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October 13, 1984 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1984-10-13

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4

ARTS
The Michigan Daily Saturday, October 13, 1984

Poge 5 ,

New Song

Movement comes to

Ark

By Laura Bischoff

This concert is not being presented by
the office of Major Events nor by Brass
Ring Productions. As a matter of fact,
the only publicity it has had has been
tbze fliers distributed by the Latin
American Culture Project. Never-
theless, if you haven't heard about it
yet, you will now: Angel Parra will be
in concert at 8 p.m. Sunday at the Ark.
-- Who in the world is Angel Parra? If
.you were from Chile or practically any
pther South American country you'd
dnow exactly who he is and what he is a
part of. Angel Parra-is a folklore singer
from Valparaiso, Chile, a major port
city near Santiago. He was imprisoned
in a concentration camp after the
Allende government was overthrown in

1973. Once released he was told he was
not permitted to sing or leave Chile. But
Parra left anyway, and lives in exile in
France.
Angel Parra is not only a singer, but
also an instrumental part of a cultural
movement in Chile and all of Latin:
America called the New Song
Movement. This movement is more
than just protest songs against the in-
justices occurring in Latin America. It
is a movement through which the
people of Latin America are searching
for their own cultural identity. It runs
parallel. to the social, economic, and
political occurrences in the Latin
American countries. For example, the
military overthrow of Salvador Allende
in 1973, the multi-national corporations
controlling the copper and fruit in-
dustries, and the fact that they only

hear Michael Jackson and Boy George
over their radio stations. The people
want to express themselves through
their own art, poems, songs and they
clearly want to control their own
politics and economic resources.
This is the first time Angel Parra has
toured in the United States. He was in
Chicago last week and is expected to
sing in California and on the East
Coast. At the Ark, he will probably play
a variety of his songs. Some of his
earlier songs, "Los Embajadores," "El
Banquerito," "El Drugstore" and '"La
T.V.," are very satirical. The first two,
'The Embassadors" and the "Little
Banker" describe how some people
control all the wealth and still com-
plain. "Poor little banker crying and
crying of pain with all your millions in
Switzerland and New York" Angel

sings in El Banquerito.
In "La T.V." Angel points out to the
people how ridiculous an image
television presents. He talks about how
we "earn a lot of money in order to be
able to spend it drinking whiskey on the"
rocks as Cary Grant says" in our
television society. The song also says,
T.V. "allows you to attend a mass while
drinking a rum." Very satirical indeed.
The Drugstore is a song about going
to the drugstore to drink a Pepsi and
smoke a cigerette, wearing the latest
fashions, and dancing the GR-Go (keep
in mind this song was written in the late
60s). And in the refrain of "The
Drugstore," Angel sings "Live my
Chilean land that does not support the
chains." The chains are the influences
from other cultures. They want to find
their own cultural identity.

The songs are not only about political
or economic concerns. Many of them
deal with subjects such as love, anger,
death, and marriage. For example,
Angel's late mother, Violeta Parra,
wrote a great number of love songs and
folklore songs, which are a major part
of the New Song Movement.
Violeta Parra was an extremely well
known, intelligent, and phenomenally
talented artist who practically started
this cultural movement. (Angel's sister
Isabel also is a folklore singer, and his
uncle, Nicanor Parra is a famous
Chilean poet and a physicist at the
University of Chile.)
To give you an idea of the impact
Violeta Parra had on Chile, this past
August the entire country, in both the
cities and the countryside, stopped at

noon to sing her most famous song,
"Gracias a la Vida" (Thank you for the
Life):
"Gracias a la Vida" is an example of
a non-politicalsong in the moveriient. It
is an absolutely beautiful song that
starts, "Thank you for the life that has
givenme so much." She says thank you
for the gifts of eyes, ears, feet, heart,
laugh, tears, and much more. With
these, she sings, she has been able to
experience the beauty of life.
The Angel Parra concert will be. in-
teresting to all. The songs are in
Spanish but don't let that scare you off
because the music and idea are clearly
fantastic. And most importantly, this is
an opportunity for people to learn more
about Latin America and the New Song
Movement.

