Page 8 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, March 7, 1989
Oranges and Lemons
"I don't know how to write a big hit song," Andy
Partridge sings self-effacingly on "The Mayor of Sim-
pleton," this album's first single. It's ironic, since
"Mayor," probably the catchiest song since - well,
since "Earn Enough for Us" from XTC's last album,
Skylarking - is probably the band's best chance yet to
have a big hit song in the U.S.; the video is already in
heavy rotation on MTV. And it's doubly ironic that the
only thing that might keep it from being that is the
fact that the song - a delightfully corny love song
told from the point of view of an ignoramus (in other
words, an updating of Sam Cooke's "Wonderful
World") - is that its lyrics are too long and contain
too many big words.
That would be a shame, because if any song could
ever stand the repetition of Top 40 airplay, it's
"Mayor." I probably listened to it 75 times in the first
two days that I had the album, and I'm still not sick of
it. I may never be. With a bassline pounding like a
lovesick heart and Dave Gregory's Rickenbacker chim-
ing like wedding bells, this is the kind of song that can
make you want to quit your job, sell the house, and
run away with the stranger in front of you in line at the
computing center. I could die listening to this song.
But why spend this much time spooging over one
track on a 15-song album? Because it's so much better
- sadly, too much better - than the other 14. Gui-
tarist Partridge and bassist Colin Moulding are perhaps
the best double songwriting threat in the business, but
much of Oranges and Lemons falls prey to their own
cleverness. Their creative juggling of tempos, instru-
mentation, and lyrics are impressive. So is being able
to recite the "M" section of the dictionary from mem-
ory. But that doesn't make it entertaining.
Likewise, many of these songs, for all their com-
plex arrangements and chord structures, simply don't
sound good. "Here Comes President Kill Again" is
smothered under a dragging, soporific melody; "Cynical
Days"' chorus sounds like a bad advertising jingle; and
"Chalkhills and Children" is the kind of dull pseudo-
jazz ballad that made you wish Sting would concentrate
on his acting career.
Still, when Moulding and Partridge's music lives
up to their lyrical genius, they create some really bril-
liant songs. "Pink Thing"'s mid-tempo, finger-snap-
ping groove backs up a hilarious lyric - the "pink
thing" is Partridge's penis, which he serenades in a
Some Girls-era Mick Jagger falsetto ("I want to intro-
The Original Man
Andrew Tosh, son of the late,
great, Peter Tosh, thumps out solid,
conscientious reggae on his debut al-
bum, The Original Man. Using a
mixture of material written by his
father blended with his own brand of
unerring self-confidence and dub
poetics, he lends tribute not only to
an equal rights activist who is sorely
missed but to a father whose tradition
of being a "living man with work to
do" is one which must be carried on.
"The world looks to me to sing
his song," young Tosh cries out as
he rides a beat at times closer to
contemporary House than it is to the
type of rock-steady melody his father
helped to develop in the late '60s
while still with The Wailers. But
The Original Man is no traitor to the
reggae riddim. In fact, it is the kind
of album which packs the dance hall
floor at Reggae Night. Fast and furi-
ous. Synth-drums ride side by side
with a skip-tempo electric bass
which pounds out the drop beat on
that ever so characteristic third mea-
sure. Several extended dub versions
accompanying two of the tracks pre-
sent the music in isolation. One feels
as if they were holding fast in the
dark night to the reins of a Pazian
horse galloping down a stone road-
way until the pounding of its hoofs
becomes inseparable from. the
pounding of your heart which be-
comes inseparable from the pounding
of the Tosh's bass guitar.
Tosh, just 21, considers himself
no less an "Original Man straight
from Creation - just like Peter
Tosh." He performed convincingly in
Ann Arbor last summer with a num-
ber of his father's ex-band members
and sang of his convictions by echo-
ing the sentiments of the underclass.
Politically, the album relies on
innuendo and reference for its analy-
sis. In "Poverty is a Crime," Tosh
says that he does not know exactly
who is to blame, but he does know
that chances are "if you are Black,
you will suffer all the time."
