The Michigan Daily
Wednesday, March 18, 1981
justify anyone building their best
musical hooks around lines like "Dirk
wears white sox."
BY THE END of Kings of the Wild
Frontier, the whole affair is so em-
barassing that it is virtually
unlistenable. I dare anyone to sit
through The Ants chanting "goklayeh-
ho" to a pounding tribal beat without
either cracking a patronizing smile or
removing the record from the turntable
in the midst of the song. On the first
listening, I did the former; on each sub-
sequent listening, I have done the lat-
ter. . . earlier and earlier each time,
as a matter of fact.
The To urists
Tourists - Luminous Basement
(Epic). Aren't the Sixties dead? I
mean, didn't that decade end about
eleven years ago? I thought it was
Well, apparently, someone forgot to
tell the Tourists. They had an English
hit with that Dusty Springfield pop
standard, "I Only Want to Be with
You," and actually got some airplay on
this side of the Atlantic (well, at least in
Detroit). And now, they give us
Luminous Basement sounds good.
My God, does it sound good. The
production on this thing is so damn
clean that you just want to scream. The
music sounds as smooth as a new floor
of linoleum, and has as much substance
to it as a bowl of defrosted Kool Whip.
But that's only the beginning.
OF THE TWELVE' songs on this
album (which runs an overly tedious
51:46). vocalist/guitarist Peet Coombes
wrote ten. And the problem is that they
all sound the same. Maybe a rhythm
change here, maybe the lyrics change
there. But it still sounds the same: like,
innocuous (as opposed to obnoxious),
refried, rehashed, and reconstituted 60s
pop. It's fine to show where your
musical roots go, but if you don't add to
them, what's the point?
The other two songs, "One Step
Nearer the Edge," by keyboardist An-
nie Lennox, and "Let's Take A Walk,"
by bassist Dave Stewart, are welcome
changes from Coombes' repetition. "One
Step" is pretty good it slows down
from Coombes' pace, but it still has his
recycled pop influence. 'Let's Take A
Walk"-is, the only real pop song on the
album. It clocks in at 2:50, just about
the right length for pop songs (as op-
posed to the others' average length of
about four minutes). It has some in-
spired guitar work, for a change, and
even has a harmonica solo, a
refreshingly human touch for this
Oh, by the way, if you don't like ob-
noxious (as opposed to innocuous) syn-
thesizer and organ work, avoid this
album. Annie Lennox virtually
dominates this album with her
keyboard work. But if you like that, and
want to musically relive the 60s and put
off facing up to the music of the 80s, by
all means go out and buy Luminous
Basement. If that's what you want,
you'll certainly be getting your money's
Sax sours Muffins
The Jags - 'No Tie Like a Present'
(Island) - The Jags are best at their
least pretentious. Their music is fodder
,or the sweet tooth, and I prefer my
sugar unadulterated, thank you.
But the Jags won't stick to thg
staples. Sure, we get a couple of aban-
dpned teenage fantasies in the hard-
cock adolescent mode. "Mind Reader"
and, "The Sound of G-O-O-D-B-Y-E"
concern themselves with the usual
teenage lament of not being able to find
and maintain adequate female com-
BUT WE ALSO get an album loaded
down with too much of singer/guitarist
'Nick Watkinson's slurred poutings on a
variety of Larger subjects that find
themselves shrinking in the telling.
Profundity is' not one of the Jags' vir-
tues, and consequently we get such
mind-expanding conclusions as "It's a
tough world/I know it's getting
tougher" in "Small Change."
"Little Lloyd Wright" presents us
with the sad saga of a snotty little rich
kid who grows up to be a snotty rich old
*m an, and thereby misses all the
meaningful things in life. The poor
bugger has everything he needs, you
see, but he's such a twit. And so on.