Records
Oh-OK - Furthermore What
(dB Records)
let's Active - Cypress
(I.R.S. Records)
'Let's Active wasn't all that much of a
surprise last year. After all, any band
fronted by Mitch Easter, producer
'behind so many of the best neo-'60s-pop
debuts before (dB's, R.E.M.) and since
(the Wind, Oh-OK, etc.) the release of
ts own first record had to be catchy as
.ell and more. And oh boy - the '83 EP
4foot was at least half pure pop great-
ness. ("Make Up With Me," "Every,
Word Means No") and a remaining
percentage of high promise.
Let's Active's (a really pointless
name, guys, let's admit and forgive it)
first album, Cypress, is an initial
disappointment - there are no im-
mediate pop bliss-along classics here,
nothing as ecstatically simple as
"Make Up With Me." But Easter can be
allowed, by virtue of his experience
with other ace bands, the right to jump
ahead and deepen, fill out his outfit's
sound before we're quite prepared for
t. .Cypress is a tricky, evasive pop
album, always good sounding but
never quite catchy - it coyly withholds
payoff until ten or more listenings later.
But when it does begin to get a second
wind - when the songs begin to dif-
ferentiate themselves and start un-
veiling a million little pop-rhapsodic
details - BOOM.
One suspects Easter, wit} his joyfully
retarded boy-pop sensibility, could
easily have written an LP of bouncy ear
candy with neat verses and choruses
and handclaps and everything. And god
knows that would have been welcome -
the world will never be overcrowded by
the likes of the first two dB's (both
Easter-produced) and the 3 O'Clock's
16 Tambourines, which manage to pack
iii four-star pop classics like wall-to-
Wall carpet. But Cypress is up to
something else - a mood, a general.
Isound, a coherence and subtlety -
something that may ultimately be even
better.
Easter's work as band-iixpressario is
too '80s-conscious of the studio to sound
much like another easy addition to the
current roster of '60s revivalists.
,cypress is less about tunes than tex-
ture, with creating a shifting, acoustic-
edged new wall of sound. The restless
arrangements constantly shift songs
from echo to immediacy, from poun-
dingly distant drums to scratchy
acoustic guitars that seem to nuzzle
your earlobe.
The acoustic thread running beneath
-

most of the songs lends Cypress much
of its density and sweep. There's a full-
orchestral/choral pop effect
throughout, though Let's Active con-
sists of only three big personalities:
Mitch (guitar), Faye (bass) and Sara
(drums). One wonders how such a basic
combo would fare in concert (I missed
their opening set f.or Echo and the Bun-
nymen last spring), . since the songs
seem so enlarged (though never
bloated) by subtle studio artifice.
A forgiveable flaw is the larger
allotment of lead vocals to Faye on the
album - she has a perfectly acceptable
voice but, let's face it, Mitch has the
quintessential cool/pop sound of the
moment (slightly nasal whiny eternal-
adolescent pop high tenor, as descen-
ded from the Kinks et al). Thus his
vocal-lead tracks are more im-
mediately appealing, though the
strength of the compositions (all but
one by Mitch) is equally divided bet-
ween singers.
My choice for keenest track at an
early glance is the edgy "Waters Part,"
with its questioning melody and heavy-
bottom guitar tensions. But then there's
also the extremely cheerful opener,
'Easy Does," and the nearly folky
"Grows on a Phone Line," the chanty
"Ring True," and... .oh man. There are
no weak cuts here, and in the sterling
production (credited to the band and
Don Dixon), most of the tracks have lit-
tle ticks and wah-wahs and assorted
bazoombahs-that, like potato chips, in-
vite compulsive repetitive consum-
ption.
The lyrics are more abstract than on
Afoot, as spelled out by the opening
declaration: "Emotion's an enemy
agent: GO HOME!" It must be con-
fessed, though, that despite several at-
tempts jam-packed with scholarly
good-intentions to really listen to the
lyrics, my attention always gets
waylaid by that damn musicstuff.
Cypress seems to reject again and
R4NN
"'5th Avenue at UibrYS
DAILY 1 st SHOW $200
LIMITED 1 WEEK .
ENGAGEMENT
THE RETURN OF
MARTIN GUERRE
GERARD
DePARDIEU
NATHALIE .k
FRI.1:00720. 930. 1130PM
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SUN. 12:50300 ,510 20 930

