You’d think it would be hard for a music video that’s practically a still life to offend anyone, but this year prepster darlings Vampire Weekend have been taking heat for the video for new single “Diane Young,” which shows an old Saab bursting into flames with downtown Manhattan in the background. Frontman Ezra Koenig has clarified that the vehicles in question were old, out of order, and dirt cheap — and we’d like to remind the offended car lovers that Vampire Weekend are hardly the most extreme when it comes to making destructive music videos. Read on for the most chaotic clips, from combusting drum sets to a kids’ birthday party from hell to a Hunger Games-style rap epic.
“Gangster Tripping” — Fatboy Slim
No narrative, no surreal, avant-garde aesthetic, barely any living, breathing people: the video for Fatboy Slim’s 1998 single “Gangster Tripping” is just shot after shot of slow-motion explosions. The objects of DJ Norman Cook’s aggression are mostly everyday household items; we watch a refrigerator, a bookshelf, and a vanity go up in flames, and a neatly made child’s bed provides the grand finale. Other than that, there’s not much else to say about the video, except that upbeat electronica makes a weirdly fitting soundtrack for watching thousands of dollars’ worth of furniture get blown into bits.
“My Generation” — The Who
Pete Townshend is notorious for smashing guitars on stage, so it’s little surprise when he pulls his trademark stunt at the conclusion of the video for The Who’s rebellious 1960s youth anthem. It’s a little more of a shock, however, when drummer Keith Moon’s set explodes at the end of the band’s performance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. The video of the performance would become opening scene of 1979 rockumentary The Kids Are Alright. The trick, pulled off using gunpowder loaded into the bass drum, may look cool, but it also had the nasty side effect of embedding a piece of cymbal shrapnel in Moon’s arm. Sometimes, it’s best to leave controlled explosions to the professionals.
“Close to the Edit” — Art of Noise
Wikipedia describes obscure 1980s group Art of Noise as “an avant-garde synthpop group,” and the video for “Close to the Edit” demonstrates just how accurate the “avant-garde” part of that description is. In a scene that seems straight out of Twin Peaks (four years before the series premiered), a jerkily animated dwarf/child leads the band members around an abandoned set of train tracks, where they take out their aggression on a bunch of oil drums and some musical instruments. Although there’s no way the creepy kid-thing is real, the smashed violin sure is, not to mention the bass and the grand piano. Seems like Art of Noise were willing to sacrifice their gear for their art.
“Yea Yeah” and “Cameras” — Matt & Kim
For a band whose members have been in a steady romantic relationship for years, Matt & Kim are eerily adept at channeling domestic discord. “Cameras” shows the happy couple beating the crap out of each other in the studio, although they eventually team up against a rival group. “Yea Yeah,” an earlier (not to mention lower-budget) video from Matt & Kim’s third album, is more upbeat, showing the pair rocking their way through a series of edible projectiles, including pizza and cream pie. Initially, not much is ruined except their clothes, but the video’s climax features a bunch of guys who dress up like fruit and destroy their equipment. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it’s certainly fun to watch.
“It Ain’t Gonna Save Me” — Jay Reatard
It starts like any other quiet, wholesome kid’s birthday party — and, like any other kid’s birthday party, all hell proceeds to break loose. A water balloon hits a Stepford Wife smack in the face, and before we know it ten-year-olds are choking each other and both lawn furniture and innocent bystanders are getting thrown into the pool. Meanwhile, poor Jay Reatard (the dearly departed Jimmy Lindsey) gets tied up with a clown and the dad who was just trying to make a nice home video. At the end of the clip, an entire backyard is laid to waste, although one lucky little girl gets to ride off into the sunset on horseback.
“Victory” — Puff Daddy
“Victory” starts with an exploding full-sized jet, and it’s all uphill from there. The premise of the video is a cross between “The Most Dangerous Game” and The Hunger Games, with the artist formerly known as Puff Daddy racing through a post-apocalyptic cityscape, leaving lots of bombed-out industrial debris in his wake while an audience watches him on live TV. One of the most expensive music videos made to date, “Victory’s” sky-high budget paid for literal train wrecks, car crashes, and seemingly random explosions of unknown origin. It’s less chaotic than our other picks, but the idea of a rap action flick set in a dystopian future was too good to resist. Even better, the whole eight-minute saga is set to ’90s-throwback guest verses from Busta Rhymes and the Notorious B.I.G.
“1979” — Smashing Pumpkins
There isn’t much more destruction in this Smashing Pumpkins clip than you’d find at the average high school parents-are-out-of-town rager, but that just makes it all the more horrifying. The video is mostly carefree teenagers just bein’ kids, from rolling each other around in giant tires to aimlessly driving around to TP-ing a tree after a night spent raiding suburban liquor cabinets. The end result is like the “Ain’t Gonna Save Me Video” fast-forwarded to the birthday partiers’ high school years. And, of course, it wouldn’t be an accurate portrayal of teenage rebellion without laying waste to the local convenience store.