Published on July 21st, 2011 | Jonny Abrams
Top Ten: Spike Jonze music videos (part two)
However, we neglected (well, forgot) to mention that the great man has also collaborated with Arcade Fire on a twenty-eight-minute short film entitled Scenes from the Suburbs, a taster for which we plop onto your laps for your delectation…
You can watch the full version of Scenes from the Suburbs here. Right, that’s the justifications taken care of…now onto part two of Rocksucker’s Top Ten Spike Jonze music videos, featuring an exciting new change to our house style! See if you can spot what it is…
6. “Freedom of ’76” by Ween (1995) – We’ll come clean on this one: we just really, really love this song and hadn’t actually seen the video before, let alone known that Jonze was responsible for it. Having been so keen to include this, we’re delighted to report that the video for this laaaiiid-back, ghostily groovy highlight from the Pennsylvanian duo’s magnificent Chocolate & Cheese album is suitably entertaining.
Messrs Freeman and Melchiondo are caught red-handed while making off with the Liberty Bell (not yet “cracked in half”) before slipping into song mode while being frogmarched from court by the police, flanked by hordes of reporters and protesters chanting “free the bell brothers!” The breezy melody, falsetto croon and hummed, reverb-y backing vocals – not to mention such killer lines as “Mannequin was filmed at Woolworth’s / Boyz II Men still keeping up the beat” – serve to melt the predicament down into a mere sideshow in slow-mo, until the song’s gorgeous breakdown sees Freeman fantasise about sailing away while he and his partner-in-crime are being carted off to jail.
It’s a peculiar oasis amidst a sea of troubles which, in its way, manages to capture both the song’s place on its parent album as well as Ween’s place on the modern musical landscape. And dammit, what a lush tune.
7. “It’s Oh So Quiet” by Björk (1995) – Rarely has a music video looked like it must have been as much fun for absolutely everyone involved as this surprise hit single from the Icelandic genius’ third album Post. A supreme anomaly in her back catalogue, this cover-of-sorts was so brimming with musicality and dynamism that it was screaming out for such an eccentric mind as Jonze’s to match it blow-for-blow in visual form.
Fortunately, this artistic mating call was reciprocated, resulting in one of the most exhilarating promos ever created. From the beginning sequence of Björk in a dingy auto shop washroom to her final, triumphant “shhh!” in front of a non-uniform crowd off jazz-handers, Jonze takes us on a journey of such gleeful choreography – some of the stunts and set-pieces, such as Björk (well, presumably a stunt double) back-flipping off a wall verge on the just plain silly – that you would have to be having a very bad day indeed not to be grinning for four solid minutes. Visually spectacular, hilarious and extremely well thought-out, no wonder even the umbrella and the mailbox are dancing along.
“So what’s the use of falling in love?” – (insert tenuous crack about how much we love this video).
8. “Shady Lane” by Pavement (1997) – A witty, life-affirmingly gorgeous little video for a witty, life-affirmingly gorgeous little song. We absolutely adore Pavement here at Rocksucker and who better to cram similar levels of idiosyncrasy, intelligence and sunny wistfulness into two-and-a-half minutes than yer man Jonze?
A headless Stephen Malkmus – presumably somehow decapitated by that car at the beginning – is the star of the show here, punctuating the ‘band pissing about’ fare common to other Pavement videos with a lovely if nogginless sway to those always-worth-repeating lines “You’ve been chosen as an extra in the movie adaptation of the sequel to your life” and “Tell me off in the hotel lobby right in front of all the bellboys and the overfriendly concierge”.
As much as this may be another selection influenced by our deep love of the song, Jonze deserves credit for absolutely, as it were, nailing Pavement. You might even say he found them to be a walkover…(arf!)…(sorry)…
9. “Sky’s the Limit” by Notorious B.I.G. (1997) – …in which Jonze proves himself adept at cobbling together a totally convincing mid-nineties gangsta rap videos – the bling, the ho’s (to engage rather embarrassingly honkyishly in the patois), it’s all there – but with the quite magnificent twist of casting Biggie’s young son Christopher Jordan Wallace Jr. in the role of his by-then deceased father.
Small Biggie (see what we did there) has clearly done his homework, posturing authoritatively amidst his fellow child actors, and it turned out to be the beginning of what could be a fruitful acting career: he played a grade school version of his dad in the Notorious biopic (he even busted some of papa’s lyrics on the soundtrack) and recently starred alongside Will Ferrell in the comedy Everything Must Go.
Jonze’s wry twist makes this a suitably joyful visual for a track with such a motivational message and the duties are brilliantly handled all round.
10. “Praise You” by Fatboy Slim (1998) – How could we not include this, especially when Jonze himself takes centre stage to such riotously entertaining effect? Starring in the video under the pseudonym Richard Koufey, Jonze leads the disappointingly fictional Torrance Community Dance Group – and what a motley bunch they are – in the most delightfully goofy dance interpretation this side of The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer.
If the onlookers look somewhat baffled, it’s because they were; the video was shot guerrilla-style outside a Californian movie theatre, so that’s a real employee turning off their stereo out of real disgruntlement. Having been unable to work with Norman Cook on prior smash hit “The Rockafeller Skank”, Jonze sent the former Housemartin a video of him dancing along to the track as a gift, one which Cook enjoyed so much that…well, who of us could possibly have said no to this?
(Postscript: it helped “Praise You” reach number one in the UK and later won three MTV Music Video Awards.)
Have Rocksucker’s no-doubt-musically-biased selections caused you to shake your head disapprovingly and mutter obscenities such as “moonshine” and “pish posh”? Well, have your say in the comments section at the bottom of the page…