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October 01, 1990 - Image 5

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1990-10-01

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ARTS
Monday, October 1, 1990

The Michigan Daily

Page 5

The Stuff comes with groovy sarcasm

by Mike Molitor
The Wonder Stuff's first record,
The Eight Legged Groove Machine,
was released in 1988 and quickly
earned the English band a cult fol-
lowing that was impressed by irrev-
erent tunes like "It's Yer Money I'm
After, Baby" and "Give Give Give
Me More More More."
The band's no-bullshit attitude
was perhaps best typified by "Astley
in the Noose," a song that gained
them the wrath of Rick's record
company: "Astley in the noose/ he
hasn't got a use/ but he's trying/
* trying to take it like a man/ that he
can't sing at all." The band's brash
wattitude fits well with its danceable
rock 'n' roll sound. Lines like "I
didn't like you very much when I
met you/ and now I like you even
less" seem even more sarcastic when
they come surrounded by catchy,
major-key melodies.
On their first tour of the U.S.,
the band discovered country music
(shades of U2?) and incorporated
elements of it into their second
record, 1989's Hup! . Although it's
doubtful that they'll go so far as to
film the tour for theatrical release or

record some songs at Sun Studios,
tunes like "Golden Green" and
"Unfaithful" have a definite twang to
them. Not that the band has lost its
punk edge though - "Don't Let Me
Down Gently" and "Cartoon
Boyfriend" still crunch along at a
mean pace. The Wonder Stuff hasn't
lost its wit, either. "Radio Ass Kiss"
lashes out at the sorry state of con-
temporary radio and contains what
appears to be a derogatory reference
to Casey Kasem.
Despite rumors that the band
nearly broke up earlier this year, and
the departure of The Bass Thing
(a.k.a. Rob Jones), who was replaced
by Paul Clifford, The Wonder Stuff
toured as the opening band for The
Mission U.K. this summer and are
now headlining their own tour. That
makes tonight an opportune time to
celebrate the implementation of the
University's new drug and alcohol
policy by getting really fucked up
and going to see a genuine no-non-
sense rock band with brains.
THE WONDER STUFF bring their
brains to the Nectarine Ballroom
tonight with TOO MUCH JOY
opening. Doors open at 9 p.m. and
tickets are $9.50 (plus evil service
charge), available at Ticketmaster.

IN

Al'
"
,evie

The Wonder Stuff hang out on the tracks trying to come up with some
witty songs for their next album.

Life in Hell
Although Dorothy Parker's wit is
hilariously amusing on paper, the
Attic Theater touring company's
production of What Fresh Hell is
This? An Evening with Dorothy
Parker suggests her work does not
adapt well to the stage. However,
none of the blame for this often
monotonous production should be
placed on Parker. After all, a writer
that can produce such brilliant one-
liners as "You can lead a whore to
culture but you cannot make her
think" has proven herself. What this
production lacks is the proper inter-
pretation Parker's work deserves.
What Fresh Hell? exemplifies
many of the things Parker criticized
about theater. Apparently, from a
few of the critical essays presented
last weekend, she had a considerable
distaste for redundancy and produc-
tions that assumed all audiences had
to be spoon-fed plot and information
in order to grasp a deeper meaning.
As an audience member of What
Fresh Hell?, I felt a desperate need
to grab an original manuscript of
Parker's work so that my eyes could
have glided over it, simply and effi-
ciently. Instead I sat watching list-
less, monotoned actors reading her
work to me, laboriously hammering
each word into my consciousness.
Nevertheless, credit must be
given to Annemarie Stoll and arwulf
arwulf who, with their glimpses of
Parker-understanding, made the pro-
duction bearable at times. Arwulf's
facial expressions were worth a
thousand words and were the only
feature of the play that gave life to
Parker's words. The repartee between
these two actors in a vignette enti-
tled "The Sexes" was terrifically real-
istic of the everyday banter between
couples. However, even here the re-
ality went on too long.
Ironically, What Fresh Hell? be-
gins with Ms. Parker's observations
of what most people say after a
night of theater: "Thank God that
thing is over!" Indeed, I exclaimed
those words after the curtain call for
What Fresh Hell is This?
x -Jenie Dahlmann

