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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: September 1, 2010 @ 1:51 pm

    … and your video kicks for free

    Laurence Mackin

    Arcade Fire – the mere mention of these words lately seems to bring out bloggers and commentators in a rash of hastily-slung insults and rabidly constructed defences. First, there was their by-all-accounts limp Oxegen performance; then they had the temerity to announce a date in the O2, follow it up with a second (after the first sold out in nanoseconds), and they had the cheek to charge €75 for the privilege (Jim Carroll and On the Record have been doing a grand job of stoking that particular Arcade Fire here).

    Now, though, with a nose for publicity that Max Clifford would no doubt admire, the Fire are back in whatever passes for headlines in these digital days (Tweets? Status updates? Random binary pulses?) but for the right reasons – the video for their track We Used to Wait, which is really rather brilliant.

    The online video is optimised for Google Chrome (I got it working fairly smoothly on Safari and Firefox last night, though) and you’ll need a fairly decent laptop with a nimble enough processor to make it run as smooth as Keira Knightley’s cheeks. But I think it’s worth it, so check it out here.

    The video asks you for your childhood address and then harnesses Google Maps to make a hooded figure sprint around your hometown, like a cooler, fitter, Rocky Part One-er version of your teenage self (if this was an accurate video of my childhood I would have been moodily stalking around a field in spray-on black jeans and whatever Sepultura T-shirt was vaguely clean at the time, while glowering at the nature and stony grey soil, but that is a very different post for a different blog). You can even punish him by making him do repeated laps of whatever bit of structure takes your fancy. The video also asks you to write a message to your teenage self, and there’s all sorts of other fancy birds in flight graphics.

    Now there are those who will groan in despair at the angst of it all, but I think the whole thing is very slick, quite sweet, and it made me interested in this band again (their latest album hasn’t done much to stoke my interest). Developers and designers and the like are very excited about the fact that it’s made in HTML5, which is apparently the future for computer coding and not a Simon Cowell-managed reincarnation of Five Star. Admittedly, the limited Google Maps coverage in Ireland means the video may not live up to its full potential if you were born in Hackballscross, say. However, it looks and feels like a major departure in terms of music videos and serves to illustrate how far we’ve come from the days when computer graphics in music videos were revolutionary, MTV was still relevant, and people actually paid good money for good music.

    This Arcade Fire video made me appreciate and like the song an awful lot more than mere listens, and it had a decent amount of emotional content. A rare thing in a music video, although there are exceptions, so I’ll leave you with my favourite below (and no surprises here at all). So is the Arcade Fire video as much fun as I think it is, and what are the music videos that you can’t stop pressing play on?

    YouTube Preview Image
    • Nam Citsale says:

      I am old and decrepit enough to dimly recall the grey days before the proliferation of music videos. Having witnessed the centipedal Bergmanesque kitsch of Legs and Co as Pierrots on ‘Top of the Pops’, sullenly lolling their limbs about in time to ‘Tragedy’ by the Bee Gees, the appearance of MT USA on Irish television seemed to my adolescent brain to mimic the momentary efflorescence of a firework exploding in the night sky. A momentary wonder was all it proved to be though. The programme soon locked into the conveyor belt groove of mechanised industry. A succession of whey-faced young synthesists with hair erupting like sea-urchins from their scalps, (Howard Jones, Nik Kershaw et al), was pursued by a parade of mullet-headed gentleman geologists excavating the softest of rock, (Dennis DeYoung, Lou Gramm etc) and so on. Occasionally though, a gear would grind and the assembly line machinery would, in a contorting spasm, spew out something other.
      One such malformed product was the video for The Residents’ version of ‘It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World’. While what sounded like a depressed hillbilly Lou Reed whined the song over a crude electronic approximation of the original music, a green-daubed face in what appeared to be a close-fitting cowl tried and grotesquely failed to mime to it. I may be mistaken though, as the hyperactive gurning of the individual in question resembled more the strenuous mastication needed to initially digest a gobbet of Brontosaurus gristle. The fact that the head was surrounded by a corona of bright orange, cartoon tentacles was, I now feel, an unnecessary indulgence, however, I am open to being convinced by any arguments for its aptness. It ended with one of the members of the group, resplendent in top hat, tails and giant eyeball head-dress, manhandling the twitching head of a baby doll, on a set festooned with glistening filaments looking for all the world like unspooled audio or video tape.
      Now, I have never, to my knowledge, used or abused narcotics. My memory, admittedly is not what it was. Yet, I repeatedly witnessed this horrifying yet oddly invigorating spectacle on Sunday afternoons during the Spring and Summer of 1984. It may not be my favourite music video. Indeed, I am not entirely sure I have one. I can however, say one thing about it. It was the only one to leave scars.

    • I have to ask who are Arcade Fire? Then again I live on the other side of the Atlantic, it took me coming to Ireland to be exposed to Kings of Leon as the song “Your sexes on fire” is a popular Karoke choice. Thanks DJ Brian for allowing five different men to sing that song in one night.

      I have a feeling Laurence, we must be around the same age (35 for me). I say that because you mention Sepultura and spray on black jeans. For me the ’80′s consisted of horribly gigantic hair, bad makeup, and acid wash jeans. But for some reason, I do not remember the music being that bad, now I do not like most of what I hear. Maybe it has to do with age, when I was young I used to watch alot of MTV also. My brother used to Headbanger’s Ball the used to come on after midnight and showed all kinds of Heavy Metal videos. I remember thinking being a V-J on MTV would be the coolest job in the world.

    • Laurence Mackin says:

      Jennifer – The reason you remember the music being not that bad is because it was brilliant, especially Sepultura. Until they lost the run of themselves with Chaos AD. Ah Headbangers’ Ball – the memories, the memories. I’m choking up over here.

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