Friday, January 22, 1988
The Michigan Daily
By Beth Fertig
Scott Miller programs computers
by day. He works with a language
called LISP. When he's away from
the terminal, Miller plays with the
English language. The result is the
band Game Theory, which is as
mind boggling as his day job and
slightly more popular.
Despite years of fine albums and
well-received, raucous live per-
formances like the one we can expect
tonight at the Blind Pig, Game
Theory have somehow eluded
commercial success. On the surface,
their catchy riffs, pop hooks, and
Beatles-esque harmonies seem a sure
formula for cracking the Billboard
charts. And yet, something else
seems to be going on here.
"You can sort of want financial
wealth without modelling your mu-
sic after other things," explains
"I mean, every now and then a weird
band will become really famous, like
the Talking Heads."
Game Theory's latest release,
Lolita Nation, is testimony that the
band want success only on their own
terms. It's probably their most
challenging work yet, with exquisite
pop songs carved between aural and
lyrical collages, some of which con-
tain pieces of their earlier material.
With songwriting contributions
from the band's four other players,
Lolita Nation is two records worth
of dizzy, cliff walking excavations,
mind games, and brain strains.
"Yeah, well the double album is
artistic consideration, not career
consideration," says Miller. "It's
"I really think the music world needs a big weird album that doesn't toe anyone else's line, and
doesn't sound like It's begging for airplay," says Game Theory's. songwriter Scott Miller on the
bands new release, 'Lolita Nation' Game Theory are (left torright) Gil Ray, Shelley LaFreniere,
Scott Miller, Guillaume Gassuan., and Donnette Thayer.
ence is solely made up of "people in
the music business"; plenty of aver-
age Ann Arbor college students turn
out each year to catch the band in
action. Then again, maybe Ann Ar-
bor isn't an ordinary place.
"We're sort of a band that's in and
around music, that's into doing mu-
sic forever and ever, all through the
end of the '60s, '70s, and '80s... I
can't just do what everyone's doing
today... I have this music that's kind
of an average of all the stuff I've
ever heard. People like me who have
been exposed to tons of music ap-
preciate the fact that our music is
Novel? Take Roxy Music, Alex
Chilton, Wire, synthesizers, techno-
dribble, and of course, Miller's
trademark lyrics. His sensitive, sub-
urban conscience is at the heart of
his songs, analyzing relationships
with a refreshing and witty perspec-
tive. Lines such as "she'll be a verb
when you're a noun" are too heady
for the normal pop market. Maybe
he just uses too many words for his
"I'm very careful about my
lyrics," Miller says. In fact, Game
Theory's songs are as carefully con-
structed as... maybe a computer pro-
"Well, on this last album there's
even literally some computer lan-
guage in the song titles," he con-
fesses. "I do program computers, so
I probably think like that somewhat.
The games are the small things on
the album, the kind of sly references
to this or that. The real songs are'
strictly on the poetry side."
Lester Bangs once wrote that he
believed the Germans would conquer,
the world with technological, highly,,
structured music. That they had'
invented amphetamines so that all
the English and American rock bands
would burn themselves out, thereby=
allowing technical bands lie"
Kraftwerk to take over the music'"
industry. What do you think of that
"All true. Along with the am-
phetamines theory is the point that
one thing computers do allow you to
do is make music faster.... I'm all-
for moving on. And this new album
that we have is my idea of what"
music should be getting into. I think
we should be breaking up the song
structure a little bit.
"There sort of is the thought that
rock is dead and we're going to have
something decent happening after it.
It seems to me we should be think-
ing more in these kind of lines."
High tech is in the works with'
the band's new stage show as well,
which Miller says includes MC5-
type amoeba films and a projection
screen. How much of that will fit on
the Pig's tiny stage is up in the air,,
It's likely, however, that Game
Theory's approach to the stage will
be as carefully thought out as their
approach to music.
GAME THEORY will play the
Blind Pig tonight after a warm-up
gig by Ann Arbor's Folkminers;
Cover is $4, be there by 10 p.m.
rather stupid career wise, actually.
"I really think the music world
needs a big weird album that doesn't
toe anyone else's line, and doesn't
sound like it's begging for airplay."