The album is weighted down with
such dreck and, quite naturally, goes
under. Watkinson comes across as a
moony would-be artiste heavy on am-
bition and light on intellect, a cute little
guy who likes to trill his r's and sing on
about another rock band on another
voyage to stardom in "Another Town,
DESPITE THE LYRICAL millstone
around its neck, the album struggles to
survive musically and in fact is not a
total loss. The music is potent power
pop with hooks that rarely miss and
never let go. Even the spritzier, less
rambunctious tunes like "Fearing a
Tornado" are appealingly affable in
tone, and only "Another Time, Another
Place" clunks along at the level of the
An instrumental, "Silver Birds," is a
pleasant mild boomer that features a
melodic guitar lead and pummeling
drumming. It tries a bit too hard to be
monumental, but it does sound a lot like
The only cut that succeeds on the
level the Jags strain for, however, is "I
Never Was a Beachboy." Booming into
life rather bombastically, the song is a
singable, infectious little ditty about all
the pressures men go through to be
macho and masculine. Watkinson ad-
mits to never having been very tough
and wishes the whole silly idea to the
devil: "Stupid boys said I was
queer/Will I ever get out of here?"
This is the type of stuff the Jags
would like to produce a whole album
full of, but No Tie Like a Present isn't it.
I like the sugar, but they haven't found
much spice and aren't content to leave.
the sugar alone. I wish they would.
Adam & Ants
Adam and the Ants-'Kings of the
Wild Frontier' (Epic) - Okay, so
what's the big deal this time? Adam
and the Ants' first American LP, Kings
of the Wild Frontier, was preceded by
almost unparalleled critical en-
thusiasm and grapevine an-
ticipation. . . or maybe it just seems
unprecedented in retrospect given the
disappointing work that now rests on
I've got to admit that I can see how
the Ants could have so many hit singles in
Britain. Fueled by two drummers and a
wrap-around bass, their music is ex-
ceptionally danceable. In fact, dancing
is about the only thing you can do to this
stuff since it gives you a valid excuse
for not listening to the lyrics:
THE LYRICS themselves are nothing
short of embarassing. When not
referring to themselves self-righteously
as "The Magnificent Five," The Ants
indulge in some of the most trite
romanticization of all non-Caucasians
that I have heard in a long time;
"Ifeel beneath the white
There is a red skin suffering
From centuries of taming. "
But their elitist self-idolatry is even
more annoying. They state flat out
several times that anyone who doesn't
consider them a revolutionary force in
music is an "idiot." Well, I guess if the
only way you can make fans is through
guilt and accusation, so be it.
Their forceful yet balanced dance
rhythms and excellent vocal
arrangements do manage to overpower
and salvage a few songs such as "An-
tmusic" and "Don't Be Square (Be
There)," but it's still difficult for me to
By FRED SCHILL
Martha and the Muffins are a
curiously seductive sort of band.
Quietly, unagressively, they stimulated
their Monday night audience at Second
Chance into a steadily intensified state
of arousal. The approach was subtle
and understated, sometimes quite ef-
fective, but we still got used..
This band simply operates at too
many cross purposes. They opened
their show with unassuming mid-tempo
tunes heavy on rhythm and long, loping
chords. The Muffins like to leave wide
open spaces to play in, shooting in spur-
ts of Martha's half-spoken alto vocals
and lots of mellifluous keyboards.
THE GUITARIST plays smooth,
sweet solos on the middle strings of his
guitar, adding to the seductive
evasiveness of the music. The rhythms
are soft and short, repeated lazily.
Seldom do Muffins songs jump and
pound; instead, they creep up softly
from behind. The songs are based on
churning stealth, rather like the sleepy
rhythms of a locomotive.
But the way they let off steam is
singularly grotesque. The Muffins
specialize in grating squawks and
screeches of a variety that makes
Mother Nature seem like a miser.
