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November 26, 1990 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 1990-11-26

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ARTS

The Michigan Daily

Monday, November 26, 1990

Page 7

'Raven shadows dark ages Iceland

Shadow of the
Javen
'dir. Hragan
Gunnlaugsson
by Jon Rosenthal
the Shadow of the Raven swoops
over twelfth-century Iceland and
gives the audience an intriguing
view of the Middle Ages. The wind-
swept rock fields, barren deserts and
grey seas compose the backdrop for
this loose re-telling of the old moral-
ity play Tristan and Isuelt. Reinr
rynolfsson plays the fated Trausti
-.whose careless drinking habits result
Sn. a love affair that almost destroys
him. Tinna Gunnlaugsdottir plays
yIold, the object of Trausti's affec-
tion, whose strength of character and
-iitelligence save him.
Trausti returns home after a long
voyage to Norway. His experiences
there have led him to become a true
Christian. When his family and their
neighbors prepare to battle to the
death for a whale's corpse, he strug-
gles to avert the oncoming war -
but to no avail. Trausti wishes very

much to be Christian but must re-
sort to the way of Odin and take up
arms against the troubles that afflict
his people. Writer-director Hrafn
Gunnlaugsson takes advantage of
features common to both Odin and
Christ, and incorporates them into
Trausti's character. The theme re-
sembles the classic Western, a gun-
fighter who wants to lay down his
guns but can't because of circum-
stances beyond his control.
The film's costumes and set de-
signs combined with
Gunnlaugsson's directing turn the
screen into a portal to another world.
Sure, it probably isn't a completely
accurate depiction of life in 1177 but
it does provide a realistic and consis-
tent portrayal of somewhere in myth
or mind. The score, written by Hans-
Erik Philip, has that cavalry-to-the-
rescue sound to it at times, but it
maintains a distinctly appropriate
flavor. The gruff and rolling quality
of the Nordic tongue adds veracity to
the film, amplifying the feeling that
one is watching an alien world.
The performances of the cast go a
long way to keeping Shadow of the
Raven from slipping into the realm

of Monty Python's Flying Circus.
Helgi Skulason's portrayal of Grim
as he wanders through the movie
with his visage on and his ready
knife provides an excellent foil to
the honest and pacifistic Trausti.
Egil Olafsson plays Hjorleif, the
man that Isold is supposed to marry,
convincingly acting the part of a
man who might be either good guy
or villain.
The amount of coincidence the
plot relies on pushes the viewer's
suspension of disbelief. Trausti re-
turns to Iceland from Norway in a
small boat and arrives just in time to
see his mother knifed in battle.
Logically, the coincidences are mani-
festations of fate. An understandable
intention given the religious mate-
rial and considering the fated nature
of the original Tristan and Isuelt ,
but the contrived feeling of these in-
cidents stands out against the film's
otherwise cleanly detailed continuity.
SHADOW OF THE RAVEN is
showing at the Michigan Theater
through Wednesday.

A dark, ragged twelfth century Iceland is the setting for new recounting of the legend of Tristan and Isuelt in the
film Shadow of the Raven.

IN evi

19

Did you miss
Tiny Lights
again? Loser!
Sometimes it seems that the only
purpose of a review is for the re-
viewer to scoff in the general direc-
tion of those who were not in atten-
dance at a certain event. This is one
*of those reviews.
Going home Tuesday night
sounded like a great idea - real
food, less stress and no Ann Arbor
,water. But going to see Tiny Lights
Was an even better option. Those of
you who were riding one of those
commuter buses Tuesday night (and
;yes, the Tuesday before
Thanksgiving does constitute a
weekend; God or somebody like that
'told me so) instead of indulging in
the breathtaking sounds of this
Hoboken, NJ band are, in a word, id-
i1-ts.
Decrying the Spielbergish ending
:to the TV version of Stephen King's
4t meant missing Frank Allison's
rsolo set but he'll probably play
Sagain sometime. Sam Lapides of
F0lkminers fame also performed
with former Odd Sock John Boyle
before the energetic Jerseyites took
.the stage. While reunions of this
;sort are nice, they tend to be
lengthy. This was the case Tuesday,
and the end result was a short Tiny
kights show, one which ignored
such masterpieces as "Painted Skies"
and "Flowers in the Air." This band
definitely should have been given
more stage time.
* 2 Not that the short set prohibited a
jam session to end all jam sessions.
:The audience and the band both
seemed to agree, this was one of
Tiny Lights' best shows to date.
Dummer/saxophonist/improv god
.ndy Demos even felt compelled to
'tl the enthusiastic crowd that the
mid-week Michigan stops (they had
played Kalamazoo the night before)
made for far better shows than
Sgturday gigs in Chicago or any
lother "Joe Schmoe big city."
The band opened with the two
hottest tunes off Hot Chocolate
Massage, "Closer" and "Sweet
Romance," proving that the often-
nIellow mood on their albums is far
:moved from the aura of their live
performance. These tunes set the
tone for the entire show - power
*and damn fine music were socked to
the audience for the remainder of the
the set.
While vocalist/violinist Donna
Croughn wasn't as hyperactive as
usual, her soulful voice was deliv-
ered with ample force, in keeping
with the outpouring of energy ema-
riating from the rest of the band. The
vocal snippets contributed by bassist

