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April 16, 1980 - Image 5

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-04-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.


RECORD S

By DENNIS HARVEY,
Every time a new female voice hits
the charts, a sizable percentage of
music critics and listeners go through
the usual spasms of goggle-eyed sur-
prise over the idea that a member of the
opposite sex should attempt to invade
that supposed last stronghold of
masculine domination, the rock in-
dustry. After all, Olivia Newton-John
and even Rickie Lee Jones don't quite
fit into the category, and Linda Ron-
tadt well, just friex.
In this age of clone bands, people
seem to be expecting the sacred "proof
that women can rock" to come in the
form of women fronting just another
FM banality band like Journey or Styx.
But it's ridiculous to expect this fusion
to come off even passably - Pat
Benatar is proof enough of how
ludicrous things can turn out when a

tened and filled out by a vague folk-ish
feel.
The Wilsons' music was generally
very listenable, and yet has always
been a little too slick and distant to be
affecting. Some of the earlier songs hin-
ted at a poetic draw toward a com-
munal, woodsy sort of image, but the
group hasn't turned out to be any kin of
the Incredible String Band. Instead,
Heart has slowly been refining itself in-
to another addition to the roster of cor-
porate rockers. The transition almost
worked on Dog and Butterfly, because
the songs transcended the genre, but it
doesn't on Bebe le Strange (Epic), their
latest - or, rather, it works all too well.
Bebe le Strange is consummately dull
stuff. On the first listening, it seems
fearlessly mediocre, tot'ally devoid of
any interest; after a while, it may grow
a little more tolerable, but it doesn't get
much more interesting. In line with the
cover art, which aptly shows the
Wilsons and Co. being turned into just
another blow-dried image of Vogue pic
chic, the LP is glossy and hollow. It's
just music to shout over at parties, a
well-manufactured product that pretty
much spells out the end of any promise
the group might have had before.
THERE'S VERY little worth singling
out on this disc of empty, perfectly
commercial rock, with the possible ex-
ception of "Raised on You," which
happens to be the first Heart song to be
sung as well as composed entirely by
sister Nancy. This is just a trite pop
tune, steered by an elementary piano
and bass line, but it's passably catchy
and attractive. Nancy's vocal doesn't
jump off the record, but it's competent
and lacks the note of mannered preten-
tiousness that marks much of Ann's
performances on the album.
As usual, the songs are propelled
mainly by Ann's vocals, and her relian-
ce on a predictable bag of tricks and at-
titudes is becoming too clear. Her
singing, though always pushing closer
to self-parody, still takes risks and is at
times funny and arresting. The lyrics
this time around, however, are just
facile come-ons, and Ann's echo-
chambered singing seems clever but
disinterested.
THE TITLE track - what an ob-
noxious title - does have a strong cen-
tral riff and the suggestion of an offbeat
relationship in its lyrics. "Down on Me"
is just a sub-par reworking of "Lighter
Touch" from the previous LP, and the
instrumental "Silver Wheels" is little
more than another obvious opportunity
to enshrine Nancy's acoustic guitar
ability. "Break" is archtypical of
Heart's new top-40 rock sound, as is the
overlong rave-up, "Rockin' Heaven
Down." The only song with any trace of
a ballad influence is just a standard*
electric love song, "Sweet Darlin',"
which could have been written or per-
formed by anyone, though it's not likely
that everyone would want to claim a
song with lyrics like "I'm hum-
min'/from the lovin'." "Even it Up"
has a horn section, and that's about it
for adventurousness on the album.
Bebe le Strange is just leaden ear can-
dy, technically polished and intensely
dull.
Marianne Faithfull's Broken English
(Island) is never dull, and it's almost
alarmingly far from being ordinary. In
the mid-sixties, as the first of the
procession of gorgeous and seemingly
vacuous beauties whose major claim to
fame was a temporary position as Mick
Jagger's leading groupie, she had a
brief career as a "ghoulish" singer of
some empty featherweight pop tunes,
contributing roughly as much to the
recording industry as Anita Pallenburg

was to offer to the acting profession.
Faithfull seemed one of those
denizens of the social columns' who
finally received, and was buried by, a
deserved amount of obscurity. (If
Bianca Jagger and Margaret Trudeau
were never heard from again, would
anyone care, or even notice?) Coming
out of nowhere, after all these years,
Broken English is a shock - who would
have ever thought that Faithfull had
anything musical in her, let alone this?
Dominated by the oppressive com-
bination of dreamy synthesized
arrangements and the performer's
rasping vocals, this is a murky,
fascinating new wave byproduct. It's
oddly negative without punking out. On
cut after cut, Faithfull seems to be let-
ting loose pent-up aggression and bit-
terness; she must have had a bitch of a