again the pop facility that always lays
at its fingertips - opting for the sly
evasion, the shift to minor key, the
feeling of troubled groping. "Don't dig
for an easy answer" goes one song, and
Let's Active clearly resists settling for
anything too easy.
Cypress has some sort of built-in
delay system. It starts out sounding like
a nice little album; at some mysterious
point it turns into a great big one, the
kind of record that makes you want to
run around kissing babies and handing
balloons to strangers and saying "Neat-
o!" etc. The effect is rather like the
classic adolescent first-time-on-abusive
substance story - one moment you're
saying "I don't feel anything, really,"
the next you've got that idiot grin of in-
toxication. Tee-hee. Yahoo. Tears of
gratitude. Convinced?
Mitch Easter's ability to graft a sense
of fullness onto talented bands still
grappling with a musical identity os
currently best viewed on the excellent
Oh-OK EP Furthermore What.
This Georgia band is a poppier exten-
sion of the art-band concepts of two or

three hears ago. A certain jokey, per-
sonal, self-deprecating, rambling tone
links them to earlier sorts like the Delta
5 or the Raincoats - the references are
to female-led or staffed bands because
Oh-OK, beyond their high-girlish lead
vocals, has a similar, peculiarly female
playfulness and sensitivity.
Though Oh-OK is co-ed (2 m 2 f), they
have a playfulness of self-image
("Think of Linda/Think again," sings
Linda Stipe - yes, her brother is that
guy in R.E.M.) that boy bands hardly
ever have - it wouldn't be cool enough.
for them.
The restrictive male standards of
"cuteness" can definitely be a pain,
and if Oh-OK seems coy at times,
perhaps it's simply because they write
in neither of the acceptable boy-wave-
pop modes: want-girl/dance-oriented,
or intellectual show-off-that-education
cleverness.
The EP's giddy opener, "Such 'n'
Such," is a droll monologue about the
addiction of having to go to parties
("But to be sure/Had I not gone/I
would never have known...") in expec-

tation of something, but nothing ever
really happens ("Do I really need
this?"). At last, a song about social
angst as we live it. The remainder of
the songs have less bounce but a quirky,
flirting-with-dissonance sound that
promises a great deal from future ef-
forts.
The razor-sharp pop production is
Easter's (he added an invaluable guitar
to fill out the band's lean
singer/bass/drum sound); the

songwriting is credited to the band at
large. There's a tentativeness to most
of Furthermore What that indicates
Oh-OK is still reluctant to get down to
serious business - they're too giddy
with simple delight at really being in a
band. That's charming, of course, but
one waits with an expectant sigh for
them to grow up a bit, because they
have the clear potential to join the
current pure-pop revolution as a leader.
- Dennis Harvey

i + ' i! i i i + ,

Why Settle for Less?
Present your meal card and
we'll give you $2.50 off any
' entree. No lines. No
waiting. Make reservations
and plan on treating
yourself right. 763-4648.
A candlelight dinner with
superb food and
professional table service.
In the Terrace Room of the
University Club, elegant
dining from 5:00-9:30
p.m., Tuesday through
Saturday evenings.
The Dinner Club is a private
facility for students, faculty,
staff, alumni, and their guests.
Only members may purchase
alcohol.

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'A FABULOUS
FAIRY TALE"
-Vincent Canby,
NFW YORK TIMES

r i;
NIX

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