Being a Matt Good nerd, I mostly know Bill Morrison from his work with MGB and his voice on the commentary of the In a Coma DVD. He helped to establish that ‘90s look (the blue tint, not the overexposed/high contrast thing, though he was occasionally guilty of that) and created stunning visuals while working on a tight budget (occasionally supplied by a grant from Factor or Much). Working with mostly Canadian artists attempting to compete in an American market, these videos may not have been seen on MTV, but you’ll recognize them all from the MuchMusic countdown.
Morrison was once nominated for a Grammy for Gwar’s Phallus in Wonderland film (which he wasn’t paid or credited for – he directed under the name “Distortion Wells”) and he continues to make documentaries and shorts.
Please note – this list is limited to ’90s CanRock and will not include Pepper Sands’ “Win Big Lose More (Cherries Jubilee)” (sigh) or Fear Factory’s “Cars” (yay).
10. Skinny Puppy – “Killing Game”
An oddity for Skinny Puppy, this … er, ballad … is still very industrial and stands up better than anything Trent Reznor released at the time. From the Vancouver band’s 1992 album Last Rights, the clip is one of many that Morrison collaborated on with the band. Made up to look like a projection on a dirty wall in someone’s art school basement (hey, maybe it was) the video is all black and white/soft focus chaos that builds with the tune to its grinding conclusion. Actually, maybe Reznor owes these guys a few bucks.
9. Kim Stockwood – “12 Years Old”
Ah, that wonderful music video concept of having the characters in the video lip-syncing along while the singer smiles next to them at a barstool. There’s even a pre-song bit, during which Stockwood asks a pianist if he knows her song. And who could forget that great moment when she abandons the lip-sync performance to break the fourth wall and ditch out on the video entirely? There was a time when these weren’t cliché, the format was new, and Morrison helped to establish music video’s voice. I remember this one more from the TV ads of the Women & Songs compilations than being on Much.
8. SNFU – “Fate”
I could only imagine the camera operator’s neck got strained during the shoot for SNFU’s “Fate” video. The Edmonton punks dance around on a trampoline and wear Betty doll wigs, mostly photographed from above. Maybe the band hurt their necks, too. Either way, it’s weird to see a band that you might consider timeless deliver a visual that is so distinctly ’90s, consisting of soft focus black and white photography mixed in with high contrast neons. A snapshot of the times, for sure.
7. Delerium – “Euphoria (Firefly)”
Featuring Jacqui Hunt of Australian electro dance crew Single Gun Theory, this tune was off of the Front Line Assembly offshoot’s epic Karma CD. Though “Silence” featuring Sarah McLachlan was the big hit, this is the one I remember from afternoons on Much. Pre-dating warm and cool tones in Traffic by a few years, this one feels like it sounds; beautiful and sad, chaotic and mournful. I bet if you walked into Le Chateau at the time, this was playing.
6. Download – “Glass Blower”
What. The. Fuck.
5. Bif Naked – “Daddy’s Getting Married”
One of Bif’s early hits, this one is mostly performance footage layered behind dreamy, trippy shadows and memories, allowing the pre-“Spaceman” singer to just deliver the tune, despite literal moments (“wedding cake,” thankfully not in a graveyard).
4. Matthew Good Band – “Hello Time Bomb”
This video’s got everything – a devil on roller skates, the devil on Sugar Smacks down at the Radioshack (which doesn’t exist in Canada anymore because someone forgot to renew the license for the name, true story), and the devil taking the form of a naughty cage dancer. It’s Canadian rock n roll excess on a budget, and it’s never been more glorious. From the Angus Young-inspired schoolboy uniforms (somewhere I still have a blazer with the MGBFC patch) to the introduction of new bassist Rich Priske, this was back to school in 1999 and it was huge. Morrison and the band made a sequel video (“Load Me Up”) which was better than the sequel video to “Apparitions” (“Rico”), despite its sad-ish visual effects.
3. Odds – “Wendy Under the Stars”
Performing in a setting that resembles somewhere Bruce McCulloch would deliver a monologue from, Morrison captured Odds as young musicians in 1991 and really well made up old guys from 2031. Yes it’s a story song, so the clip is pretty literal at times, but it’s gorgeously photographed and hilarious in its subtleties. That, and the video’s post-song sequence addresses that the fuck-filled chorus was hilariously softened for broadcast. Mostly this video is notable due to bassist Doug Elliott doing nothing but sitting and looking into the camera lens. Watch close – he doesn’t even seem to be miming along.
2. Rascalz featuring Barrington Levy & K-os – “Top of the World”
Canadian rap videos always seemed most honest when they kept to the streets of Toronto (or in this case, a few other beauty locals) vs showing off the wealth we knew the CanRappers didn’t have. This one gives the split screen treatment to some great moves and casual street art/breakdancing, all while focusing on the performance. It was also a subtle nod to the simplicity of the group’s previous hit, “Northern Touch,” which had an even more minimalist clip.
1. Matthew Good Band – “Everything is Automatic”
Okay, we all know “Apparitions” is the best music video, but for some reason it isn’t on YouTube and all I could find was this weird Yahoo link that refuses to embed properly. So I’ll go with the one I saw first, the one that broke my brain, the one that makes me think of the purest form of lyrical translation into concept video, the one that breaks the fourth wall and has Ian’s hair changing colour halfway through. It’s dark, it’s bright, and it was on every 20 minutes.