The Michigan Daily.
Saturday, October 4, 1980
rock as decor
By MARK DIGHTON
I wouldn't insult the reader's in-
telligence by recounting the seminal in-
fluence that The Chipmunks have had
on rock and roll. They are consistently
cited as one of the major progenitors
(let's see, that would make them
Original Punks No. 87) of the current
wave. I can still remember that historic
appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show
that sparked an overnight craze for
floor-length turtleneck sweaters. But
now the devastating drowning death of
their rhythm guitarist in his own
waterbowl seems almost forgotten. In-
deed, can anyone even remember the
massive critical uproar prompted by
the Chipmunks going electric? It seems
so long ago.
Now The Chipmunks are back, this
time with a lean, hungry, urban sound
designed to show these new wave up-
starts that the old masters can still
play it best. Unfortunately, their choice
of songs doesn't allow them to prove
much of anything-except how bad they.
are at picking songs. Why do they
bother with lame buffoons like Billy
Joel and Linda Ronstadt when they
could as easily be taking on someone
really heavy like The Clash or Elvis
Costello? I mean, the album is called
Chipmunk Punk not Chipmunk Wimp
MOR Trash. The idea of The Monks
redoing Blondie's least interesting song
___ - -~ ' - .>. ...
of humanity as recently popularized by
Gary ("At least I'm a better Bowie
imitation than the guy who did Scary
Monsters") Numan. The Silicon Teens
wouldn't recognize an angstful intellec-
tual comment on the modern human
condition if it hit them square in their
digital sequencers. Nope, they're just a
bunch of happy-go-lucky databanks to
have fun shredding and reassembling
all your favorite blasts from the past.
THE FUNNIEST thing is that they do
it better than humans. Just compare
the sleek heavy metal hum of The
Teens' "You Really Got Me" to the
clumsy power chording of Van Halen.
Likewise, The Teens' version of "Let's
By BRADFORD PARKS
It must be great to be modern.
Really. I mean, who needs ideas, who
needs passion, who needs any
redeeming qualities at all, when it's so
easy to just sort of settle down in your
fluorescent orange furry beanbag chair
and, you know, be modern?
Me, I've always thought what was
modern (timeless, even, if you'll
forgive that old expression) was
timing, emotional commitment, power,
stuff like that. But, boy, The Attractions
sure prove me wrong, because on their
debut album without Elvis Costello,
Mad About The Wrong Boy, they sound
about as modern and thought provoking
as a wallpaper sample book.
BUT WHAT'S really modern, you ask,
if I'm so wrong? Well, according to
their record sleeve, grotesquely
clashing pinks with deep blues are in,
as are posing on aluminum ladders and
wearing two different types of paisley. I
haven't seen hordes of teens walking
down State Street dressed like that, but
I'm sure it's only a matter of time.
And of course, the modern attitude is
even more important. I guess Elvis
Costello was wrong all along, that it
doesn't matter if you write songs about
hating women but are complex enough
to know how pathetically insecure you
really are. What really matters, and
believe me, the Attractions must know,
is just to hate indiscriminately. Middle
class housewives; rich girls; poor girls;
girls girls girls! Face it, women are up
to no good. And why get specific about
why they're no good when you can
generally tell girls how dumb they are?
After all, there are only 16 songs on this
album, how much complexity can you
I DON'T KNOW what's the matter
with me. I'm confused that Wrong Boy
doesn't have an inch of the thematic in-
terest Elvis Costello has on his new LP
of disjointed B-sides, Taking Liberties.
It's so hard to forget about quality and
concentrate on conceptual superiority.
Still, I do think all the guys play their
instruments really well. They should,
considering how much experience
they've had with their employer. I even
like one song, "Taste of Poison,"
because it finally melds the pacing, un-
distinguished singing and misogyny in-
to something appealing. The singer
tells about how he, uh, wants to be, uh,
really mean to this girl who, uh, made
him feel bad. It's really different, and
that's not that many gratuitous funny
noises. And the band's pretty sharp.
Anyway, if you like Elvis Costello,
remember, these are The Attractions.
They dress better, and don't wear
glasses. I never-thought something like
that would make so much difference.
The 'new' Bowie
to date, "Call Me," is almost as absurd
an idea as The Rolling Stones doing a
limp Bee Gees imitation. The only
redeeming social value of this album is
that it shows Doug Fieger of The Knack
how stupid he really sounds when he
sings "Good girls don't./But I do" with
that lecherous chuckle of his.
ON THE FLIP side of the coin, The
Silicon Teens are a new band out to
prove their roots on their last album,
Music For Parties. Actually, I'm not
certain if "roots" is the proper term.
Roots are way too earthy for this
group ... if indeed they even are a
group. The members listed on the back
sleeve (Darryl, Jacki, Paul, and Diane)
could easily be just another figment of
the overactive cybernetic imagination
that spawned this whole album. Except
for a vaguely human voice (easily
duplicated by modern technology),
there is no real sign of human in-
volvement on this album.
