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October 10, 1997 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1997-10-10

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The Michigan Daily - Friday, October 10, 1997 - 9

Old 97's bring alt-country sound to A2

By Anders Smith-Lindall
Daily Arts Writer
The "next big thing": The Holy
Grail, the object of a relentless quest
by music critics, industry weasels and
dore fans trying to identify not
ere the action
is but where it's-
gng totbe; trying PR
to be the first one
to the scene so
That once ii
iecome& popular
3ey can exploit it
aid then abandon
t In -arch of another "next big
imheher the currency is dollars (in
e case of the industry) or hip credibil-
y(in the case of critics and fans alike),
the futures market is booming in popu-
'ar music.
T alternative-country genre has
ibeen a hot commodity in this volatile
market in recent years and the Old 97's
trgets of some of the most intense
:peulation. The band's debut album,
oFar To Care," was released on
ktra Records this summer, the cul-
mination of a heated major-label bid-
ding war and the subject of the highest
of expectations from gold-digging
industry insiders, critics and scenesters
alike. .
The band's meteoric rise to major-
label and critics'-darling status fea-
tured all the trappings of the "next big
thing" - gigs at industry showcases
lke CMJ and South By Southwest,
well-received but little-heard
in die albums and the ubiquitous bid-
ding war.
MTX land
The Mr. T Experience
Revenge Is Sweet, And So
e You
Lookout! Records
_r. Frank, lead
:ger/songwriter/guitarist for the Mr.
Experience, holds a Ph.D. in philos-
phy from the University of
alifornia at Berkeley.
Rather than slaving away in an insti-
on for years, praying for tenure,
ink- has opted to make a bare mini-
mum of cash by leading the life of a
puiik-rock superstar.
On MTX's latest album, "Revenge
is Sweet, And So Are You," Frank and
the boys deliver 16 tracks of rock 'n'
roll gobdness that can only be
described as one of the best albums
released this year. This man should be
a millionaire!
Highlights of "Revenge"
lude the incredibly
catchy "She's Coming
(Over Tonight)," sing-
along song "Love is
Dead" and the
refreshing acoustic
sound of "I Don't
Need You Now,"
complete with
recorder solo.
very song on the
SuTum is about a girl -- a

subject about which the good

"We started like a lot of bands do,
just a bunch of buddies who get
together and play music," 97's bassist
Murry Hammond said in a recent
interview from his home in Dallas,
Texas. "We played together all of '93

Old 97'


and we really
started to get
going a little bit by
the end of that
year; we played
our first out-of-
town gig at the end
of that year. Then
we played a gig in

baturcday night
Blind Pig
with the Volebeats

Chicago and people just went crazy
for it and we hooked up with
(Chicago-based alt-country label)
Bloodshot. That Bloodshot thing was
pretty fast and furious - we kinda
went up there, and they said 'Y'all
wanna work together?' And we said,
'Yeah, that'd be great, let's work
together.' And we rushed another
record ("Wreck Your Life"), did it in
about 3 days. That one was only out
about six months before we had our
big South By Southwest thing that got
the major-label interest started."
Since the band's signing with Elektra,
the major-label hype machine has
kicked into high gear. But peel away the
superficial rhetoric and you're left with
a solid, accomplished record - unlike
many buzz bands created entirely by
publicity departments' smoke and mir-
rors, the 97's can actually walk the
walk, not just talk the talk.
"Too Far To Care" is chock-full of
jumpy, upbeat pop-rock rooted in
rockabilly, honky-tonk and bluegrass.
Songs like "Barrier Reef" and the

