Page 8 - The Michigan Daily
Mo' yl , -!h 6, 1989
Based on Happy Times
Just say the name. "T om in
Keene." It's practically an anachr o
nism; it sounds as though he should
have been around in the early '60s,
standing with both legs toget
with a band dressed in mnytchin T
outfits, in front of a crow.d '''
swooning 13-year-old girls.
"And now, kids, Tommy Ke'ne
and his Teen Idols..." "EEEEEI!!!"
Well, Tommy may not wear
Brylcreem, but his music exudes that
same unashamedly innocent char tic
clashing, like his name, with a iiQ
sic culture that puts a premium ~ni
sneer and roar.
The D.C-based singer's scmd
LP, Eased On H/appy Times conti I
ues the emphasis on bittersweet hut;
danbeable fingcr-snappers that n,'
his 1986 Snngs From the 1,i/m s:;1
a cat. Keene is a r'
singer/songwriter, as opposed ty
singer and songwriter -- that i2 t
say, 'neither of his functions e m
tak6s a back seat to the other. T
are no idiotic lyrics injected lhre
save a melody, nor any p1d iu
musical lines to showcase ly ;
Instead, he uses his guita r
schoolboy vocals as one insttu'' i
speaking with his bar c(hoi
twanging with his vocal chiot
aiming for the heart and wound, 1
deep like the Big Star Chilton hint
Although nothing on the a hi u
quite matches the pop bonnc n
"Paper Words and hies" and '
That Are Gone" from hi' ti
several come very close, tnt ;H ,
"Highwire Days" and "When )n
Vows Break," one of two ttn ,
written with Jules Shear, who !ina
contributes harmony vocals i
would make Glenn Tilbrook gso
his hair back over his face for
shame. The omnipresent Peter B k
also guests on mandolin, but io
Keene's credit, he doesn't cash in (4
this fact on the outer sleeve.
With tangy notes flying el fmrtl
lessly from his guitar like jnicc k, i
a grapefruit in your eye in(d 1l '
like "Julie threw a pack of ca'd j
into the ocean/ I guess I'll al w a
stand aside/ showing no emotion,
this is an album for the listener who
can read Kafka and chew bubleuun
at the same time. His airbrushed,
groomed, suave b/w picture on the
back cover notwithstanding, Keetie
is still a teenager at heart, stan dins
nervously on somebody's trout
porch and nervously patting down <r
cowlick before she answers the door,
And he can play my American
Bandstand any day. EEEEEEK !!!
-Jim 1onie wozi/2
Fig tre~s Oni A Beach
Wa b:~ Another British group
wu f w rid iine? No, no. These
I t brtEshr. The concept of
"re n eh is nota new one,
, .hr, ,- pplc are wearing
Iather Id is * B u;t that's not
rn oI. this record goes a
k v I with "Flex," an edgy,
asti groove that revels in
t-' ( l'mdiggin'," an
y that elaborates on
''~ "i telling, "Been
I',itIt lutoS/ criito Cape Cod
i( it Agusta/ went to
that rich folk
V ' som e ~ ront down in
'.-icks in when
y' s, a beach
' ucan Nothin'
- A BI-Ch one-ups its
isqt naries by push-
Cirections. On one
1 ob-sessed with
",h'"this is a
I orres r G.51(reen
Johnny Thunders & Patti Palladin
Can a cover version be better than the original? Maybe, but with songs
from the venerated library of rock 'n' pop classics it seems particularly
difficult to surpass the ,brilliance of the original text. Some covers are so
dreadful that they have one shouting "Sacrilege!", "Sacre bleu!", and reach-
ing for the sick bag - e.g., Kylie Minogue's "The Locomotion." Most
leave one wondering "Why the hell did the artist bother?" In these cases, the
song remains the same, without any new, added dimension - e.g., Phil
Collins' "You Can't Hurry Love."
The reinterpretations found on Copy Cats fall into a third category in
which the covers are like obsessive fan letters to the original artists. This
doesn't mean that the songs stay perfectly intact, because the very nature of
obsession results in a weird mutation. Witness the frightening covers on
Nick Cave's superb Kicking Against The Pricks. Here, Johnny and Patti get
passionate about Screaming Jay Hawkins, Elvis Presley, The Shirelles, The
Seeds, The Shangri-Las, and Dion and The Belmonts, to name a few.