Lyrics like these have strong
roots in the Tosh-reggae tradition of
international socio-cultural and eco-
nomic awareness. Jamaica, having
now rid itself of its elitist Prime
Minister Edward Seaga and re-elected
a majority of PNP (People's Na-
tional Party) representatives includ-
ing Michael Manley as Prime
Minister, is a nation of African-
Caribbean with a poverty rate of over
80 percent. Tosh finds this appalling
as well as preventable and has begun
his career with a mind - a mind
with no cocaine runnin' through its
brain, he tells us - to do something
Love Tractor celebrate their love for Batman in their press photos and
their love for art rock on their albums.
XTC (left to right, Dave Gregory, Andy Partridge,
and Colin Moulding) succeed at least once on
their new album Oranges and Lemons.
duce you, take you to the brink, thing/ I want to intro-
duce you, make that missing link thing"). Moulding's
fretless bass dances a dizzy jig around "One of the Mil-
lions," recalling their 1982 English Settlement. "Poor
Skeleton Steps Out," lamenting our bags o' bones'
imprisonments in "bad blood, bad brains... brown,
black, white skin," trips merrily over a percussive ar-
rangement that bonks together like a chorus of dancing
XTC is often compared to mid-to-late era Beatles -
who isn't, yes, but here the analogy is especially true.
Problem is, the same Fab Four that concocted the
White Album is also responsible for embarrassments
like "Magical Mystery Tour," and XTC shows itself
capable of both attainments here. This is why AMS
was invented - this would have been a great ten-song
album, but at 15, Oranges and Lemons is awfully
heavy on the latter. -Jim Poniewozik
Themes from Venus
Reason #34 why music writers should not be allowed to major in En-
glish: After enough comparison/contrast essays for all those core classes,
you start writing double record reviews.
Why compare these two albums? For starters, both bands emerged from
the much-heralded southern rock revival of the early '80s; both share that
generation's proclivity for melody-oriented songwriting and wackiness; and
both have released several albums with enough strong ,tracks to promise
greatness, but enough duds to fail to deliver same. And on these albums;
both bands have finally delivered.
But while members of the same all-Georgia team, these bands represent
the two opposite traits for which it is known: artsy ingenuity and flat-out
rock power. On the artsy end, Themes from Venus finds Love Tractor, which
has experimented from jazz to funk to country and back again, deciding to
play rock band for an entire album - and the results are stunning.
Whereas previous Tractor efforts have shown a tendency to ramble, Venus
channels their crazy-quilt song structures into much tighter, to-the-point
works. "Satan's New Wave Soul Losers" could inspire dancing at a funeral,
and the powerful vocals on "I Broke My Saw" make it almost impossible to,
believe that this band started out playing entirely instrumentals.
Love Tractor's diverse background gives them sufficient distance to have,
fun with the rock genres they take on, such as their foray into psychedelia on
the title track; its campy carousel-organ intro, featuring a "Yellow Subma-
rine"-like intercom vocal, segues into a ELP-style acid anthem, and even asl
you're shaking your head along with Michael Richmond's tripped-out vo-.
cals, you can almost hear him laughing up his sleeve.
Guadalcanal Diary, on the other hand, was, is, and evermore shall be a
rock band. In terms of sheer instrumental talent per member, Guadalcanal;
Diary may well be the best rock band in the world, and on Flip-flop, the-
band finally has a full album of songs good enough to do justice to their
ability. "Whiskey Talk," with its killer cowpunk riff, hyperkinetic beat, and,
a bridge jarring as a fall down a spiral.staircase, demonstrates their power;
bassist Rhett Crowe and drummer John Poe thunder like ten divisions of art.
tillery, and Jeff Walls' Jimmy Page-influenced solos and Murray Attaway's
wails pelt like sleet in a 50 MPH wind.
The band's playlist is bolstered by Poe's emergence as a songwriter, penc
ning all or part of half the songs; what he lacks in lyrical maturity he makes
up for with a feel for beat-heavy rock ("The Likes of You" and "Pretty is As
Pretty Does"). But their main strength remains Attaway, whose pure.tenor
can carry the furious "Whiskey Talk" as well as the dreamy "Always Satur,
day," a tongue-in-cheek paean to the suburbia where he croons, "I wish I
lived in a shopping mall." And they cap the LP with a uproarious reworking,
of a childhood rhyme on "Vista" (as in "cumalata, cumalata, cumalata...").
