Video Deconstruction: Mountains

14 Jul

I’ll be the first to admit I can’t really be objective with songs as angel-weepingly beautiful as Mountains. Part of this is down to the fact that it’s a Biffy Clyro song, and as I’ve said many a time I love this band so much that even Muse are checking their shoulders to make sure nobody steals their “James Fanboy Favourite” gold star sticker. But I feel the need to say something about this, this drop of musical ambrosia in an ocean of sewage and Nickelback. So I’m putting my GCSE in Media Studies to good use and analysing and commenting on the song’s promotional video (with the aid of 23,000 images). So, without further ado, let’s ‘mon some Biff.

Starts off slow, with some images of a particularly knocked-up piano. Not knocked up in the sense that this piano is with child, you understand, but it could do with a polish. All I’m saying. It also pops up the words “BIFFY CLYRO” and “MOUNTAINS” in case you forgot what you typed into Youtube’s search function and you needed a reminder.

Why hello, singer/guitarist/principal songwriter Simon Neil! Playing a piano, eh? Didn’t know you could so that! It’s just that the Puzzle sleeve notes said the piano on that album was played by someone called Ben Kaplan. Not suggesting anything by that, though. It’s not like you’re a FRAUD OR ANYTHING?!

Okay, okay, I believe you really played the piano, stop shouting at me! Hey, where’d you get that guitar? It’s almost like the scene suddenly changed at the same time the first verse kicked in. Freaky. In fact, forget the guitar, your bandmates have just materialised!

Hang on a tick, who’s that on the drums? Oh yeah, it’s Maris Piper. Hey Maris. Man, he’s really getting into it, but don’t let his angry teeth and furrowed brow fool you: he actually has a very nice falsetto.

Moving swiftly on, WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT. The delicate eyes and tight rubber around the chest area reveal it’s some kind of woman or something, though the feudal Japan-style mask and pointy headgear suggest she isn’t here to cook men steaks and pop out babies.

Whoops, it appears we’re temporarily disregarding Mysterious Rubber Girl and cutting to the first full band shot. This video follows the tradition of having a performance in a scenario where a) it would be inconvienient for a rock band to be playing and b) the subject matter of the song is completely unrelated to what’s going on. About this time, Simon is singing about a desire to “dive to the bottom of the ocean”, but is in fact playing a song with his band in what appears to be a Roman-era Men’s Room. But what the hell, right? Every video needs loads of band shots, especially when the director has tapped into the fact that every girl in the South of England has some kind of sick Scotland Fetish (or at least they do if the internet is to be believed – find a southern lass who doesn’t fancy David Tennant. You can’t.) and so is placing a group of rugged Highlanders right in front of their eyes. Lucky bastards. We spend hours and hundred of pounds on trying to get these strange creatures called “girls” to like us and all these tossers have to do is speak in a brogue and they’ve got it made. Wankers.

In fact, here’s Alpha Wanker right here (though Maris and Bass Player are nowhere to be seen), and what’s this? He’s in cahoots with Mysterious Rubber Girl, and has seemingly abandoned rock stardom in favour of being a speaker in the Houses of Parliament by the looks of things. Only except MPs there’s a ninja with big fuck-off knives. Awesome.

The plot thickens! Through a haze of blurry low-def Youtube video appears another Simon Neil, dressed in white this time, with matching Girl/Ninja combo. Only this time the ninja is armed with a stick instead of blades. Hopefully the stick and blades are just for show and aren’t going to be part of some kind of twisted fight to the deathor anything, because then White Ninja (not to be confused with the bland-o-rama webcomic of the same name) would be what’s medically known as “Fucked”.

Seemingly not noticing or just not caring about the Biffy Clyro doppelgangers sat in chairs, White Ninja raises his stick dramatically. Good thing he’s just checking it for dents and scratches and isn’t trying to intimidate Black Ninja or anything, right? After all, this is just some diametrically-coloured friends hanging out, sitting on chairs, might go out for fajitas later. Nothing like a duel at all.

Rubber Girl present Black Simon with a chessboard. Rather than telling her “it’s missing half the pieces, bitch” and knocking it out of her hand, he moves a Pawn forwards. Is he going to pawn White Simon at a friendly, non-violent game of chess? Ahahaha! Ahahahahaha! Ah.

Hang about! With the moving of chess pieces, both Ninjas move onto the life-sized chessboard and strike battle poses! Surely the entire video can’t be based around a climatic battle between two deadly ninjae, controlled by puppet masters Black Simon and White Simon through the ironically peaceful method of chess? My God!

