“Dolby’s Rupees: Our Lady Peace – ‘Clumsy’ (Music Video)”

I think it’s safe to say we live in an age of music videos today analgous to a tree falling in the middle of the forest: with no major cable TV station playing them, do they really make a sound?

Something’s got to give, here, anyway, because bands still make them. OLP, for instance, have shot one as recently as ’17, for their contemporaneously released “Drop Me in the Water.” LA noise rockers No Age, for their own part, own to a very tickling, original spot for “Send Me,” from ’18’s Snares Like a Haircut.

Also, something just gives me the troubling suspicion that their demand always outweighed the manifest clout they carried on MTV, VH1 and any other institution that at least professed a torch-carrying for them. It’s like they just got browbeaten into extinction by the general machinated culture in our nation of prioritizing immediate, lowbrow pleasure and belittling any and sundry entities of genuine artistic or emotive value (seeing as such things actually require any attention span, short of being based purely on aesthetics).

Seven years ago or so, in June 2013, when I was staying in a hostel in Philadelphia preparing for the Roots mural unveiling, the TV in the lobby was playing the video for Train’s “Drops of Jupiter” on some station that would interpolate all these little bits of information about the song, the video shoot and whatever else was deemed applicable. And you might not believe me, but the storyline behind that song is actually pretty rad, although I guess that’s beside the point.

I was online looking for information on the video for “Clumsy,” which for whatever reason isn’t generally held as a household name in MTV world despite its stirring and memorable cinematic outplay, and actually didn’t get any MTV search results. The foremost arbiter of information about the video was the Wikipedia page for “Clumsy,” which was illuminating in the realm of plot synopsis but ultimately lacking the thoroughness to list actors’ names. This is somewhat important in the instance of “Clumsy” because naturally, watching this particular video, the viewer is bound to form a sort of relationship with the protagonist, rendered as the person to whom Raine Maida is singing in the tune.

“Clumsy” was the second single title track from the band’s ’97 album. To be honest, I intermittently had cable around this time and remember taking in cinematographic productions for Radiohead’s “No Surprises”; The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony”; Third Eye Blind’s “Semi-Charmed Life” along with clips of various rappers like Master P and Missy Elliott, but don’t ever remember catching a video for “Clumsy” in all my MTV-watching habits, which most certainly included some days home sick from school and plastered to my TV recliner. Now, if you notice, none of the rock songs I just mentioned mold exactly to the extant grunge-alternative playbook so well as, say, LIVE, Collective Soul, Seven Mary Three and surely OLP’s anthem which might indeed have bookended, albeit in precocious style, the era of grunge’s and alternative’s ostensible interchangeability. Third Eye Blind was way more “punk” influenced, in their irreverent fixation on crystal meth and thrill-seeking, than most of the commercially bulbous, spiritually-leaning alternative firebrands I mention as having come before. “Bittersweet Symphony” was adamantly existential in lyricism and swathed in incessant strings and Radiohead, well, is just Radiohead, intrinsically truncating any assimilation to other bands in style and zeitgeist [1]. Anyway, just as “Spoonman” by Soundgarden and “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam have stood the test of time musically, as has “Clumsy [2],” I think all would agree.

So with it for the most part saturated within the artistic methodological pool of “grunge,” “Clumsy” finds its desperate, mentally addled and even suicidal lyrical sentiment readily becoming. The songwriter and singer, Raine Maida, even establishes what could certainly be construed as, or interpreted within active discussion as, an “inner struggle,” which would unveil that he’s actually talking to himself in this diatribe. He speaks with haunting surety in lines like “Hide the telephone in case / You realize that / Sometimes you’re just not alright” and “You need to understand / There’s nothing strange about this / You need to know your friends / You need to know that / I’ll be waving my hand / Watching you drown / Watching you scream / Quiet or loud”. It implies, as it were, a disarmingly thorough understanding of his subject, with the verse-two quip of “You need to let me in” unsettling to the keen listener both for its sudden jolt into a manifestation of courting, contrasted sharply with the erstwhile dismissiveness and condemnation, and for the intense, multilayered look in Maida’s eyes as director Matt Mahurin zeroes in on his face.

“Clumsy” is a song depicting an adamantly sadomasochistic state of desperate rage, anyhow, and its music video follows suit beautifully with a rich metaphorical set representing inner struggle. The framed poster hanging on the wall of a skeleton skull immediately screams as foreboding and menacing, with Mahurin’s decidedly bold, warm coloration cinematography still inviting you in and making for a seamlessly pleasing panorama. From there, things only get weirder, with the protagonist removing a window from his bedroom wall and shoving it under his bed, so as to apparently symbolize the emaciation of optimism, and knocking over a glass of water on the floor right when the song explodes into that whammy-laden chorus.

From the overall set of lyrics and the nature of the video, we can surmise that Maida and crew had a firm element of sleeplessness in mind, a calamity copiously correspondent with mental unrest. Yet the song is about being “clumsy,” of all things, and the chorus ends with the lines “You will be safe / In here”, with the band’s input earmarked more by warm, acoustic rhythm guitar than any vociferous force of ominousness. This inevitable prescription of confusion only serves to feed the schizophrenic vitality of the overall project, as rock and roll, when it’s prominent, typically combines a previously impossible blend of happiness and melancholy. In this way, OLP’s musical masterpiece plays continually over the years as defiantly, unmistakably human, as in reflective of the brain’s natural recourses and inclinations in times of trouble, even toting all of the dangerous inner caterwaul as it does.


[1] The one exception to this rule within the scope of the ’90s would probably be, obnoxiously enough, Portishead, a similarly British group which oozed out brooding, painstaking mini-jazz and along these lines are often lumped in with Radiohead.


[2] Just in case you were wondering, I really can’t stand any of Our Lady Peace’s songs other than this one, but then it takes all kinds of opinions to move the world doesn’t it?

Leave a Reply