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November 26, 1980 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1980-11-26

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ARTS

The Michigan Daily

Wednesday, November 26, 1980

Page 5

Out to lunch with Lydia

Ooh la-la! Those
naugzht-ee French

By ANNE SHARP
It was the first time I'd been in
Second Chance for a couple of years.
Being a timid soul, I was not about to
risk being pummeled and mutilated by
some Cro-Magnon with a hand starm-
per, but the lure of seeing Lydia Lunch
and her new backup, the Devil Dogs
(her old band, 8-Eyed Spy, had ap-
parently disbanded after the death of
one of the musicians) was too much for
me. Besides, remembering how vicious
the crowds were at my last punk con-
cert two Easters ago, I had brought
along as my escort the witty, cultured,
and verbally brutal Oliver Rasputin, a
notorious figure in the Ann Arbor
drug/rock scene. If anyone tried to
mess with us, I figured, Oliver would
just pull on his Camel and then direct a
steam of bitter smoke into the. in-
truder's pimply face, all-the time giving
them that Iguanadon stare of his, and
that would be the end of that. It helps to
have connections, I thought.
Oliver and I found a table, main floor
center-my God, this never would have
happened two years ago, on a Monday
night at 10 PM! We settled down with
some popcorn and a couple schooners of
Michelob with the air, it occurred to
me, of an old married couple relaxing
in front of the Trinitron for an Ar-
my/Navy game. I was beginning to
despair of the sparse, pasty-faced
crowd when a smiling, bespectacled
chap joined us at our table: it was Sean
Carroll, one of Oliver's acquaintances.
"So, what do you think of this between-
set music, Sean?" asked Oliver. "A lit-
tle inappropriate to the ambience of a
supposed punk concert, don't you
think? I had almost forgotten what Jimi
b Hendrix sounded like."

"It's Steppenwolf," I gently correc-
ted him.
"Sean, my man, what have you been
up to these days?"
"I'm starting a music magazine,"
Sean replied, and started to tell me the
name, but was drowned out by the
yowlings of the man who was in-
troducing the warm-up. Sean smiled
beatifically, took my pen, and wrote it
out on a cocktail napkin: ISOLATED
RAT HEARTS.
AS THE WARMUP progressed into a
little rockabilly, Oliver's normal
Iguanadon expression grew rigid; he
paled and sighed. "Ghastly," he mur-
mured. The band was RUR, a mild bar
combo from Central Casting-leather
pants, furry hair, everything but safety
pins, who made indifferent noise. I
scanned the crowd again. "Oh, look!
Rock stars!" I breathed. There was vir-
tuoso guitarist Sean Varner, the Johnny
Mathis look-alike! There were Art and
Brad from the Cult Zeroes, and, golly,
wasn't that Hiawatha? There's Trixie,
the platinum blond from drag! STEVE
TYNAN! !!! And Tim, the mad an-
thropologist who strips nude at parties!
Shady, existential men with wool coats
with turned-up collars stalking about,
muttering to the sound men ... the girl
at the next table wore an angora beret
and was reading an esoteric French
novel-you call this a New Wave con-
cert? Isn't it Paris, 1948?
"It's starting to sound better," Oliver
drawled. "I must be getting drunk."
Poor RUR tried everything to get a
rise out of this flaccid audience, gave a
plug for their new vinyl, did a couple of
sex tunes, but to no avail; when they
finally announced their last song,
everyone cheered. Oliver excused him-

self and went off to practice impassive
expressions in the john mirror, and I
picked up another pitcher of Mich.
IT ALL HAPPENED so fast after
that-no one was prepared for it. The
stage lights went up again-I was ex-
pecting another lukewarm warm-up,
and more half-yawned comments from
my vis-a-vis, but, no, Retro didn't show
up I guess, and I found myself gazing
straight into the heavy-lidded eyes of
what I immediately recognized, with a
shiver, as a STAR: a portly brunette
with a nose ring, a split-ended China-
girl do and a silver-threaded minidress.
"It's Lydia Lunch!" I gasped; and
scrambled to the edge of the dance-
floor for a better look. It was Lunch all
right, leaning abstractedly on her mike-
stand, shouting about love and
anhedonia in a pitched, thin monotone.
I giggled and hugged myself with glee:
my New Wave experience has come full
circle, methinks. The last Second
Chance concert I'd been to was that fir-
st Ramones one, and one of the warm-
ups had been Destroy All Monsters.
Here before me was a fleshy incar-
nation of my first punk love, the divine
Niagara, in voice, in costume style, in
the Quaalude-and-Tab-angst in her
narrowed eyes.
"May I have this dance?" intoned a
salamanderesque voice in my ear. I
nodded, and Oliver and I stepped onto
the boards. I did a variation on a dance
step I had picked up from an old Godard
film, while Oliver followed me in a sort
of Grouchoesque jitterbug, half bent
over, arms swaying in front to keep his
balance, his angular legs slipping and
flying, describing a complicated pat-
tern in back. I had always considered
Mr. Rasputin's method of tripping the

