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December 04, 1990 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 1990-12-04

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p The Michigan Daily-Tuesday, December 4,1990- Page 7

Led Zep, Kafka, Mike Love

by Nabeel Zuberi

I was 16 years old when I went to
my first concert in England. The
*Undertones were playing at Leeds
Polytechnic, and though my school
exams were two weeks away, I
persuaded my mum that the Irish
punky pop group was wholesome
entertainment. I'd just bought their

hit single "Jimmy Jimmy" on green
vinyl, and couldn't wait to pogo to
the rest of their ace debut LP. It was
important to have my eardrums
blown into fragments since Maggie
Thatcher had just been elected. The
music was loud, and even a week
after the show, my spotty friend and
I&I went around school bragging that
our ears were still ringing.
I went to many "new wave" gigs
after that. I saw Echo & The
Bunnymen in their American G.I.
phase, witnessed The Fall having
their power cut off because they
played too late, almost got run over
by mods on their Vespa scooters at
The Jam, saw Morrissey with
gladioli sticking out of his arse on
the Smiths' first U.K tour and
caught a very early New Order show
when Barney Sumner told the
audience to fuck off if they wanted to
hear any Joy Division songs.
And if my reeling off this holy
litany sounds like I'm trying to
impress you, then you're dead right.
Seeing a group live was simply a
badge of pride you wore to impress
your friends. After the show, you
went home, checked the band off
your master list, and went back to
listening to the records. The
performance itself was lost in the
fog of memory. I only remember the
unusual details, and whether the
group was good, bad or merely
competent.
RECORDS
Continued from page 5
Cajun House, and ordered a
cheeseburger. They weren't im-
pressed. They treasure authenticity
down that way.
But. customs and cultures
eventually die out, and there aren't
many young musicians playing ca-
jun music. The young ones buy
electric guitars and learn to play the
blues - but there is a most notable
exception.
Armed with an accordion, a
fiddle, an acoustic guitar and drums,
Steve Riley and the Mamou Play-
boys are producing some of the rich-
est music I have heard in a long time
on their first eponymous album.
Steve Riley's staccato accordion
playing rolls over the walking big-
string guitar with such elegance that
it's hard to keep your foot on the
ground. I did a two-step around the
kitchen when nobody was looking,
something normally reserved for lis-
tening to the Pogues.
"Chers Petits Yeux Blues" is a
beautiful arrangement which will
gracefully lull you into the corner,
but other songs ("Ton Papa et Ton
Marian M'ont Jetu Dehors") are jus'
fer two-steppin'. Riley and the
Playboys come from a rich musical
tradition in Mamou, and their album
is produced by Zachary Richards,
who also guests on backing vocals.
Tina Pilione and Christine Balfa also
appear on the album, on acoustic
bass and triangle.
Their songs are new arrangements
of traditional songs, so they are all
in French. (Anyway, lyrical
excellence is not in vogue these days
- I'll never forget Van Halen's
immortal "Only time will tell if our
love can stand the test of time"). So
despite Riley's soulful singing, he
may actually be singing about the
price of an oil change, or the scourge

of expensive Dixie beer.
Whatever, it's fine music, and
even if you know French, there are
* only about four lines in each song
- this album is foremost about
music, and let's hope it's not the
last gasp of the Acadian culture.
-Rndn G. Lynch

Admittedly it was fun being
pushed up against people with
patchouli oil-smeared leather jackets
in a packed club, but the erotic
novelty of the "live experience" soon
wore off when you had to stand
waiting in an overheated venue for
two hours before any musician
actually turned up. And that was just
the support band. Then the
gargantuan roadies would take
another hour to set up the headlining
act's amps and guitars, "one-two-
one-two-ing" into the mics for an
eternity before they disappeared
backstage.
But the worst thing was being
forced to listen repeatedly to one
album over the P.A. system while
you were waiting for the acts.
Imagine the tape-looped torture of
Hall and Oates' version of "You've
Lost that Lovin' Feeling" when
you're dying to see the Smiths.
Almost every live show fell into
this general pattern, with our
hero(es) gracing the stage for all of
45 minutes or so, doing the
obligatory and oh so predictable
encore and then leaving us to get
home in the wee small hours when
the buses aren't running anymore.
This ritual soon became
tiresome, so I was drawn into
"people watching" at concerts,
noting all the poses and gestures of
the glue sniffers, fashion victims and
the urban alienated. Everyone was
self-absorbed, privately pissed off in
a public place. I could relate to that,
but the American live thing was
another matter altogether. A
frightening experience rather than a
boring one.
During my first visit to the
United States in 1985, I saw the
revamped Beach Boys at the
Milwaukee Summer Fest. Pot
bellied and white-suited, the middle-
aged combo (sans Brian Wilson)
plodded through a collection of
songs about teenage surf lust. The
group was abominable, but the
crowd provided more cause for

