Frog Hair’s “My Best Foot Forward” Wants to Steal Fire from the Gods
From the moment the video for Frog Hair‘s “My Best Foot Forward” begins, it is clear both in its immediate inspirations and the longer, deeper history it is part of.
A lonely-looking mad scientist puppet weaves his perfect companion together, or attempts to, unaware that he is succeeding beyond his wildest dreams. It seems both simple in concept (exactly what a video should be) and obvious in its antecedents (exactly what most videos are). From its out-of-proportion puppet characters and intentionally unsettling mood and design, it seems naturally cut from the US stop-motion renaissance set off by Henry Selick.
Which means that at some level it is the godchild of Tim Burton and his idiosyncratic melding of dark exteriors and lily-white interiors, plus a hefty dose of the Vince Price/Roger Corman horror references which he has fetishized for thirty years.
All of that is visible in the Burtonian puppet man of “Best Foot,” which seems like it should be setting up for a dark shoe to drop but doesn’t. More importantly, it takes on the underlying aspects of Burton’s antecedents and musters more than just surface-level inspiration, ascending instead like Dante through the various levels of Heaven to their Orphic starting point.
Vince Price resides somewhere in the soul of all mad scientist characters, and doubly so of any so indebted to Burton. But he’s not the end-all and be-all of the character trope — that will always be Colin Clive, who set the mannerisms in stone in James Whales‘ Frankenstein, way back in 1931. We’ve all been living in his shadow since.
The Frankensteinian theme is clear from the moment the puppet woman appears in the video, taking on aspects of Whales’ lauded Bride of Frankenstein, while the scientist himself harkens to Edison’s 1911 take on the monster (finally completing the century-long combination of creator and monster into one being).
In both the puppet man’s lack of cognizance of the awakening creature behind him and the Dave McKean-esque mise en scène, Katy Anderson and Patrick Medrano‘s video take on Frog Hair’s first single draws directly from Cocteau and the foundation of avant-garde cinema. This is not a strange melding with the Frankenstein preoccupation but really an inevitable side effect of it.
In the focus on visuals for meaning and lack of desire or need for exposition the music video form is the direct descendent of Cocteau’s Orphic trilogy — and The Blood of a Poet in particular — and its desire to transmute music directly into images. More importantly, Frankenstein and the Orpheus myth are tightly interwoven.
The classic Orpheus myth sees the minstrel going to hell to rescue Eurydice (through the power of music, no less). Frankenstein flipped that notion on its head, sending the hero to heaven to rescue his love from God instead of the Devil by learning the secrets of creation.
In that sense, the poor stop-motion scientist weaving his perfect mate, and the animators behind them, and the musicians behind them, are the latest in a long line of modern minstrels seeking to steal the secret of creation in order to cure loneliness.
A derivation of a derivation, rather than obscuring the truth of its ancestors, “My Best Foot Forward” brings it into sharp focus and suggests we’re just scratching the surface of what Frog Hair is about. END
[Edited by Creg Lovett. All photos courtesy of Katy Anderson and Patrick Medrano.]
- “Frog Hair — Houston’s Fuckin’ Awesomest Supergroup — Is Also a Really Old Figure of Speech,” Creg Lovett, Space City Rock
- “Frog Hair Will Be the Appropriate Level of Famous Someday,” Creg Lovett, Houston Press