Five of the best lo-fi music videos as chosen by director and animator Jack Barraclough
The London-based creative on Top of the Pops, freakiness, and getting his big break.
Like the majority of kids who came of age during the era of MTV, music videos played an outsized role in Jack Barraclough’s childhood. “They definitely had a big impact on me because they’re just quite weird,” says the 32-year-old director. “When you’re young, to see someone perform with that amount of expressiveness—and this applies equally to shows like Top of the Pops—you just don’t understand why other humans act that way.”
Attracted to the often strange and exaggerated performances, one of Barraclough’s favorite moments from the iconic British chart show Top of the Pops is of a young Gary Numan fronting the New Wave band Tubeway Army. With his kohl-rimmed eyes and stiff movements, he looks, according to Barraclough “like an alien who hasn’t quite got breathing down yet.” It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that Barclough’s own music videos spurn glossy and over-the-top production values in favor of a retro DIY aesthetic and narratives that frequently border on the absurd.
Ballare, a single by electro-dance group Mind Enterprises, for instance, saw Barraclough create an “Italo Disco, Top Gun fantasy,” which makes ample use of not-quite-convincing green screens and knowingly cheesy crossfades. “I like music videos when they hit me in a freaky way,” Barraclough says of his distinctive style. It’s integral that the video works with the song but also I love to see confidence on display from the artist or a sense of fun or inventiveness.”
Barraclough’s own journey into making music videos was, in his own words, “very DIY.” As a drummer and a fine art student, he first started making videos for his own bands, which quickly led to requests from friends, such as fellow London-based group Ravioli Me Away. This all changed when he was invited to create the visuals for Electrelane singer Verity Susman’s solo tour in 2013. French popstar Étienne Daho happened to be at one of her shows and invited Barraclough to work with him. “All of a sudden I was making this really expensive, big production music video for a major label and I basically had no idea what I was doing,” he remembers of the experience. “That was the major jumping-off point and since then I’ve been doing it, more, let’s say, ‘professionally.’”
A good music video, for Barraclough, is something that lifts a song to a new level. “It’s something that might even change the song, something that gives a certain freshness to its meaning or enables you to get in touch with the song,” he says. “If you watch a video and find that it’s something that just freaks you out a little bit, I think that’s really interesting.”
Five of the best lo-fi music videos as chosen by Jack Barraclough
Hoe Diaries by Karnage Kills (2017)
“I saw Karnage Kills perform at DIY Space for London a year or so ago and got chatting to them after the show. They told me this video was made with someone the morning after a one night stand. I really love it. I love when the lip sync is totally out of time. It’s all shot on a phone and so sloppy, but is obviously perfect for the song. I like music videos to be sloppy, they traditionally have always been made quickly, often with not much money or resources, so they’re bound to be a bit rough—but that’s part of the charm for me. I also think music videos should be whatever works best for the song. That’s the most important thing and it comes before anything else. This one is perfect!”
Good Fortune by PJ Harvey (2000)
“This is very similar to the Karnage Kills video. It feels like there were only two people there, the artist and someone behind the camera, so there’s an intimacy to it. I love PJ Harvey’s performance in this video, the opening shot and her confident look to the camera is brilliant. It was directed by Sophie Muller who’s made quite a few of PJ Harvey’s videos. She’s a director that establishes close collaborative relationships with artists, which is why she gets to work with people over and over again. She always has the artists feature in her videos, and the idea will have started with a conversation with them. I like to take a similar approach whenever possible. I’ve done this with my Mind Enterprises videos, Francois and the Atlas Mountains and Sacred Paws. Again it goes back to making a video that supports the song, and I believe the best way to do that is through collaboration with the person or people who wrote it. What I want to achieve most of all is a video that will bring the viewer closer to the artist and their music.”
Me Myself And I by De La Soul (1989)
“This is one of my favourite videos. I really got into the album 3 Feet High and Rising when I was in school. De La Soul have really inventive and cryptic lyrics which are really fun to try and make sense of. In this video they’re attending a class that’s teaching a more mainstream version of hip hop, with gold chains and expensive trainers. The message is pretty clear. De La Soul have their own unique style and are proud of it. At the end of the vid, mirror images of the band give them drop slips so they can get out of class. It’s a pretty good message if you ask me!”
Are Friends Electric? by Tubeway Army (1979)
“This isn’t actually a music video, but I love it. I have a long playlist of old TV performances like this one on YouTube. People taking the time to upload stuff like this in a high quality is really nice. It’s quite funny when they get described as “very rare” when they’re now quite easy to find online and also get bumped up by the algorithm. What I especially like is how the dry, probably stifling situation of miming in a TV studio often creates quite funny and awkward performances, which is often the case when you shoot music videos too. Gary Numan’s looks off camera to his bandmates after he mucks up lines are really good. The keyboard player’s very strange, wobbly body whilst playing the synth with one finger is awesome. I think he looks like an alien who hasn’t quite got breathing down yet and is taking little sips of air at a time. I have a drum kit in my bedroom, and I’ve played along to this quite a lot trying my best to imitate the drummer’s playing stance.”
Riding for a Feeling by Bill Callahan (2011)
“I don’t know if this is an ‘official music video’ but that doesn’t really matter, right? Someone’s made it for this particular song and I think works really well and I find it massively inspiring.”
Jack Barraclough is a london-based director, editor, and animator whose worked with bands such as Franz Ferdinand, The Orielles, and Mind Enterprises. He’s also part of the video team at Novara Media, an independent media organization dedicated to addressing the issues set to define the 21st Century.
Text: Chloe Stead