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December 10, 1997 - Image 16

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The Michigan Daily, 1997-12-10

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16 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, December 10, 1997

Burgess succeeds with bright 'Byrn

When Stone Temple Pilots' vocalist Scott
rehab, his bandmates recorded an album
RECORDS
Continued from Page 15
Talk Show
Talk Show
Atlantic
Anyone who's looking for the same
rock riffing that one would find on
any standard Stone Temple Pilots
record will not be disappointed by
the self-titled, first release by Talk
Show.
The STP side project currently fea-
tures everyone in the band, minus
lead singer Scott Weiland.
Apparently, this recording was
made last year while the rest of the
band had a lot of time on their hands
due to Weiland's stint in rehab.
Although the album features some
very catchy guitar riffs, one can't
help to think about whether this
record is more of an audition for lead
singer Dave Coutts than an experi-
ment by the rest of the band.
You might also be either happy or
pathetically disturbed to find out that
Coutts tries to even sound like
Weiland throughout most of the
album - and we all know how
experimental and original Stone
Temple Pilots are with their real lead
singer.
Therefore, what we are left with is
a band who is undeniably musically
talented, but lacks a sense of origi-
nality due to the fact that they

Welland, second from left, entered
under the pseudonym Talk Show.
recruited a new lead singer that
sounds just like their old one.
That's not to say that this record is
without its high points.
The extremely catchy first single,
"Hello, Hello," may be power pop at
its finest, with a melodic hook that
disguises its contrived lyrical content
("Fractured fairy on the funny page /
Southern belle she's on the northern
stage").
The same can be said for much of
the album, most notably on the very
tongue-in-cheekily titled "Everybody
Loves My Car," a song that scores on
melodic content but fails to connect
on an emotionally sincere level due
to trite lyrics such as "Broken records
play / Shoes left out all day."
One can't help but feel that both
STP and Talk Show (and believe me,
they are the same) come across as a
group of musicians who had to shear
their heavy metal mane once Nirvana
rendered the likes of Ratt and Motley
Crie obsolete.
It would be a legitimate assump-
tion to say that the debut of Talk
Show and STP for that matter, proves
that these musicians are heavily
influenced by '70s guitar rock and
that they even attempt to expand on
their sound by trying to put an "alter-
native"spin on their main influences.
What results is often a sound that
is irrefutably tight and well produced
but lacks heart and conviction that
make lyricists like Mark Lanegan and
Greg Dulli the best in the business.
- Lucas Rakocija

Byrne
Anthony Burgess
Carroll & Graf
**
It's not very often today that someone writes an epic
poem. Anthony Burgess succeeded with "Byrne," his
final work before his death in 1993. Burgess was
mainly a novelist, and his most famous work, "A
Clockwork Orange," was immortalized by Stanley
Kubrick's movie by the same name.
"Byrne" spans two generations, following the life of
Michael Byrne, "a lecherous defective dreamer," and
the lives of his many illegitimate children. The tale is
told by a poor poet, paid by Byrne to "tell what they call
a cautionary tale" about the accomplishments of
Byrne's mad family. This narrative voice is not what it
seems, however, as Burgess displays a powerful poetic
talent, buried beneath the mock-epic form.
Burgess' lifelong attention to literature
guides the work, applying the forms
of poets from Spenser to Homer,
changing rhythms and rhymes p. ,
schemes like favorite shirts. 4 | ||
While these forms receive lit-
tie attention from modern
poets, Burgess resurrects them.
with lines bursting with words
and crashing sounds. Even a doc-
tor's diagnosis of terminal disease
becomes music under his pen, "Oh,
androblastomas and God knows what ... shocking.
There's seminomas, teratomas blocking the seminifer-
ous ducts."
Byme's story perfectly fits this chaotic form with
his anti-hero failures, including, singing, trombone
playing, composing, and painting avant-garde nude
pictures. Burgess calls Byrne an "aesthetic martyr ...
(who) ought ... rejoice in being totally rejected and
work away like (a) disregarded beaver." It seems
Byrne can only succeed at conception, fathering chil-
dren with scores of women and mysteriously disap-
pearing at middle age.
After Byrne leaves the picture, the story turns to the
present, where his children struggle to make it in the
world. Ironically, they each struggle in some of the
same occupations as their absent father. While their
father's tale dealt with the chaos early in our century,
from World Wars, the Nazi rise to power, and the "death
of God," his children's stories are set against contempo-
rary problems like Vietnam, skinheads, and priests
falling from grace. "We may find we're lined up to face
eternal nothingness to hide in. So we must worship
zero- faith, no hope;' muses one of Byrne's children.
Just as "epic" best captures the themes and struc-
tures of "Byrne," "symphonic" describes the overall
production. Burgess' famous play with language
shines through in puns, alliteration, and imaginary
words like "lagoonscape" Through this musical pre-
sentation, critiques of Calvinistic determinism blend
flawlessly with images of Islamic fanatics burning
copies of Dante's "Inferno." Literary masterpieces are
contrasted against the dark, comic excesses of the pre-
sent. Only in Byrne's version of modern times can T.S.
Eliot's "Wasteland" be made into a musical and John
Calvin's life made into a TV miniseries. This is the
same cold satire that made Burgess' "A Clockwork
Orange" famous.
"Byrne" is a beautiful end to an important career. It

