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January 31, 1995 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1995-01-31

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8 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, January 31, 1995

The Swansons
Citizen X / Interscope
From out of that burgeoning Con-
necticut music scene you all are so
darned familiar with comes a band
with talent: the Swansons. They may
not be breaking any musical ground
with their debut album "Shake," but
they are giving an explanation for the
attention they have received through-
out New England and the East Coast.
This vocally driven, post-Pixie four-
some churns out noisy pop - no
surprise there - with an occasional
melodic bliss that elevates and sus-
tains the album, giving it the escape
velocity necessary to wriggle itself
free from tedium.
Lauren Fay's vocals are, well,
similar to the Pixies (indeed, the band
gave Pixie tribute concerts in New
Haven, Conn. a few years back), only
cuddlier. The song construction has
all the repetition of a pop band and the
morass of guitar blaring that is mod-
ern rock. When Alec Hodel's guitar
isn't making muck, it meanders play-
fully (a la our Pixie friend Joey
Santiago) through Fay's sustained
harmonies. The drums pop and crash
like a good college rock band, making
the album great for head-bobbing or
dancing (no, no moshing -please -
not that). Bass lines are generally
recessive, although they have the ten-
dency to emerge for song like "Shake,"
which borrows the bass line from the
Pixies' "I Bleed" and adds a chorus.
The end product works, but is lim-

ited by inconsistent writing. At times
the songs are disappointingly ordi-
nary, lacking the prerequisite pop
hooks which make the listener smile;
luckily, the vocals frequently drag
their songs out of tedium.
In short, "Shake" is a collection
songs adorned with lukewarm writ-
ing, splendid'guitar effects and vocals
which are necessarily placed in the
forefront. When one of these elements
falters, the music recedes regretfully
to dull alterna-pop. Thankfully, there
is enough of the former to make this
album successful overall, and more
importantly, to show that this is a
band with potential.
- Josh Herrington
I Ain't Movin'
Epic Records
R&B and rap have served as the
staple musical diets of African Ameri-
cans throughout the '90s. However,
every now and then, a more revolu-
tionary Black artist comes forth add-
ing a little diversity to the menu. These
artists have released a number of LPs
thwarting traditional musical labels; I
coin these CDs "Black Alternative."
Des'ree's "I Ain't Movin"' is a bril-
liant example of such music.
Des'ree, a native of England, has a
most unusual voice which will catch
your attention immediately. The 12 cuts
on her debut release are all interesting
and beautifully simplistic. In all her
songs - from her smash single "You
Gotta Be" to the Sade sounds of "Little
Child" to the bass-filled "Trip on Love"

- a characteristic unifying theme is
their unique musical backgrounds,
sounds which defy description.
Des'ree isn't a complicated artist.
All her songs are straightforward and
easily dissected. However, the songs'
frankness in now way detracts from
the CD's mystical aura, well-projected
by her subtly sensual voice.
"I Ain't Movin"' is unquestion-
ably pushing some uncharted musical
territory, and Des'ree is an explorer in
the highest degree of the word.
- Eugene Bowen
The Notorious B.I.G.
Ready to Die
Arista Records
An ex-hustler / drug dealer, 20-
year-old Chris Wallace, better known
as the Notorious B.I.G., has dropped
his debut album, "Ready to Die," and
it is the bomb.
B.I.G. isn't new to all this. His skillz
have already been sported on Mary J.
Blige remixes, a cut on the "Who's The
Man" soundtrack and a rap duet with
fellow big man Heavy D on "NBA Jam
Session." The only difference is that
now we get to hear nothing but the
Notorious B.I.G.-uncut, uncensored.
The three-and-a-half minute long
"Intro" is not the norm, but the old
school cuts it samples make it a good
one. Another ah ... interesting ... inter-
lude isthesex-packed"#!*@ Me"which
combines the hardcore "sounds" of Dr.
Dre's "The Doctor's Office" with typi-
cal Luther Campbell humor.
The cuts on "Ready to Die" are
notable, especially when you con-

