8 - Tuesday, March 24, 1998 - The Michigan Daily
UNEVEN 'ANGELS' FALLS FROM GRACE
Dirty Three hits high
tide with 'Ocean'
What do you get when you combine the first new
Alanis Morissette song in three years, a handful of
previously released Lilith music, a pinch of classic
rock, a dash of dreamy instrumentals and a heaving
helping of obvious "angel" metaphors?
Apparently, you get the soundtrack to "City of
Angels'" a wildly uneven and utterly commercial
affair that seems appropriate for a big-budget, big-
star, big-ego Hollywood remake of Wim Wenders'
"Wings of Desire."
It remains to be seen how good "City of Angels,"
the movie, will be. But for now, listeners can sample
and freely critique the desperate-for-salvation "City of
Angels: Music from the Motion Picture" CD.
The track most listeners will want to sample first is
the heavenly new Alanis tune, "Uninvited," which nei-
ther points out ironies nor tells us how much we're
going to learn and actually
winds up making even the most
jaded listener fall head over
slow jam "Feelin' Love" will soon
seduce everyone with its old-soul
groove and hilariously sexual
lyrics, like "You make me feel like
the Amazon's running between my
thighs." Cole is, presumably, no ..
U2 hopes to save its "Pop"-cor-
rupted soul, getting angelic on the
album-opening "If God Will Send
His Angels," a sincere song that
seemed out of place on the
tongue-in-cheek "Pop" but fits
well here with its lovely sentiment
and faux spirituality.
Adding some classy, rockin'
flavor to these enjoyably mopey
modern tracks are the blues-
tinged "Red House" by Jimi
Hendrix and the full-throttle blues <
of John Lee Hooker's "Mama,
You Got A Daughter." The con-
nection with angels are not quite
clear on these numbers, but even
angels just need to get the blues
from time to time.
The album delves into a blue period of its own,
dying a slow death on the later tracks of the album,
including the Goo Goo Dolls' generic (redundant?)
pontification, "Iris;" Peter Gabriel's schizophrenic "I
Grieve; which, after five and a half minutes, shifts
from incoherent babbling about death or trees or
something to a beat-driven rave-up that seems to rip
off Seal of all people; and an artist called Jude's "I
Know," a totally '80s ballad that could easily be
replaced with Breathe's "Hands To Heaven," fitting
better with the theme of the album and making us all
The soundtrack then ascends once again with boot-
scootin' goodness of Eric Clapton on "Further on Up
In a time when catchy pop bags of
fun and intense, waning message rock
deluge the radio waves and MTV,
where does a band comprised of a vio-
lin, guitar and drums fit in all the mad-
ness? They don't - and that is why
the Dirty Three is such a fresh, unique
Blending the beautiful voice of a vio-
lin, the wispy, pulsing scrapes of a
drum and the droning twang of a guitar,
the Dirty Three have a sound unlike any
other band around right now, and the
band members never sing a lyric. Their
new album, "Ocean Songs," is full of
brilliant cinematography, reeling in
images with each new song.
With the same torrent murkiness of
'40s film noir, the Dirty Three present
a dark, smoky lament in a world of
Starting with a few haunting
piano notes, Morissette soon
lets loose her best Sarah
McLachlan impression on the
soaring opening, which then
breaks into a drum-and-
orchestra swell reminiscent of
her Grammy-remixed "You
Daily Arts Editor
Oughta Know" in 1996.
Speaking of the ubiquitous Ms. McLachlan, she
weighs in on the soundtrack, too, with a song from her
Grammy winning "Surfacing" album, surprisingly
titled "Angel" McLachlan leaves the ethereal wailing
to Morissette and nearly whispers this quiet, gorgeous
ballad, which would be great in any context.
