“Bits of yellow paper, addressed from you to me…”
Here’s another example of when a performance-based video can score themselves a hall pass here at Y,WGAV! Perhaps you’re familiar with Michel Gondry; the legendary French director behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and countless classic music videos for Bjork, Steriogram, Foo Fighters, The White Stripes, Kylie… just to name a few. It’s pretty safe to say that the guy is one of my heroes, whose work has shaped the blog’s motives for even existing.
When I found out that Love Letters would be his first music video in three years – following a Bjork clip from back in 2011 – I couldn’t have clicked fast enough. Although it quite literally centres around the band performing the song, I knew that there would be more to it. It’s Gondry, after all. He manages to find a way. After a few views, I was completely taken – it’s not what’s happening in the confines of the performance, it’s the scenery that surrounds it. As the camera spins, it takes us to a different, beautifully-painted backdrop. The concept is so simple, but it adds so much to the song. Dammit, Gondry, you’ve done it again!
“He said that beard accessories were no longer necessities…”
It’s a rough time to be a bearded traveller. For whatever reason, the collective performing visas of The Beards were recently denied by US immigration; forcing the band to cancel their run of North American dates. Heartbreaking stuff – bloody shutdown! What’s going on over there? Apparently a few other bands have had similar issues recently. Regardless, it seems as fitting a time as ever to share with you guys the most sombre tale ever told by the band – which looks to be their last little bit of promo for the Having a Beard is the New Not Having a Beard album.
The band’s fearless frontman, who also works as their keytarist and saxophonist on the side (busy guy!), Johann Beardraven, begins to tell the tale of The Beard Accessory Store in three separate places – the local pub, around the fireplace with the fellow members of the band; and (perhaps most frighteningly of all) in a child’s bedroom. Although they are fairly different circumstances for one to tell a story, he doesn’t change his intensity levels for any of them – he grabs collars, smashes randomly-placed acoustic guitars and pours Jack Daniels into his beer. It’s a pretty full-on story, so probably avoid watching this if you’re beardless or easily frightened. If you’re up for a punishing gut-wrencher of a laugh, though, have we got a surprise for you.
“You haven’t got my awkward silence, or my three ways of acting…”
I believe in Brendan Maclean. The same way Cher believes in life after love, or the way Harvey Dent believes in Harvey Dent. I’m sure I’ve explained our history far more eloquently and in far greater detail in one of the several other times he’s appeared here. All you need to know is that he’s back, on the attack, with a fellow Mac – Paul Mac, that is; who was also behind February’s Stupid. The guys behind that video have returned as well, namely directors Brian Fairbairn and Karl Eccleston. To top it all off, this too is a single-shot video… yep, just like Stupid.
You might think I’m being back-handed here, but I’m actually quite excited that B-Mac has started properly carving his niche into this grandiose style of buzzing pop; with some truly awesome visuals to accompany it. As soon as you realise that we’re in the midst of a “backwards” video, more and more questions begin to arise – namely, how did Brendan end up in his underwear? What is he doing on a race track? Why is there glitter all over the field? Patience, young grasshopper. All will be revealed once we retrace our steps… well, most will be revealed, at least. Given this video focuses squarely on Maclean, it’s up to him and him alone to keep you entertained and intrigued for the entire runtime. In that regard: Sir, you’re a winner in our books.
“In the old part of Valencia, on the coast of Spain…”
Here’s a lovely one I’ve been meaning to get around to. The inimitable Sir Elton John has just put out what I think may be his best solo album in years, a concept album of sorts entitled The Diving Board. It’s a stark, intimate and very honest album, one that I didn’t think I’d ever hear out of Sir Elton these days. I mean, the guy can basically live off royalties from his countless hits. He doesn’t have to work another day of his life. And yet he’s still got such a creative streak into his sixties, which is something that really has to be respected.
This is a video from August that I’ve been meaning to share with you guys for quite some time, and I figured now was as good a time as ever to share it given that Reginald played this song at the Emmys on Sunday in tribute to Liberace. As the song delves into a well-travelled character longing for what once was, a middle-aged man sits alone. The decision is made in his mind, and we follow him all the way back to the very beginning. This not only happens mentally, but physically as well. It will make sense once it all properly unfurls. The locations used are quite stunning, and the narrative is so involving and stirring – I think EJ knew exactly what to do with this song when it came to a video treatment. A perfect reflection of one of this album’s true standouts.
“Just let me hear your voice, just let me listen…”
Has it really been that long? Fuck, I’m sorry, guys. I seriously do not know where the time has gone. I’ve been so busy with all kinds of stuff that I don’t even know where to begin. Has it really been nearly a month? Good lord. Well, there’s a lot of lost time to make up for. May as well dive right in. We’ve got another video from The National to talk about, a band that are definitely no strangers to this part of town. The thing I like the most about this band when it comes to their videos is that they often go completely against the grain from their very own music. Often sombre, pensive and dark within their music, they like to lighten the mood somewhat visually. This can range from making Kristen Schaal the POTUS or doing a shot-for-shot remake of an obscure Russian rock video. Or, y’know, getting wasted in suits.
