Art meets artifact in Family Video’s gloriously glitchy video for their Valentine’s Day single “The Image,” premiering today at Queen City Nerve.
The image, in this case, is anything but crystal clear. Rather, band leader and mastermind Josh Shabtai chooses an ’80s VHS-quality aesthetic where high-saturation colors bleed across the frame’s muzzy scanlines.
As the track cuts in — a grinding abrasive electro-funk groove in which squealing scythes of synths and loud guitars tangle in a cacophonous knot that would warm the robotic cockles of Gary Numan’s synthetic heart — the video introduces the pop-punk five-piece.
Shot in Shabtai’s garage and edited by Nick Wold of The Dreamers, the video depicts Josh, Mitchell, JD, Gabriel and Benny as they look for love in very wrong places by placing profiles on the “VHS Dating Service.” The band members list “likes” that include “erotic art, flirting and sandwiches.” The service’s motto, “If you can’t find the perfect man, we’ll make him,” ensures that all will not end well for the video suitors.
“The Image” nods to David Cronenberg’s 1983 body horror science fiction classic Videodrome as the band members begin to bleed and merge via crappy, not-so-special effects into one “Perfect” male specimen; yet amid the carnage, Shabtai finds time to gorge on a Whitman’s sampler box of chocolates.
In the meantime, ski-masked dancers from Georgia – the country, not the state – and Malaysian teens bust out their own choreographed dances to the track, having been hired out by Shabtai to do so during an overly tipsy night on Fiverr in the early stages of video production.
As viewers, we’re pulled along a giddy, inexorable and terrifying ride that includes ’80s clips of Brooke Shields hawking Pazazz hair mousse, Ken and Barbie dolls, cans of Spam on a meatpacking conveyer belt and monster trucks demolishing everything in their path. The delirious montage plays as a tribute to ’80s late-night cable TV show Night Flight, which was a whiplash-inducing mishmash of new-wave music videos, recut and redubbed b-movies, and conspiracy theory mockumentaries of parody religion The Church of the SubGenius – that now plays like a harbinger to QAnon.
As icing on the cake, Shabtai delivers an anthemic pure pop chorus: “There’s so many way to write a love song / The image never fails to make its way / Play a million times, still get the words wrong / The image never fades away, it stays.”
According to Shabtai, the video is an exploration of the Family Video’s love/hate relationship with nostalgia.
“We find ourselves constantly circling over this feeling that our culture, our music and our politics keep regurgitating themselves,” he wrote in an email. “The Internet has collapsed all sense of space and time — artifacts from the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s are continually remixed and resurfaced, on-demand, feeding an insatiable (and probably misguided) feeling that the past was better.”
But it is Valentine’s Day after all, so circling back to the love aspect of that love/hate relationship, Shabtai admits that he is a sucker for Taylor Dayne, Tears for Fears, C&C Music Factory, retro toy ads, and old-school Star Wars.
“We feed on the same nostalgic stuff that gets fanboys up in arms and washed-up ’80s celebrities elected to office,” he wrote.
“The Image” is the first single from Family Video’s upcoming album, set for release in April.