Friday, November 28, 2014

Friday Night Local: Minuit - 'Aotearoa' (2012)

Happy St Andrew's day, everyone!- whups, no, I'll do that tomorrow I think.

This is a quick post anyway, to get a few words in before the month expires and to allay the fears or at least one individual that I haven't fully slipped off the radar. I am in fact ankle-deep in plastic and tree bark, painting up my Mirkwood Elves, but more on that for another time, as they say. Let's do a belated Friday Night Local instead - and hopefully my worried reader won't think the song choice is something of a set-up...

Now, when Mrs Simian and I were new to Wellington we used to entertain our visiting guests from outside town by taking them to the national museum, Te Papa where they could feast their peepers on the tat and taonga of this young little country, the highlight usually being 'Golden Days', a sort of mini tableau history of New Zealand as a country set in a mock antiques shop cinema replete with animated curios choreographed with the action onscreen. We stopped taking friends to this some time ago, because the exhibit was never updated, and 'ends' in the now wide-eyed halcyon days of the late 1990s and, well, it's a bit tired and twee to the converted now.

"And if the past's a distant land
Maybe there is no rhyme or reason
And if we salvage what we can
You and me."

Minuit's video for Aotearoa, off their third album, the wonderfully-titled Find Me Before I Die a Lonely Death dot Com, could have repeated the mistakes of Te Papa's hoary old nostalgiafest, opening as it does with some familiar images to a local. There's a bit that's familiar in the song itself, I could add - the keyboard line in particular strongly recalls Kate Bush's Running Up That Hill, but the rumbling bass and the trip-hop drums carry it through well enough. The cleverness instead unfolds slowly.

Past a first full minute of largely black and white chronological images recalling the birth of a country and the usual suspects - Kate Sheppard, Earnest Rutherford, ANZACs on parade, Ed Hillary, Aunt Daisy, to a gradual splash of colour in tragedy and public outcry - the Wahine, Vietnam protests, Bastion Point and the land hikoi, the 1981 Springbok Tour, the Rainbow Warrior, the Tino Rangatiratanga flag and then Dame Whina Cooper weeping followed by... a child dressed as Batman?

"And yes it's true we're very young
And we have sticks and stones and bruises
Can we undo what has been done
Is this the way destiny chooses?"

Past the 1:30 mark history is quickly superceded and the present dominates the rest of the song, matching singer Ruth Carr's rallying call "It's you and I-I-I-I-I." Here's Aotearoa New Zealand as a fresh landscape, and its people represented by young, physical, happy, optimistic faces in a land of adventure and aroha. Minuit's fans submitted photos of themselves to create a montage of (allegedly) nearly a thousand faces, emblematic of a multicultural, self-aware country - stranded by geography, but one in which I am daily thankful I live. The stark contrast between the known and the famous of the past, and the suddenly anonymous present and future is a striking gesture, and though I swear it's not parochialism it gets me every time I watch this video. And I could swear that at 2:55 I can see Dr Morgue, though it's probably a doppelganger. Still, you know what they say about degrees of separation down here...

 Minuit performed their farewell gig and called it a day here in Wellington a mere few weeks ago, adding to the musical legacy of the little city of Nelson that already includes the likes of Sharon O'Neill and, er, Courtney Love. I've tried - a little - but I've not been a fan, but that's no criticism. Minuit were a nuggety little band who survived tours, illnesses and a fickle local industry to clock in a respectable number of albums, some overseas airplay and an enviable and frankly good-looking fanbase. So good on ya, Minuit, and all the best for future endeavours.