Supergroove “If I Had My Way”

Supergroove had creative differences. The lively pop-rock-funk group of teens had turned into a rock band of serious young men, average age 22. The band was downsized (sending Che Fu out into the world on his own, where he did just fine) and adopted a new sound, less funk and more rock.

At the time, I came across a Supergroove fan site, kept by an enthusiastic Australian fan who was really excited about their new album. But her excitement turned to disappointment when the album was released. Who were these miserable bastards and what had they done with Supergroove?

“If I Had My Way” was the first single of “Backspacer”, a showcase of the band’s new sound. The song has some really fine moments (the opening hook is sweet), but its weaknesses are apparent. Karl’s singing voice isn’t strong enough to carry the song, the group’s vocal harmonies sound like a new trick they want to show off, and the song is about a minute too long. But what about the video?

Directed by bass player Joe Lonie, the video is based around a faux TV show. Clad in their trademark black, the ‘Groove assemble infomercial exercise machines and then ride them in crazy sped-up footage, while the lyrics repeatedly ask “Who would you kill?”

The band also leave the confines of the studio and play in a pigsty (with real pigs and real mud), an ice skating rink (while ice hockey players hoon around them) and the dramatic finale – playing on a desolate beach with a flaming piano as the tide comes in.

There doesn’t seem to be any logic behind these locations, other than they look interesting. It almost feels like the band didn’t have enough confidence in their new sound and so were trying to distract viewers with a crazy music video.

This video won Best Video at the 1997 New Zealand Music Awards, beating the videos for Shihad’s “La La Land” and Dam Native’s “Behold My Kool Style”. It was the third win in a row for Joe Lonie, and the second for Siggi Spath, but I’d say those other two videos are more beloved and have held up better over time.

I feel a bit sorry for “Backspacer” era Supergroove now. From all accounts, they weren’t in a good place at this stage and they broke up soon after. But despite all the misery, “If I Had My Way” still has a hint of the playfulness and energy that infused their first album. Karl wearing lipstick and singing with pigs? Go on, lads!

Best bit: the pigs, happily nomzing on scraps, oblivious to the band playing in their shed.

Directors: Joe Lonie, Sigi Spath
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Dimmer “Don’t Make Me Buy out your Silence”

1996-dimmer-dont-make-meThis was a very early version of Dimmer, back when Shayne Carter was really still figuring out what form his new project was going to take. It was another two years before Dimmer really kicked off with the much slicker “Evolution”. This early track feels a lot less polished, almost like a demo.

Shayne Carter plays a man on a mission, purposefully striding around downtown Auckland at night, clutching a leather briefcase. He even walks past the White Lady food truck and gives it a good stare, because you never know what’s lurking in those cheeseburgers.

Directed by Steve Morrison, it’s a very moody video and it seems to be another one influenced by that Tarantino cool. Just watch the interaction between Shayne and the taxi driver who does not approve of his cigarette smoking.

The YouTube comments suggest there may be other footage, with commenter Devilscucumber asking, “Is this the censored version? I feel we are missing a homicide somewhere…” Well, perhaps it’s better to have the menace implied rather than shown.

The taxi takes Shayne to a late-night cafe. Given his earlier visit to the White Lady, perhaps that’s all he was after – some good late-night kai. I bet that cafe does good nachos.

Best bit: the White Lady, good for late-night burgers.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Inchworm “Come Out Come Out Wherever You Are”

1994-inchworm-come-outDespite Hamilton having a reputation for hard-rockin’ bogan metal bands, there was actually a really good indie scene in the early-mid ’90s. Inchworm were one of the bands who regularly played around town and this song was their first funded video.

The band shared singing duties and drummer Rob is at the mic on this track. But here’s the thing – director Greg Page never made a Karen Carpenter-like demand that he come out from the drumkit. Whenever we see him sing, he’s surrounded by his rapidly flying drumsticks, concentration face in full effect.

The video looks great, set in an old hospital and lit for maximum spookiness. There’s rain, dramatic shadows and the camera takes an uneasy journey along a corridor. But there’s never any hint that something sinister might happen. At its heart, it’s just a band performing their song in a cool old location.