Tough shit, you’ll have to wait for an answer to that, the director wants more band shots. This seems like a good time to mention that the bass player is playing a Rickenbacker 4003. It’s a bass which makes him lose over 9000 points from me. Ricks suck, and shouldn’t even be in the same sentance as ‘bass’, which is why I’m now editing the previous sentence so it doesn’t.

Anyway, let’s forget about my anti-Rickenbacker bias and get back to the fight. The fight I really wish didn’t happen for White Ninja’s sake, because he is armed with the aforementioned stick and is up against a bloke with two swords. Maybe the big piece of cloth on the end gives him some kind of tactical advantage, but so far I’ve yet to see it. Though if I was him I’d try to poke the other guy’s eyes out from range or something. Sharp metal becomes mostly useless if you can’t see for shit, and blindness might be just the ticket to even the odds a little.

Apparently we’re still keeping up the premise of the fight being controlled by Simon and Simon’s mad chess skills, even though the fight is very well choreographed and doesn’t stop every two seconds to allow the other guy to think about his play, like the fights in Final Fantasy games. Plus, there’s sixteen pieces and only one ninja, how does that work?

No time for plot holes, mind, as the battle is heating up. Black Ninja attempts to hack off White Ninja’s ankles which could have resulted in some mildly amusing “Tis just a flesh wound” dialogue, but is foiled by the fact that he has knees and can jump. Plus that joke’s done to death anyway. It’s a nice move though, so much so that it’s in slow motion. Don’t think that means I could get a decent shot of it, though.

After the near-miss above that nearly cost his warrior his feet, White Simon attempts to psyche out his opponent by…well, glaring? It’s not really a glare, though. Truth be told he looks a bit gay. Maybe he’s trying to fill Black Ninja’s head with distracting thoughts of “Is he coming on to me?”

White Ninja appears to be in on it as well. “Whoops, did I drop my stick? Silly me, I’ll just bend over and pick it up *giggle*. Oooh, like what you see?”

Sorry, Black Ninja’s not having any of it, and takes an almighty kick at White, who ducks out of the way. He managed to hit my gay jokes out of the park, though.

Real-Life Simon (Simon 1? Simon the First? Slightly ageing Topman patron Simon?) can’t bear to watch, so much so that he’s not actually in the same scene. He’s also covering his eyes with his hair, just in case. They’re still playing the song, by the way; its not like that lame 30 Seconds to Mars video where the music stops just because there’s a fight scene.

Getting back to the battle, it’s all getting a bit HOLY SHIT, BLACK NINJA JUST SHANKED WHITE NINJA! With a big knife! In the chest! Is there a doctor in the house? Officer, arrest that man! White Ninja, if only you’d gone forward in time a few weeks when I wrote this and read my eye-gounging advice! Oh wait, that was the point of the fight, I think. The killing. With knives.

Well, it’s all over. With Whitey having tasted a sample of Murder de jour, White Simon solemnly lays down his hat in defeat. Leafy Headgear Woman on the right is clearly devastated – deep in her heart she knows she’ll never get those fajitas with White Ninja.

Black Simon, now an industrial generator of smugness, rises from his throne. What’s next? A friendly handshake? A patronising “Better luck next time!” and an insincere pat on the back? White Simon requesting a best two-out-of-three arm wrestle?

Nope, just the two of them taking turns belting out the closing lines of the final chorus. Seeing as how these lines are “I am a mountain, I am the sea”, this one final shot reveals that White Simon is a mountain, and Black Simon is the sea. According to them anyway.

Closing thoughts: If the two Simons (not the one with a guitar, he sort of disappeared after I started ripping on Rickenbackers) are correct in their declarations that they are, in fact, a mountain and the sea, is it any wonder Black Simon won? Besides the sea covering two-thirds of the Earth’s surface (I think), the combination of salt water and waves is known for it’s corrosive effect on rock and other natural materials (known in scientific circles as errosion). Were you to place a mountain made of rock into the sea (or, say, ninjae representing each), it may well survive for many years but would, eventually, be erroded away until nothing but silt remained. Clearly this video is designed with populizing these proven scientific happenings through the accessible medium of music in mind. Therefore, Biffy Clyro should be celebrated as the populizers of science that this video proves them to be, and rewarded with non-stop playtime on Kerrang instead of all this Simple Plan bullshit.


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