decade after her heyday to have
worked up so much hostility.
THE ALBUM'S sound is heavy yet
compulsively danceable - sort of like
Tangerine Dream filtered through
disco, though there aren't really any
suitable comparisons. Faithfull doesn't
(or can't) sing, exactly. She croaks,
snarls, whispers, and sometimes har-
dly manages to get anything out at all.
Encased in Mark Miller Mundy's sleek,
chilly production, she achieves a
primal, frightening effect. On Shel

toward the comic; there's so much
maliciousness here that you just have
to sit back and wonder how she could
have dredged it all up.
Faithfull's looming personality is
what holds Broken English together,
even if she succeeds so well in com-
municating bitterness that the album
can only be listened to under certain
circumstances. It helps to turn the
lights off, draw the curtains and think
suicidally.
Marianne Faithfull's dry croak has
the scary directness of getting sworn at
by someone in a dark alley - it's the
kind of thing you just have to experien-
ce once in a while, though preferably
not very often. Lena Lovich is abot the
sharpest contrast possible, and her
second album, Flex (Stiff/Epic) has
been monopolizing my turntable for
weeks as a result of a futile (thus far)
attempt to figure out whether Ms.
Lovich is for real or whether she's some
kind of brilliant hoax, a singing (well,
sort of) mechanical doll. (Reading The
Stepford Wives as a child can induce
this kind of paranoia.)
IN THE POP Wagnerian fantasyland
of Flex, reality doesn't seem to exist.
With the possible exception of a sinuous
saxophone solo on "The Night," there
isn't a single, er, naturalistic moment
on the entire disc. It's unlikely that
there is anyone else on the music scene
at the moment so meticulously devoted
to the art of advanced weirdness, and a
good part of the fascination of Flex is
that you can't quite be sure whether
Lovich is a joke or whether she's deadly
serious about the whole thing.
As for the music. . . well, now we're
getting to the groping-for-comparisons
part. Flex is an album of aggressively
bright pop arrangements, decked out in
some memorably audacious sound ef-
fects - screeching electronic jungle
noises on "Monkey Talk" are just the
most easily described among them.
When things start getting maddeningly
complex, we get flaming bizarroes like
"You Can't Kill Me," in which our
heroine all too convincingly warbles,
"You can blow me up with an atom
bomb/but I'll be right back, and it won't
take long." This ditty segues into an
apocalyptic vision of chanting masses,
not unlike the immortal "Oh-ee-oh"s of
the Wicked Witch's followers in The
Wizard of Oz, but with the heavy
solemnity of a true camp classic -
something a little closer to a Tony Cur-
tis Viking adventure, perhaps.
On the bruisingly bouncy
"Egghead," the album's shiniest toy,
she's like a ridiculously mannered
Germanic English teacher leading a
corp of teenage girls through gym
class. Complete with a periodic
cheerleader chant of "Hey! Hey!" this
song is so absurdly funny that it's like a
scene someone should have remem-
bered to put in Rock and Roll High
School, or maybe in the even more
suitably baroque setting of Carrie.
LOVICH MAKES one think in these
kind of movie terms because she's
flamboyant and excessive in a
peculiarly visual way. It's hard to think
of an album with so many wild ima-.
The mixture of electronics and camp is
led by Lovich herself - her vocals do
clever things with an almost robotic ef-
ficiency. Some of her little tics and ec-
centricities defy any kind of. descrip-
tion, like her bizarrely lewd/innocent
deliv"If he (gasp) decides (pause) to
TASTEme!" She can do things with a
phrase like "it's a crazy cuckoo race"
that could driv a-calm listener insane.
Each note is ended with a small upward
squeal, a yip of wide-eyed surprise that
would have been ideal for Elsa Lan-
caster at the end of The Bride of
Frankenstein. Needless to say, Flex
must be experienced. Chemical ad-
ditives are unnecessary; the music is
enough of a trip.

Use Daily
Class ifieds

The Ann Arbor Film Cooperatie Presents at Aud. A: $1.50
Wednesday, April 16
THE DEERHUNTER
(Michael Cimino, 1978) 6:30 & 9:30-Aud. A
The Vietnam War and its impact on three Pennsylvania steel
workers (ROBERT DE NIRO, JOHN SAVAGE and Oscar winner
CHRISTOPHER WALKEN) is the subject of Cimino's mammoth
three hour drama. Meryl Streep co-stars. Oscar, Best Picture,
1978. 35mm.
Tomorrow: ALIEN ("In space no one can hear you scream") at Aud. A.
ALL QUIET ON THE
WESTERN FRONT
TONIGHT at 7:00 & 9:05 at Old A & D
(it's nice to be there without CRISPING)
Depicts the cannon fodder on the German side of WWI-their wakening
from youth by patriotic slogans and later disillusion in grim trench warfare.
With LEW AYRES in his most famous role. "This film shattered the romance
of war."-Reed.

