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December 07, 1993 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1993-12-07

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Save 'Woman' for late night TV

Curve, supporting their latest album, "Cuckoo," play St. Andrew's tonight.
'urvIin' UpWaward

It seems as if "A Dangerous Woman," despite
its threatening title is condemned to be the tamest
movie Hollywood has churned out since the be-
ginning of the decade. Naomi Foner's script ap-
proaches a potentially fascinating character - a
slow-minded, clumsy but fiery-tempered woman
- and then proceeds to drown her in a plot so
A Dangerous Woman
Directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal; written
by Naomi Foner; with Debra Winger,
Barbara Hershey and Gabriel Byrne.
muddy and inconsequential that not even the star
talent boasted here can save the film from com-
plete collapse.
Martha (Debra Winger) is this woman. She
lives under the custody of her aunt Frances (Bar-
bara Hershey), a secretary to a local political
figure who she's also having an affair with. The
film opens with the tempestuous arrival of the
politician's wife, who drives right into Frances'
porch in a bout of drunken jealousy, armed with a
gun and ready to kill her unfaithful spouse.
All this leads to almost nothing except for the
fact that Frances' porch is completely wrecked.
Along comes Mackey (Gabriel Byrne), a smooth-
talking handyman who takes the job of repairing
the porch despite being turned away by Frances
not once but twice. It is through Martha that he
obtains the job, softening her with vacuous com-
I1~..1 v

pliments and thus beginning a really eerie seduc-
tion. Martha, having never before been adulated
in such a way, is taken completely in.
Unfortunately, the audience is not. Why
Mackey seduces Martha is a complete mystery to
the viewer's mind. Foner tries her best to justify it
by showing us that a) he's drunk and b) he's
fascinated by the fact that she remains untouched
by other men. Byrne's vain struggle to make
Mackey's eloquence interesting simply gives the
scene a patheticism that's unfortunately more
laughable than touching.
It's not his fault. "A Dangerous Woman" spends
three quarters of its running time establishing
three things: that Martha is shunned by the rest of
society, that Frances is a total bitch and that
Mackey is a completely undefined character. But
Foner's inscrutably dull text brings us around and
around in circles that are too slow to even make us
dizzy. The film becomes so sidetracked that it
almost forgets to climax, and when it does it's just
so silly, that despite the bloodshed, it gets grins
instead of gasps.
Somewhere along the line, Foner decides to
make Mackey have sex with Frances. This time
she's so drunk that she slips to the ground, bring-
ing down a set of dishes. Among the smashed
pieces of ceramic, she and Mackey consummate
with bloody hands an unexplored relationship, as
Martha overhears from above. Despite this scene
having no bearing whatsoever on the develop-
ment of the plot, or on Martha's attitude toward
her ward and her lover, it is still quite haunting.
This scene, however, is not enough to salvage

the film. Debra Winger tries her darndest to make
Martha's eccentricities credible. But she's trying
so hard that one can see right through them.
Winger's constant experimentation with new form
makes Martha as wavering as her story, but she
does have her moments of brilliance. Namely
when she's not being forced to speak Foner's
words. Barbara Hershey is restricted to frowning
and bossing people around, so she comes across as
interesting as week-old pizza (which she also
manages to look like).
Gabriel Byrne gets cheated into the worst
dialogue of the film, and it really doesn't appear
that he's trying too hard to make it acquire life. Of
course, resurrection is too much to demand even
of the best actors. During his drunk scenes,he falls
down more often than comic repetition should
allow; one can almost sense that he is actually
dropping out of boredom. And Foner, near the
end, has the gall to demand sympathy for his
character, after having refused for two hours to fet
him say anything interesting.
This movie tries to tackle ten different issues
and gets nothing but flattened by them. Director
Stephen Gyllenhaal makes no effort to thread
together all the loose ends in Foner's script and
seems to delight in bringing almost each and every
one of her scenes to a standstill. This is the sort of
movie that should have passed through the the-
aters without collecting a dime and gone straight
to our TV screens. On a very, very late night
A DANGEROUS WOMAN is playing at
Showcase Cinemas.

