What: “The Existential Threat,” a skin-crawly new music video that is utterly appropriate.
Who: Sparks and avant-garde video artist Cyriak.
Why we care: Given how appropriate it feels for the COVID-19 era, it’s incredible that the song “The Existential Threat” was created before the pandemic sent the world into a full-throttle panic attack for much of 2020. But only for people who have forgotten the constant undercurrent of doom that lingered throughout the time leading up to the pandemic. The Los Angeles-based oddballs of Sparks, now in their sixth decade of recording together, may now seem prescient in their ode to apocalyptic anxiety, but this song would have likely felt just as appropriate anyway, even without the coronavirus. In any case, the video for the song was indeed created during the ensuing crisis, and it shows.
Directed with sadistic, maximalist glee by Cyriak Harris, known for psychedelic freak-outs such as the opening credits for W/Bob and David, “The Existential Threat” is an animated marvel that mimics how anxiety feels—in both the best and worst of times. We open with a gorgeous summer day. The very buildings themselves are dancing in the sunshine, while grinning bug-eyed ciphers sashay along in the streets, clutching their iPhones. Inside one of those buildings, though, in an apartment with closed curtains, one twitching recluse is not having any of it. “Nothing’s happened yet today and yet I have to feel: Danger near, danger here,” the lyrics narrate, channeling the nervousness of a life lived perennially on edge. From here, we see the contents of that man’s brain—and perhaps the contents of Harris’s brain—and both members of Sparks. It’s a pulsating miasma of doom and gloom, the persistent, repetitive rumble of urgent negative uncertainty.
In the end, according to this video, medicine won’t save you, the stock market won’t save you, and watching the disasters of modern life from the remove of TV news won’t save you. Because you will always be trapped with your weird brain, in good times and bad. It’s not exactly an uplifting message, but perhaps a cathartic one for anyone feeling alone with their anxiety.
Tap into some dark energy with the full video below.