This pair of albums reveals another dichotomy of the New South: the
Mitch Easter-produced and the Don Dixon-produced. Just as Venus bears the
distinctive pawprints of Easter - catchy, perfect-for-fruggin' melodies, lay
ered guitars and keyboards, and interspersed studio effects - Flip-flop is
trademark Dixon - lots of clear power chords, a minimum of murkiness and
fancy tricks, and drums like the footsteps of God. But they aren't musically
exclusive; both albums show the new music connoisseur that creativity still
lives beneath the Easter-Dixon line.
paths - lyrically as well as musi-
cally - has much better chances of
climbing the chart. The second
would have to be sound. When the
music is largely synthesized, leaving
acoustic musicianship behind in fa-
vor of progressive noise, you might
have a hit. This record is neither.
It's beautiful music. Even the
name Sneetches sounds reminiscent
In today's big world of music,
usually there are two basic things
that constitute pop, the first being
musical form, which when it fol-
lows more predictable, palatable
of a time when music and money
were not interlaced. This sounds like
the older, more inventive stuff of the
'60s. The first song, "Unusual
Sounds," has great guitar interplay
and the lyrics are sung well. The rest
of the album is as good, especially
"Another Shitty Day."
-Forrest Green III
"Hi! I'm Karen Brown, your AT&T Student Campus
Manager here at The University of Michigan. I want to
tell you how AT&T can help you cut down on your long
distance bills without cutting down on your calls-the
best time to reach me is between 3-5 p.m., Monday and
Wednesday, and 1-3 p.m., Tuesday, Thursday, and
Friday. But you can call anytime-747-9581 ."
What is the issue?
Consider covers the topics that are
important to you. Topics like:
BETTER THAN THE BATHROOM WALLS!
Give your messa
Gt %ltc f tt I D1thI Personals
Sexism in Advertising
Test Preparation Courses
U-M Ticket Policy
So pick up an issue and see what
you are missing.
COUPONS Coming March 8
Take a break
from Daily life.
De La Soul
3 Feet High and Rising
Rap was originally created as a
language for the streets, from the
streets. These young rappers were
said to be too poor, too raw to buy
instruments, so they gathered their
favorite records and used them as
backing music to rap to. When they
wanted to strip it down even further,
they used nothing but a drum ma-
chine. Musical purists, and stylists,
possibly the more narrow-minded of
us, slammed it as "puerile doggerel"
and being too "banal" to qualify as
music in any way.
But as far as music theory, rap
could be considered genius. How else
to describe a form that breaks the
concrete concept of time into unre-
lated snatches of sound and sample?
And the language... by expanding
the gangster lingo into a mental
criminality that includes us all, rap-
pers sketch a vivid picture of Amer-
ica at its worst (or best). With so
much groundbreaking innovation
going on, how could they slam a
form that is cleverer than clever? Or,
Play Your Cards Right...
Be A Blackjack Dealer at:
true to rap form, stupider than
De La Soul turns that form a hard
left, then glows a fluorescent yel-
low. While the majority of the rap
plethora capitalizes on anarchic vio-
lence, this crew are rap hippies, no
less. Check out the record cover with
its peace sign, daisies, and radical
coloring, if you don't believe me.
The concept here is peace, three feet
high and rising. And while their
contemporaries fail to achieve art
through mental inertia, De La Soul,
through their weirdness, become a
class by themselves.
"Plug Tunin"' pushes the brutal
activity of bass from hard, exagger-
ated beats to fuzzy thumps that revel
in their clumsiness. With counter
samples of magic sounds, the song
hits rap standard, then redefines it.
"Potholes In My Lawn" is a cheesy,
funk groove that creates a mellow:
atmosphere of super-reality. But
these are just aspects of a brilliantK
record with 23 tracks, no less..On
another, more humorous level, "AA
Little Bit Of Soap" tells the listener e
"that's right, you smell" to the
sampled music of "Stand By Me."
Cuts "De La Orgee" wand
"Transmitting Live From Mars"
stand out as well.
Through samples of Disney,
records, cartoon dialogue, '60s funk
tracks, even Hall and Oates, D.J
P.A. Pasemaster Mase and producer;
a Good Time"
The University of Michigan
SCHOOL OF MUSIC
ved. Faculty Recital--Robert Hatten, piano,
March 8 with Leslie Delk, Chicago-based
Brahms Lieder and Intermezzi
Ann Gebuhr Triptych
Recital Hall, 8:00 p.m.
R a iAJ Win c Firli__Fay~1+.1 P,~h
Casino Mass Meeting 1E