With their swirling mass of guitars, dance beats and enchanting vocals,
Curve first appears to fall into any number of categories - shoe-gazing, club
music and straight, noisy rock & roll. Yet, Curve belongs to no particular
genre, preferring to combine different elements from all sorts of modern rock,
producing a galvanizing rush of sound that is distinctly their own.
At the core of Curve are vocalist Toni Halliday and Dean Garcia, who plays
a multitude of instruments. Halliday had been singing in bands since she was
the age of 11. On a television program, she caught the attention of Dave
Stewart, who was currently in the Tourists and gestating the Eurythmics.
Through Stewart, she met Garcia, who was a session bassist at the time. The
two recorded a few singles under Halliday's name and formed a band, State of
Play, that went nowhere. After some prodding from Halliday, Garcia decided
to give it another try and the duo recorded their debut EP, "Blindfold," which
garnered enormous atteition from the British press. Since then, "it's been a bit
of ~a blur, actually," says Garcia.
After the initial release of "Blindfold" in 1991, Curve has been remarkably
prolific, recording three EPs and an album, "Doppelganger" in the course of
one year (the EPs have been released in America as the "Pubic Fruit"
compilation). "Doppelganger" was dark, claustrophobic, guitar-dominated
album; Halliday's beautiful, entrancing vocals should have provided some
relief, but instead intensified the power of the music. Because it was released
at the tail-end of the shoe-gazing craze in England, Curve was lumped into that
scene, but in reality, their ambitions have been much higher, as their new
album, "Cuckoo" proves.
"We tried to get away from'Doppelganger' as much as possible-just take
the good elements of it," explained Garcia. "We like it very much, but it was
like a closing of a chapter. We had done three EPs and'Doppelganger' and that
was like the first chapter. We wanted to close it off and just take certain
elements which are bound to be there anyway, butjust expand it and try to write
better songs." On all accounts, "Cuckoo" fulfills Curve's ambitions. It is
simultaneously more forceful and atmospheric, and their sound hangs on some
well-crafted songs, particularly "Left of Mother," "Missing Link" and "Tur-
key Crossing."
"Cuckoo" was more carefully crafted than its predecessors. "We spent
more time in the studio, our own studio, than on the last one," said Garcia. All
of the extra time has resulted in some fascinating sonic treats, like the 20
overdubbed acoustic guitars on "Left of Mother" or the sheer force of the
rhythm section throughout the album. "When we wanted to record drums, we
went to the church and recorded them in the kitchen and in the lift, and things
like that," said Garcia. "I'm not interested in poxy old drum sounds, really. I
like something that's got a good character to it. Even if it's only one mic and
it sounds like a piece of shit, at least it's got character."
Currently supporting "Cuckoo" with a tour of the United States, Curve hits
St. Andrew's in Detroit tonight. "We played there once before, actually," said
Garcia. "It was the first gig of that tour, it was the first time we ever came into
America. That was the first show we ever did here and everybody was quite
nervous. We didn't play well." This time, Curve arrives in Detroit mid-way
through their tour, well-prepared and ready to take Detroit by storm.
Curve will play St. Andrew 's tonight, with special guests, Engines of
Aggression. Doors open at 8 p.m., tickets are $8.50 in advance. And, of
course, it's an 18 & over show.
Holiday Choral Festival
If you're looking for some music to get you in the spirit of the season,
we've got just the solution for you. The Men's Glee Club, the Women's
Glee Club and the Arts Chorale come together for the first time in history;
in an evening of holiday music. Featured will be Benjamin Britten's
"Ceremony of Carols" and the premiere of "Sicilian Muses," a work by
University Professor/Director of Choirs Theodore Morrison. Each choir
will perform its own set of songs, and then as a special treat, the three choirs
will come together to sing John Rutter's exuberant "Gloria," conducted by
Men's Glee Club director Jerry Blackstone. Theodore Morrison conducts
Women's Glee, and Jonathan Hirsh conducts Arts Chorale. It's not every-
day that three choirs of this caliber come together, and there's no telling;
when it will happen next. So you won't want to miss this choral music;
extravaganza. And since it's free, you have no excuse. The excitement starts
at 8 p.m. at Hill on Thursday.
Back to their Roots
Ann Arbor's industrial/psychedelic artists Morsel are the latest in a
long line of local bands to be snapped up by the big-time. After months
of touring and rave reviews all across the country, they've returned to
play a show for their fans back in their hometown. Catch this rare treat
at the Performance Network tonight at 9 p.m. Tickets are just $5 in
advance. Call 994-0525 for more information.

