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December 02, 1986 - Image 5

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1986-12-02

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ARTS
The Michigan Daily Tuesday, December 2, 1986 Page 5

Records

The Pretenders
Get Close
Sire
It's been almost three years since
Learning to Crawl, but the
Pretenders are back with a new line-
up and a new sound which, if it
weren't for Chrissie Hynde's
distinctive vocals, probably
shouldn't even be called a "Pre-
tenders" product. If anything, Get
Close could be called Hynde's solo
record - but even that title is
deceiving in itself.
So what's the deal? Why the
delay? Why the changes? What
went wrong?
The "new" Pretenders is minus
Martin Chambers, probably one of
the most dynamic, rhythmically
interesting drummers in rock
music. The "new" Pretenders has a
whole new (read slick) sound. The
"new" Pretenders is minus any
guts, whatsoever. Well, almost.
Hynde felt the "vibes" weren't
happening any more with her old
line-up, but if you ask me she's
been hanging around her husband's
(Jim Kerr of Simple Minds) band a
little too much for her own good. A
couple of years back, Hynde
shattered the world's ears with one
of the most exciting, ass-kicking
debut albums of all time. These
1 days, she's mellowed out musically-
and, unfortunately, lyrically as
well.
Chrissie Hynde has always been

commendable for the personal
strength which shines through her
work: her uncompromising sense of
self worth and the ability to take a
good, hard look at herself and others
without any of the disgusting sort
of self-pity found in too many of
her peers. These factors also worked
to simultaneously advance the role
of women in rock music by a
couple of hundred degrees. And it
wasn't just her lyrics or her music,
but the cool, smooth bite of her
singing - a slightly nasal, slightly
bored with you all, caress of a style
- that shook the critics up; a line
like "Not me baby, I'm too
precious, fuck off" turned heads not
merely for its content, but for its
delivery.
So what's up on Get Close ? I'll
tell ya: a great big wimpout. "A
change has changed the girl," Hynde
tells us on "Chill Factor." These
days, she sings "I want you to love
me/ that's all I want from you"
("My Baby"), or "When I change
my life/ there'll be no more
disgraces...and you'll forgive me"
("When I Change My Life"). Sure,
she can trill a melody as well as
ever, and her gorgeous alto is as
strong as it ever was, but that
doesn't really compensate for these
cop-out lyrics and the lame stuff
going on musically. Producers
Jimmy Iovine (who has worked
with U2 and Simple Minds) and
Bob Clearmountain have overdone
the whole production with
gimmicky synths, floaty guitars a

la U2, and over-processed vocals. If
there's one thing they should have
left their hands off of it's Hynde's
voice, which is too crisp an
instrument to run through the
electronic gamut. This effect, in
turn, cuts down on the power of her
delivery.
But there are a few neat tricks
happening on this album. With a
sense of humor, "Tradition of
Love" is appreciable for Hynde's
wonderful vocal interpretation an
eastern melody, and violinist
Shankar contributes as well. "Chill
Factor" is a squeaky-clean blues
number on which guitarist Robbie
McIntosh (the only remaining
member from the last line-up) gets.
a good workout while Hynde
laments the role of women. Hynde
also has a good time putting down
everyone's number one Pepsi
representative and human torch on
"How Much Did You Get for Your
Soul," and the single "Don't Get
Me Wrong" is a pleasant enough
stroll of a song, although - as
with much of this album -
lacking energy.
The brightest spot on Get Close
has got to be a cover of the Jimi
Hendrix doozy "Room Full of
Mirrors," which features the band's
last line-up (Malcolm Foster on
bass and Martin Chambers on
drums) and sounds much tougher
than anything else on the record.
Hynde's vocals are a full-throated
yelp, and the whole song careens
around beautifully, although Steve

Lillywhite (U2, Big Country), who
produced this track, has gone a little
overboard on the "atmosphere."
It's a shame that Chrissie Hynde
has "come back" with what ends up
as such a surprisingly dismal LP.
Let's just hope that the vibes hook
up again on the next Pretenders
project...with whoever that may
include.
-Beth Fertig
Billy Bragg
Talking With The Taxman
About Poetry
Elektra
Billy Bragg better build a bigger
soap box to stand on 'cause he's
enlisted an awful lot of help for his
third album, Talking With The
Taxman About Poetry; only two
of the album's twelve cuts feature
Bragg going solo with his guitar.
These songs, "Ideology" and
"There Is Power In A Union" are to
Bragg's folkier side, and lyrically as
well as musically fall in line with
his Between The Wars EP. The
subject matter is politics-
political careerists, political
hypocrites, and the strength of
unions. Bragg doesn't explore any
new territory with these songs, but
he doesn't have to because
"Ideology" and "There is Power in a
Union" are fresh sounding and do
more than simply rehash these
familiar topics.