Basically quiet musical arrangemen-
ts like "Saigon" and "Hide and Seek"
are shattered by shrill, strident moog
solos that sound like someone blowing
loudly along the edge of a strip of
plastic. These shrewish solos are
curious oddities, a subtle nervousness
THE MUFFINS' saxophonist goes
screeching over the edge, though, and
his presence is tolerated for reasons
wholly incomprehensible to me. He un-
doubtedly is trying his damnedest to be
an Artist, to add- a counterpoint of
striking contrast to the Muffins' con-
ceptual approach to rhythm. But to me,
it seemed more like an exercise in
wrenching obnoxiousness, a musical
scrape of the fingernails on an endless
His corpulent squawking topples the
tilted, lilting Muffins sound, standing it
awkwardly and disorientingly on its
head. His sax solos inspire a gaggle of
indelicate adjectives. His squeaks and
squeals sound like someone beating a
goose with a truncheon, like the Wild
Kingdom with its ass on fire.
Seldom have I been subjected to such
groa g and caterwauling at the hands
of a iere musical instrument. It made
one's skin crawl, insulted the poor un-
witting saxophone, and alienated all
concepts previously considered
musical. This man is the single most
objectionable musician I have ever had
the misfortune to be subjected to.
THE MUFFINS were tolerable only
because the saxophonist was not
allowed to entirely dominate the show.
Indeed, the rest of their music was
quite good and occasionally creative.
The bottom end of their sound is steady
and danceable, weighted with short,
repeated rhythms. "Halfway Through
the Week," "Indecision," and "Paint-
byANumber Heart" were all pleasantly
churning, bottom-heavy charmers that
drew dancers to the floor like ants to
The idea kept occuring to me that the
Muffins are probably more effective on
vinyl. There, careful production could
muzzle the saxophonist and make the
Muffins' interesting approach a bit more
lively. Monday night, it seemed that the
Muffins were doing quite a few in-
teresting things not very excitingly.
Still, unrecorded songs like "This
Year" and "One Day in Paris" were
permeated with the polite sweetness
the band is so adept at, tunes that rock
almost subconsciously. The lyrics were
articulate and descriptive, if hardly
stimulating. The bassist's fingers never
stopped moving in these tunes and in
"I'm No Good at Conversation,"
providing an effective blend with Mar-
tha's punching, low-scale vocals.
IN SHORT, most of the material
could be quite strong if the band could
only decide what direction to go in, and
if someone would put a silencer on the
sax. The encore material was weaker
than the rest, especially' "Motor
Bikin'," which sounded like a bad Heart
And the second encore put me away
for good. I smelled a rat when Martha
asked if we were ready to have our ears
blown out. Sure enough, that saxophone
commenced to wail pitilessly, sending
me scurrying from the premises in
disarray. I cannot attest to what hap-
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'Well of the Saints'
Yeats Fest highlight'
t By ANNE GADON
Although most people think of
William Butler Yeats as a poet, the
Irishman also wrote 26 plays. And
during the Fourth Annual Yeats
Festival, which begins March 18, four
of Yeats' plays will be performed as
well as works by others who shared his
idea of theatre.
The purpose of the festival is "to
provide a means of exploration into the
similarities between Yeats and other
playwrights,- says Festival Artistic
Director Irene Connors. Works by
Samuel Beckett, Pirandello and J.M.
Synge will all be preseited in this
year's festival. Symposia will be held
after presentation of the plays to
discuss the playwrights in comparison
THE HIGHLIGHT of this year's
festival is Synge's Well of the Saints,
which will be presented by the Residen-
tial College (RC) Players. According to
the director, Dr. Martin Walsh of the
RC drama faculty, Synge and Yeats
both represented the Irish common folk
in their plays, as well as a similar use of
sound and movement.
"Synge was personally attunedito the
Irish folk experience and the tradition
behind it," said Walsh. "His plays get
life. He created his plays out of original
folkloric sources. Everything in his
plays about Irish culture he learned
from mixing with peasant folk. He was
an in-the-field folklorist."
Walsh explained the theme of Well of
the Saints as "puritanical Christianity
vs. the nature Christianity of the Irish."