is a tribute to the literature and culture which Burgess
lived his entire life. The books concluding lines cap-
ture his balance between angry satire and hope for
humanity. Burgess leaves his characters, "smiling,
Christmas-elated, somewhat sad too, blessing the
filthy world. Somebody had to."
- Jason Bong
The Midnight Special
B. R. Hunter
VH1 Books
**i
Only four years old when it went off the air in 1981,
I was too young to appreciate "The Midnight Special"
as a television show. But it can be argued
that the show's hosts and special
guests - including David Bowie,
Wolfman Jack, The Village
h People, and many others -
defined both that generation
and our own. In "The
Midnight Special 1972-1981:
Late Night's Original Rock &
Roll Show," all of the best of the
more than 400 episodes have been
collected and highlighted in one eye-
catching volume, spanning the ten years from John
Denver to Skip Stephenson and listing the hits, miss-
es, and evolution of rock 'n' roll.
The collection forms a psychedelic hodgepodge of
1970's graphics and hairstyles. Snapshots of the various
stars crowd each page, along with a short description of
that show's best moments. Each of the highlighted
shows is in some way unique, and each star receives
special acknowledgement for their participation in the
first late night rock 'n' roll show (before this, for those
of you too young to remember, all of the networks went
off the air each evening after Johnny Carson.)
There are also quotes from the show's staff, raving
about this innovation and creativity of "The Midnight
Special;' and stars' comments are occasionally includ-
ed. Says musician Steve Miller, "When you look at
"The Midnight Special" today, you can see that eery
band in the world was coming through there on a reg-
ular basis. It's one of the definitive documents of what
was really going on in music then."
A song index at the end of the book concisely lists
every aired episode, its guest host, and all of the per-
formed songs; this is enough to keep you singing
"Dancing Queen" for weeks nonstop.
One of the book's high points is a special two-page
showcase of Wolfman Jack's career. It includes a short
biography, photographs, quotes from the racio leg-
end's co-workers, and a short comment from his
widow about his life and impact on people's lives.
Seeing these two pages as a high point, however,
accentuates what the book as a whole is lacking. It is
a great memoir for a diehard fan of the show, or for
someone attempting to regress into the '70s. However,
it contains almost no real substance or description,
and it isn't enough to intrigue someone not already
familiar with the show (even a '70s fan such as
myself.) The photographs are small and unexception-
al, and the show descriptions often read like playlists.

As a whole, though, "The Midnight Special"
potential, and if you are old enough to remembe
ting in front of the TV and watching The Hollies
form "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother." then
will take you back.
- Jessica E
Shadow of Ashland
Terence M. Green
Forge
Letters form the focal point of "Shadov
Ashland." These simple messages between a bri
and sister are the record of their desperate a 1
keep close and under normal circumstan
should be a successful means of communic
through their separation. In this case, however, tI
don't work quite as planned; the letters arrive
years too late.
Jack Radey left his family during the C
Depression and traveled from Canada to the U
States in order to seek a better life. Except for one
ter, his family never received news from him al
Now, as she lies on her deathbed, Leo Nolan's mi
has one request. She wants him to find her o
Jack, and to bring him to see her before she &Ts.
Then a letter arrives at his family home. It is
Jack, and it is postmarked 1934. Others follow
arriving in date order, chronicling his journey s
into America and his settlement in Ashland, Kenti
Leo leaves Canada to follow his uncle. And as he
lows, he discovers the secrets of his family's hi:
and of a man he never met.
"Shadow of Ashland" interchanges time and I
in a perplexing way. When Leo goes to Ashland,
also literally sent back in time, and through this tt
position Green develops the character of Jac;
both historically and personally. By using long hi
ical flashbacks and a series of dream sequet
Green develops a response to the questions that
been left unanswered for fifty years. The reader is
as surprised as Leo to discover Jack's chang
lifestyle following his arrival in Kentucky, and his
cere search for something worth writing home ti
his sister about.
Green writes with an extremely personal cor
tion to his characters; he, like Leo, went throug
own genealogical search for a lost uncle. J4 s
letters home are a touching method of displayint
fine line between truth and lies, especially where T
and family are concerned. But this frankness ce
seen as both the high point of the book and a
downfall, for none of the characters ever receiver
than a surface development. Everything to be se
eventually laid out in painful clarity for the reader
although "Shadow of Ashland" is a book of sei
when Jack finally leaves Ashland everything has
explained to its fullest extent. As the journey answ
Leo's questions and fulfilled his research, per
does form a suiting resolution for him, but itsia
interpretation and depth leaves it echoing in the s
way that Jack Radey's missing letters must have
his family ... with the reader yearning for words.
- Jessica E

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