Monday, April 10, 1989
The Michigan Daily
-- m m
in visceral pop
Where's the guts in popular music?
BY FORREST GREEN
TRUE statement: Radio is, in
one way or another, a reflection of
the public and its mentality. If so,
we are all in big trouble. Pop
music is pop music for one rea-
son, supposedly because the peo-
ple prefer it. Listen to the radio,
and really listen to it, for once.
Try to make out the lyrics, get a
feel for the mood of the song. Is
this how you or I or anyone feels
about anything? Most likely, the
music you hear has nothing to do
with anything at all. It all sounds
the same, and that sound, more or
less, induces a safe, mediocre,
gutless feeling of indifference.
For example, there's the
Grammys' snubbing of Sting's
...Nothing Like the Sun, an
artistically and politically coura-
geous and successful record, in
lieu of George Michael's Faith, an
album with only one real accom-
plishment: record sales. While the
overall choice of nomination was
rather bleak, this implied salute to
commercial music through a re-
spected institution such as the
Grammys must send a blistering
message to us all.
Another example of the uncon-
cern lurking underneath our
collective listening ear would be
the consensus we hold about
artists. A true underdog of the
music biz, Prince, is currently in
musical obscurity, if you will.
Over the past few years, he has
totally abandoned the standards of
popularity for art. The exchange
has produced excellent records, but
in the deal, he's lost quite a bit of
money. Critics, little darlings that
they are, put him down for not
Most likely, the music
you hear has nothing
to do with anything at
all. It all sounds the
same, and that sound,
more or less, induces a
safe, mediocre, gutless
feeling of indifference.
selling records, and when you ask
the average music Joe about
Prince, he'll tell you how he loved
It's shameless. Record sales,
achieved through commercial-
sounding music, are now the first
priority. Pop music, garbage that
it is, has mutated into a form
where you can be surprised, but
that's not good enough - not
when you keep hearing the same
names, and through them, the
same sounds. The regular con-
formist pop concept never changes
- try to remember the number
one song from this week, or even
last week. The typical (or even the
atypical) number one song is usu-
ally geared to the dance club,
thanks to the starmaking device,
the drum machine, and after it's
gone, replaced by another one of
its kind. You don't know the dif-
Contemporary R&B is an even
worse medium, for sure. I cannot
listen to the R&B stations for a
half hour without becoming
chronically depressed about the
state of the world. This isn't due
to seriously provocative lyrics,
but rather because it all sounds the
same. Every song makes the lis-
tener feel the same mood, one that
is alternately apathetic and
depressing, and the average sub-
ject, love, does very little to help
the listener out of the dark hole
that is induced. With a specific
audience tuning into these modes
almost exclusively, as if there was
no alternative, there is little hope
Amid all the conformism, there
remains very little guts left in
music, at all. Not when we look
to a mega group like U2 for
political commentary, or a mon-
eymaker like Guns 'n' Roses for
real rebellion. Although not ex-
actly the Sex Pistols, they at least
make an attempt to say "screw the
music biz," as evidenced by a song
that I cannot forget, much less
forgive, "One In a Million," from
the G'N'R Lies LP. Supposedly
excused by being a "very simple
song," it is a raw, gritty character
portrayal wherein Axl raves about
what a pain his life is, at the same
time advocating racism, ho-
mophobia, xenophobia, and basi-
cally makes an ass of himself.
Despite all this, "A Million" has
got to be the craziest, gutsiest,
most anti-pop move I've heard in
quite a while, because it shocks
me into realization, and so be-
comes relevant. This is what we
need more often, whether it's right
or wrong - a sincere effort, a
"Fuck You" song.
John Ingram (Sam Neill) and his wife Rae (Nicole Kidman), on a getaway cruise after the death of their
child, experience untold terror. And it's about that exciting, too.
BY GREG FERLAND
The latest thriller release of the month is the Aus-
tralian film Dead Calm. It so wants to be a thriller that
it includes every element of the genre, but somewhere
it makes a mistake in the equation and comes out a re-
tread of other, more worthy thrillers.