The album was recorded and
mixed in less Lhan a month, with
Mitch Easter (Let's Active) resum-
ing his role as producer. It was ac-
tually towards the end a very tense
experience for me, but when I go
back and listen to it now it sounds
really good," Miller says, in retro-
"But I did at the time hold a lot of
anxiety about it being such an
experimental thing. And the record
company were really against this
type of project. They didn't like the
idea that it was a double, they didn't
like the fact that it was so unusual.
They didn't think it was going to get
any radio airplay. It turns out some
of the songs are getting a lot -
more than Big Shot Chronicles
(their last LP). Right now it's num-
ber five on CMJ (College Music
Game Theory might be doing
well on the college circuit, but
Miller says he's unsure who his
market really is.
"I think our market is entirely
people in the music business: either
people in bands or rock writers. I
don't know that any of the public at
large actually listen to Game The-
ory. I really think that. Because ev-
ery band in the world knows who we
are, and we get a lot of critical
praise. But I don't know that Joe
Teenager who listens to Madonna
knows who we are."
Scott Miller is certainly overstat-
ing the case when he says his audi-
Going Too Far
By Tony Hendrai
One who's settling down to read
Tony Hendra's Going Too F a r
might think naively, "A book about
humor by one of those Spinal Tap
guys? Sounds funny!" The reaction
many labored hours and footnotes
later? "What a mistake."
Hendra's book, while not exactly
entertaining, probably qualifies as a
valuable reference for students of
humor. Just approach it forewarned
- the book is, first and foremost, an
Saturday, January 30, 6 pm
Holly Near & Ronnie Gilbert
Archie Fisher & Garnet Rodgers
academic treatise. It is written in a
dry, pedantic style and resembles an
Hendra's 454 hardcover page epic
analysis of the last thirty-odd years
in American humor focuses on the
political motivations b e h i n d
"Boomer Humor," or the humor that
is "peculiar to the postwar or baby
boom generation." He attempts to
examine the comical contributions of
Mort Sahl, Second City, Jules Feif-
fer, Lenny Bruce, the Committee,
The National Lampoon, and the Sat-
urday Night Live cast, among others,
in a sociopolitical context.
Unfortunately, Hendra's critical
authority is undermined by his con-
stant namedropping. He stresses the
importance of his own comedic
work, and that of his friends, ad nau-
scum. Ostensibly, the purpose of
Hendra's book is to inform rather
than entertain, yet much of the in-
formation that he presents is trivial
and ultimately irrelevant. Hendra is
an accomplished humorist whose
credits include acting in Spinal Tap
(he played the manager) and editing
See BOOKS Page 8
w how you feel with..
higan Daily Personals
EARN AN EASY 50 BUCKS BE FAMOUS (WELL, MAYBE)
HELP WRITE A BOOK - ABOUT YOURSELVES
THE IDEA IS: to sketch a kids-eye view of what it's like once Mom
and Dad hrive into the sunset - stranding you in alien surroundings
with (1) 82.5% of your worldly possessions shoveled into a telephone
booth-sized room (2) no friends (3) a mountain of anxieties (4) no clue
of what happens next.
"THE FRESHMAN CHRONICLE": will present your observations,
experiences and opinions on the transition to college -the good, the bad,
the ugly. The focus is the first frantic four months when, symbolically if not
literally, you were still glancing both ways at every one-way street on campus.
O.K. SO WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO? Simply grab a pen, pencil,
typewriter or word processor. Imagine you are writing to a friend. Just write
like you talk, complete with campus slang and humor. Loosen up. Be
honest. Be observant. Write long or short. Quote friends, enemies,
professors, or cafeteria ladies with hairnets. Quote yourself. Anything or
anybody making a good yarn and offering insight into campus life is fair
game. I'm interested in all subjects, so use your imagination! I'll edit the
letters, if necessary, and then work them into .the format of the book.
WHAT'S IN IT FOR ME? Each offering printed in the book earns $50.
Cash. If you O.K. it, I'll credit you by name and school.
A FEW IDEAS:
" meeting your roommate(s) from Saturn.
- moving - hassles, anxieties, etc.
-kids on your floor- weird, wired, wonderful
- feeling like a stupid freshman -
" managing time &money
" academic pressures (compared to high school)
" professors/TA's - their attitudes
" campus scopes and squeezes
" frat/sorority rush
" sex on campus (AIDS?)
- beer: social fabric of campus
- fake l.D.'s
" homesickness -yea or nay?
- cafeteria: social clubhouse forthe
" depression? euphoria?
- seeing old friends over vacation
DEADLINE: MARCH 1, 1988