concern. Before the "Boys" were
even wheeled out on to the stage, the
masses were bouncing a huge beach
ball around and doing The Wave.
To me, this seemed like the dark,
slimy underbelly of the American
Dream: Nancy Reagan's fave
corporate pop group about to
perform to a grinning, waving mass
bloated with Cherry Coke. But the
terror was only beginning. The
Wave was followed by Tears for
Fears' "Shout" pounding from the
speakers and the lumpen proles
belting out the chorus: "Shout!
Shout! Let it all out." Rather than a
collective primal scream of cathartic
value, the song was transformed into
a good-time Republican anthem. The
only touching moment came when
two crewcut dudes in baggies were
led away from the event by gun-
heavy security people, their
surfboards being perceived as a
hazard. In every other regard, irony
was in short supply at this concert
event.
I've always been suspicious of
arguments espousing the sharing,
communal aspects of live rock 'n'
roll. Thousands of people chanting
"Born in the U.S.A." in a stadium
fills me with Kafkaesque dread. It's
the voice of the mob, a
manifestation of the herd mentality.
Classic rock shows, particularly the
heavy metal variety, involve a
religious submission to the
will/noise of the band.
That's why heavy metal videos
document the modern equivalent of
the Nuremberg rally or a Wagnerian
chorus with lots of low angle shots
of the group members being gazed at
as if they're gods. Why do you think
all those lanky-haired males flirt
with fascinatin' fascism and Norse
mythology. "Hammer of the Gods"
indeed. The sight of a crowd of
frustrated pubescents with
testosterone levels bubbling over
drives me back to the domestic bliss
of the record player in the bedroom.
I'd rather be lying in the darkness of

rid me
my bedroom listening to an album
than sitting in the darkness of a
concert hall, holding up my cigarette
lighter with the mob.
Live performances are ritualistic,
frightening, dull and you have to
cough up too much money for an
essentially ephemeral experience.
But a record lasts. It's there for ever.
It has a picture on the sleeve, and I
admit that I'm something of a
commodity fetishist. You can fondle
a record, tape or CD, not a live
performance. Packaged emotion and
the plasticity of product are finally
more rewarding than a bunch of guys
jumping about with their guitars
sticking out of their crotches. I'd
rather sit at home or pay a lot of
money to sit in a comfortable seat at
a classical concert. These days, the
only interesting concerts are likely
to be those embedded in a showbiz,
theatrical tradition. Enter Madonna's
Blond Ambition.
On the whole, I would go as far
as to suggest that I prefer my music
completely faceless, made by
producers and performers who have
no identity for me beyond the mix of
their records. That's why house and
techno music are so perfect. It's
programmed into computers. Artistic
egos are sparingly displayed; the
vain presence of the artist effaced.
All that's left are the melodies and
the rhythm. Milli Vanilli should
never have shown themselves.

The nubile fingertips of his brown-shirted fans attempt to stroke the
throbbing guitar of Mick Mars of Motley Crue in Leni Riefenstahl's
Triumph of the Will.

BOOKS
Continued from page 5
in essence a rehash of glory days.
Despite flashes of brilliance, it lacks
Thompson's trademark humor, and
there is little new in it for fans of
the Doctor.
In the final analysis, Thompson
himself is one of our doomed
creations: his story is the savage trip
to the heart of the American Dream,

crippled in the end not by failure but
by success. -He started as "just
another one of the neighborhood
kids, a dumb brute with a huge brain
and no money... I picked up the
torch dropped by Kerouac and went
on to become rich and famous, more
or less. That is the conventional
wisdom, and I have done my best to
honor that and lend it credibility for
to these many years."
-Rdnan G. Lynch

I

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