Sound And Vision: Todd Haynes

Contributing Writer; The Netherlands
Sound And Vision: Todd Haynes

In the article series Sound and Vision we take a look at music videos from notable directors. This week we look at Sonic Youth's Disappearer, directed by Todd Haynes.

The love affair of Todd Haynes with Sonic Youth is a long one. Before his feature length debut, Poison, but after his seminal short film Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, Haynes directed a music video for Disappearer. It was one of many videos made for the album Goo, which, surprisingly for that time, had music videos for almost every single song. Curiously enough, other music videos for that album include ones called Tunic (A Song for Karen) which was about Karen Carpenter, and one called Mildred Pierce. Did Sonic Youth seek out Todd Haynes on the strength of Superstar, as fellow admirers of Karen Carpenter? I can only speculate, but Kim Gordon later did write an open letter to Karen Carpenter, reinforcing a view of her that is quite similar to the views Todd Haynes brings to light in the film.

Mildred Pierce, another song off of Goo, was named after the classic film noir and had a video directed by David Markey, starring none other than director/ actress Sofia Coppola. Haynes himself would later direct a remake of the film noir as an excellent HBO Series.

But the connections between Sonic Youth and Haynes don't stop at liking both The Carpenters and Joan Crawford. For Velvet Goldmine, Haynes' love-hate-letter to David Bowie, he sought a band that could fill the shoes of the Iggy Pop-stand-in Curtis Wilde and his Stooges. For that band, Wylde Ratttz, he created a supergroup, consisting of Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and Steve Shelley, but also members of Mudhoney, Gumball, Minutemen ánd The Stooges' Ron Asheton himself. The curation of Haynes didn't stop there: on the soundtrack are contributions in writing, playing or singing from band members from Radiohead, Pulp, Suede, Roxy Music, Shudder to Think, Placebo and none other than Brian Eno.

But Haynes, as a music curator, one-upped himself with the soundtrack to I'm Not There, his ode to the many personas of Bob Dylan. On the soundtrack we find Calexico, Cat Power, Sufjan Stevens, Jeff Tweedy, The Black Keys, Stephen Malkmus and many others. The soundtrack is thát bulky that most of the songs recorded and produced for the film didn't necessarily end up in the film, or only small snippets did. But who got the honor to perform the titular track? Sonic Youth.

As for the music video in question: Disappearer is a song that is about watching signs when driving, and how perspective impacts your vision. Haynes takes this notion quite literally, filming signs in stark color, in contrast with the black and white visuals of Thurston Moore driving. All is interjected with footage from the band playing a very energetic performance in a studio, while basking in stroboscopic lighting.

Last fun fact: Disappearer was edited by none other than Tamra Davis, a very prolific music video and film director in her own right, who will for certain show up in a future Sound and Vision. It's a serviceable video, but it doesn't have the panache or audacity of some of Haynes' later works. Still, Sonic Youth clearly recognized a bright talent storming onto the scene, and it started a collaboration that was incredibly fruitful.

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