Other than this pair, Bragg beefs
up the sound with a whole host of
different instruments. But does all
this musical enibellishment change
Bragg's down-to-earth sound?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. For
all it's additional musicianship,
songs like "Greetings To The New
Brunette" (percussion, slide guitar,
electric guitar, backing vocals) and
"The Wanest Room".(bass, organ)
are unmistakably the customary,
Bragg singing about his fave
topics-love, sex, and all that good
stuff. ie might have shed some of
that boyish innocence present in
tear jerkers like "The Saturday Boy"
and "St. Swithins Day," but the
tongue-in-cheek humor remains:
"As Brother Barry said/When He
married Marion/The wife has three
great attributes/Intelligence, a
Swiss army knife, and charm."
Similarly, tracks like "Train
Train," with its screeching violin
and "Help Save The Youth Of
America" (mandolin, percussion)
are barnburnin' footstompers that
oughta bring the house down when
Bragg pulls his preachy ,self into
town. next month. I
"The Marriage" (flugel horn,
bass) is the record's only song on
which all this outside help has and
adverse effect. For all its tweeky
horns and hand claps, the song falls
flat. Bragg's live solo rendition,

one of the highlights of his Joe's
Star Lounge show at the Armory in
May '85, far outstrips this vinyl
offering.
Not surprisingly, sometimes all
these new instruments bring out
completely new sounds for Bragg.
"Wishing The Days Away" sounds
like limey hits the South Pacific.
The strummin' and singin' is
vintage Bragg, but the background
is filled with a hula skirted
mandolin and a serenading, high-
. pitched, candlelight violin. "Honey,
I'm A Big Boy Now" is a piano
solo straight out of another era.
What Billy Bragg's doing in a
saloon in a frontier town of the 01'
West I don't know, but it's a twist.
Finally, the album's best cut
may be the flugelhorn punctured
"The Home Front," which finds
Bragg growing lyrically rather than
musically. Unlike, most of Bragg's
political numbers which lean to an
ideological or historical ben, "The
Home Front" blends current,
everyday political problems with
the family life.
Bragg's strength has always been
his lyrical power. If there's been
one knock against him it's that
sometimes his songs start to sound
a lot alike. Talking With The
Taxman About Poetry goes a far
distance to shake that albatross.
-Danny Plotnick

Books

Come As You Are:
p The Peace Corps
Story
By Coates Redmon
$22.95
Hardcover
Lofty idealism, eager hero
worship,' and spiritual dedication
form the grid on which Ms.
r Redmon suspends her portrayal of
the Peace Corps. In COME AS
YOU ARE: The Peace Corps
Story, Redmon essentially en -
shrines the Peace Corps, raising it
above the realm of the secular. A
former editor of Glamour magazine
and speech writer for Rosalynn
Carter, the author was herself an
early Peace Corps volunteer.
However, the book focuses on the
early weeks of a government
agency; it is not a personal account.
The book centers on Sargent

Shriver, who so expediently staffed
and formulated a government
agency. Coates Redmon's work
successfully captures the intensity
and immediacy of the event. In
fact, the book itself moves with a
pace and energy that recreates that
of the workings of the agency.
The genesis of the Peace Corps
was at the University of Michigan's
Student Union on October 14,
1960. COME AS YOU ARE: The
Peace Corps Story starts there,
with a reproduction of the Union's
plaque. Redmon writes, "the Mich -
igan groups must get credit for
having the most political savvy and
the best follow-through."
Kennedy's role in the Peace Corps
is minimalized. After the book's
beginning, JFK is not mentioned
again until his assassination in
1963. Redmon regards the agency
as the brainchild of General James
Gavin and the passion of Sargent
Shriver. Although only a single

view of Shriver is presented, the
author paints a convincingly likable
personality. Like Shriver, the
Peace Corps' early administrators
romantically resemble knights
journeying to save the third world
in the "American way." The reader
cannot help but become enmeshed
in the rigorous idealism of the text.
It is disappointing that the
author barely mentions the Peace
Corps itself. The achievements and
personalities of the volunteers are
cheated. At the ideological core of
this agency is unmistakably the
power of grassroots activism.
Unfortunately, Redmon rarely men -
tions the people who form the
movement. As a volunteer herself,
Redmon's personal insights are
missed. Also, it is a shame that a

work about an international organ -
ization focuses on Washington
D.C.
However, in an era which must
question the honesty and integrity
of governments, Redmon's idealism
is envigorating. In juxtaposition
to the current illicit terrorism of the
C.I.A., the early Peace Corps
symbolizes sincerity, peace, and
integrity. COME AS YOU ARE:
The Peace Corps Story success -
fully captures the optimism and
idealism of the 1960's. For anyone
who regularly reads a newspaper,
Coates Redmon's portrayal of the
Peace Corps offers a welcome
catharsis for world politics.
-Kaywin Feldman

"Study all day,
In methodicalway"
And then...
Put the books away!
University of Michigan Gilbert & Sullivan Society
presentsn
The Yeone of the Guard
Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre
December 3-6 8:00pm, December 6-7 2:00pm
SPECIAL STUDENT RUSH
Wednesday Only - $2.00 Off any seat
Call Mendelssohn Box Office 763-1085

BUSINESS LEADERS
of Tomorrow.. .
If you are considering
management studies, let us
tell you about
THE MICHIGAN
BBA
Come to an informational session
presented by the Business School
Place: Bursley Dormitory - McGreaham-Cewik Lounge
Date: Thursday, December 4
Time: 6:30 - 7:30

Pacheezies
The Final Slice.
Slice of Pizza .99
after 11pm*

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