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February 19, 1981 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1981-02-19

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_ARTS
Thursday, February 19, 1981

The Michigan Daily

Page 5

would be a great album. The lyrical
power is awesome, and cleaned of the
electronic flash, the songs would be too.
The album's problem is best summed
up in "Kingston Advice," one of its best
songs;
In these days I don't know what to
do
The more I see the imoe I'm
destitute
In these days I don't know what to
sing
The more I know the less mIy tune
can swing...
As Joe Strummer shouts these lines
over a crashing guitar line, his
desperation is obvious. He wants the
freedom of the music, but the truth
must come first. And the truth keeps
dragging him down.
L tarid Seldin

the Clash
The Clash - Sandinista! (Epic) -
About a year ago, the Clash released
London Calling, their third album. It
was an amazing work: 19 songs encom-
passing the muscial and social history
of rock 'n roll. From the blues of "Jim-
my Jazz" to the post-punk energy of
"London Calling,"' from the age-old
story of Stagger Lee to Margaret That-
lher's clampdown on England's "un-
desirable" aliens, the Clash took the
music and the issues and made it all
their own.
Now we have Sandinista! Having
waited a year for the Clash's next
move, this album is both a pleasure and
a disappointment. This six-sided, two-
hour-long album provides room
enough for both.
Sandinista! is plagued by the world's
problems. The songs range from set-
,tings on one end of the earth to the
other; from the Nicaraguan revolution,
to blue-collar America, from a
Jamaican Carnival to the Vietnamese
War. Everywhere the Clash turn, they
find oppression, stupidity, hatred and
poverty. Their grasp of the world's
plight is brilliant - it shows through
every song, every word they sing.
Merely reading the lyric sheet is an ad-
venture into a sick, unjust world, one
fat desperately needs to be rebuilt.
Sandinista! is a call to get to work.
Lyrically, almost every song on this
album is superb. Each song manages,
in a few short lines, to describe a unique
slice of the Clash's exhilarating and

scary vision. As Mick Jones sings in
"Somebody Got Murdered,"
Minding your own
business/Carrying spare change
You wouldn't cosh a >arbter/But
you're hungry all the same
I're been rerv tempted/To grab it
from the till
I're been reriv hungr /IBut not
enough to kill
Jones summons up the terror and
desperation of murder with an unner-
ving power. Simple and beautiful, com-
passionate and frightening, the lyrics
manage to drive the brutal reality
home.
THE PROBLEM, then, is with the
music. The Clash have always refused
to tie themselves to any one style. This
diversity worked to their advantage on
London Calling, where they were able
to maintain focus - the music was
always in their control. Here, the focus
is lost. Over six sides, they can't hold it
together. The cornucopia of musical
styles represented on this album sounds
more like a compilation than the work
of one band. Where London Calling
leaps forward, Sandinista! meanders.
The songs themselves are flawed by
pointless experimentation. The elec-
tronic doodling that spots the album
adds nothing and actually ruins several
songs. Four have false endings (a la
Helter Skelter), and in all but "Charley
Don't Surf," they are pointless and
boring. The biggest disappointment,
however, is the inclusion of several
truly sub-standard songs ("One More
Dub," "The Equaliser," and most of
side six).
Trimmed to four sides, Sandinista!

UNFORTUNATELY, this only
results in him biting off more than he
can chew (to coin a phrase). On some
songs, Scott tries to introduce greater
seriousness into his lyrical content, a
strategy that ultimately works against
him by robbing his songs of their essen-
tial energy. It is sad, but not surprising,
that songs like "Working for the Cor-
poration" and "Your Country Needs
You" on Official Secrets fall far short of
the bouncy exuberance of "That's the
Way the Money Goes" and "Cowboys
and Indians" from M's first release,
New York-London-Paris-Munich.
On the other half, Scott goes "arty"
with the same mixed results. Too often
he ends up sounding obviously
derivative of other artists. "Tran-
smission" is a nice tune composed of
found references from international
propaganda services set to synthetic,
tropical mood music, but "Maniac" is
an almost note-for-note ripoff of Kevin
Godley and Lol Creme's 'Foreign Ac-
cents."
In short, this album suffers from
taking itself too seriously before it has
anything substantial to say. However, I
believe Official Secrets could possibly
be a positive step on Robin Scott's way
to better things; he certainly could
have hurt himself continuing to sing
with his tongue in his cheek for much
longer.
--Mark Dighton
SLF HanX!
Stiff Little Fingers-Hanx!
(Chrysalis) -Granted, Stiff Little
Fingers may not want to be anybody's
heroes. . . but then why do they deliver
rock and roll with such passionate
desperation, as if each tune was their
biggest hit? The tension between SLF
inviting adolation from their frenzied
fans while rejecting it is what makes
them so interesting.
With their first album, Inflammable
Material, Stiff Little Fingers broke into
the album-rock scene by means of a
mathematical attack of drums, neo-
heavy metal guitar work, and a quick
bass line. The instruments alternately
complemented and clashed against the
searing vocals of Jake Burns to produce
a sound that demanded unrelenting at-
tention.

THEIR NEXT album release,
Nobody's Heroes, proved that SLF was
aiming for the top. Crisp production, a
more definitive instrumental
separation, and tunes that were not
only hard-hitting but infectious
established these guys as THE band of
teenage escape.
SLF's new release Hanx!, suffers
from being live although it includes
some of their best tunes. Much of the in-
tensity of the studio recordings is lost
on vinyl when directed towards a live
audience. Hearing this record, you
despearately want to see this group to
check out what you're missing. Still, the
pent-up anger comes through on
"Alternative Ulster," the mock-
patriotism of "Fly the Flag" is not
completely surrendered, and the
defiant stance of "Tin Soldiers" is not
totally compromised. But if you're af-
ter your heroes at their best, stick with
Stiff Little Fingers' previous releases.
-Jeff Yenchek
Help Prevent
Birth Defects -
The Nation's
Number One
Child Health
Problem.
Spport the
Vlarch of
BIRTH DEFECTS -r
FOUNDATION
This space contributed
by the publisher.