What, you thought that last part was a joke? Have you seen Graceless yet? The band have dedicated all four-and-a-half minutes of the song’s video to the simplest pleasures in life – bombing in the pool, going down the backyard slippery slide and playing baseball using beer cans. Because why the hell not? They’d have to be the most commercially viable band in indie rock, surely. Take advantage of that! A bit of rock & roll excess from time to time never hurt anybody. Well, nobody making brooding baroque rock, anyway. The whole thing just looks like it was so much fun to make. It’s hard not to be taken by the charm of the clip – it’s like the opposite of seeing the clown crying. I dunno, the accountant laughing? Something like that. Raise your tinnies for The National.
“I wish I could eat your cancer when you turn black…”
When you think of Nirvana in terms of music videos, there’s some pretty obvious imagery that comes to mind. The janitor, the anarchic cheerleaders, the laugh-face-into-serious-face, the Ed Sullivan ripoff. But how many of you think of a crucifixion? A little girl in a white cape? A huge woman with all of her organs showing? Not many of you, I suspect. And yet, these are all clear images in my head – especially on a day like today, in which we take a look at my favourite Nirvana video; as well as potentially my favourite Nirvana song. A winning combination indeed.
Working with Dutch photographer Anton Corbijn, the extensively detailed and occasionally disturbing video treatment – as created by Kurt Cobain himself – came to life in a way that few outside of that immediate circle could have expected. Yes, there were throwaway performance moments tied in, but it was the 90s. It was the thing. Authenticity and all that. Actually playing the song and what have you. That’s not the important part – the important parts come with the dark and confounding imagery that surrounds the clip. It’s almost like an entryway into someone’s nightmare, particularly when staring down that freaky Jesus. Another interesting aspect is the girl in the Klansman outfit, who spends part of the second verse leaping to grab a plastic baby that’s growing on a tree. You remember what was on the cover of Nevermind, right? A stinging (albeit subtle) jab at the corporatisation of the grunge movement, if I ever saw one.
While the Heart-Shaped Box director’s cut was made available on Corbijn’s DVD awhile back, it’s only dropped online very recently in anticipation for the blockbuster In Utero reissue. If you haven’t checked that bad boy out yet, I strongly recommend doing so. Anyways, this is an interesting take on what could have been. You won’t see any new footage in the first verse and chorus, so feel free to skip ahead. With this cut of the clip, a tense relationship begins to develop between the girl and the organs woman. I wish it had more time to play out, personally. Maybe stretched out into another verse. Also, in doing this, it manages to cut one of my favourite moments from the whole clip, in which bassit Kirst Novoselic puts his arm around Dave Grohl and the two embrace for the entirety of the third verse as Kurt sings in the foreground. I don’t know why, but I always found that part so sweet – it was a moment of peace and warmth in such a disturbing environment.
It’s worth emphasising that neither version is “better” than the other. It’s two sides of the same coin. It’s a methodical type of madness from the mind of a guy who thrived off such things.
“Let me go, where’s there’s no memory of you…”
Earlier this year, the music world heard the abrupt and surprising news that Kim Deal was to leave the Pixies for good. This wasn’t a full-band split like last time around – the Pixies were staying on, Kim was not. It was a bit of a shock to the system, especially considering what a huge influence she had over the band’s sound. We still had The Breeders – it’s not long now until the Last Splash tour hits Australia – but it was going to be flat-out weird to experience the Pixies without Kim doing her thing. Not long after that, we got Bagboy, the first new Pixies number in nearly 10 years. An insane video followed. It was promoted bigtime and plastered all over the place. They wanted to make a definitive, big statement about their return. Kind of a big deal, if you will.
By means of contrast, Kim dropped this remarkably quiet song quite recently with no fanfare whatsoever. The video is a simple affair, no cereal baths or youthful recklessness here. Hell, not even the lady herself had much to say about Are You Mine? – that is, except to give a succinct and touching description of the song itself:
I live with my mother, who has Alzheimer’s.
In the house she’ll stop me, put her hand on my arm, and dearly ask, ”Are you mine?”
I say back to her, ”Yeah momma, I’m yours.”
Oh, how my heart ached after reading that. The video, created by Kurt Ralske, is an intimate and strangely sweet affair. Its cast of characters are a humble collection of salt shakers, as owned by Deal’s grandmother. They are cast under flickering, coloured light, and occasionally covered in beads. It’s elementary in its approach, but it’s starkly emotional and even a little gut-wrenching – especially when the cameras hone in on the salt shakers’ blank expressions. The direct contrast between the warming glow and their cold, unmoving faces… I can’t describe it. What a tiny marvel this video is. A true delight.