The recording of Hawkins' "Alligator Wine" comes over like a drunken
Vegas lounge act; Elvis's "Crawfish" is the highlight of the album, better-
ing the awesome original from King Creole. It sounds like The Cramps be-
fore they became a parody of a parody of a rock 'n' roll band. On the best
songs Thunders and Palladin elicit every last breath of melodrama from the
song. Palladin singing The Shangri-Las' "He Cried" makes us truly wallow
in the pain and regret; The Seeds' "Can't Seem To Make You Mine" plucks
every corny heartstring; Dion's emotionally draining "I Was Born To Cry"
includes Thunders boo-hooing at the end. You'll be exhausted by the end of
The arrangements on the album are loose and almost jazzy, giving the
impression that the band is having big fun in the studio. You can tell all the
people involved with this record simply adore Pop music (with a capital P).
Copy Cats shows how potent and wonderful cheap rock 'n' roll is, and that
its allure will never fade.
- Nabeel Zuberi
the food of love
Continued from Pale 7
the women they abuse - with either
compassion or love. When Dorinda,
protagonist of Bertalicia Peralta's "A
March Guayacan" (one of the all too
few stories in this volume by
women), realizes as much about the
man she lives with who threatens to
kill her if she aborts her fetus, she
kills him in an effort to break the
cycle that denies her aspirations to
speak for herself.
Two stories, "I Am Rene
Espronceda de la Barca" and "For
These Things My Name is Rene,"
focus on the similar disorders
afflicting two Central American in-
tellectuals - figures who, much
like the authors in this collection,
are daily faced with a choice between
their intellectual pursuits and politi-
cal struggle. In the first, a brilliant
satire by Leonel Rugama - killed
fighting the Somoza regime in 1970
- a young intellectual who forsakes
Castro's call for world liberation to
lose himself in the obscurantist pur-
suit of forgotten mystical rituals
continually bumps up against the
meaning of military battles and po-
litical transformations happening
around him which he cannot under-
stand. As the story makes clear, one
is not just what one thinks, the pro-
tagonist's Cartesian name notwith-
In the second, Mario Roberto
Morales' narrator excoriates a would-
be doctor, Whitey, for abandoning
the movement that he had formerly
served. Even as he is being stigma-
tized as a selfish coward, Whitey is
continually reminded of a recently
murdered guerrilla with whom he had
formerly been assigned to work.
Whitey's "sunshine patriotism"
contrasts vividly with that of the
narrator to Horacio Castellanos
Moya's "Confinement," in which
one vividly grasps the sacrifices in-
tellectuals must make when they
give their lives to the struggle.
Rather than ignore the painful re-
alities around them, many stories'
protagonists dissect Central Ameri-
can realities with bitter humor. The
collection's title story, authored by
Costa Rica's Carmen Naranja, ad-
dresses that country's debt crisis and
consequent loss of autonomy
through a bitter parable in which,
much as the title suggests, his
country sells the rain, its only re-
maining asset and its only means of
paying off the debt. And in Augusto
Monterroso's grisly "Mr. Taylor," a
U.S. entrepreneur makes a living
selling Latin Americans' heads to a
demanding U.S. public.
Reading a collection like this one
- almost always macabre, fre-
quently terrifying, and never far re-
moved from the realities it cannot
avoid - can be an asphyxiating ex-
perience. The "magical realism" for
which Latin American fiction is
justifiably famous receives, in these
stories, improbable twists and con-
tortions that cramp its freedom and
limit what it can say.
In this context, a story like "The
Perfect Game" by Nicaragua's Vice-
President Sergio Ramirez provides
an inspiring variation. It is, nomi-
nally, a story about baseball, and a
father's emotions as he watches his
son pitch what looks like it will be
the first perfect game in Nicaraguan
history. Beneath the game, Ramirez'
tale is the story of other firsts in
Nicaraguan history - and of what
they might mean in peoples' lives
throughout Central America were
they to be left alone. Here, as in few
other places in this collection, the
sombre assessment of Central
America's present is countered by a
vision of the future - that vision
which, as Argueta and his corm-
paneros so clearly recognize, still
awaits the day when it can be fully
- and freely - voiced.
,,,1 :! x I t the next
S! micn. rommer-
an I. a r ag, when you
U i l dlins, Whitney
t it 'niy, irk 'Astley, and
n o rtW ho kmows
tlt I q m i the car radio?
It p ~it I C1. In fact, it's
I0.[' This entire al-
un1I ' ' in 'he driver's seat,
i;' t' O predictable note,
)nt hear lyrics
i Ii this: "There's
' r: f hr wen us, and it's
ion I rint resist, a physical
y 'vcytime we kiss."