Dead Calm begins with the first element of a
thriller, the "opening sequence." In Dead Calm , the
opening sequence is a terrifyingly realistic car crash in
which a young boy is killed. In order to get away from
the tragic event, his parents, Rae (Nicole Kidman) and
John (Sam Neill), take a cruise on their elegant sail-
boat. Their vacation is interrupted when they pick up a
young man, Hughie (John Zane), who has fled a cap-
sized boat whose crew has died of food poisoning. Or
did they? Hmmm. John goes to check things out and
leaves his wife with Hughie (smart, eh?), and the usual
So where does the film go wrong? Right from the
beginning. The "opening sequence" is spectacular, but
as in James Bond movies, it has nothing to do with
the plot. It is merely a device to get the characters on
the water and, of course, to elicit the shock of seeing
the little kid get blown through the windshield like a
The "thrilling" part of the film is an endless series
of people popping out of closets. You know the scene
I'm talking about. Like the hand through the glass in
Jagged Edge, Alex crashing through a door in Fatal
Attraction. These "shock scenes" in Dead Calm sure
made me jump, but you can't help but feel cheated and
manipulated by the filmmakers. Anyone can jump out
of a closet and scare the audience, but it takes some
real talent to create some imaginative suspense. The
film also lacks an overall tension because these "go-
boo" scenes are far apart and very predictable.
And yet there are some good aspects of Dead Calm.
The photography of the boat on the clear blue sea is
very picturesque. Director Phillip Noyce also success-
fully creates a sense of remoteness and claustrophobia
amidst the wide ocean, but this mood is soon ruined
when Hughie plays a tape of bad pop songs that make
us aware of the outside world. The original music by
Graeme Revell is very effective. He skillfully com-
bines the styles of "Jason's theme" from Friday the
13th with Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries.
I find myself constantly comparing Dead Calm to
other movies - perhaps because it is quite unoriginal.
Dead Calm can be deemed a cross between Polanski's
Knife in the Water, Das Boot, and Fatal Attraction.
That is some pretty good company that Dead Calm
does not belong in.
Interestingly enough, Orson Welles first bought the
rights to Dead Calm, and in fact made a film starring
Jeanne Moreau that was never released. Producers Terry
Hayes and George Miller(Road Warrior, Witches of
Eastwick) now own the rights to the story and proba-
bly hoped to create a smashing film. Instead, Dead
Calm is for the most part dead in the water.
DEAD CALM is playing at Fox Village and
Museum of Art shows Lucian
Freud's realistic etching
BY JOHN KIPFMUELLER
THE Friends of the Museum of Art here at the Uni-
versity have done us all a great favor. Their recent pur-
chase of one of the 1987 Lucian Freud etchings of Lord
Goodman in His Yellow Pajams brings this im-
mensely talented painter's work to Ann Arbor for the
Lucian Freud is a London-based artist who was born
in Berlin in 1922 and emigrated to the U.K. in 1933.
(By the way, he's the grandson of Sigmund Freud.) The
artist Freud is known for his painfully realistic por-
traits, and his subjects have included anyone from
semi-nude adolescent girls to his bedridden dying
mother. His fame has been steady in England, but in
the U.S. his work is just starting to be noticed by a
wider audience. Much of Freud's recognition on this
side of the Atlantic is due to a very well-received show
of his works that was held at the Hishhorn Museum in
Washington, D.C. in 1987.
Lord Goodman in His Yellow Pajams is a unflat-
tering rendition of an overweight, crumpled man before
his morning coffee. We see his Lordship with the hair
of a mad scientist, the puffy, searching eyes of a
bloodhound, a conspicuous mole near his gracelessly
large nostrils. No one could ever mistake this for a
"beautiful" work of art. Lord Goodman's big face stares
right into the eyes of the viewer as if to say, "Yes, I
look a little disheveled, but I really don't care about the
details." Freud cares immensely about the details, and
these details allow us to create human emotions to go
along with his created image.
Discussing his work, the artist has said, "In order to
move us, the picture must never merely remind us of
life but must acquire a life of its own." Freud's power-
ful, frontal positioning of the face, along with all of
the minute details of the image combine to create a life
for the etching. Unlike much of Freud's work, the
voyeuristic qualities are subtle in this etching. A keen
viewer will walk away from Lord Goodman feeling as
if he or she has just interrupted the very private morn-
ing rituals of one of Britain's more prominent citizens.
Art historians and critics have compared Freud's
work with everyone from Franz Hals to Balthus. These
comparisons are fair and do shed some light on the
artist's development. Regardless of Freud's precursors,
his image of Lord Goodman in His Yellow Pa jams is
able to stand by itself as a message of the potential
power of the realistic image in contemporary art. We
are very lucky to have it here with us in Ann Arbor.
Lucian Freud's LORD GOODMAN IN HIS YELLOW
PAJAMS is on the New Acquisition wall in the main
lobby of the University Museum of Art. It will be
there until the middle of next month.
The University School of Mu-
sic is sponsoring a composer's
forum and concert,. featuring the
works of student composers at
the University, today at 8 p.m. in
the School of Music's Recital Hall.
For. further information, contact
the School of Music at 763-4726.
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