The play traces the tale of two blind
beggars who think that they are
beautiful but in reality are unattrac-
tive. A saint cures them of their blin-
dness and they sadly learn the truth.
"IT'S A COMEDY in reverse," Walsh
said. "Seeing doesn't lead to a better
life, in fact the beggars are worse off.
"The play raises a question that is
similar to those of Beckett's plays.
Whose reality is better, the one you
choose for yourself or the one that is
chosen for you?"
Well of the Saints is an outgrowth of
Walsh's play production class offered
this semester. The students in the class
are responsible for all elements of the
production, including dramaturgical
research, design and construction of
sets and costumes. They will also per-
form a second play, The Tinker's Wed-
ding, as part of the festival.
Performances of Well of the Saints
are March 19-21 and 26-28 at 8 p.m. in
the RC Auditorium in East Quad. For
more information on Well of the Saints
or for any other festival events, call 764-
or ientaI food to take o
FORMERLY LUCKY JI
An afternoon of Venetian Baroque music
1232 PACK4RD 994-3151
open Mon-Sat, 11-9 Sun,3-9
By LAURIE ANDERSON
The New York Chamber Soloists per-
formed music of the Italian Baroque
masters Monteverdi and Vivaldi, Sun-
day at Rackham Auditorium. The
program was structured so that each
Vivaldi work was followed by one by
Monteverdi, which emphasized the
great difference between the two com-
Some of the characteristics of
Vivaldi's music are concise themes,
rhythmic vitality, and logical con-
tinuity in the flow of musical ideas. His
is a music of restraint, and is
'emotional" only in an abstract, highly
ON THE OTHER hand, Monteverdi's
music, written 100 years earlier, is
-loosely structured, with uneven
lengths, free-flowing melodic develop-
ment, and unsteady rhythms which
.sound syncopated at times. With this
"formlessness," however, Montever-
.adi's compositions express a wide range
of emotion, especially the vocal music.
The Chamber Soloist's performance
of three Vivaldi concertos was very
warmly received by the audience.
Vivaldi's' enormous popularity has
always puzzled me, since his music is
so repetitive and unvaried; at times it
is reminiscent of wallpaper print - one
ornate pattern repeated again and
The polished, fluent playing of this
ensemble, however, dramatized the
finer aspects of Vivaldi's music.
Probably the liveliest Vivdldi piece of
the concert was the D Major concerto
for flute, oboe, violin and.harpsichord.
Especially impressive was the perfect
balance between the four instruments
as they tossed melodies back and forth,
or soloed to the others' accom-
paniment. The virtuoso violin passages
were brilliantly performed, and the
oboe and flute blended so beautifully
together in the second movement that
they sounded like one voice.
THE INSTRUMENTALISTS were
joined by tenors Frank Hoffneister and
Charles Bressler for the performance
of the Monteverdi madrigals and
"Scherzi Musicali." Monteverdi's
music makes great demands on a
vocalist, and requires a light, supple
voice with a very wide range. Charles
Bresslers' voice was perfectly suited to
early music (although it would
probably not be appropriate for any
other musical period.) His vibrato was
light and natural sounding, and ap-
peared to reach notes in the upper
limits of his range effortlessly.
While Frank Hoffmeister sang ad-
mirably, his vibrato was too heavy, and
Jagk d emotional expression. The
tenors' performance of "Zefiro Torna,"
which uses for text a Petrarch sonnet
about unrequited love, was especially
beautiful, with its abundantly varied
moods, sonorities and harmonies,. and
vivid dramatic contrasts.
Strangely enough, the evocative
music of Monteverdi, masterfully per-
formed by the Chamber Soloists, was
coolly received by the audience,
probably because it was unfamiliar to
them. But certainly Monteverdi's
music has a peculiar charm and
beauty. Popular composers like Vivaldi
.are heard perhaps too frequently in
concerts; chamber music performers
might do well to include more Mon-
teverdi in their concert repertoires.
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(Continued from Page 5)
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