It's rare these days that a music video thoroughly captures the aesthetic of a musician while indulging the quirk necessary for potential virality or meme-fication, but Todd Terje's "Leisure Suit Preben," directed by Espen Friberg & Emil Høgset, houses a cool, easy-to-explain concept while capturing the prevailing historical periods influencing Terje's music: the sleazy, hypno-throbbing '80s, and the playful naivete of the pre-counter culture '60s.
The big obvious influence on "Leisure Suit Preben" is Leisure Suit Larry, a ribald computer game series aimed at late '80s and early '90s teens and college kids about a dick-joke-making dirtbag in his forties on a puzzle quest to get laid. The way that "Leisure Suit Preben" is shot, with the backgrounds moving and the Preben character basically standing still, giving the illusion of travel, is an on-the-cheap surreal recreation of the way that video games mimicked movement: By making the background layer of the game dynamic while restricting the main character(s) in the foreground to a more limited series of actions. Though even the simple narrative of "Leisure Suit Preben," with Preben wandering to slightly different locales and picking up objects off the ground, is very much like an acquisition-based, old school side-scroller.
But "Leisure Suit Preben" refuses to be just another cheeky nod to the '80s. The aesthetic of the video is equally indebted to '60s, which certainly fits Terje's visual style (particularly, the lounge lizard cover art for It's Album Time, a title that itself seems very Herb Alpert-like). Creeping around in this high-concept, low budget video (which Terje demurely tagged "sort of official") is lots of post war slapstick comedy: the guffawing goof-offs of Benny Hill (especially when Preben is wearing women's make-up); shades of Monty Python's "Silly Walks" or "Upper Class Twit of the Year" skits; The classy class clowning of of Jacques Tati and Jerry Lewis; Peter Sellers movies, like the Pink Panther series, but also Being There, which begins with Sellers plodding through Washington, DC set to Eumir Deodato's funk-fusion version of Richard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra," which seems like some kind of musical influence on Terje's witty space disco.
"Leisure Suit Preben" is also just an exploration in subjectivity and a clever way to represent what it's like to feel really drunk. The Preben character, an archetype in some ways (the besotted, presumably respectable businessman), is well, just kind of everyone's new favorite politician turned maniac Rob Ford (who it would seem, is living out the self-destructive sweetheart characterizations of Chris Farley, the last gasp of physical comedy, who updated the zooted but well-meaning big lug archetype). All of the video game logic approximating background trickery in "Leisure Suit Preben," is a pretty accurate visual representation of being too fucked up, where movement seems goopy and confused, in the same vein as more serious fare like Prodigy's "Smack My Bitch Up" (directed by Jonas Akerlund) or Gaspar Noe's Enter the Void.
And when Preben arrives at the nightclub and Terje's track drops the upbeat strings and hammy harpsichord for a John Carpenter Escape From New York dead-eyed disco buzz, we witness Preben lose his shit, grabbing a microphone, singing and plain embarrassing himself. In the final moments, right as Terje's song turns into a diet caffeine-free Terry Riley "In C" homage, Preben's head begins spinning and he falls to the ground. The stakes have been raised, emotionally and musically. Club lights flicker on his fat face in sync to the hypnotic finale of the track. Is Preben passed out? Is he dead? It's an ambiguous ending that teases a little bit of darkness—at least until the sequel, "Preben Goes To Acapulco" (the next song on It's Album Time) drops.
Brandon Soderberg is a writer and dog owner living in Baltimore. He's on Twitter - @notrivia