lead single, "Time Bomb," sound like
Hank Williams fronting a band all
hopped up on speed, their amps
cranked to 11.
Hammond, who refers to the band's
sound as "fast and trampy" or "antsy
and agitated," sees the 97's as unique in
an alt-country scene that he feels is
inclined to bow to more traditional gods
of country-rock.
"Most of these bands come right
out of Gram Parsons and Neil Young,
and we didn't grow up listening to
that," Hammond said. "We grew up
listening to the Beatles, Black Flag,
the Clash and X, that kind of stuff.
(Guitarist) Ken (Bethea) and I grew
up in the country, so we were defi-
nitely well-versed in that country
stuff, but by the time we hit high
school, we were sick of it. We were
from a small town, and we were like,
'We wanna get out of this town! I'm
sick of this country music!' So we got
into all this alternative stuff- he was
Mr. Replacements and X and all that
kind of stuff, and I went the hard-core
punk direction. (With Old 97's), we
took all that and combined it with
recent loves of things like bluegrass."
Aside from these more contempo-
rary, rock-oriented influences, the band
is also distinguished from the norm by
the wit and wisdom of its lyrics, thanks
to chief songwriter Rhett Miller. A mas-
ter of wry wordplay, Miller makes his
mark with lines such as these from
"Barrier Reef": "I sidled up beside her,
settled down and shouted 'Hi there, /
My name's Stewart Ransom Miller, I'm
a serial lady killer' / She said, I'm
already dead,' that's exactly what she

"Rhett definitely likes being the
smart-alecky, clever one. He's a pri-
vate school boy," laughed Hammond,
"so he likes being clever for clever's
sake. But he's also very good at it. I'm
real proud of"that aspect of what we
do. That's one of our selling points -
Rhett's discovered the secret of
singing a very happy song about a
very sad subject."
Miller is indeed skilled at "laugh-
ing so he doesn't cry," as Hammond
said; witness these irony-laced lines
in "Streets of Where I'm From": "I
recall when I was 23 / Wondering how
anyone could fall in love with me /
Now I'm old; hell, I'm well past 25 /
And I can't seem to fall in love no
matter how I try."
He can also pen lyrics that eschew
humor entirely and cut painfully close
to the bone, as in "Salome": "I'll stay
all night, well, I'll wait right here /
The full moon might work magic,
girl, but I won't disappear / And I'm
tired of making friends and I'm tired
of making time / And I'm sick to
death of love and I'm sick to death of
trying / And it's easier for you, it's
easier for you."
"'Salome' is my favorite song on
('Too Far To Care')," Hammond said.
"It's different; it's just so plush and pas-
toral. And it combines everything we do
It is in this vein that Hammond sees
the band moving in the future, explor-
ing the possibilities of this 'different'
kind of sound.
"The Old 97's don't have 30 elements
to work with," he said. "We only have

The Old 97's will show their stuff at the Blind Pig on Saturday night.

about four or five. So whenever you
have a chance to add a sixth element
you gotta take it - and that's our future,
there. That's what we're trying to do
now, to say 'OK, where can we take this
where it's still the Old 97's sound, but
it's not just simply putting out the same
album over and over?' With a band like
us that's a trick to do. We'll do it, but
it'll be interesting to make the next

For the time being, the current
record will have to suffice. But
Saturday night, faithful fans and curi-
ous newcomers alike will have the
pleasure of seeing the band in a live
setting, bringing its energetic show to
the Blind Pig. As Miller sings in
"Curtain Calls," "I'll be long gone
soon but tonight I'm here."