I IIt more, Croon to
i'Ii uIn r! Nick invites
t tY pa rty. There's
51 n r'iking vocals, oh
jht t heirs J.J. Jeczalic
S ty resold Art of
on r er' more, more,
* nI '
i - )orc? Don't buy this
BY MARK SWARTZ
HEADLINES we chose not
to use for this preview: "All the
world's a trip"; "But soft! What
light through yonder window
trips?"; "Trip Shakespeare:
There's a method in their mad-
Trip Shakespeare's mission:
"We want to make a record people
can lay their heads on like a pil-
What that means: "To sound
as natural as possible. Not to
succumb to the mechanical influ-
ences you hear on most records.
Everything on the radio sounds
fakey. You're not listening to
drums. It's just someone trigger-
ing samples. It gets very
competitive. We don't want to
make competitive music. We
want to make beautiful music."
The meaning of getting
signed to a major label: "It was
the totally greatest thing of our
The new record: Are You
Matt Wilson's "Umf!"
(Ultimate Musical Fantasy):
"It takes place in a bar. In a bar
you can hear the Fender amp buzz
and the spring reverb. There's a
really cool band playing super-ul-
tra riffs. Everybody's totally
moving to that. You know."
The official response to
whether the "Trip" in "Trip
Shakespeare" is a blatant drug
reference: "Our band's a trip.
Not a drug trip. A groove trip.
The audience can get into that. It's
a trip because we transport them
to another world. You know."
TRIP SHAKESPEARE appears at
Rick's American Cafe tonight at
The Forbidden Zone
By Michael Lesy
As a little kid, you were always the one who dropped things, and you
never learned to tie your shoes until the third grade. In high school, you cut
yourself so many times that the shop teacher finally excused you in disgust.
When you got to college, you decided to major in engineering but dropped
out when you crossed two wires and blacked-out the Dennison Building.
You tried business school but that was too much like the real world. You
went to the social sciences, but again your' lack of practical ability caused
you to switch. Finally, you decided to become a philosopher. "This can't
require any practical knowledge; I can just sit here and come up with theo-
ries about the nature of reality," you said.
Such was apparently the lot of Michael Lesy, who decided to determine
for us the meaning of Death and how the people who deal with death on a
daily basis cope with it. His book The Forbidden Zone is the tale of how
he spent time with different people (a homicide detective, a funeral parlor
director, an AIDS counselor, a Special Forces veteran, and a slaughterhouse
owner), what they told him, and what he learned about Death.
Each of these segments is fairly interesting. Lesy is a very good descrip-
tive writer and he is also adept at characterizing the people he meets on his
philosophical quest. He uses admirable restraint in describing the gore of
certain scenes without trying to titillate the reader. At the end of each seg-
ment, we are treated to Lesy's reflections on what he learned from this par-
ticular experience, interspersed with charming details of his personal life.
Unfortunately, Lesy isn't a good philosopher. One would think that any-
one who would go through the ridicule and penury necessary to become a
philosopher would at least show some ability, but Lesy's philosophy is as
banal as that of a high-school sophomore after watching a John Hughes
movie. After travelling with homicide detectives for a week, he reaches the
amazing conclusion that evil exists in the world. Gosh, really? What makes
it even more awful is that he has this revelation while he is in an apartment
where the homicide detectives are inspecting the body of a victim for prints.
He goes into the other room, turns on cable TV and watches the movie
Brainstorm, where he apparently realizes the interconnectedness of all
If you're interested in a look at the reality of Death and how people cope
with it, go rent the movie Faces of Death. The narrator in that film is so
cheesy that he's funny instead of just annoying, and the scenes are much
more interesting than in The Forbidden Zone.
ON N CnMc
CO OU P NCou pon Pae
COUPON Coming March 8
Continued from Page 7
Part of why we read books is to get
lost." He defined writing as a
perpetual process of "losing and
Belton's experiential attitudes to-
ward learning and teaching showed in
his quotation of Gandhi. "'You must
watch my life, how I eat, talk, sit,
to learn from my teachings."'
Belton's expanded his experiences
when, after graduating from a Quaker
preparatory school in 1974, he lived
first on an island, then in a coastline
commune. However, he maintains
that "writing is how I synthesize my
Belton is "very involved in creat-
ing a new novel," Crying in The
Streets. "The work is becoming
more positive as I become freer."
DON~BELTON will read from his
work in progress, CRYING IN THE
STREETS, at 8 p.m. tonight at the
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