The new video from Montreal shoegazers No Joy, “Hare Tarot Lies,” is all sexy girls and psychedelic hallucinations. But somewhere amidst the babes shotgunning beers and popping pills in a neon haze, director Jason Harvey injects his personal brand of anti-humor.
As they hit the bong and take a cab through the street at night, the slow-motion cues us to frame the girls in an idyllic light. But it’s jarring when they start vomiting up a colorful array of puke in glossy slow-mo. There are all the elements of a music video glamorizing sexy girls doing drugs. Harvey, however, straddles the line between actually making that music video and deconstructing the vocabulary of a “cool music video” with “cool party girls.” He throws in LOL elements of a “bad trip” too–hallucinations of lizards and masked demons; at times the girls’ eyes even flash like demons.
Harvey is no stranger to playing with these sorts of cultural signifiers: drug culture, mall culture, rock ‘n’ roll culture. Last year, he released a CGI video for New York psych rockers Tonstartssbandht that begins with an alien listening to a CD in the parking lot of a Burger King and includes rainbow-colored bears playing rock and roll music amidst over-sized beer bottles and hamburgers. In this video, the lo-fi CGI aesthetic cues an audience for ironic appropriation. But Harvey’s newer videos, like this one for No Joy and the one he did for Mac De Marco earlier this year, manage to translate the same humor through higher production values and without such obvious cues.
Lots of music videos stop at just ironically appropriating an aesthetic, e.g. the Azealia Banks video that re-uses the sea punk net art aesthetic, or the interactive Tanlines video that borrows from the Photoshop interface. Harvey’s doing something more sophisticated. And at the end of the day, it’s hard to tell if he’s making a cool music video or making fun of one. It’s that ambiguity that keeps it interesting.