Dave Driewitz and Demos were as
intense as their instrumental jams,
as was John Hamilton's inspired
guitar work, at times obviously and
beautifully reminiscent of Hendrix.
Creativity seemed to be the buzz
word of the evening; the band en-
gaged in countless improv sessions
using a variety of instruments in-
cluding an antique sax, trumpet,
maracas and bongos. The crowd re-
acted appropriately, digging the im-
prov with closed eyes and strange
body movements as any cool jazz
lover would do. During one inspired
fit, the band members even broke
into "Turn the Mother Out," which
is exactly what they did all night.
-Kristin Palm
Wow, it
sounded just
like the album
The Cocteau Twins came to
Detroit's Latin Quarter Saturday for
a r-a-r-e appearance in front of over
500 fans. This show was added to
their tour schedule after Sunday
night's show at the Royal Oak
Music Theater quickly sold out.
The question for the night had to
have been would the lead singer,
Elizabeth Fraser, remember her
words, considering there are no
words to remember? The answer is
yes, for the most part. Every inflec-
tion and subtle voice change was not
perfect, but her voice sounded almost
as good as it does on their record-
ings. The vocals were not as elec-
tronically enhanced as they have
been on some albums, but this al-
lowed her to prove she is an ex-
cellent singer outside the studio.
The Cocteau Twins sixteen-song
performance was made up of most of
the songs from the new album and
nine songs from previous albums. In
addition to the lead singer and
bassist, they used three additional
guitarists. The guitars sung in rich
choruses that added the same moody
feel to the show that the albums
have. Unfortunately, the drums and
keyboards were prerecorded and the
band played along to a tape. But the
members of the band seemed to have
no problem with this. When some-
one from the audience screamed,
"Where's the drummer?," the bassist
looked up and gave the international
symbol for shaking dice or is it giv-
ing oneself pleasure?
The Cocteau Twins brought with
them an excellent light show. The
types and colors of lights that mixed
together throughout the show per-
fectly accompanied the music. At
times, they were reminiscent of
many of the abstract album covers
that the Cocteau Twins have used

over the years and this complimented
the moody feel of the show.
Unfortunately, the Latin
Quarter's lights were terrible, as
usual. Lights came from the top,
back, and sides of the stage but none
from the front. This presented a real
problem if you actually wanted to
see the members of the band.
During some songs, especially when
the band's own lights were low, the
Cocteau Twins were nothing but
silhouettes standing on stage. This
only reaffirms the fact that the Latin
Quarter is probably the worst place
in Detroit to see a show.
Another disappointment was the
general attitude of the members of
the band. They barely moved, rarely
smiled and rarely looked at the
crowd. The entire band, with the ex-
ception of Elizabeth, looked like
they wanted to be anywhere else be-
sides playing on stage.
For $22, we saw the Cocteau
Twins play for one hour and ten
minutes and that's including the ten
minute encore. Maybe I've been
spoiled by paying only $5 to see the
Difference play an excellent show for
at least two hours. Maybe I should
just be thankful that I got a chance
to see the Cocteau Twins at all. And
maybe this enormous amount of
thankfulness should cancel out my
feelings (and my $22) that say that I
should expect a good show. Or
maybe not.
After the concert, I saw the
Cocteau Twins at the Shelter, which
is Detroit's infamous acid-house
safe-hole/hell-hole. They were all
smiling and shaking their U.K. butts
to the deadening beats and synths
that fill that club. I walked up to the
Elizabeth, complimented her on the
show and asked her what she thought
of the performance.
She thanked me and said "It was
not a good show. The sound and the
mix were terrible. We played very
badly. I hope that the show tomor-
row will be better."
-Richard S. Davis