Begin your day
with
764-0558

i

II 1 I 14
7 INDIVIDtUAL THEATRES r

M's serets
M-'The Official Secrets Act'
(Sire)-The Official Secrets Act is the
work of an artist who knows that his
style is not substantial enough to
sustain any real career, and is also at a
loss as to where to turn next.
This album is torn in half. On one
half, M (aka Robin Scott) tries to
capitalize and expand on the ludicrous
little syntheditties (like "Pop Muzik")
that first won him public acclaim.
"Relax" and "Join the Party" are
relatively unadulterated and still
relatively successful illustrations of the
M formula. But Scott recognizes that an
album composed exclusively of tunes
like these would be nothing short of an-
noying, so he wisely.. . but largely un-
successfully . . . attempts to develop
this limited format.

The incredible stinking movie

By DENNIS HARVEY
There were high hopes in this depar-
tment for The Incredible Shrinking
Woman, but alas, it's turned out to be
just; another film worth ignoring. After
the first or second scene (if you haven't
given up the ship already during the
badly designed opening credits), one is
likely to mumble that particular
"Ahem" of diminished expectations;
laighty minutes of disappointment later,
you- trudge home, sobered, another
degree less willing to check out new
films that sounded pretty good.
The 1957 original Shrinking Man was
one of the best, most thoughtful and
terrifying (remember the fight with the
spider?) of the 1950s science-fiction
films, full of edgy wonder at the
world its hero suddenly had to face as
an increasingly miniscule creature.
Modern technology was useless in
aving him (victim of a freak radioac-
tive cloud), and it often turned against
him frighteningly.
THE REMAKE IS conceived as a
consumer satire-a logical extension,
perhaps, of Richard Matheson's
original screenplay, but realized in the
most infantile terms here. Shot in a par-
ticularly insidious sort-focus color
process that renders everything a
gaudy blur, Shrinking Woman opens
with Lily Tomlin as a good-natured
housewife (that's as far as the charac-
ter ever develops) emerging from a
supermarket, screaming kids in tow,
and faced with a slimy announcer taste-
testing brand new, canned Cheese

Tease. As she drives back home
through suburbia, her neighbors call
out advertising slogans to her in cheer-
ful advice. And so it goes-Everything
is Product. This might have been a
devastating thesis in 1957 (though the
original film had more inventive points
to make), but in 1981 it's a cliche, and
the sophistry of the satire here makes is
all much, much worse than you might
fear.
Tomlin's diminishment - apparently
due to a simple consumer's overload of
Product, though we never really find
out -= makes her, of course, an inter-
national celebrity, and she's finally
kidnapped by an international band of
corporate creeps who want to test her
blood and shrink the world - for
reasons also never quite made clear.
While incarcerated in a hamster cage,
Lily schemes to bust out of the joint
with the help of a lab gorilla,
and . . oh, who cares? The silliness
here is just Disney slapstick - loud,
harmless, sentimental and dumb.
THE SPECIAL effects are okay,
though hardly worth the ticket alone -
especially not as seen through this
shoddy photography. As Lily's bright-
young-exec husband, Charles Grodin
continues his wasted career as a
walking luxury item, someone counted
on to be good (but not very good - that
would be distracting) while the heroine
gets what little material there is, in an
endless stream of glossy, de-energized
farces.
Lily Tomlin's television'comedy has
always been a source of amazement -

those characters so minutely observed,
outrageous yet dead on target - so one
keeps rooting for her big-screen career,
persevering through fizzle after fizzle
in the hope that she'll suddenly break
through in full glory. Her dramatic per-
formances, in Nashville, The Late Show
and the glum Moment by Moment, have
been careful, studied work, with
flashed of quicksilver insight, but they
seem to hold her in check. Shrinking
Woman should have been her liberation
- a comedy, at last, and one with a fun
premise. Unfortunately, it's pretty bad,
and by this time it's impossible to con-
tinue placing the blame on her directors
or writer-collaborator, Jane Wagner.
Tomlin has said that she's not much a
at writing anything beyond a sketch,
and it's apparent now that, even in

comedy, her judgment stops at a cer-
tain point - which occurs, unfor-
tunately, the moment Shrinking
Woman hits the screen. Her perfor-
mance is just genial - perhaps, like
Richard Pryor, she needs to slip into
one of her characters in order to reveal
something of herself and expose all of
our foibles.
We've all endured a lot of mediocrity
in the wait to see what Lily Tomlin can
really do - but we're so used to auteurs
by now that the idea of a brilliant per-
former not being particularly gifted in
other directions doesn't occur. Perhaps
it's time to stop waiting for Tomlin to
make her own epic comedy and hope
that someone will know how to use her
in theirs.

L

SOUNDSTAG E
I N
COFFEEHOUSE
o

Presents,

F

POETRY READING
with
Emery George, John Glowney
and Beatrice Lincoln
READING FROM THEIR WORKS
7:30 p.m.
Thurs., February 19
Admission: FREE

NOON LUNCHEON
Home-made Soup and
Sandwich 75C
"Sexual Harrassment in
the University,"
A discussion by Tapestry, a Feminist
Counseling Collective
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 20

GUILD HOUSE, 802 MONROE
(662-5189)

* . Ua U -a U"

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