Music video week | Editor’s Top 10 | Ashley Clark

As part of Music Video Week here on PPH, we asked our contributors to nominate their Top 3 music vids of all time along with a few words to explain their choices. Well they’ve all done that, so now it’s my turn. And due to a potent combination of hubris, indecision and the fact that, as editor, I have no-one to answer to, I’ve actually chosen 10. Here they are…

10. ‘Start The Commotion’ – The Wiseguys (Pedro Romanhyi, 1999)

I caught this cleverly edited vid one night on MTV2 and just could not stop laughing; the visual repetition works brilliantly with the nagging catchiness of the song, and creates a cumulatively hilarious effect. It’s a simple concept, perfectly executed. The bespectacled guitarist (who appears to be atop some sort of pivot), and the three clean-cut doo-wop guys, just get me every time.

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9. ‘Coffee and TV’ – Blur (Hammer and Tongs, 1999)

This tender, heartbreaking and ever so slightly silly video for Blur’s ‘Coffee & TV’ tells the story of a plucky, animated milk carton who goes off in search of Blur’s guitarist Graham Coxon, who has apparently run away from home. Across six suspenseful, charming minutes you’ll laugh, be wowed by the animation, and very possibly cry.

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8. ‘Ya Mama’ – Fatboy Slim (Traktor, 2001)

A redneck happens across a cassette tape with magical powers. He decide to exploit it for his own ends. The rest is loose-limbed, explosive bedlam. Uproariously, preposterously funny, and a great concept.

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7. ‘Always Be My Baby’ – Mariah Carey (Mariah Carey, 1996)

This one’s simple, really. I saw it when I was 10, and I immediately fell in love. However, until a very recent Google search, I didn’t know this sweet, nicely composed effort was directed by Carey herself.

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6. ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ – The Avalanches (Kuntz and Macquire, 2000)

This unforgettable promo is simultaneously fiercely literal (the actions of the cast often correspond to the stream-of-consciousness sampled lyrics) and mind-warpingly surreal (human-sized talking birds, for example). It’s difficult to pick out a single funniest moment, but once you’ve seen a turtle with the head of a confused old man, your life will never be quite the same again. The shabby, retro school play aesthetic haunts, too.

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5. ‘Da Funk’ – Daft Punk (Spike Jonze, 1995)

…in which a sad sack, anthropomorphized dog on crutches attempts to find love on the streets of New York. This genuinely odd piece casts a haunting spell, but don’t go looking too deeply for meaning. Here’s Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter: “There’s no story. It is just a man-dog walking with a ghetto-blaster in New York. The rest is not meant to say anything. People are trying to explain it: Is it about human tolerance? Integration? Urbanism? There’s really no message. There will be a sequel someday.” The sequel is yet to arrive, but if it does, let’s hope Spike Jonze is at the helm once again.

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4. ‘Drop’ – Pharcyde (Spike Jonze, 1995)

Back to back Spike Jonze. This mind-warping cut featured the South Central group performing their song backwards (yep, they had to learn their raps backwards!), and then replayed backwards to create the disorienting, WTF?! effect. An outstanding blend of pure inspiration and hard work that’s both surreal and fun. This really cool video explains how the ‘Drop’ was made. You should watch it.

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3. ‘Cry’ – Godley & Creme (Kevin Godley, Lol Creme, 1985)

I first saw this monochromatic classic at the age of about 10, on Dr Fox’s Video Jukebox, a short-lived, late-night ITV show which became defunct almost as soon as it was funct. The promo’s simple but brutally effective idea shows a succession of actors of all shapes and sizes miming the ballad’s plaintive lyrics direct to camera. The twist is that they are morphed into each other using a technique called analogue cross-fading, which creates some really disturbing imagery, and also underscores the universality of the song’s raw emotion. The same idea has been done since with higher budgets and greater slickness (see Michael Jackson’s ‘Black or White’), but never with the same aptness or gravitas.

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2. ‘Just’ – Radiohead (Jamie Thraves, 1995)

A man inexplicably lies down in the middle of London’s financial district. Scores of passers-by surround him to press him for an explanation, while Radiohead jam out their rocky ‘Just’ in an apartment above the city. The man resists, the crowd persists. Finally, the prone protagonist spills. What does he say? We’ll never know, but his whispered truths are so toxic that they cause all of London – in an astonishingly composed overhead tracking shot – to follow suit. The promo’s stark visuals and captivating plot thoroughly complement the dependably threatening obliquity of Yorke’s lyrics, and the end product lingers darkly in the mind like a half-remembered episode of The Twilight Zone.

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1. ‘Sugar Water’ – Cibo Matto (Michel Gondry, 1996)

A clever, intense and quietly disturbing promo from the creative genius that is Michel Gondry. ‘Sugar Water’ is a witty meditation on identity and the time/space continuum, and inspired the famous split-screen sequence from Roger Avary’s massively underrated Bret Easton Ellis adaptation The Rules of Attraction. Once seen, never forgotten, and you’ll want to watch it again and again.

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Want to join the conversation? Find us on Twitter @PPlasticHelmet and use the hashtag #MusicVideoWeek.

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