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April 10, 1980 - Image 7

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-04-10

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The Michigan Daily-Thursday. April 10. 1980-Paae 7:


This ain't nothin' but a party!

There is no accounting for popular
aste. Judging from the response they
received in Detroit earlier this week,
the J, Geils Band is the biggest thing to
hit Detroit since the invention of the
wheel, or at least the tire. This respec-
table though not massively renowned
outfit have built a solid reputation as a
hard working, satisfying if not scin-
tillating blues based boogie band.
Nothing too elaborate or cerebral: just
a guaranteed get-down-and-jam good
*ime with enough bluesy dirt to make
the music urgent, but not so much as to
make it threatening. Boozy fun with a
touch of desperate urgency.
But, fun, first and foremost. When
you want to party in Detroit, chances
are J. Geils Band is what you'll party
to. These guys get quite a bit of local
airplay. maybe as much as the Stones
or the Who. But it's through live per-
formances that J. Geils have built their
reputation as the ultimate party band, a
reputation that begins and ends in
Detroit. This Boston-based outfit broke
through to national prominence full
scale in 1972 with their first live 1p.
Full House breathed a rush of hot-
blooded hedonism into the soberly
stagnant radio waves. It rekindled the
spontaneous flame of loose r-and-b-
tinged rock and roll that had waned,
unnoticed in backstreet bars and clubs.
Full House was recorded, you guessed
wt, in front of a wildly enthusiastic
Detroit audience.,
SINCE THEN, J, Geils and company
have released a string of consistent, if
not extremely adventurous, albums
and toured steadily enough to keep

their grass roots constituency
clamoring for more. One could say
time. and style, have passed J. Geils
by. But don't say it around Detroit if
you value your hide.
J. Geils Band sold out not just one,
but three successive nights at Cobo
Arena-a pretty remarkable feat any
way you look at it. Sure, they've had
some hits, but three sold-out nights?
Any group that can inspire 36,000-plus
people to part with ten bucks has to
have something special, an intangible
appeal that isn't perfectly transferred
to records.,
After seeing the third J. Geils show,
on Monday night, that appeal still
escapes me. The ingredients
are all there: tight, well executed
playing, a well balanced selection of old
and new material, a diverse but not ob-
trusive stage presentation, and a crowd
so psyched that the apocalypse would
have come as a disappointment. But the
end result was as bland as over-
simmered soup that only hints at its
original flavor, flirting with one's ex-
pectations instead of fulfilling them.
AS UNFETTERED and casual as
they sound at times, J. Geils Band is
tightly structured, almost to the point of
constriction. Those carelessly phrased

guitar solos, offhand harmonica riffing,
even Peter Wolf's shouts, grunts and
sighs of encouragement are carefully
placed and precisely delivered. Without
much deviation either way, the group
does little more than play Just Like On
The Album. And when Wolf cries
"alright DEE-troit, are you havin' a
good time?" the crowd responds in
conditioned frenzy. The band is more
than competent, and probably well-
equipped to push their music closer
toward the edge of excitement, but they
stop far short of taking any real risks.
J. Geils don't take risks because they
don't need to-not in Detroit anyway.
The crowd seemed to know every song
by heart and it didn't much matter that
J. Geils' (the person) guitar seemed
unusually dissonant and overstated or
that Magic Dick's inspired harp
dynamics were reduced to a screechy
approximation in the mix. These folks
came to hear the tunes that liven up
their radio every day, and they heard
them all, from "Love Stinks" to
"Lookin' for a Love." But that's all they
heard: no trace of innovation or
derivation from a well-worn (three live
lp's worth) path. Even the classic har-
monica improvisation "Whammer
Jammer" was delivered verbatim from
the recording.
That's the heart of the problem: J.
Geils achieved such a level of success
(probably unexpected) that they never
had to develop as a band. Oh, they
throw in a synthesizer treacle here and
there, even a discofied break of plastic
funk on "Sanctuary", but . it's.: the
greasy authenticity and obliviousness
of their blues roots that set them apart
in the first place. The most rewarding

