1. Aphex Twin – Windowlicker
When it comes to all things visual and nightmarish, Aphex Twin – or more accurately, long-time collaborator Chris Cunningham – is the go-to guy. The director’s vision for Richard D. James’s 1999 single depicts two foul-mouthed wannabe gangsters attempting to engage the services of ladies of the night, before the longest stretch limo in the world steamrollers them out of the frame.
Here’s where it gets really weird: then Aphex Twin emerges, busts out some Michael Jackson-style dance moves, and then the girls climb aboard and things get really freaky. That image of a nightmarish Aphex head on a bikini-clad model’s body will haunt your nightmares.
2. Girl Band – Paul
Dublin’s Girl Band are not your conventional rock quartet, as demonstrated by this brilliant video for their single Paul. A disillusioned children’s entertainer is forced to dress in a pig outfit – but when he loses the rag with his fellow farm animals, things begin to unravel. Like Animal Farm compressed into seven minutes, this video suits the furious, atonal nihilism of the track perfectly.
3. Little Big – Hateful Love
Severed hands on a plate? Naked women repurposed as rocking horses? Ghoulish skateboards made out of slabs of meat? It’s all in the video for this utterly bizarre song by St. Petersburg electrowave band Little Big, who’ve been dubbed “a Russian mental patient’s answer to Die Antwoord”. If that doesn’t say it all…
4. UNKLE – Rabbit In Your Headlights
A man walks along the middle of a busy road tunnel as cars pass him by. Some of them begin to knock him down – but he continues to rise and keep walking, mumbling to himself as he goes. At first, this Jonathan Glazer-directed video seems more sad than anything else – perhaps a melancholy treatise on mental illness? Then, as he begins to strip the clothes from his scarred body and realise his true potential, the situation reaches a devastatingly powerful climax.
5. Aphex Twin – Come To Daddy
Another ‘gem’ – if you want to call it that – from the Richard D. James/Chris Cunningham canon. Come to Daddy starts off in a bleak tower block, where an old lady walking her dog happens upon a seemingly destroyed TV screen. Then it begins transmitting James’s warped face, opening a Pandora’s Box of weirdness, as a coterie of schoolgirls and small children bearing the bearded musician’s leering rictus grin wreak havoc upon the neighbourhood. And that’s before we even get to the demonic creature with the oversized head that screams in the poor old dear’s face. Shudder.
6. Basement Jaxx – Where’s Your Head At?
At first glance it could be any animal testing lab in the world. Then a harried record label exec is ushered into a room and promised “the latest thing in pop music”. Performing monkeys (metaphor, much?) are unleashed and take up their instruments… but what’s different about them? Oh yeah: THEY HAVE HUMAN FACES. More accurately, the faces of Basement Jaxx. Things take a morbid turn when the science behind the animal/human hybrids is revealed… but does the label big-wig make it to freedom? Better watch it to find out…
7. Flying Lotus – Parisian Goldfish
Warning: this video is absolutely, 100% NSFW – but if you’re familiar with the work of Flying Lotus, you’re probably primed for that already. Directed by Eric Wareheim of surrealist comedy duo Tim & Eric, things start off reasonably sedate as a man and a women dance in front of a garishly coloured greenscreen, before things descend into… well, look. It’s basically an adult film. One particular shot – you’ll know what we’re talking about when you see it – will remain perennially burned onto your retinas, no matter how much you bathe your eyes in holy water, or how many episodes of My Little Pony you watch.
8. Björk – Human Behaviour
Most of Björk‘s music video back catalogue could have made this list, but for us, one of the standouts in her canon – and particularly amongst her collaborations with director Michel Gondry – is Human Behaviour. This 1993 song sets out to tell the story of the relationship between humans and animals from the latter’s POV. Björk starts out in a woodland as a Goldilocks-style character, before being chased by a bear and flying to the moon. She then falls from the moon and back down into the bear’s stomach, where she continues singing. Standard stuff, really.
9. Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun
This has become the weird music video to measure all weird music videos against since its release in 1994. Apocalypse? You’ve got it – and how about we throw in some freaky-faced humans charring Barbie dolls on a BBQ and torturing cockroaches while we’re at it? It’s probably just as well that they’re all sucked into the whirling titular black hole vortex at the end.
10. Fever Ray – If I Had A Heart
This hugely atmospheric video is a perfect example of a promo clip that’s both unsettling and perfectly suited to the song. Two children approach an eerie mansion by boat, bodies strewn across the floor of its drained swimming pool. Things don’t get much better inside the door, where blood soaks the carpets and a strange masked person stands guard. The boat departs – but why has it left the children behind? Are they being brought home, or abandoned? So many unanswered questions – all of which will leave you chilled you to the bone while watching this mini horror-movie.