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March 14, 1980 - Image 6

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-03-14

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There are apparently hoards of angry
people running about tearing little
pieces out of their clothing due to utter
vexation at the latest efforts of Linda
Ronstadt. The country-western eun
New Wave rock singer has gone punk
on her new album Mad Love, to the
evident consternation of both C&W and
New Wave fans everywhere.
Rock purists feel that anyone who on-
ce recorded the country-gospel number
"Life Is Like A Mountain Railroad" has
no business even uttering the holy name
of Elvis Costello, let alone recording
three of his songs on one album, but
still, there it is. There's no place for
snobbery in the world of music (the
very idea goes against the spirit of rock
in the first place), and those who wince
at Ronstadt's foolishly trendy album
jacket and her decidedly rock and roll
approach do not judge her with an ap-
propriately open mind.
WITH ALL deference to Deborah
Harry and Rickie Lee Jones fans, Ron-
stadt is the best female vocalist recor-
ding today, and she has so far made all
kinds of music she's recorded both ex-
citing and accessible. This new
material is perhaps the most
challenging music she's ever attem-
pted, and the result is extraordinarily
satisfying for those who can come to the
album with all previous exprecations
and prejudices at least temporarily

shelved. She's powerful, clever in in-
terpretation, and always wickedly per-
fect with voice.
OF COURSE there are a few touches
of the noted Ronstadtian excess, such a
a cloying tendency to pout out lyrics
and grind her way up to notes by
roaring them out Pearl Bailey style;
but what is music these days but flir-
tations with excess? No question that
Ronstadt tests herself on Mad Love by
attempting more difficult and deman-
ding songs than on her previous albums
(certainly more so than on the
somewhat pasty Living in the USA
album released in late 1978), and this
makes it a fascinating, if over-
ambitious effort.
NO MORE is Ronstadt going to
record Hank Williams' hits, but the
Grand Ole Opry's loss is surely
everyone else's gain. The only thing
that will keep her from passing from a
pop star to a true rock and roll star is
the tendency of hard-boiled rockers to
look down on Ronstadt as unoriginal
(she doesn't write any of her own
material), inauthentic (she lives in a
Malibu beachhouse, after all!) Janey-
come-lately. Contemporary popular
music is not simply tunes, however: It
is soul, personality, roots, culture, and
a whole host of social, economic, and
political factors all interlaced. How else
can one explain the puerile, all-
encompassing cry "Disco sucks?" Are

the heralds of such sweeping prejudices
certain that an occasional good melody
or lyric might come out of that par-
ticular genre. Fifty lashes with a disco
rollerskate lace to the narrow-minded
listener who accepts music only within
the boundaries of his previously defined
And this has me wondering about the
New Wave types who are wailing and
gnashing their teeth over Ronstadt's
Mad Love. Of course her punk is a mere
pose, obviously out of touch with the

true new wave culture and singularly
non-contributative! Nonetheless, she is
a hell of a vocalist, her song selections
are deft, and her interpretations slic
and intensely listenable. The curre
hit "How Do I Make You" is, in fact, not
even close to the best song on the
album. Costello's "Girls Talk" and
Mark Goldenberg's "Cost of Love" are
far catchier, to name two, and take
much fuller advantage of Ronstadt's
expressive wailings that we have come
to love so well.

Assistant Election Directors
Needed for
A Election
April 8th and 9th
Dedicated non-partisan persons who are searching
for rewarding experiences (with financial compen-
sation) should apply at:
FRIDAY, MARCH 14th-5:00 PM

As you will remember, hard-line New
Wave devotees objected violently to Get
the Knack, that band's best-selling first
album, mainly for its catchy "hooks"
and lyrics which spproach man-woman
relationships with the finesse of a
twelve-year old sneaking a look at his
dad's Hustlers.
Those very things just happened to
make the album wildly popular with the
record-buying public, which consists
largely of musically simple adolescent
perverts, but that's beside the point.
Get the Knack is what its enemies call
it; it is sexist, frivolous, homogenized
pseudo-New Wave for suburban kid-
dies. It has an admirable freshness to.
it, though. It is naughty and cute and
In comparison, the Knatk's new
release, But the Little Girls Under-
stand, is a sickening disappointment.
What qualities made the first album
endearing appear stilted in this second
effort. It is as if the group at recording
time was sick of the retro punky
rhythms and nasty-minded lyrics which
characterized Get the Knack, but were
forced to do the same old successful
schtick over again by some greedy
executive at Capitol Records. The
result is disastrous, repetitive, jejune
and joyless.
NOTHING NEW here. Even Little
Girls' hitbound single, "Baby Talks

Dirty'', echoes that tried-and-true
crowd pleaser, "My Sharona", from
the vocal arrangements and guitar
licks to the subject matter, i.e., a
sexually ardent young female. The
leering, distrustful bad-mouthing 'of
women which characterized most of the
big songs from Get the Knack reap-
pears here tinged with s sense of jade
disgust. The epitome of this, "Mr. Han-
dleman", is a comic number in which a
Third World beggar pimps for his over-
the-hill wife (her, har). Violently con-
trasting this are a round of syrupy, in-
sincerely puppyish love ballads;
misogyuy and pedestal-worship are an
unsettling combination.
OTHER CRITICS have noted that
numerous hooks in this album were
pirated from the work of others. In-
deed, listening to Little Girls at time
becomes a game of Name That Tune.
One hears snatches of "Beast of Bur-
den", "Can't Explian", "Ready Ted-
dy" ... This sort of filching, though
certainly not unheard of in musical cir-
cles, on this scale in contemptible. It
reflects a stagnation and lack of
initiative which looks pretty sickly in a
band this young.
"The Knack", brags their second
album's linear notes, "are the future;o
rock and roll." After hearing thU
album, I find that claim sounds more
and more like the Famous Last Words
of a moribund group.




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(Law School)

Uof Michigan School of Music/DANCE COMPANY SIN1

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