We rented a karaoke machine and cloned the hard drive and after we sang karaoke all night we laid in my housemate’s bed and watched the videos created specially for some of the songs, videos that had none of the band members and were just the same seven people—with perms—climbing ladders and running around in overcoats while the lyrics flowed in at the bottom of the screen like ocean waves. The clothes and video effects told us these videos were made in the early '90s. It seemed there was a time when music videos were so desired that some small production crew was paid to make karaoke videos for any song that didn’t have dancers or band members already running under neon lights.
That’s what I think about when I watch Neon Indian’s new music video for the song “Annie,” released Tuesday. Directed by Mr. Neon Indian himself, Alan Palomo, “Annie” shows a lot of love for grainy VHS visuals. Despite the ever-crisping images of HD video available in our modern age, VHS cassette aesthetic long ago staked its flagpole as a version of movie magic all its own. Palomo stressed in a Pitchfork interview last year the difference between watching a movie like Gremlins on VHS versus watching it on Blu-Ray: “If you watch it on Blu-Ray you realize there’s just a hand with a puppet.” In "Annie" Palomo also works in cheesy film transitions (alas, no star wipe), jokey voice over interrogations, cable access interview sets, and dancing neon computer graphics. Between singing into a payphone on a soundstage or running through city streets like Duran Duran, Palomo was able to direct this video himself, which speaks to his ability to quickly become proficient at a the medium but also the way VHS technology and aesthetics, having been cast off in favor of newer devices, have become more accessible for people that want to create these kinds of stories.
With “Annie,” Neon Indian gives a lot of shout-outs to Abel Ferrara’s turn of the '90s grindhouse films about scummy New York City. That same subject was the heart of Neon Indian’s 2015 record Vega Intl. Night School from which “Annie” is the latest single. The other video from this concept record is also super interesting. “Slumlord,” co-directed by Palomo and regular-style actual director Tim Nackashi, features a fairly incredible six-minute long shot which wanders through a disco club heist/murder scene. Like I said, impressive. Embedded here for your viewing pleasure. Don’t go outside. Stay inside and watch music videos. It’s too damn hot today: