If you go to a regional museum in New Zealand, chances are there’ll be an old manual telephone switchboard on display. The “Paradigm” video makes use of such a switchboard. It’s obvious that Victoria is in a such museum (MOTAT, I’m guessing) as she operates the old switchboard, but we’ll just ignore the display case on the wall behind her.
More important is how she’s connecting calls without using a headset to hear which numbers the callers want. Maybe she’s just randomly connecting people. At one point she totally neglects her operator duties and pulls out her guitar.
The song is all about communication. The other band members (one in a workshop, the other in a butcher shop) each have old hand-crank phones and seem to be puzzled by who they’re getting connected with.
We also see a contemporary couple chatting on the phone, each lying on their beds like teens. The guy is even talking on a wired landline phone, which now almost seems as old-fashioned as the antique telephony in the museum.
But yet no matter whether it’s made wood, Bakelite, metal or glass, people have been using technology to communicate for decades now. Let’s just be grateful that technology today isn’t interrupted by a guitar-playing telephone operator.
Best bit: the male caller’s “I see dumb people” t-shirt – so 2000s.
The “Fluid” video is based around a fluid – specifically, a tureen of piping hot soup, served for a family lunch on a grey rainy day. The meal is attended by lead singer Victoria Girling-Butcher’s actual family, gathering for lunch at the family home in New Plymouth. It comes as a surprise how alike the Girling-Butcher whanau look – there’s even a resemblance in photos of ancestors. But given that most families we see on the screen are played by unrelated actors, perhaps it shouldn’t be all that surprising that there’s a family resemblance.
The dining is filmed with a relaxed camera, focusing on small details – a slice of bread, a sip of soup, a child’s animated conversation. It’s very cosy and nice, with everyone smiling and enjoying themselves – and there’s no drunk uncle being a dick.
Alternating with the meal is footage of Victoria sitting at a window singing, next to her mini-me niece. Rain falls outside the window, which just makes the indoor goings-on that much more comforting.
The dishes are done and people start leaving. Fortunately the rain seems to have stopped. And the video ends with Granny and Gramps (or Great-Granny and Great-Gramps) at the door, seeing off their offspring.
In a way this video is a fantasy, the family dinner where everyone is loving and peaceful, where the grandparents live in an old homestead in the Taranaki rather than a pensioner flat in Howick. And the video lets the viewer feel like maybe they can be a guest at this comforting family lunch.
I’m not entirely sure how it happened, but I used to really really like Blindspott, and I will offer three pieces of evidence:
I bought their first two CD singles (“Nil By Mouth” and “Room to Breathe”) at a time when I had otherwise long given up buying actual physical singles.
I went all the way out to a skate shop in Orewa, of all places, which was the only shop that stocked Blindspott merch. I bought an official Blindspott t-shirt.
I won tickets to the extreme sport games X-Air, when it was held in Hamilton, and only went because Blindspott were playing. I got Damian’s autograph.
Things were going well, and then Blindspott released “S.U.I.T.”. There’d been talk in NZmusic.com of the new Blindspott single that was changing things up by having rapped verses and a sung chorus (rather than vice versa on the other singles). But along came this really really angry-dude song, with a chorus that seemed entirely unaware of its contradictory lyrics as it yelled “Fuck you and all your negativity!”
And the video is just as much an angry-dude work. It’s set in a shady bunker type space, where the band are playing in a cage, surrounded by dozens of angry looking dudes. There are tattoos, shaved heads, dreadlocks, eyebrow piercings and scowls a plenty.
The band are all performing in matching boilersuits, and there are some graphics that imply they’ve prisoners in a futuristic prison system or at least have just been arrested. Perhaps they’re performing as part of some sort of futuristic community arts periodic detention programme to assist youth offenders. If so, I’m not sure it’s working.
The video is a statement. The previous two videos were self-funded $800 jobs with the bigger budget and all the extras the band have made a bold statement about who are see themselves. But for me the biggest moment is the pre-chorus lyric “This is us and us is this”. The song and video is Blindspott laying down the law. This is who they are and if you don’t like it, you can get lost. Which is what I found myself doing. And I never wore that Blindspott t-shirt.
Best bit: the seething mass of dudes, barely contained by the fences.
Bonus: Here’s Shelton and Marcus from Blindspott giving high school music students a lesson in the structure of “S.U.I.T.” and make it seem like the world’s most boring song.