Tim Cohen is a man who wears many hats. He's been in more bands and released music under more names than any other musician I can think of, and each one is an exercise in brilliance. His latest mask is Magic Trick, and I got the opportunity to look at the music video for "Invisible at Midnight." Here the San Francisco genius may have finally outdone himself.
Right off the bat we see a young, angelic girl child played by Lida Rose. She's a happy, cherubic little thing that smiles with innocent brightness as she overfeeds her goldfish in a cartoonish bedroom. Of course, as we all know overfeeding a goldfish is pretty much the best way to kill it besides leaving it under a hot lamp, and her little friend is not exception.
Floating dead, she solemnly carries him to the elephant's graveyard for fish, the toilet. Distraught from her icthicide, she decides to read a book of magic tricks safe under her covers with a flashlight. To her delight, the book comes to life and promises even the miracle of resurrection.
Mat Hara teamed with Cohen to bring the drawings and sketches to life. Such a phantasmagoria of otherworld images and semi-real environments hasn't been done since Smashing Pumpkins wowed us all with "Tonight, Tonight."
"Tim had this image in his head about a little girl who was upset and praying at her bedside," says Hara. "I sort of took that idea and tried to find an emotional reality to it. I wanted to know why the girl was upset, so I asked Tim.
"We agreed it wasn't about a 'broken home' or a 'bullied kid' necessarily, but instead, a more universal tragedy, like facing the loss of life," he continues. "We decided what would be devastating enough to the world of this little girl, was the accidental death of her beloved pet."
A more universal experience would indeed be harder to come up with, and the combination of unbelievable magic and heartbreaking realism is powerful.
Unless you're one of those folks that straps on explosives and runs headfirst at an infidel, you tend to believe harder when you're a kid than as an adult. There's a naïve certainty in the power of prayer and the unformed faith you have in higher beings.
Cohen himself appears as an angel with his backing band. They clap along with the chorus as an animated musician retrieves the goldfish's soul from whatever fishy Valhalla they go to. It's a weird juxtaposition when mixed with his low droning voice intoning, "Lord, please forgive me."
That's another aspect of childhood you tend to forget, the idea that the world is all about you. When something great happens, it's because you're awesome. When your parents turn into screaming anger monsters, it's because of you.
You are the center of the entire world. It's not any wonder that little Lida seeks a mystical escape.
"I think escape, denial or disillusion seems to be most people's response to death, whether they're conscious of it or not," says Hara. "On one hand you could say Lida's inability to cope with the pain of loss results in her withdrawing into an unrealistic fantasy. But for me, Lida's desire to escape into a magical world comes from a place of curiosity, a need to discover meaning, to move beyond pain and let the past rest.
If this wasn't the case," he adds, "I think the video would've somehow ended with Lida wearing a straight jacket. As interesting as that might've been, I don't think anyone had that in mind."
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