Tunes on the TV

Here we are again then, embarking on another serialised feature. This time we’re turning our attention to music videos, which means we have been pouring over the best tubed tracks.

From techno to downbeat, electronic sounds are often pretty faceless. Only one in every few DJs are recognisable physically, as oppose to through their style. And, as Top of the Pops often proved, when beats and bleeps become chart smashes live performances for television are rarely believable.

The result is that there are countless examples of exceptional video work created to promote music that’s often got no lyrics, or sellable mainstream sensibilities. As such, we thought it only right to start celebrating these. So, instead of simply waxing lyrical for hours about the importance of this medium and the theories surrounding these art and advertisement hybrids, we thought we’d run through some of our favourites. As always, we implore you to read, argue and then respond…

Squarepusher Come On My Selector / Directed by Chris Cunningham

There’s very little to say here other than Cunningham is perhaps the greatest man with a movie camera to ever become obsessed by basslines and breakbeats. Stylistically he’s often concerned with narrative, and a marriage of technology with humanism. Confused? Watch this and you’ll start to understand.

The Chemical Brothers Elektrobank / Directed by Spike Jonze

This is perhaps the best gymnastics we’ve ever seen, mostly because we don’t really watch contests all that often. More energetic than an angry wasp, the slow motion breakdown is proof that Jonze truly understands how to realise music effectively with moving images. And the tune’s not too bad either.

Underworld Rez / Directed by Robert Shack­le­ton

Rez is the greatest Underworld track of all time. Or perhaps Dark & Long wins out. Then again, it might also be Cowgirl. Whatever your opinion on the music, there’s no denying that this 1993 video is a classic lo-fi example of visualising that which cannot be visualised. Successful? We certainly think so.

Portishead Over / Directed by Chris Bran

Bristol’s finest trip hoppers definitely deserve a video that’s the definition of isolation. Beth Gibbons’ instantly recognisable vocals cry out across a sparse visual landscape that’s bleaker than the Yorkshire Moors. The fact that she ends up running into darkness pretty much sums it up for us.

Fatboy Slim The Joker / Directed by Jan Loscheider (or possibly Jon Watts)

The problem with the web is that everyone has a say, so something like this can be confusing. Jan the ‘fan’ introduces her video, set in Catville. Mr Cook sits next to her, looking bored. Rumours of the fake competition being a stroke of crafty trickery courtesy of Watts circulate. Result = online success.

Orbital The Box / Directed by Jes Benstock & Luke Losey

Produced in 1996, this little beauty won a Silver Sphere at the San Francisco Film Festival for Best Short Film, opened the London Film Festival, closed the Edinburgh Film Festival, and picked up a nomination for Best Music Video at the 1997 Brit Awards. Tilda Swinton stars in this haunting mini-epic.

The Chemical Brothers Star Guitar / Directed by Michel Gondry

The crazed French genius behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind preceded that visual treat with this mind-bogglingly complicated experiment in cutting edge editing, animation and effects. It all looks basic, then you realise the passing landscape represents each of the tune’s many layers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZYfdsaqoOM

Massive Attack Live With Me / Directed by Jonathan Glazer

Probably the most powerful and evocative piece of work on this list sees one of Britain’s brightest delivering a heartbreaking story. If videos are supposed to be a direct interpretation of the original music then this is bang on the money. It’s unclear who she misses, but her loss is profound and almost palpable.


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