sider who's rapping. B.I.G. ain't out
there trying to perp. He's a man who
knows the streets because his life re-
volved around them. This gives his
CD an aura of realism that few could
ever have. When you hear cuts like
"Gimme the Loot" and "Machine Gun
Funk" you will sense the reality in his
style. Further, no matter how hard
B.I.G. tries to be, you will still be able
to feel his hurt at living a life where
gang wars and killer cops weren't
simply rapped about over some deep-
bass Pines but were rather integral
parts of day-to-day existence.
-- Eugene Bowen
Wade Hubbard
Insanity Lane
Vibration Entertainment
Wade Hubbard is a brilliant
songwriter, and the soft-rock tunes of
"Insanity Lane" are equally excel-
lent. Twelve cuts of lyrical ingenious-
ness await you upon placing "Insan-
ity Lane" in your CD player.
Hubbard has a spunky George
Michael-type soundin many of his songs
like "Dream Baby Dream" and "Battle-
field of Desire." "I Heard It on the
News," arguably the best song on the
CD, has an almost hip-hoppish quality,
and "That's the Way It Goes" is one of
those deep, soul-searching songs that's
a nice way to round out a nice CD.
"Insanity Lane" is a welcomed
retreat from life in all its monotony.
It'll brighten your sky and put a smile
on your face. So buy "Insanity Lane,"
and glow.
-Eugene Bowen

Zhang's personal, epic film is an experience 'To Live'.'

By Shirley Lee
Daily Arts Writer
Confirming his status as one of the
world's greatest living filmmakers,

To Live
Directed by
Zhang Yimou
with Gong Li
At the Michigan Theater

Fugui, despite mounting tragedy
and constant sadness, survives more
than 30 years of China's political up-
heaval with his resilient wife, Jiazhen,
played by the always excellent Gong
Li. Yimou's "To Live" is based on Yu
Hua's novel "Lifetimes."
Avoiding the impersonal sweep
of a grand-scale epic, Zhang instead
opts for a visually restrained yet in-
volving, humorous and emotionally
wrenching portrayal of simple lives
caught in the turbulence of history.
From the last remnants of sovereign
power in the 1940s to the 1960s, Zhang
sheds light on history through a fam-
ily who wills to stay together, to sur-
vive, and foremost, to live and age
gracefully under adverse political
At its core, "To Live" opens with
Fugai as the rebel without a cause,
who, gambling day and night, inevi-
tably loses his rightful claim to the
family house to clear his debt. Jiazhen
takes off with the children after see-

ing Fugui's reluctance to change only
to later return with renewed hope of
leading a simple, peaceful life with
Fugai and of overcoming the terrors
of communist uprising.
Through a chain of events beyond
their powers, Fugai becomes a Na-
tionalist and unwittingly endeavors
to protect other fellow Nationalists
and those he cares for. Returning as
an oblivious Revolutionary hero,
Fugai identifies himself and his fam-
ily with a new class identity to survive
in the ever-changing "red" world
looming before them.
Its melodramatic tones, such as
the bleak deaths of Fugai and Jiazhen's
children, manage to uncover the bit-
tersweet life and vitality hidden be-
neath such melancholy, allowing us
to recognize both the evil of political
revolt and our power to overcome
such terrors. Just as a joyous scene
unfolds, a more tragic scene explodes
onto the screen. Zhang's images and
cinematography haunt the viewers

with the stark contrast between the
absolute good and the absolute evil.
"To Live" serves to illustrate the
powers of determination and tenacity
in times of peace as well as in times of
need. Even as the world collapses
around them in a whirlwind of pesti-
lent policies, Fugai and Jiazhen man-
age to further their will to live by
bearing their sufferings, all within the
confines of the political turbulence.
Zhang focuses on how political
and social environments affect a
simple family struggling to triumph
over circumstances beyond their au-
thority. Zhang, focusing on the
couple's lives, compresses 40 years
of history into a mere two hours. Revo-
lutions come and go, and we don't
have time to stop and look around
within them.
Ultimately, "To Live" makes a
strong assertion about how human
life must be held sacred and pro-
tected, at all costs. Simplicity is hard-
est to attain.

China's Zhang Yimou brings abundant
sympathy and subtle political commen-
tary to "To Live," his intimate epic
about an ordinary man named Fugui,
marvelously played by Ge You.


9 ----- - -------------------------- ---
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