Deserted: Hammer & Tongs

Perched on shelves, buried in bins, and collecting dust on racks, some of the world’s best music is left to the fate of time. Forgotten and neglected, these artists and albums are now primed for re-evaluation thanks to a world gone digital. Any would-be musical explorer can now plug in, tune out, and turn up. Deserted is aimed at aiding those who would embrace the past rather than reject it. So open up your arms and welcome Hammer & Tongs.

The beauty of an open-ended column such as Deserted is it allows for exploration beyond the album outlet. Lest one forget, the impact of music videos — positive and negative — drove the music business for nearly two decades. During that time, a creative industry outside of the cogs and gears of the record companies began to spring up. Though music video had been an intriguing medium going as far back as the 1950s, it wasn’t until British companies began sprouting up in the 1970s, dealing exclusively in the video single format. These were the contributions lent to the earliest days of MTV when American companies scoffed at the idea of making music videos, feeling nothing good would come of the format that ended up extending the death rattle of big business for a few more decades (that rattle is growing quite loud now with the death of the video and the emergence of digital technologies).

In between the August 1981 launch of MTV and its 2010 cut with the “Music” in its title as it continues to be a premiere global brand, the influx of music video popularity gave way to creative minds. While many have gone on to find success in film and television, their imprint on the heyday of music video continues to reverberate as multimedia vehicles such as YouTube and DailyMotion allow new generations to witness the grandiose and innovation of music videos. As MTV and VH1 began to wheeze at the end of the 90s, cutting video time for non-music based programming, there were still attention grabbers to be praised. So goes the tale of Nick Goldsmith and Garth Jennings, better known as Hammer and Tongs.

To list their works would prove exhausting but the duo’s cute videos combined with powerful alt-pop were a spectacle to behold. The first time E brought his carrot-icature to life breathed equal life into a relatively tame eels track. But it instantly made “Last Stop: This Town” a memorable song for anyone who was able to catch the video. This counterbalanced the frenzy of Supergrass“Pumping on Your Stereo,” done in conjunction with the Jim Henson Workshop. Hammer & Tongs were able to plant tongue-in-cheek but do so without alienating the band’s fans with cynical or political undercurrents. Videos were an avenue to convey fun, not showcase the band’s vinegar strokes and bigwig posturing.

The talents of Goldsmith and Jennings reached its video apex with “Coffee & TV.” As a stand-alone, the Blur track was catchy enough. Paired with an animated milk carton in search of the missing Graham Coxon (which was a foreshadowed nod to Coxon’s exit from the band), “Coffee & TV,” became the cutest video. No matter how tough, one could not help but sympathize and root for the mighty milk carton as he witnessed the horrors of the everyday world from his pint-sized vantage point. The video caused an emotional response that stuck and likely drew a fickle American audience back to Blur after the modicum of mainstream success the band’s self-titled album brought them (considering Americans largely ignored the band’s earlier pop output). Jennings and Goldsmith did their job, combining the oddball with the emotional.

Justin Spicer is a freelance journalist whose work can be viewed at his website. He also pens Agitated Atmosphere for the KEXP Blog. You may follow him on Twitter.

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