “C’mon”. But this ain’t no historically accurate costume drama. Rather, it looks like an explosion in an opshop, with clothing and hairstyles from different pop culture styles of the 1960s and 1970s. But then, being New Zealand it is actually possible that all this stuff could have been in vogue one afternoon in the early ’80s.

The video is shot in bright, rich colours with a slightly jerky style. There’s also some green screen magic where the band gyrate in front of insane psychedelic fractel backgrounds. By this stage I’m almost at the point of wanting to embrace this crazy world of “Get On Up”.

And it got me thinking – what was music television like in the 1970s? Well, some of it was really good and edgy, but other stuff was cheesy as. I’d like to send Emulsifier back in time to see what sort of televisual magic they’d could create with the team at Avalon and their smoke machines of drama.

But maybe this digi-psychedelic-opshop style suits the song. It’s a perfectly ordinary piece of early-’90s, Chili Pepper-inspired pop funk, so maybe it works to also have a video that’s trying to be something cool from another era but isn’t quite getting it. It’s not 1974. It’s 1994 and they’re a bunch of young New Zealanders wearing comedy flares and nylon party wigs.

Best bit: the old opshop granny wigs disguised as shaggy cool dos.

Director: Josh Frizzell
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… showdown at high noon.

Nathan Haines “Lady J”

1994-nathan-haines-lady-jAw yeah. “Lady J” is a very cool song and the video is the dopeness. Compared to the more polite album version, the video version of “Lady J” has more of a low end, with a rap added courtesy of Sonny Sagala (aka Dei Hamo). That detail lifts the song, taking it a step away from its melodic jazz roots and making it the sort of tune that the Ice TV gang would gush over.

The spunky video is directed by Josh Frizzell and takes on a kind of scrapbook look. Shapes containing Nathan, Sonny and other band members slowly glide or fragment across the screen. It looks a bit like a DVD menu screen from the ’00s, but there’s something that makes it just that bit more sophisticated.

Nathan looks quite different to his usual appearance. He has closely shaven hair and is wearing tinted spectacles. It somehow makes him look much older the young man of 22 he was – but perhaps this was intended. And it was something that hugely appealed to me at age 19 – a video evoking a cool, sophisticated world that seemed out of reach for me in from suburban Hamilton.

In a way, a trick is being played. The video is taking a jazz track and presenting it in such a way that it crossed over to the world of teen pop, like a gateway drug to a cooler world of music.

Best bit: the side silhouette of Nathan’s trousers. Good cut.

Bonus: here’s Nathan in 1995 talking about his album “Shift Left” from TV3’s music show “Frenzy”.

Director: Josh Frizzell
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Unitone Hifi “Sitting by the Phone”

“Sitting by the Phone” was Unitone Hifi getting very very pop. Peter at DubDotDash has the interesting tale behind the song – after Teremoana previously had a song rejected from Deepgrooves due to it being too political, Unitone Hifi teamed up with her and went in totally the other direction.

The video is even more pop, positively revelling in the song’s popfulness. In a bright cartoony world, Teremoana and two pals hang out by a swimming pool. Over behind a wire fence, we also see three dudes hanging out, playing cards – presumedly they are too busy shuffling to phone Teremoana.

Bobbylon busts in with a verse, offering the male perspective (he <3’s her too). MC Just One pops up for a rapped verse, but his argument is less convincing. “I’ll tell you one thing, G, I’ll call when I call,” he raps. Seriously, a guy calling a girl “G” is at least as awful as being called “bro” or “dude”. Instant deal-breaker.

Now, the important thing to remember is that back in 1992, the only people who had cellphones were businesspeople. So when Teremoana sings of sitting by the telephone, she’s talking about the landline in her house. But it is to the video’s credit that there is no phone in the video. Instead Teremoana’s hanging out in the sun, with her friends – not a lovesick shut-in. It’s a sunny, optimistic video – just right for seeing in the summer.

Best bit: the green screen pool, a good use of technology.

Director: Josh Frizzell
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… extraterrestrial.

Joint Force “Static (Part 1)”

1995-joint-force-staticAfter bursting onto the scene as hip hop duo MC OJ and Rhythm Slave, Otis and Mark later teamed up with DLT, previously of Upper Hutt Posse. Together the three were Joint Force – a nice short two-syllable name.

The “Static” video is incredibly ambitious. Rather than just showcasing the first single of this new trio, a rage against the media, the song becomes a soundtrack to a stylish action film, very strongly inspired by the hip new films of Quentin Tarantino.

There are plenty of music videos from the mid ’90s that were gripped with Tarantino fever, but the “Static” video actually manages to pull it off this particular style. I reckon it works because Joint Force were as cool as characters in a Tarantino film.

We meet Otis and Darryl in the particularly photogenic men’s toilets at Hotel DeBrett. These toilets also feature in Cicada’s 1996 “Future Folds” video and Tadpole’s “For Me”.

A mysterious Russian woman takes a phone call and some evil scientists attempt to decipher the secret codes in the group’s performance. Meanwhile, Mark emerges from the sea and then joins his bros in the loos.

As this may all suggest, there’s a lot of plot and acting in the video and sometimes the song takes second place. But that’s ok. It’s such a strong song that the snippets that bubble up from under the acting make me want to hear more. (And the full version can be heard below.)

All the mystery and intrigue in the video leads to a thrilling cliffhanger with a bomb about to explode. What happens next? Forget the video – next I’m going to try and track down the group’s “One Inch Punch” EP.

And here’s “Static (Part 2)”. It’s the full song – no high jinks – just the raw performance footage of the group that’s occasionally featured in Part 1. DIY Steadicam provided by a bungy cord.