Minimalist
Mother
Take an All-American Fourth of
July picnic, a pilot with exceptional
peripheral vision, two hard-headedly
willful pragmatists and a bare-bones
set that begs for allegory, and you
get the Basement Arts production of
Sam Shepherd's Icarus' Mother.
If you don't like to think about
drama in a critical kind of way, this
production may not be for you. The
action is stripped so bare that it's re-
ally impossible not to attach some
kind of higher meaning of your own
to the goings on. It's surprising, and
rather daunting, as the curtain opens.
Virtually all of the action centers on
nothing but a plane that we only
hear about. Even more bizarre, the
actors don't have costumes -
they're dressed like everyday
students. Furthermore, there really
isn't any kind of a set, just a blanket
and some simple props that are
supposed to represent a picnic.
The characters are as spare as the
set; they split up into two clearly de-
fined factions. They are flat types
with obvious tags: Jill, Pat and
Frank, who have this natural human-
ity about them - they want to run,
listen to the waves and squish sand
between their toes. Bill and Howard,
on the other hand, are analytical,
practical types, seeing the beach in
terms of a dictionary definition rather
than something to be experienced.
The average viewer may be
puzzled by the group's confusing
attempts to signal the plane above
them, but Shepherd clues us in with
a compelling monologue by Bill
that really defines what this whole
struggle is about - while the pilot
might want to look around, and take
in his surroundings, i.e. really live ,
and appreciate life, he is not able to.
By the end of the play, the audi-
ence is left with the feeling that the
fake schedules, scientific explana-
tions and made-up orderings that
humans imposes on themselves and
on others, can't take the place of
feeling, and emotion. This feeling is
enhanced by an optimistic ending,
ironically featuring the plane
See WEEKEND, page 7

This Is Elvis
dir. Malcolm Leo Lind Andrew
Solt
"How close is the image to the
man?" asks the reporter. "It's, it's,
it's," stammers Elvis Presley, a lit-
tle bit heavier, a little more vulnera-
ble, during a press conference to
promote his early '70s comeback,
"It's very hard to live up to an im-
age. I'll put it that way."
Like it or not, Elvis Presley was
the King of Rock 'n' Roll. Yes, his
crown should have been shared with
Black pioneers who were feared and
suppressed by a bigoted America,
but this does not change the fact that
Elvis was an incredible entertainer, a
talented musical innovator, and one
of the coolest individuals on the face
of the planet in the late 1950s.
Anyone who insists on maintain-
ing the uninformed fallacy that Elvis
was simply and plainly a racist

sucker who stole the soul should
rent the extensive 1981 documentary
This Is Elvis, which attempts to de-
flate the overbearing myth eclipsing
the real achievements of a poor
white kid from Memphis who had
the balls to play the music that he
loved. (Bigger balls, incidentally,
than a certain overrated rock band
whose recent cheap shot at every-
one's favorite 13-year dead target
took more clever marketing strategy
than chutzpah.)
This Is Elvis is far from perfect,
its biggest flaw being the obnoxious
voice-over narration by an Elvis im-
personator, resulting in lines like,
"Most people thought of me as a
wild rock 'n' roll singer, but I also
liked doing ballads" and "I really
wanted to be a good actor." At
times, the film also paints an overly
glossy picture of Elvis' life; the
technical advisor was Colonel Tom

Parker, Elvis' manager and/or Sven-
gali, depending on whom you talk
to.
Nevertheless, the film achieves
its admirable and difficult goal of
humanizing a monolithic pop-cul-
ture icon, largely through clips that
document the frightening transforma-
tion of a boy to a legend to a
sideshow freak. We see Elvis the
Hip Rebel in a '50s TV interview,
coyly dodging allegations (with a
guilty smile on his face) that he
smoked marijuana "to work himself
into a frenzy" before live shows.
We see Elvis the Ridiculous Sell-
Out making an average of three atro-
cious films a year during the '60s,
each taking only about four to five
weeks to shoot and earning him a
cool million. We see Elvis the Fat
Drug Addict, obviously fucked up,
nervous, and sweating like a pig, the
Elvis bad jokes are made of, only

now it's not that funny because it's
real. He's finally escaped from his
film contracts and is making a well-
intentioned - but for the most part
pathetic - attempt at a comeback
during the '70s, prophetically
singing "My Way" ("Now the end is
near/ and so I face the final curtain"),
just like Sid Vicious will a few
years later.
The whole problem with die-hard
Elvis critics and fanatics alike is that
they only see the image, not the
human being. If you are a member
of the former camp, then Elvis was
just an ignorant, sideburned, redneck
puppet cornball who O.D.-ed while
sitting on His throne, while the lat-
ter fringe group of disciples insists
that the King of Man has tri-
umphantly risen and will one day
sing again. Either way, you're miss-
ing the point.
- Mark Binelli

WRITE FOR ARTS!!! CALL 763-0379!!!!

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