light fantastic a bit eccentric, but
tonight every male in the place seemed
to be doing the same occult dance;
Oliver is something of a trendsetter, I
have gathered. The song ended; Oliver
returned to his pitcher and mug, and I
stood at the edge of the stage, tran-.
sfixed by the random movements of
Lydia's gray velvet spike heels. At
length, Lydia and her three-piece en-
semble vacated the stage. The set was
over. The concert was over, and it was
only 12:30. Suddenly aware that I had
been making a spectacle of myself, rap-
turously dancing at the edge of the
stage for half an hour, and Oliver must
think he a starry-eyed fool, I meekly
returned to my seat.
"It's obvious that bass player is the
best of the group, which is why they let
him do that one lead number, "Jail
Bait." "But he wasn't that good,"
Oliver was saying. "Bo Diddley was
cute back in 1962, but come on. . . Why
were they doing all old blues standar-
ds?"
"Probably because the band was just
formed," Sean replied, "and they didn't
have time to work up anything good."
"Would have been improved 100 per-
cent if you'd have been able to under-
stand what she said," mused Oliver.
"God, they did all old stuff from 1955.
Trying to be artsy, or something."
"Yeah, something," said Sean.
"Something. Look at this. An hour
and a half till last call, and everyone's
milling around, drinking, buying
desperately. What was your opinion of
the show, cherie?"
"I had a marvelous time," I said. "I
won't be able to hear for another 45
minutes."

By DENNIS HARVEY
The Ann Arbor Theatre has, in-
creasingly, been performing a
welcome and surprisingly difficult
(considering this supposed cultural-
mecca-of-the-midwest we live in)
service-bringing to the area
foreign and minor American films
that normally wouldn't be available
until a year or two after their
original release, when the campus
co-ops are able to get their hands on
them.
Such recent A' Theatre showings
as Best Boy, Bad Timing and The
Marriage of Maria Braun, whatever
their individual worths, are admit-
tedly on the almost-commercially-
acceptable fringe of the non-
American studio product-but even
so, their potential audience is small
compared to even badly publicized
Hollywood bombs. The Ann Arbor
has lately braved miniscule audien-
ces to bring to the area films like
these, along with a few-like the
French movies Lou Lou and Coup de
Tete, which have played suc-
cessively for the last two
weeks-that might not, otherwise,
have even made it past a Detroit
theatre in the Michigan market.
THE NOBILITY of the effort is
admirable-even if it turns out that
Lou Lou needn't have crossed the
Atlantic in the first place. It's
enough to make you wish the French
cinematic "new wave" of twenty
years ago hadn't happened at all.
The freedom from conventional
narrative and gloss that Truffaut,
Godard, et al heralded back then is
here in spades, though nothing else
is. Lou Lou is a textbook case of
cinema verite overload-sure, its
hand-held camera work and
dawdling, peakless lack of structure
bring one closer to "life," thereby
reaffirming why life in the raw has
never competed very well with all
that jaded fiction for screen space.
Nothing ever happens. What's wor-
se, this particular slice of
nothingness happens for almost two
hours . . . or is it twenty-two? Girl
(Isabelle Huppert), despondent over

her relationship with a domineering.
lover (Guy Marchand), sleeps with
an unemployed hunk (Gerard
Depardieu), and likes him better.
The three walk around a lot, make
love once in a while, create scenes,
and talk. The girl and the hunk go to
a picnic and spend about 15 minutes
(or hours) there. It's all very casual,
all right. Eons later, a shot ends and
suddenly we're faced with the final
credits. Bummer.
Coup de Tete, which played to
even smaller audiences last week, is
similarly lightweight, but not that
lightweight-you don't forget that
it's even there mid-way, as one does
at Lou Lou. Just as the stud Depar-
dieu in that film seems OK, accep-
tably "foreign" in the Gallic setting
though he definitely wouldn't be in
an American film (it's okay for him
to be a monolithic bastard because
he's sexy and enigmatic), Coup de
Tete's hero Perrin (Patrick
Dewaere) might seem a smug
macho man if he wasn't French..
(U.S. viewers inevitably accept such
things on faith-whether it's
because we're ignorant or because
Europeans really function on an old-
world level .of behavior, I don't
know.) Perrin is something of a
noble savage, a professional soccer
player who is framed for a rape,
breaks out of prison, rather unap-
pealingly decides to avenge himself
by committing an actual rape or two
(but is dissuaded), wins the big
game, and exacts a satirical revene
on all the hypocrites around him
before winding up in the arms of The
Girl. With a face like that of a
drugged child, he's sweetly pre-
moral-neanderthalish on the sur-
face, but quirkily aware of the world
around him, wanting only indepen-
dence and to do the right things.
Visually undistinguished and
initially distasteful, Coup de Tete
does gradually work up a certain
deadpan charm. But the only thing
really memorable about it is Patrick
Dewaere, who is now my favorite
actor (having had none previously).'

