Friday, 5 July 2013

In Praise of Music Videos

If you follow me on twitter, you may have noticed that I occasionally tweet about music videos which have been an enthusiasm of mine since I was a teenager. I think the best picture books are the ones where the images and words mesh perfectly, but each offers a different perspective, making an end product that is greater than the sum of its parts. The same goes for the visuals and music in the best music videos, many of which display a degree of imagination of ingenuity that’s rarely found in other forms of film-making.

Here are a few of my favourite music videos as well as one of my family’s homegrown efforts.

The Chemical Brothers • LET FOREVER BE by Michel Gondry (1999)

When I first saw this video on Top of the Pops in 1999 it made me an instant fan of both The Chemical Brothers and the video’s director Michel Gondry. It’s a brilliant blend of choreography, production design and simple video effects seamlessly edited into a sequence that fits the psychedelic feel of the music perfectly. Trying to figure out how Gondry put it all together will make your head hurt.

Gondry has shown a similar flair for surreal imagery in some of his feature films such as the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep, which are both favourites of mine.

I could write a whole blog post about my favourite Gondry videos, but I’m going to limit myself to one more by another band with a sibling-based name.

The Living Sisters • HOW ARE YOU DOING? by Michel Gondry (2011)

The Living Sisters’ lo-fi, folky sound is very different to The Chemical Brothers’ electronic rock and Gondry matches it with this wonderfully quirky video that has a low-tech, home-made feel. Handheld camera footage combines with some amusingly amateurish special effects to show the three sisters converging, against all odds, for a very special event. Like many of Gondry’s videos, you have to watch it several times to take it all in.

OK GO • THIS TOO SHALL PASS by James Frost, OK GO and Syyn Labs (2010)

If you’re not already familiar with OK GO’s remarkable work you’ve been missing out. To make this video the band recruited Syyn Labs, a group of talented engineers, to construct an incredibly elaborate Rube Goldberg machine, the movements of which synchronise perfectly with the music. You can find out more about how the video was made and watch some behind the scenes videos in this Wired article.

If you haven’t already seen them, you should check out some of OK GO’s other music videos including this early low-budget treadmill video and this jaw-dropping triumph of dog-training.

Hold Your Horses • 70 MILLION by L’Ogre (2010)

L’Ogre is a collective of four French film-makers: David Freymond, Bruno Mendes, Olivier Tixier and Catherine Villeminot. The French seem to have a knack for quirky, inventive film-making and this video for Paris band Hold Your Horses is every bit as impressive as the videos created by fellow French director Michel Gondry. The seven piece band are carefully posed, costumed and lit to recreate a range of iconic artworks from da Vinci’s The Last Supper to Warhol’s Marilyn screen prints. Several of the artworks feature female nudes and, although there’s a woman in the band, one of the amusing aspects of the video is that these roles are always filled by male band members.

There are 24 artworks featured in the video. How many can you name?

The Cinematic Orchestra • TO BUILD A HOME & BREATHE by Andrew Griffin (2007)

Andrew Griffin’s narrative videos for The Cinematic Orchestra’s To Build a Home and Breathe are fine examples of how emotionally intense music videos can be. The two videos combine to tell a moving story that is skilfully shot and beautifully acted. The story opens with a devoted husband carrying his wife across the Cumbrian countryside to a dilapidated cottage – I won’t spoil it by telling you any more.


If the last video has left you an emotional wreck, this piece of homegrown fluff might help cheer you up again.

As well as watching videos, I love making them with family and friends and we have a big home movie collection including several home-made music videos. When BBC 6 Music’s Adam and Joe ran a Video Wars competition a few years ago, my family’s entry (set to Joe Cornish’s musical adaptation of the cooking instructions on a packet of meatballs) was one of the runners up. We made the video above a couple of years ago and included a link to it in a similarly themed Christmas card (shown opposite) that we sent out to family and friends. It’s not in the same league as the other videos on this page, but we had great fun making it – and no, that's not my son's real hair!