moment on Monday was their cover of
"In the Night Time, an unadulterated
throwback, a howling good time stomp
with no trendy strings attached and, in-
cidentally, one I've never heard them
perform before. As for the stage show,
well, at the risk of sounding jaded, if
you've seen one lead singer lowered on
stage in a throne you've seen them all.
THE AUDIENCE did not share my
disappointment with the performance.
J. Geils received one of the most ec-
static, overwhelmingly positive
responses I've ever witnessed. And
while they don't quite live up to the
claims of some of their ardent ad-
mirers, they deliver the expected goods
quite adequetely and play off the crowd
artfully. It would be too easy to con-
clude with a diatribe concerning the
Detroit FM radio monopoly and how
their program directors manipulate
mass taste through rigid programming,
to the point of ensuring a band like J.
Geils unqualified success, but it's a
moot point. The stations are convinced
that they play what the people want to
hear, and the people are happy to take
anything resembling rock and roll that
they can get. The J. Geils fans are left
satisfactorially delerious and the more
demanding listeners wouldn't be
caught dead at Cobo Arena anyway.
The tragedy is that everybody misses
But I will say this: any band that plays
for an hour and five minutes, then milks
the crowd for three or four encores isn't
playing to the fans expectations but
preying on them. There's no accounting
for popular taste, but there stre ought
to be.

Nikki and the Corvettes

Remember the Shangri-las? How about the Crystals and the Ronnettes?
Now we've got Nikki and the Corvettes, Ann Arbor's latest entry in the new
wave sweepstakes, shown here wowing 'em at the Star Bar Tuesday. Also
appearing with the Corvettes were up-and-comers the Volume Whores (!)
and Gary Pryka and the Scales.


Thomas Fitzsimmons
Gozo Yoshimasu
Thursday, April 10-7:30 pm
no admission charge
GUILD HOUSE, 802 Monroe

Friday, April 11,
Sarah Robertson Bentley:
"The Work-able Ethic"
GUILD HOUSE, 802 Monroe




' . _ J

It's about time I After releasing
XTC's least interesting album to date
(though still ahead of the pack), Drums
and Wires, the international arm of
Virgin Records has finally decided to
release their previous state-of-the-art
*P's White Music and Go 2 (in
chronological order).
Until recently, Go 2 was my favorite
album by this British fringe-pop group.
Now I find myself drawn more and
more to their first, White Music. It cer-
tainly is a jagged album, especially if
you're only familiar with Drums and
Wires, but it is also just as certainly
their most energetic and positive

other ten tunes of eccentric enthusiasm
and irrepressibly intelligent humor
found on this album, and you can't
really complain. True, their literary wit
hadn't developed to its present stage at
the time of White Music, but with in-
cisive lines like
"It's gone eleen and thr bar is shut
I'm sitting waiting like a realgoodmu t
I watch TV with an actor's rage
Like a new town animal in a/furnished
you can't really go wrong.
What is really unique about White
Music, especially since XTC have not
been able to duplicate it since, is the
rampant nervous energy of this album.

questionable. It is a statement on both
having fun and thinking about life from
a fully mature group who obviously
know how to do both.
The social awareness of White Music
appears on Go 2 as fully developed
social commentary. They can criticize
the conformity and falsity of discos
while still celebrating the pure release
potential of dancing in "Meccanic Dan-
cing" and then turn around and decry
the tight life-roles offered to women in
"Battery Brides."
THE FULLY orchestrated sound of
Go 2 is something XTC also have not
been able to match since. . . and
probably won't be able to equal in the
future due to the loss of virtuoso
keyboardist Barry Andrews. But on Go
2, this full frontal sound hits like a
wave, ferocious in its relentless poun-
ding. The pace never really lets up, but
is only further accentuated by its un-
derstated presence on slower tracks
like "Battery Brides." You may
remember this song as the surprising
tour-de-force of XTC's recent ap-
pearance at The Michigan Theater with
the Police. (If you didn't recognize it,
you can always tell the tour-de-force by
the fact that the "we-just-wanna-
boogie-all-night" fans always boo the
loudest during these demanding and
spmetimes difficult pieces.)
True, some songs on this album are
better than others, but separating the