XTC'S POP LOSES FIZZ.. .
Police are no longer arresting

By MICHAEL KREMEN
XTC's set on Sunday night was, for
me, disappointing. The band's flow of
ideas, which seemed limited at the
time of Go 2, now seems in danger of
evaporation. When they declaimed,
"This is Pop," on their debut recording,
White Music, I smiled at what I took to
be their somewhat disingenuous self-
depreciation. Sure, it was pop, but it
was a witty, slimmed -down, fuel-
efficient pop that was certain to render
the musical dinosaurs dominating the
airwaves and charts obsolete in no
time.
When "Making Plans for Nigel,"
from their mostly entertaining third
LP, Drums and Wires, charted in
England and received some airplay in
America, I was encouraged. I
dismissed from my mind the fact that
"Ten Feet Tall," from the same recor-
ding, sounded depressingly like
America (the band) gone "new wave."
The live set I saw last year at the
Michigan Theater (again supporting
the Police) was very charming. I
looked forward to seeing the band play
"live" again and eagerly awaited-the
new release, Black Sea.
ALTHOUGH THE SONGS on the new
record still sound bright in comparison
to what is available on the radio, they
no longer sound fresh. I hear too many
bits and pieces from their previous
records as well as lots of White Album
and Abbey Road-era Beatles stuff.
Perhaps, having influenced lots of ban-
ds over the last three years, that which
once seemed unique in XTC is now
fairly common. Having been the sub-
generic embodiment of quicky-pop,
they now find themselves merely one
band in the midst of a newly-formulated
genre of brittle poseurs.
The weakest material that they per-
formed during the concert came from
the new LP. In "Living Through
Another Cuba", a potentially in-
teresting song was marred by the in-
cessant, cheery repetition of the song
title, both in counterpoint to the offbeat
declaiming of the lyrics and against the
fast reggaoid bass and percussion. An

extended dub-wise coda was also
distributed by the chirpy vocal redun-
dancy.
The Beatles cops were numerous and
annoying. Another new song, "Towers
of London," was very much in a
Beatlish mode, from "Rain," to be
precise. They even use "Maxwell's
Silver Hammer" for percussive
coloration.
I did like the harder, slightly metalic
performance that "Making Plans for
Nigel" received. There were also other
fine moments ("This Is Pop," "Reel by
Real") but these seemed far too few
coming from a band that once offered
more heady pleasures.
THERE'S NO disputing that 'The
Police have demonstrated their ability
to create hits: "Roxanne," "Message
In a Bottle," "Walking on the Moon,"
"The Bed's Too Big Without You,"
"Can't Stand Losing You" and "Don't
Stand So Close to Me" are all good-to-
excellent pop songs. Heard on the radio
amidst the sludge that passes for con-
temporary rock, The Police sound
positively innovative. Heard in a con-
cert context, necessarily surrounded by
other Police songs, the band's
limitations result in a set that is without
sufficient musical and lyrical variety.
The Police are seemingly aware of
this problem as they make a conscious
effort to "pace" the show, in an effort to
separate, as well as possible, the more
similarly structured songs. They also
made use of "dramatic" lighting
changes. The nearly sold-out crowd did
respond to this stimulus, but this repor-
ter averted his eyes in an attempt to
retain his eyesight.
The Police's set has become very
predictable. The songs seemed to fall
into several broad categories: the basic
reggae tunes ("Roxanne," etc.), songs
with slow reggae rhythms in the verses
that accelerate into a fast rock break on
the chorus ("So Lonely", et. al.), the
outright rockers that dispense with the
reggae beat ("Can't Get Next to You,"
e.g.).
AS A THREE-PIECE, the pressure is

on guitarist Andy Summers to carry the
melodic load. Making use of a battery
of switches and foot pedals, Andy
proved to be very adept at providing a
wide variety of sounds. But, well before
the set was complete, his shifts from
synthi-orchestral ambient washes to
reggae rhythm strokes became totally
predictable.
The focal point of The Police's stage
show is the "Face" himself, Sting. A
healthy blond fellow, his eyes have a
playfulness and intelligence that
suggest what Rod Stewart might look
like this after a successful brain tran-
splant. Sting sings quite well. He sounds
like he understands the lyrics and his
voice has a warmth that manages to
convey feeling. I, for one, believe that
he truly wishes Roxanne wouldn't turn
on her light tonight.
Much of The Police's repertoire is
based on reggae rhythms and produc-
tion techniques. Consequently, The
Sting's bass and Stewart Copeland's
cornucopia of a drum kit are mixed as
loud as the guitar. The Police evince
understanding of their source material.
They can play reggae at the proper
speed (slow by rock standards) and
they know how to leave sufficient space
for the instruments to be audited in-
dividually as well as in ensemble.

As a pop band, The Police are not
restricted to reggae conventions and
can speed things up whenever they
think to. Alas, this is their main means
of creating the illusion of diversity.
The Police and XTC are substantially
talented pop bands. Both seem to have
tailored their performances and, in the.
case of XTC, their more recent retcor-
dings, to the mainstream pop audience
they must reach. The Police are vir-
tually the only white pop band to make
such extensive, and commercially suc-
cessful use of reggae. Their new LP,
Zenyeta Mondatta, attempts to incor-
porate other third world rhythms into
their pop melange. This is a wise move,
as the Police's pop parameters were
not sufficiently extended Sunday night.

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