Otis explains (via Facebook) how the second version came to be released:

We actually just shot this version so we had something to put on the monitors in the ‘CIA’ office when they were trying to decipher our codes in the other video. But it’s kinda nice and slick ‘n’ simple so we thought, Fuck it… Put ’em both out.

Director: Josh Frizzell
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Emma Paki “System Virtue”

Watching this video is a little bittersweet, knowing that Emma hit a rough patch soon after and left the music industry for over a decade. In the video she’s young and seems to be singing a message of hope. If only.

The video is lovely, with slow black and white footage of Maori in small towns around New Zealand, including plenty of staunch-as bros looking real hard, eh. Meanwhile, Emma busks on the streets of Auckland, with passersby passing her by, though the infamous Queen Street busker stops for a look.

“System Virtue” feels like it has a positive and uplifting message, but Emma seems to have been studying the Shayne Carter style of singing, leaving the verses sounding like they might just be make up of interesting sounds, rather than meaningful sentences. And “system virtue” – what does that even mean? But does it need to have a meaning?

By the way, if you love this song, stay away from the album version on Oxygen of Love. The distinct jangly guitar and meandering bass is gone, with distracting backing vocals inserted. The general appeal and emotion of the song has been smothered with full-on pop production style, more suited to a Feelers track. But thankfully the one-two punch of the original recording and its video are how the song is best known.

Directed by Josh Frizzell, the “System Virtue” video won Best Video at the 1994 New Zealand Music Awards.

Best bit: the lady enjoying a cup of tea in an Arcoroc mug.

Director: Josh Frizzell
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… man on the verge of a popstastic breakthrough.

The Mutton Birds “Your Window”

“Your Window” starts off sounding like a pleasant slice of suburban New Zealand, but then the chorus comes along and – ahoy! – it’s about sex. It’s about sneaking in to root your sweetie.

The Mutton Birds switch between two universes. Dressed in tapa-print shirts, they perform the song outside a bungalow. It’s the same sort of cosy Kiwiana that flows through all Mutton Birds songs. The other universe is a ’60s pop performance. Dressed in matching black suits and white skivvies, the band perform in front of a stylised window set.

What do these two realities say? One is the present, in a definite place, with acknowledgment of multicultural contemporary New Zealand. The other is in the past, with only a symbolic connection to the lyrical content of the song. The Mutton Birds are caught in the middle, struggling to find a connection between these two worlds. Struggling to find an open window?

Maybe the song is about former children of the ’60s struggling with ageing. Maybe it’s not actually about sex.

Best bit: the backwards guitar solo

Director: Josh Frizzell
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a bunch of tools.

Shihad “Stations”

What are the Shihads doing? It’s rock star 101 – the crucifixion of Christ. Yeah, that’ll offend the hardcore Christians and wake up the atheists and make people have a good think about the message of the music. You know what else did that? “Jesus Christ Superstar” is what.

So I guess the ‘stations’ the title is referring to are the Stations of the Cross, and that in turn is depicted in the video. A Jesus lookalike gets a crown of thorns and schleps around a cross, while Shihad walk around in slow-motion.

It’s fairly elaborate for a New Zealand music video, and obviously someone had enough faith in them to ensure the video would have good production values. But it seems like they were going for a really niche bogan metal audience, which Shihad then spent their long career trying to get out of.

Best bit: the Jesus actor’s anguish face.

Director: Josh Frizzell
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… Mr Knox don’t need no funding.

Missing videos from 1992

There are 22 videos missing from 1992, the most enticing being “Licence to Love” by metal band Scarf who had just come along just as the rawness of grunge was pushing out the extravagance of hair metal.
Continue reading Missing videos from 1992

Maree Sheehan “Fatally Cool”

Maree Sheehan crouches in the grass in One Tree Hill and, in a low, quiet voice, she raps like Prince Be of PM Dawn in “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss”.

It’s an unusual mix. The video is full of kapahaka performers, and yet the songs is a slow jam that sounds more like a female Aotearoan LL Cool J. Later in the video, we see Maree standing outside an office building and driving across the harbour bridge, both times wearing the same clothes she’s wearing in the One Tree Hill scenes.

So here’s my theory – when we see her in the city and alone on the hill that’s real life. When we see the kapahaka dancers, that’s her fantasy; being in love is so awesome, it feels like being surrounded by a whole troupe of kapahaka performers doing their thing.

Best bit: the finest poi work in a NZ music video since the “Poi E” video.

Director: Josh Frizzell
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… Don pre-empts William’s wedding suit.

Maree Sheehan “Dare to be Different”

The second time around, Maree Sheehan’s video is to be found online. “Dare to be Different”, a sultry dance track on the theme of acceptance, seems to take more than a few cues from Madonna.

There’s Maree in a mansuit, but because it’s the early ’90s she’s wearing it with a peasant blouse (ok, that’s a drink). This is also the first video to bust out some serious dance moves. Sure, Moana had a few in “A E I O U”, but in “Dare to be Different”, Maree is getting down too.

Also in a Madonna style, Maree is seated with two gal pals in a convertible, a la “True Blue”. This is cut with posh ladies at a dinner party and some bros huddled and/or dancing around a fire in a barrel. Homelessness: just because it’s different don’t mean it’s wrong (?)

While the video has a lot of big ideas behind it, there’s one that feels the most dated – the fly girls. As soon as the MC Hammer-style dancers start doing their thing, it feels like the video ought to be given to a ’90s culture exhibition at Te Papa. That is, until this stuff becomes fashionable again, which won’t be long.

Best bit: a woman with a towering beehive chowing down on a banana.

Director: Josh Frizzell
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… Greg is stuck on an island.