Despite this promising start, it wasn’t until 1997 that Inchworm received their next music video funding.

Best bit: drummer Rob’s rapidly flying drumsticks.

Director: Greg Page
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Strawpeople “Love Explodes”

Thanks to NZ On Air, Strawpeople’s very first funded video is now online. On their second album, Strawpeople covered the Ted Brown song “Love Explodes”, with vocals by Stephanie Tauevihi – then a teenaged presenter of youth TV show InFocus.

The video has a simple treatment. Stephanie and Strawpeople Marke Tierney and Paul Casserly sit in a car. Stephanie is in the driver’s seat, while the producers laze in the back. A minute into the video, the Michael Ondaatje poem “Kim, at Half an Inch” is displayed on screen, a few words at a time.

It’s a very stylish video, already showing signs of the video-directing talent that both Tierney and Casserly would later demonstrate with other artists. There’s a slightly odd bit during the bridge with Mark and Paul do slow-motion jumps in front of a selection of green-screened curiosities. The trio also have moments of standing around looking cool.

The video concludes with the trouble leaping around the studio. After spending the past three minutes looking sultry, Stephanie finally gets a few moments to jump around like the teen she is.

Best bit: Mark’s yawn in the back of the car.

Director: G Smith
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Tufnels “Husky Vooms”

1994-tufnels-husky-voomsAnother video newly online for NZ Music Month. The Tufnels are one of my favourite New Zealand groups. They were a later incarnation of the Bird Nest Roys and self-released one album, “Lurid”, which is full of brilliant indie pop.

“Husky Vooms” was the first of their three NZOA-funded music videos. Starting with some plinky-plunky piano, the song explodes into a repeated question: “Wouldn’t you like to see me?” The video takes its cue from this line, making the star of the video a blind man, using a cane to navigate around central Auckland. Impressively and/or suspiciously, the blind man confidently walks down the steep steps at the top of Myers Park.

The sepiatone adventures of this guy then make way for some grainy black and white footage of the band performing. But these two worlds don’t remain seperate. A guitar (sometimes seen with its human) is let loose in the blind man’s world, captured by a camera strapped to the guitar head.

Finally, the previously monochrome world of the video erupts into a colourful animation, as the blind man finds himself in a crazy lurid world of excitement.

I like that this video doesn’t focus on any rock star antics from the band. The lowkey adventures of the blind man lets the song stand out. It’s not a big sexy hard-sell music video, but it works just fine.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Supergroove “Here Comes the Supergroove”

Let’s kick off New Zealand Music Month with this newly uploaded cultural taonga, thanks to NZ On Air – Supergroove’s very first music video from 1992. As the title suggests, the song is an introduction to the group and the video also acts as a simple primer for this young and energetic group.

The video starts with a sophisticated lady putting a Supergroove CD in her modern compact disc player. So intense is the CD, the player blows up. The lady doesn’t look too concerned.

The smoke clears and we meet the band wearing colourful ’90s clothes. This is how they dressed in their very early days, before their manager took them aside and gave them a bunch of styley monochrome threads. It’s crazy, colourful ’90s garb, and hilariously this sort of stuff is very slowly coming back into fashion. As is the monochrome. Another hallmark of the ’90s is the appearance of a full-screen graphics emphasising select words from the song. FUNK. BEAT. RETREAT. BURNED. HEAT.

The video alternates between this colourful footage of the band in a white studio and grainy footage of the band playing live. It’s like the two natural states of Supergroove – making cool music video and bringing the house down at a gig.

There are fewer of the video tricks that became the hallmark of later Supergroove videos. But there is some back and forth between Karl and Che, shot as black silhouettes against a white background. It’s reminiscent of a similar later bit in the “Can’t Get Enough” video, and – Generation X alert – it was surely inspired by the Electric Company’s silhouette word song.

It takes guts and/or naivety for a bunch of 18-year-olds to burst into the world of music and declare, “We bring the funk”. But Supergroove didn’t do a bad job of following through.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… heavenly creatures.