By now, fans of Biting Elbows know what expect from the band’s videos: sheer intensity. The Moscow-based post-punk group has become internationally famous for their ambitious, fast-paced, electrifying clips. These are videos that manage to be sexy and terrifying, often at the same time; they pull from sci-fi, thrillers, mysteries, dystopian dramas. But it would be wrong to suggest that Biting Elbows videos feel like excerpts from movies. That’s because they play like their major motion pictures – glimpses into a dark alternative cinematic reality constructed by the band and its directors.
Yes, front-man Ilya Naishuller thinks big. The music he makes with Biting Elbows is intentionally widescreen – it’s full of grand gestures, odd and arresting sounds, bracing rhythms and anthemic choruses. Biting Elbows songs develop the way good movies do: they contain mood shifts, illuminating detours, and thunderous climaxes. And as a filmmaker as well as a musician (he was the director of Hardcore Henry, the 2015 hit first-person action movie), he’s adept at translating those sonic ideas into visual ones. Naishuller was behind the camera for the incendiary clip for Biting Elbows’ “Bad Motherfucker,” a wild escape from murderous mobsters. The video, which is shot in a first-person perspective, has been viewed more than 40 million times on YouTube. American pop fans got a taste of Naishuller’s style in 2016 when he directed the clip for The Weeknd’s hit single “False Alarm” – a tale of a bloody bank heist.
However, Biting Elbows isn’t (just) about action and violence. There’s a heavy romantic strain in the music the band makes, and the clip for “Heartache,” their latest single, explores that undercurrent. Rest assured, however, that this is romance done Biting Elbows-style. From the first frames of the clip, danger is in the air. Even as a young couple kisses on a sofa at a party, the dim lighting and the unsteadiness of the camera suggest destabilization to come. Soon, they’re arguing amidst the chaos of the club floor – and others get involved. Naturally, the man takes the worst of it, and as he stumbles out of the party and on to the street, he’s greeted by a surprise that we won’t ruin for you. You’ll have to experience it for yourself.
“Heartache” also serves as a prologue to the blockbuster clip to “Control,” a rougher Biting Elbows song, and one that represents an evolution in the band’s sound. This is the group at its sleekest and most progressive; the mix begs for a sci-fi treatment, and Biting Elbows doesn’t disappoint. Expect an alien invasion, with the interplanetary guests taking over human hosts in search for a good time, reckless car action in an underground car park, unspeakable acts in glamorous bathrooms, sexy people with superhuman strength, and a range of unsettling (but compulsively watchable) special effects. It’s not the sort of video a typical band would make – but no one would mistake Biting Elbows for a typical band.