DVD Review: The Hammer and Tongs Collection

Directed By Garth Jennings and Nick Goldsmith
Featuring Videos By Blur, Vampire Weekend, Supergrass, Pulp, Badly Drawn Boy and The Wannadies

You’ll already know Hammer & Tongs by now. The name might not ring a bell, but if you own a TV, it’s highly unlikely that you’ve managed to avoid catching at least one of the music videos these two creative geniuses have put together, and a cursory glance at the playlist for The Hammer and Tongs Collection DVD is sure to illicit at least one “Ooh! I love that video!” response.

Better known by their parents by their given names Garth Jennings and Nick Goldsmith and best known to everyone else as those responsible for Blur’s ‘Coffee & TV’ video, Hammer & Tongs have since dipped their toes into feature film work with the fantastic coming-of-age movie Son of Rambow and the flawed, but fun The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

The folks at Optimum Entertainment saw fit to team up with the duo and release a collection of their shorts in a handy DVD package, containing the following music videos:

• Blur – ‘Coffee & TV’
• Vampire Weekend – ‘A Punk’
• Vampire Weekend – ‘Cousins’
• Radiohead – ‘Nude’
• R.E.M. – ‘Imitation of Life’
• Pulp – ‘Help the Aged’
• Pulp – ‘A Little Soul’
• Supergrass – ‘Low C’
• Supergrass – ‘Pumping on Your Stereo’
• Bentley Rhythm Ace – ‘Bentley’s Gonna Sort You Out’
• Bentley Rhythm Ace – “Theme From Gutbuster”
• Badly Drawn Boy – ‘Disillusioned’
• Badly Drawn Boy – ‘Spitting in the Wind’
• Beck – ‘Lost Cause’
• The Wannadies – ‘Little by Little’
• The Wannadies – ‘Big Fan’
• The Wannadies – ‘Hit’
• Moloko – ‘Flipside’
• Fatboy Slim – ‘Right Here Right Now’
• Eels – ‘Cancer for the Cure’
• Eels – ‘Last Stop This Town’

While you could nit-pick and say the selection isn’t the most all-inclusive possible (Hot Chip – “And I Was a Boy From School” and Travis – “Driftwood” are two of their more notable videos that didn’t make the cut, presumably due to rights issues), it’s undeniably an incredible line-up, with an awesome grab bag of their iconic hits and minor, possibly unfamiliar gems.

There’s a great mix of the lo-fi (Vampire Weekend’s “Cousins”, shot in an alley with nothing more than a camera dolly, some chalk and editing ingenuity) and the high-concept (R.E.M.’s “Imitation of Life”, which contains 4 minutes worth of story hidden in a single 20 second wide shot of a crowded party, zooming in on particular people for their little visual moment before rewinding and following someone else) which amply showcases the range of Hammer & Tongs’ creative genius.

A couple of the videos, like the simple slo-mo band performance in Radiohead’s ‘Nude’, do pale in comparison to the visual glee and creative ingenuity on display in the bulk of their work, but on the whole it’s an amazing selection of immensely inventive visual filmmaking and a fantastic playlist of amazing indie and alternative rock tracks both new and old. The insane adventures of a young milk carton in Blur’s ‘Coffee and TV’ or the dazzling puppetry madness of Supergrass’ ‘Pumping on Your Stereo’ might provide the highlights, but the wealth of other truly great videos assembled here are exactly what the ‘Play All’ button was made for.

On the DVD:

Commentary is available for every single video, with Garth Jennings calling up band members for each video to reminisce. Jennings et al cram a lot into the 4 minutes of each video, striking the perfect balance between on-point, informative commentary and jovial, friendly catch-up chats, which makes for a really entertaining listen and a wonderful layer of extras.

Also included are a few of Jennings’ early shorts Eiffels Blessing, Toast The Cat and Polish Plums, which showcase some of his early creative forays into filmmaking insanity (Toast The Cat follows the claymation exploits of a superheroic cat saving food supplies from a sinister chicken during wartime rationing). Each of the shorts boasts commentary from Jennings, too. Lastly, a 30 minute ‘Home Movies’ feature amasses a huge, eclectic selection of videotape footage from Hammer and Tongs’ workshop during the making of the videos on the set, awards shows, filming the opening for Da Ali G Show, and other random snippets of candid craziness.

The menu itself is designed with the directors’ playful and creative nuttiness, too; the duo stand in front of a building with the menu superimposed onto it, with each selection wreaking a distinctly different brand of animated havoc upon them. Also included in the set are special Hammer & Tongs postcards. All in all, it’s a great DVD with a selection of genuinely entertaining special features and certainly an essential set for fans of the filmmakers or the bands featured.

The Videos:

The DVD:

The Hammer and Tongs Collection is available to buy on DVD in the UK now.
Click here to order it from Amazon.co.uk.