Journal' charts conflict, struggles
of South American Indian tribes

By Laura Flyer
Daily Arts Writer
Idealizing cultures according to one's preconceived notions
stems from one major source of information: the press.
Anthropologist Geoffrey O'Connor reveals the mass misun-
derstanding and consequent conflict between South
American Indian tribes and government in his latest docu-
mentary, "Amazon Journal."
Released nationwide in theaters as R
part of a 15-city tour, "Amazon
Journal" is a companion to O'Connor's An
recent book, "Amazon Journal:
Dispatches from a Vanishing Frontier."
The story provides a unique perspec- Sunday
tive on the relationship between the
modern world and the primitive life of Amazon-region
Illegally snuggled into Yanomami territory in the
Northwest Amazon, O'Connor risks his life in order to
understand the relationship between Yanomami Indians
and the Brazilian gold miners who have encroached
their homelands. He discovers the "smoke screen" that
figuratively blocks the vision of the miners who
believe they know what is best for the indigenous pop-
In truth, they are spreading disease
among the Yanomami and taking their
land away. The miners believe that
because they- are giving the Indians
food and other staples they are helping painstak
the native population assimilate into captures
modern culture.
O'Connor painstakingly captures iw o-
the Yanomami culture on camera. In
one particular photo shoot a goods on camel
exchange occurs, vividly revealing the
attitude of the miners toward the
Indians. O'Connor believes the miners
think of the Yanomami as "nothing more than a sideshow
which broke up the monotony of the forest."
For the miners, they have only one goal: to extract the pre-
cious gold that lies deep within the fertile ground of the


Amazon. O'Connor insightfully compares this conquest to
that of Columbus on his crusade to discover the riches of the
New World. In modern-day Brazil, the government supports
the mining operations and doesn't account for the original
rights of the Indians.
As a result of a Brazilian government plan to erect
hydroelectric dams in the rain forest, another Indian tribe
residing in the Amazon, the Kayapo
V I E W Indians, openly protested against such
actions. Their resistance to have their
zon Journal land ecologically damaged immediate-
ly drew the interest of many outsiders,
*** particularly journalists. O'Connor
the Michigan Theater describes how the press sympathized
with the Indians' cause. He takes a
close look at rock singer Sting and his influence in bring-
ing attention to the Kayapo Indians.
O'Connor also notes the rise and fall in the popularity
of Paiakan, a Kayapo Indian who was once seen as "a man
who would save the world," but, due to charges of rape,
was scorned by the press. Paiakan, who was later found
innocent, never regained respect due to widespread nega-
tive press.
Years later, after the government has declared the land -
rights of the Kayapo Indians, O'Connor
revisits their village only to discover a
different way of life altogether.
The influence of the media, the
government and the miners has
introduced them to the modern world
-hetelevisions, radios, Coca-Cola .*
and clothing have penetrated their
This culture change, as O'Connor
concludes, is what society doesn't
allow to fit into our simplistic notions
of what Indians are like. It has perpet-
uated a "legacy of mistrust" which has
kept the two worlds in conflict for the past 500 years. As
he says, these conflicts may cease only "if we can throw
away our cliched images and see them as people with their
own way of life."

Mr. T Experience will grace St. Andrew's Hall tonight.

lyrics like: "She slices, dices and more /
She can handle any household chore /
And I love the feel / of her stainless
steel / when we're rolling all around on
the floor."
MTX has been around since 1988,
and this is by far the group's finest
work to date.
Walk, no; make a fren-
zied dash to your
P I favorite record store
and snatch up one of
the few remaining
copies of "Revenge
is Sweet, And So
Are You." Be the
first kid on your
block to own what is
sure to be one of the
greatest records of all
time, and a part of pop-punk

choice, St. Andrew's Hall.
With veterans of the scene, Down By
Law, on the bill, the evening's entertain-
ment will prove to be an event you
won't want to miss.
Down By Law, too, is touring in sup-
port of its latest release, "Last of the
Sharpshooters" (on Epitaph Records),
and its members always throw them-
selves full-force into their live perfor-
MTX's portion of the rock 'n' roll
bonanza should prove to be no differ-
With a wide repertoire from which to
draw, its set should please old and new
school fans of Berkeley's premier pop-
punk band.
Ticket prices were kept low just for
you (only $7!), so take that special
someone with you to the show.
You'll both end up in pop-punk heav-


Dr. apparently knows a lot. history.

"Swiss Army Girlfriend" has to be MTX will hold court in downtown en.
the album's gem, though, with brilliant Detroit today at every punk's club of - Gabe Fajuri

Shaming of the, Sun

Saturday (
Oct 11



AML -N L rn AW

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