“Live your life, VHS cassette, fast forward, back to the future…”
I remember meeting Alison Wonderland at the fourth birthday party of Sosueme, perhaps one of my only tolerated club nights in Sydney. She was polite and sweet; and I actually didn’t find out she was actually a DJ until later in the conversation. “Oh, right, cool,” I responded. “That sounds like fun.” Little was I to know exactly how much fun – her set with the rest of the Sosueme crew just as the clock hit midnight was a world of high-energy excitement and bombast. It was unpretentious and entertaining, which is more than I can say about a slew of other deck-spinning douches in the city.
Anyway, this year Ms. Wonderland has made the move into original music, and her debut single features a collaboration with my boys in Fishing busting out their rap dude personas. Now, I’ll be honest – as much as I dug the song, I wasn’t sure the video would be much chop. Nothing personal, it’s just that DJs… well… they’re not great with the music videos, are they. Let’s not forget the first-ever negative review we gave of a clip on this blog was a David Guetta video. And have you seen the Pauly D video for Night of My Life lately? Don’t. Of course, this isn’t to compare Alison to either of those guys – like I said, she’s different. One might even say, One of Us. So with equal amounts of relief and pleasure, the video for Get Ready ended up fucking ruling.
Like, seriously – Alison, Doug and Russell have gone above and beyond the call of duty here. Watching a crew of delinquent teenage zombies busting mad rhymes into a fisheye lens already screams “fucking awesome” on paper. The word ‘awesome’ being underlined several times. Watching the whole thing executed, however, leaves one at a loss for words at points. It’s just so much fun to watch – the lip-syncing is seamless, the little breakdancing dude left my jaw on the floor and the varying hijinks that unfurl throughout the second half cemented the shit-eating grin on my face. They couldn’t have made a better clip for this track, and I can’t wait to see what comes next. For Alison, for the rap dudes of Fishing, for the breakdancing zombies… the whole shebang. They’ve started something beautiful here, friends.
“You move around, you say goodbye to them…”
Oh hey, it’s The Polyphonic Spree! Gee, you guys are looking well. Really well. Is that a new haircut? And you’ve lost weight – wow, you’re down to sixteen members! Very slim. I just have to introduce you to the gang – guys, this is the Polyphonic Spree. You probably remember them from around the mid-2000s – the robes were bright and colourful, the songs were bright and colourful and their 2004 album, Together We’re Heavy, was an unstoppable beast of sunshine. They’ve been a little quiet as of late, but we’re very happy to have them back with Yes, It’s True., their first studio album of original material in about six years.
This right here is the lead single as well as the opening number to Yes, It’s True. Director Albert Moya takes us into a world where the adults are long gone, but it’s not in a juvenile blink-182 sort of way. In fact, one adult remains – but you’ll find out about that later. Our story centres around a young woman, seemingly locked away in some sort of self-imposed solitary confinement. It’s not long before she descends into cabin fever and her apartment begins to get torn up. She’s out, onto the street and bound for a bizarre underground club. Some shit’s going down here, but initially it’s not going to be all to clear exactly what that is. All I can tell you is that it’s only going to get stranger from this juncture.
The dark overtones and the confronting imagery are really not becoming of a band as bright and technicolour as TPS. Realistically, this isn’t a clip that should work. And yet, like light to the flies, I can’t help but be engrossed by this surreal alternate reality. I guess it’s as definitive a comeback statement as you’re likely to see this year.
“Pop culture was an art, now art’s a pop culture in me…”
Has there ever been a more conflicted relationship than between Lady Gaga and Yes, We’ve Got a Video!? Man, not even Perez Hilton can match our bad blood. There was a time when Mother Monster was creating some truly awesome videos. She even took out the #1 position in our inaugural Top 30 Videos of the Year list back in 2010 for the inimitable Telephone. After that, things began to sour. The video for Alejandro was dreary and confusing, the video for Judas even more so. And the video for The Edge of Glory was fucking atrocious. I don’t recall even bothering with the video for Marry the Night.
I was done. Then, I saw her live on the Born This Way Ball last year and thoroughly enjoyed myself. She’s an entertainer, I thought. Can’t take that away from her. Look at this spectacle. It’s all eyes on her. Maybe her inevitable comeback will recapture some of that magic that made me a fan to begin with. Who knows? Well, here we are. The video for the already-underwhelming single Applause is here. I genuinely didn’t think there could be a bigger mess of a video after the Edge of Glory debacle; but even this is giving it a substantial run for its money. The effects are lazy, the imagery borders on desperate – seriously, Gaga’s head on a fucking swan?!? – and even the choreography is substantially lacking. The fact that it treads much closer water to her “Weird Al” Yankovic parody video, Perform This Way, says a lot about how far down the rabbit hole things have gotten. This, friends, does not bode well for the rest of 2013 in GagaLand. Proceed at own risk.