Wire Train
Wire Train
MCA
Back in the middle '80s,
California's Wire Train put out a
few good albums of '60's pais-
ley/Dylan/Byrds guitar pop, hardly
noticed but melodically competent.
Yet after the release of 1986's Ten
Women, mysteriously, this San
Francisco quartet began a disappear-
ing act of apparently terminal
length. As it finally turns out,
though, Wire Train shows us that
the band has put that layoff to good
use by totally rethinking its sound.
The crucial improvement is the
way guitarist Jeffrey Trott, follow-
ing interim stints with The
Waterboys and World Party, has
emerged as a forceful, definitive
stylist. Taking the thick guitar
sound of U2's Rattle & Hum (notice
how the sheer torque of Trott's
grinding outro to the oblique open-
ing cut "Spin" recalls the Edge on
"All I Want Is You"), Trott slowly
fires off chords in a weighty, struc-
tural manner, stunting each one and
drawing out its decay with vibrato to
create charged space. The distinctive
chord sequences he assembles for
songs such as the October-like
"Spin" and the dark, brooding
"Dakota" are marked by enigmatic,
arresting counterpoints. It is this
sense for the unpredictable which
turns the gorgeous "Should She
Cry" (where Trott also jangles, but
with a deliberate clarity) from a good
single into a great one.
But the more laid-back,
California essence of the group still
predominates in the presence of
leader Kevin Hunter. Although his
tradition of singing almost exclu-
sively about girls goes all the way
back to The Beach Boys, the under-
lying problem with Wire Train still
is that Hunter has never been a
writer of particularly strong songs
(and neither is he a really compelling
vocalist).
The stretched-out, folk-rock tunes
which emerge on Wire Train offer
Trott a powerful vehicle to display
strong playing - on cuts like "She"
his folky mandolin marks a sharp
textural contrast, and the Ry Cooder-
ish slide guitar of "If You See Her
Go" evokes a prairie-like expanse.

But the space also allows Hunter too
much territory to wander, and the
leaden pacing of many songs begins
to wear. In the set of five cuts that
closes the album, Wire Train's
focus degenerates into what sounds
like outtakes from a meandering
saloon jam of trucker shuffle and
whisky laments.
Wire Train's eponymous title
seems to signal a new sense of
direction, and this album does show
a group on the right track. Moving
toward a crossing between the elec-
tric power of U2 and the country
roots of Steve Earle, Trott and the
band's rhythm squad of Anders
Rundblad and Brian MacLeod have
found a style which newly exploits
their strengths. But the way Wire
Train derails is enough to make one
wonder if Hunter's bandmates would
not do well to consider their mileage
- getting up there after some time
in the shop - and take over the
group's musical controls for them-
selves.
- Michael Paul Fischer
2 Black 2 Strong/ MMG
"Burn Baby Burn" (12")
In Effect/ Clappers
Wait a minute! The pinko com-
mies are still our enemies. The
threat to our first amendment rights
to making a profit is not coming
from Iraq, but from within and with-
out. Bob Azakian's Marxist loonies
and some limp-wristed pansies in the
leftist Refuse and Resist movement
are at it again trying to destroy
wholesome American values like
Mom, apple pie, nostalgia, Uncle
Ron, manifest destiny and, worst of
all, Old Glory.
Despite a second side dominated
by a really stupid parody of The
Trammps' brilliant summation of
the Me decade, "Disco Inferno,"
called "Imperialist Inferno," 2 Black
2 Strong's "Burn Baby Burn" is per-
haps the biggest "fuck you" to come
out on vinyl since "God Save the
Queen." The Starz 'n' Barz, and ev-
erything that it stands for, is turned

into a pile of ashes by 2 Black 2
Strong with the help of Chuck D.
"We are living in a sick and dy-
ing empire that is desperately clutch-
ing to its symbols." The words of
flag-burning martyr Joey Johnson
melt into a hypnotic bassline and a
Willie Colonesque salsa horn chart.
So far, this might as well be a
Mellowman Ace or Kid Frost mix,
but the revolution begins as soon as
2 Black 2 Strong takes the mike.
"Fuck the red, white and blue/
I'm not Captain America," he spits
in a voice that is one part the didac-
ticism of KRS-One and one part the
pure anger of Ice Cube. After some
Marxist-colored ideology invectives
about the absurdity of the flag and
what it symbolizes, 2 Black invites
Chuck D. to catalog the locales of
America's shame: "Come along with
me and take a little trip/ But this
time not on a muthafuckin' slave
trip." Chuck then proceeds to list
Panama, Puerto Rico, Iran, Beirut,
Haiti, Harlem, Bed-Stuy,
Brownsville, South-Central L.A.,
etc.
Unfortunately, this is Chuck's
only contribution to the record. He
is not allowed to rage, only to list in
a very restrained tone. This error is
magnified by the fact that 2 Black 2
Strong has little to no concept of
how to rap in counterpoint to the
rhythm. He frequently sounds like
Melle Mel learning how to rhyme to
"Good Times" or Mike G. and
Afrika struggling on the first Jungle
Brothers album.
But with lines like "I'll step on
the flag like it's a floor mat/ Maim
and mangle the star spangled/ I'm
not trying to dis you/ I'll use the
flag like a toilet tissue/ To wipe my
Black ass," the power of this joint
effort of Bob Azakian, Refuse and
Resist, In Effect Records and
Clappers Records is hard to deny.
Politics do indeed make strange bed-
fellows, but if this is any indication
there is a lot to look forward to.
Burn baby burn.
- Peter Shapiro

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