two is sort of like finishing the whipped
cream on top of a Mountain High sun-
dae and thinking that you only have two
scoops of Carob Mint Ice Cream dren-
ched in hot carob sauce left! Sure,
songs like "Meccanik Dancing," "Buz-
zcity Talking," "Beattown," and "Are
You Receiving Me?" are unbeatable,
but that doesn't mean that I've ever
been able to sit still through "The
Rhythm," "Crowded Room," or "Jum-
ping in Gomorrah." What is most im-
portant about this album is that it is
nearly faultless. The pacing is perfect,
the arrangements are full and com-
plete, the playing is creative, and the
songs themselves are demanding,
engaging, and witty.
If you hurry, you could snatch up
these albums now, years before
everybody realizes just how ahead of
(or maybeoutside of) their time this
band is. Already you can see how other
bands have begun to pick up their in-
fluences. So far, Blondie have only been
smart enough to copy their cover art,
but they could learn a few things
musically from these boys, too.. You
could find yourself an instant rock and
roll historian in a few years once every
band on the face of the Earth has begun
to copy XTC.
The first tea brough to England in the
17th century was used as a medicine
and sold for several pounds sterling per

Lydia Mendelssohn
April 9-12
CURTAIN 8:00 pm
(Pollack; 1969)"1
JANE FONDA plays a spunky loser who gives survival one
last shot by trying to win a seedy dance-hall marathon. This
drama of bleak survival won Gig Youngon Oscar. MICHAEL

7:00 & 9:30


At Old A&D

~~~~~1 ~~~~r"WE HELP YOU


creation. As opposed to the padded or-
chestration of Go 2, White Music puts
the instruments right out in front of the
mix in direct conflict positions. All four
instruments chatter nervously about
seemingly contradictory topics, but
somehow manage to get their collective
message across. The excitement of the
event is quite unmistakable.
THERE ARE some distinct failures
on this album, though. "This is Pop"
was later transformed into one of the
best singles of the decade but the ver-
sion on White Music sounds rushed and
noncommital. The arrangement is
weak, the ending is anticlimactic, and
the rhythm drags. It is only the other-
wise sterling quality of this album that
makes these minor faults stand out in
*such bold relief, however. This song,
even in this flawed state, would shine on
any other album. Next to the non-stop
gems on this album, though, it is found
to be rather wanting. You shouldn't be
without the single version of "This Is
Pop?" anyway (under any circumstan-
ces), so its inclusion on this album is no
big loss.
"I'm Bugged" is also a minor loser in
my book. It is just too mechanistic, for-
ced and humorless to be comfortable on
White Music.
BUT STACK-these two up against the

Almost all of the tunes have been
pushed in pace and complexity to the
breaking point. After they've rushed
through a quick pop tune of switchblade
rhythms, hairpin guitar solos, and
unavoidable harmonies like "Spinning
Top," all you want to do is sit there
stunned for a moment and catch your
breath. Too soon, though, they return
with "Neon Shuffle" and all the energy
you thought they'd just spent.
IT SPEAKS well for the intelligence
of this band that they didn't turn their
only cover song so far, Dylan's "All
Along the Watchtower," into the
meaninglessly irreverent send-up that
most new wave bands would have made
of it. (Check out the Dickies' am-
phetamine-induced version of "Knights
in White Satin.") Instead of just
speeding it up to make a joke out of it,
XTC have added a funky bass and
exaggerated vocals and harmonica to
create a legitimate, thoughtful inter-
pretation of a song that deserves their
Just because I happen to be really hot
on White Music at this point doesn't
mean that Go 2 should be looked at as
anything less than the truly
revolutionary pop album that it is.
Unlike its predecessor, it contains no
songs that are even so much as

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Sbirl ins

April 10-19, 1980

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