This year, the folks behind the Northwest Film Center’s Reel Music Festival had a great, if rather obvious, idea: Why not screen two hours of notable Portland music videos from the past few years on a big projection screen? Then I had a great, if similar, idea: Why not sit around in the office and “review” said videos in lieu of doing real work? That, folks, is called synergy. Here are the results.
Red Fang, “Prehistoric Dog” (directed by Whitey McConnaughy)
The song: A chugging, crunchy sci-fi anthem from one of Portland’s finest hard-rock acts.
The video: A loving tribute to cheap canned beer and live-action role playing.
Closest big-screen sibling: Role Models
The verdict: Any video that ends in a cavalcade of ultraviolent dismembering is OK with us.
Glass Candy, “Feeling Without Touching” (directed by Travis Peterson)
The song: A glitzy bit of Blondie-meets-disco that may or may not be about the benefits of abstaining from sex.
The video: A less trippy version of the video for Dee-Lite’s “Groove Is in the Heart.”
Closest big-screen sibling: Boogie Nights, sans sex and nudity.
The verdict: Director Travis Peterson gets bonus points for keeping this one both sexy and classy, but we could have used some car chases.
The Thermals, “I Don’t Believe You” (directed by Whitey McConnaughy)
The song: More snotty-nosed, hyperactive pop punk from the inimitable Thermals.
The video: Carrie Brownstein plays a paranoid schizophrenic—or, perhaps, a wanted terrorist—being driven insane by the punk band in her shed.
Closest big-screen sibling: The Conversation
The verdict: Kind of an emotionally distant video for McConnaughy, but it looks great and hits the mark nonetheless.
YACHT, “The Afterlife” (directed by Judah Switzer)
The song: Catchy-as-hell art-school theology set to Talking Heads-style electro-pop.
The video: Slow-motion baptisms and lovely nature shots, all serving to glorify the smallest cult in Oregon, YACHT.
Closest big-screen sibling: The Eyes of Tammy Faye
The verdict: It’s visually striking and it’s in slow motion, making it almost too creepy for the tune. Then again, these are two sexy, wet nerds. There’s a market for that.
White Hinterland, “No Logic” (directed by Solomon Chase)
The song: A haunting, semi-experimental space ballad that lands in sonic territory somewhere between Björk and Laurie Anderson.
The video: A high-contrast black-and-white trip into a spooky forest.
Closest big-screen sibling: Sin City, without the actual city.
The verdict: It looks a lot like that Levi’s “Go Forth” ad campaign (also from Portland), but with more burning laptops and creepy animals. We love it.
Boy Eats Drum Machine, “Hoop + Wire” (directed by Jason Sievers)
The song: A hip-hop-influenced dose of blue-eyed soul from disastrously underrated multi-instrumentalist Jon Ragel.
The video: Mischievous stop-motion cassette tapes highjack outdated technology en route to a minor electrical fire.
Closest big-screen sibling: The Brave Little Toaster
The verdict: Oh, snap! Awesome! I want to make Jason Sievers my new best friend!
Nick Jaina, “Another Kay Song” (directed by Joshua Jay Elliott)
The song: A slow-and-sparse love song driven by marching band drums and highly visual lyricism from one of Portland’s best songwriters.
The video: A dreadfully sad, black-and-white house party (is it a wake?) filmed at high speed, then slowed way down again.
Closest big-screen sibling: 12 Angry Men (except, instead of angry, they are depressed).
The verdict: Jaina’s hand-conducting reminds us of Michael Stipe in the “Losing My Religion” video. Despite the video’s slow pace, we’re too impressed by the song and cinematography to get bored.
SEE IT: These videos (and more) screen Sunday, Jan. 16, at Mississippi Studios. 9 pm. $9. 21+.