;..

The Michigan Daily-Wednesday, April 16, 1980-Page 5
Oscarsrnosurprise
Monday night's Academy Awards ceremony surprised no one by turning
out to be a sweep for Columbia's hit about divorcing parents, Kramer vs
Kramer. The film won Best Picture, Best Actor (Dustin Hoffman, whose ac-
ceptance speech was a somewhat bitter criticism of the Academy, the only
memorable surprise in an otherwise dully efficient evening), Best suppor-
ting Actress-(Meryl Streep), Best Director (Robert Benton) and Best Adap-
ted Screenplay.
Bob Fosse's autobiographical musical All That Jazz and Francis Ford
Coppola's Vietnam epic Apocalypse Now performed disappointingly,
picking up only minor awards. Jazz copped the awards for art direction,
costume design, film edition and adapted score.
Apocalypse's brilliant technical achievements were rewarded by its win-
ning of the Best Cinematography (Vittorio Storaro) and Best Sound.
Sally Field, as expected, emerged with the Best Actress Oscar for her per-
formance as Southern textile worker Norma Rae. Veteran actor Melvyn
Douglas was not present to accept his award as Best Supporting Actor for his
role as an aging Senator in the critically acclaimed Being There. The low-
budget sleeper Breaking Away scored a success by winning the Best
Original Screenplay honor for writer Steve Tesich.

CINEMA GUILD

woman with some talent starts thinking.
she's Robert Plant or Jimmy Page;
what was already a cartoon turns into
the silliest kind of caricature. Benatar
seems so bent on working 'up heavy
macho swagger that one half expects
her to start undergoing analysis for-an
excessive case of penis envy.
MEANWHILE, women are breaking
out of the traditional pop-and-ballad
confines in a lot of interesting ways,
making all the constant yelps of shock
from the record companies and press
seem a little backward. The new wave
movement ah, that vague term - is
launching several women with distin-
ctive styles of their own, like Pearl E.
Gates and Chrissie Hynde, and even the
dreaded disco field has gotten most of
what little charge it has from Donna
Summer.
Heart is a problematical group
because they've always been touted as,
that look-we-got-riffs-too female rock
band that we've supposedly been
waiting for and which I, for one, hoped
to avoid. What has saved them frequen-
tly in the past is that they've often had
the talent to surpass the banality of the
image, even if at times they seemed to
be promoting it themselves (especially
*n concert, with Ann Wilson doing her
"mesmerizing" Grace Slick act and the
others really, like, jamming, man). At
their best, on parts of the first two
albums and on nearly all of last year's
Dog and, Butterfly, the five-member
group (led by lead vocalist Ann and
sister Nancy Wilson), Heart created
music tht was at once quintessential
and offbeat party rock, partially sof-

l

Shows $1.50
Children $1.00

J

i

s..

FINAL CONCERT OF SEASON
SUNDAY, APRIL 20, 1980-8:00 p.m.
(Champagne reception following performance)
at

ST. CLARE OF ASSISI
TEMPLE BETH EMETHJ

GENESIS OF
ANNARBOR

Silverstein's "The Ballad of Lucy Jor-
dan," driven by a gangling bass line,
she's unnervingly well equipped to
communicate the song's suicidal
despair: "At the age of 37 she
realized/she would never ride through
Paris/in a sportscar with the warm
wind in her hair."
Faithfull oozes a kind of bitter
desperation even on the jittery, hyper-
produced "What's the Hurry?" -"She
sings John Lennon's "Working Class
Hero" as if closed around on all sides,
still flailing around in protest, accusing
the omnipresent They of keeping "you
doped with religion and sex and TV."
The album's one major relief from the
general compelling gloom is "Why
D'Ya Do It?", a hunk of enraged prose
about sexual jealousy set to an ap-
propriately harsh reggae backdrop.
Faithfull blasts her imaginary lover
with such lurid delight in the lyrics' ob-
scenity that the whole piece teeters

2309 Packard Rd. TICKETS $6
. -Ann Arbor, Michigan
For reservations, call 662-2449, 665-4744

ENERGY.
We can't afford
to waste it.

FT, I IT- l a mv -

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