But, Music For Parties doesn't fall in-
to that oh-so-trendy trap of inhuman
synthesizer music bemoaning our loss
Dance" clicks, buzzes, and whirs along
merrily at a pace comparable to The
Ramones but still maintaining the light,
jerky quality of the Chris Montez
If inspired cover versions aren't
enough, there are even a few sur-
prisingly clever originals thrown in to
boot. "T.V. Playtime" has an
especially relevant lyrical message.
"Daddy sits alone at night.
We don't know where he's been.
He stares right through my mom
His eyes are fixed on the screen.
Mommy knits alone at night
A sweater madefor Jim.
I'm sure Dad loves her very much-
She never talks to him.
T. V. Playtime
Video Playtime. "
That exerpt should be ample proof that
we don't always have to accept this
crap as meaningful social criticism.
Certainly this group isn't everyone's
cup of tea (to coin a phrase). Those who
still harbor prejudices against
machines are going to find this album
hard to swallow. (Besides, the edges
are very sharp.) But I still think all
those fashionable doomsayers (and
even you boys and girls out there in
videoland) could learn a lot from Music
for Parties about how much fun we'll
all have when our thought
processes are reduced to a
simple 0-1/on-off combination.
Maybe we're already there! I know I
really like this record.
By MARK COLEMAN
David Bowie's always been an ac-
tor, but it wasn't until his recent ven-
ture onto the stage in The Elephant
Man that his dramatic aspirations suc-
ceeded outside of a rock and roll con-
text. In a recent interview in the British
journal New Musical Express, Bowie
spoke of nothing else but acting, ad-
dressing rock and roll only in terms of
the image-mongering it afforded him.
And it's those images that have alter-
nately (at times simultaneously) en-
deared and alienated listeners and
made Bowie the controversial figure
that he remains. Now Ziggy Stardust,
the Thin White Duke or the Clean-cut
European Android really can't stand on
their own as "roles" or "personas," but
they have lent a coherence and unity of
vision to the theatricality and
melodrama of Bowie's ever-shifting
musical direction. He may be a musical
chameleon but there's always been flesh
and blood under that constantly
Lodger was boring because it was so
restrained, so tasteful: it seemed Bowie
had been seduced by Fripp and Eno,
replacing his finely-honed excesses
with their brand of emotionless,
cerebral craft. Robert Fripp plays
guitar on most of Scary Monsters, but
that's as far as the similarities go;
Bowie hasn't seemed this much in con-
trol of an album since Station to Station.
"IT'S NO GAME" sets the
stage for Scary Monsters; it's got that
arrangement with mechanical
recitations in Japanese and Bowie's
wildly exaggerated English vocals
caught in the timp-warp of Fripp's
grinding guitar lines, getting more and
more distorted until Bowis stops at the
end and yells "shuddap!" to a droning,
Though the band on Monsters is
basically the same unit that played on
the last three albums, the sound here is
a good deal more varied. Nods to past
Bowie-eras abound, charged through
Fripp's future shock guitar work and
Bowie's cynically sensitive insight.
"Ashes to ashes, funk to funky, we
know Major Tom's a junkie" replaces
the lonely idealism of "Space Oddity"
with tacit resignation ("I'm happy,
hope you're happy too") and feature
Bowie's warmest, most expressive
vocal in years.
"Up the Hill Backwards" combines
the ringing accoustic guitar rock of pre-
1972 Bowie with 1980 lyric obliqueness
(It's got nothing to do with you/if one
can grasp it"). "Fashion is the coup
d'etat; a thumpadelic funk bass line
bent out of shape by Fripp's dispeptic
mania on guitar. Bowie dissects the
fascist overtones of dictatorial high
fashion with a chain-saw:
"Fashion-turn to the left
Fashion turn to the right
We are the goon squad
And we're coming to town"
Not exactly subtle, but the song makes
its point in high style, with the riveting
ambivalence of, the opening couplet
("There's a brand new dance-but I
don't know its name") and Bowie's
favorite vocal hook, the stuttering
There's only one flaw in Scary Mon-
sters, but it's a glaring one. Things
peter out rather quickly on side two,
and even Peter Townshend's presence
can't bail out these frightfully mediocre
compositions. It's a shame Tom
Verlaine didn't make the session, since
the remake of his "Kingdom Come"
needs that grainy guitar texture of the
original. Things are redeemed
somewhat by the "It's No Game"
refrain, a calm, melodic contrast to the
album's opener. Not that side two is
bad, but it pales in comparison to the
flip sides) commanding versatility.
The concept here is no concept at all,
but that's okay. It seems Bowie is
channelling the more dramatic aspects
of his personality in a new direction.
But as long as he can produce music
with the conviction and elan of side one
of Scary Monsters, he will remain an
important artist, whatever his image.
All You CainEat
Saturday 5-10 p.m.
Sau teed with shallots,,,arlic
andfinue herbs. Simmered in Chablis.
300 S. Thaver 769-3042 Next to the Bell Tower Hotel
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