Ice Cube
Lethal Injection
Priority Records

Snoop Doggy Dogg
Deathrow/lnterscope Records
Forget Public Enemy, the most
influential group in hip-hop is N.W.A.
After the epochal "Straight Outta
Compton" in 1988, the group
stumbled into self-parody, but with
that album, they set the style and
image for gangsta rap, a style they
both epitomized and unintentionally
parodied. Other forms of rap may
gain some media attention, but it is
gangsta rap that continues to sell by
the millions. Instead of everyone lis-
tening to Arrested Development
clones or the emergin jazz-hip-hop
fusion, everyone continued to buy
gangsta rap. Even marginal artists
like Scarface have shot to the top of
the charts. The reason why is Dr. Dre.
Dr. Dre' s "The Chronic" is the
most influential hip-hop album of this
young decade. "The Chronic" marked
hard-core rap's evolution from the
harsh, jarring sonic collages of
N.W.A., Boogie Down Productions
and Public Enemy to a slow, grooving
P-Funk-inspired beats yet the stories
never changed. In the context of the
lazy funk, the gangsta boast fall some-
what flat, although the music itself is
quite great. Still, gangsta rap's lyrics
have grown static -- every song has
the same thrust, none of them offers
any new insights.
Once, gangsta rap was a danger-
ous, innovative force in pop culture
but its message has ceased to be po-
litical, choosing to emphasize the car-
toonist aspect of the violent postur-
ing. Although the music on "The
Chronic" marked a change in gangsta
rap, nothing in its message had
changed. More so than at any other

point in its history, the quality of a
hip-hop record is now judged on the
strength of the music and the rapper's
verbal skills, not what they say.
And "The Chronic" also marked
an important change on this point. On
the album, Dr. Dre introduced Snoop
Doggy Dogg, the only artist to ever
become a super-star without an al-
bum to his name. "The Chronic" was
Snoop's album as much as it was Dre
- he wrote and rapped on nearly 70
percent of it. For all intents and pur-
poses, "Doggystyle" is the sequel to
"The Chronic," and "Doggystyle,"
for all intents and purposes, is the
same album as "The Chronic." On
both albums, Dr. Dre's production is
the star; he can make anything sound
good, no matter who is rapping. And
a lot of different people rap. For much
of the album Snoop is on the sidelines
- much like Dre himself on "The
Chronic." Dre's lack of a presence
didn't hurt his album because Snoop
is a markedly better rapper than Dre
- his lazy, stoned drawl can save the
weakest track.
Unfortunately, Snoop needed to
make a larger presence than he does
on "Doggystyle" in order to distin-
guish it from "The Chronic." At its
best, the album floats by on its copped
George Clinton beats and effortless
hooks. Even so, "Doggystyle" feels
like a retread. Apart from the halluci-
natory "Murder Was the Case (Death
After Visualizing Eternity)," the al-
bum says nothing, preferring to stick
to near-parodic lists of boasts and
disses; it is literally, "Nuthin' But A
G Thang."
"The Chronic"'s influence was so
strong that Dre's old N.W.A. cohort,
Ice Cube, has taken many of its stron-
gest points to heart on his new album,
"Lethal Injection." Where 1991's
"Death Certificate" was a noisy, bru-
tal call to arms, "Lethal Injection"
continues the slow decline of one of

hip-hop's strongest poets that began
with last year's "The Predator." Like
"The Predator," "Lethal Injection"
sounds great on the surface but when
you dig a little deeper, there's not
much there. "What Can I Do?" and
"Down for Whatever" prove that Cube
hasn't lost his gift for incisive, realis-
tic narratives and portraits but too
much of the album is weighted down
by disturbingly misogynist and sim-
plistic, race-baiting lyrics.
Occasionally, Ice Cube cops Cy-
press HIll's stoned groove but most
of "Lethal Injection" pays homage to
Clinton's P-Funk by way of Dr. Dre
- "Bop Gun," Cube's rewrite of
Funkadelic's "One Nation Under A
Groove" is closer to "Let Me Ride"
than the original version. Instead of
moving forward as he did with his
first two solo albums, Cube is in re-
treat, following instead of leading.
Taken together, "Doggystyle" and
"Lethal Injection" mark gangstarap's
state-of-the-art. While both albums
pack some undeniable visceral plea-
sures, in the end both rappers are
talking loud and saying nothing. And
that's a damn shame.
- Tom Erlewine

Erick Sermon
No Pressure
Def Jam/Ral/Chaos/Columbia
If Erick Sermon hadn't been on
EPMD's first two albums ("Strictly
Business" and "Unfinished Busi-
ness") this album would be a nice
solo attempt. The beats are solid, the
bass lines scary and E's little goofy
rhyme style is still nice.
But when Erick starts off his al-
bum with "P:ayback II" a sequel to
the 1989 classic, you realize that the
elements of the past which made
EPMD good - slow-flow melodic
samples and perfectly executed
scratches from K La Boss or DJ
Scratch - are all gone.
How can I diss the album? It's
OK, it's got a few gems like "Imma
Gitz Mine", "The Ill Shit" (with Kam
and Ice Cube) and "All In the Mind"
(although the chanting is tired) but I
gotta say things have changed, it just
ain't the same.
Here's hoping P's solo attempt
will get back to what EPMD was
before their business went out like the
nice weather.
-- Dustin Howes

13 I

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Spot On State! 338 S. State
7- 7-.7 - j

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