To celebrate the launch of its new video site, NME recently published a list of the 100 Greatest Music Videos Ever. As ever with these things, there are some strange omissions (no “Windowlicker”?) and some strange rankings (“Wicked Game” at #3? We know that Helena Christensen looks hot, but come on…), but generally, it wasn’t a bad piece of work. However, it did get us thinking about the fact that videos are usually deemed “great” — or at least memorable — by association with the songs they accompany. If said song isn’t a hit, then its video tends to be forgotten, no matter how good it was. This is a shame, because there have been some fantastic videos accompanying relatively obscure songs over the years. Here’s ten of our favorites from the last decade or so — as ever, your suggestions are welcome.
Eskmo — “We Got More”
Back in the years before digital editing, filmmaking and editing was an incredibly tedious and painstaking process. These days, someone with the talent and vision to come up with something like this — a kind of Inception-esque urban Escher scene with giant walking televisions, basically — can realize it with little more than a piece of stock footage and a torrented legal copy of the right software. Truly, we live in an exciting era. Anyway, this is one of the overlooked gems of recent years, and the music’s not bad either.
Efterklang — “Prey and Predator”
There’s something kind of Lynchian and disconcerting about this collage-based six-and-a-half-minute ordeal by Efterklang. The recurring, cyclical images of manically grinning 1920s women are strange enough, but the way they’re intercut with single frames of other, less savory looking footage is downright frightening. And then there’s the birds, and the legs, and the other strange stuff that goes on… Eeeeek.
Pulp — “Bad Cover Version”
It’s a shame that We Love Life has largely been expunged from the official history of Pulp, because while it was no His ‘N’ Hers or Different Class, it had some decent songs on it. It also gave rise to one of Pulp’s best ever videos, namely the impersonator-themed clip that accompanied “Bad Cover Version.” It ties into the literal idea of a “bad cover version,” and the impersonators are convincing enough that the first time you watch, you wonder how you never heard about all these stars collaborating on the new Pulp single — and how on earth they managed to bring Kurt Cobain back from the dead. (And wait, who’s that pretending to be Brian May right at the end?)
Klaxons — “Twin Flames”
Ye gods. We kind of worry about whoever thought this one up. NSFW, obviously.
Wolf Parade — “Modern World”
It’s not a music video post without at least one piece of stop motion animation, and this video fits the bill perfectly. It’s difficult to imbue puppets with any sense of emotional depth at the best of times, and even more so when you’re moving them for every shot. But somehow the scruffy, unshaven, sad protagonist here seems to echo the song’s message perfectly (“I’m not in love with the modern world”), while there’s something unpleasant about the long, sharp, metallic fingers that play the tune to which he’s dancing.
Blockhead — “The Music Scene”
There’s a bit of this trippy animated weirdness going round at the moment — see also Flying Lotus’s “Zodiac Shit” and Air’s “Sing Sang Sung” — but we’re particularly partial to this psychedelic epic, made by Anthony Francisco Sheppherd to accompany Blockhead’s “The Music Scene.” We can’t even begin to imagine how long making something like this must take, but the results are pretty amazing.
The Avalanches — “Frontier Psychiatrist”
An old favorite, this one. The Avalanches’ cut-and-paste style is realized on film by directors Tom Kuntz and Mike Maguire, who basically animate the slew of samples on show, creating a vision that’s just as strange and diverse as the music it’s accompanying. For anyone wondering what happened to The Avalanches, latest word from down under is that a new album is due out some time this year, really, honestly. We’re crossing fingers.
Liars — “Scissor”
Liars are one of those bands who never seem to get the credit and/or popularity they deserve, perhaps because their sound is multi-dimensional enough to evade being easily categorizable. Last year’s Sister World album was one of the best and most overlooked releases of the year, and its first single was accompanied by one of the most strange and comically sinister videos you’ll ever see, featuring a raft, a yacht, an abandoned Angus Andrew, and a bunch of rocks that’d give Sisyphus recurring nightmares. You’ll never look at the idea of boating quite the same way again after watching this.
Fujiya & Miyagi — “Ankle Injuries”
This Neu!-influenced neo-motorik slice of goodness has been a Flavorpill iPod staple for the last couple of years, and it comes with a crazy Gondry-esque video that does some pretty incredible things with dice. Lots and lots and lots of dice.
UNKLE feat. Nick Cave — “Money and Run”
And finally, perhaps our favorite video of 2011 so far, although it’s not pleasant viewing by any stretch of the imagination. But as far as a portrait of the savagery that can lurk beneath the veneer of civilization goes, this is a powerful pieces of film-making — it’s kind of like a middle-aged British version of Less Than Zero, and ties in perfectly to the hard-bitten cynicism of the song.