McLachlan's Lilith compatriot and human percus-
sionist Paula Cole also makes a cameo appearance,
offering "Feelin' Love" from "This Fire" Noteworthy,
initially, because it isn't "I Don't Want To Wait," the
the Road" and the sanctified strains of four tracks
from Oscar-winner Gabriel Yared's score, which has
the power to uplift but makes the album's desperate
attempt at tying the angel theme together with titles
like "An Angel Falls" and "Spreading Wings."
"City of Angels" is worthy of occasional worship,
on the strength of Morissette's song alone, but falls
short of exaltation with its heavy-handed religion and
all-too-Hollywood sentiment, not to mention the very
mediocrity of the later songs.
Let us all raise our hands to heaven and pray that the
movie is at least as tolerable as the soundtrack, if not
more. If it's worse, however, this marginally admirable
"Angels" will fall from its already unstable grace.
ness. Their waves
Touch and Go
Daily Arts Writer
and woeful loneli-
of sound exhilarate
the dark recesses
of one's mind
the dense. dirti-
ness, a luminous
epiphany of hope
the mass of dark-
that all is bright
sad painting of violin. While the sorg
has a quiet eeriness, the melody 'hs
smooth transgressions and emanating
tones. But tracks such as "Distant
Shore" and "Last Horse On the Sand'
convey this same feeling and soun4
making the songs hard to distinguish
from each other.
The two tracks to escape from this
pending similarity are "Authentic
Celestial Music" and "Deep Waters."
"Music" explodes into a swirling tem-
pest of crashing drums, driving guitar
and the diamond-in-the-ruff voice of
violin. "Waters" is a 16-minute jour-
ney that blends intense, magical chord
progressions fusing to a small wither
ing death before reaching its ecstas.
This beautiful sadness is the essence,
of the Dirty Three and "Songs."r.
"Songs" is the perfect sound when
the hypnotic allure of night has set in.
It transcends that feeling of just chill-
ing in a room gazing out a window
into the blackness. As it induces much
emotions of lonely sorrow and lucid
hope, "Songs" resonates the enchanti-
ng seduction of the mysterioug
Beautiful inconsistency tiles
hitley's 'Dirt Floor'
and clear for a fleeting moment.
This great epiphany is achieved
numerous times on "Songs," proved
over and over again through each of
the album's 10 songs. After a while,
this point wears a little bit. The music
is beautiful but, at times, feels some-
what similarly stagnant.
The first track, "Sirena," opens with
a milky jazz tapping of drum and the
Anyone who has followed Chris Whitley's musical
career knows that consistency has never been his
strong suit. His newest release, "Dirt Floor," is a beau-
tiful testament to this inconsistency.
His first release, "Living With the Law," was
praised by critics and was a huge commercial success.
He won over a legion of fans with his soulful song
writing and his signature blend of country and rock.
Daily Arts Writer
His second album, "Din of
Ecstasy", was like "Living With
the Law" on crack, full of distor-
tion and self-indulgent guitar
riffs. Needless to say, Whitley
left some fans wondering what
had happened with this second,
more abrasive release. His third
album, "Terra Incognita," was a
harmonious blending of the two
previous albums, but its release
went over with little fanfare or
Recorded in a cabin in Vermont, "Dirt Floor" is
appropriately titled; it is a spaie, barebones album
with nothing extraneous or unnecessary.
The songs on "Dirt Floor" sound like outlines or
rough sketches of bigger songs to come. While the
songs are pure and capture the essence of Whitley's
mystical song writing, they sound unfinished and
Whitley has never sought commercial success or
the approval of pop music critics, but on "Dirt Floor"
his fear of sounding too big or over-produced has left
something to be desired in his songs.
That's not to say the songs aren't completely engag-
ing and beautiful. Whitley's gift for restrained passion
and understated emotion is at its finest on "Dirt Floor."
Like any good songwriter, Whitley doesn't beat you
over the head with emotion. Instead, he constructs
songs that are subtly powerful - songs that have a
deepening impact each time they are listened to.
The crescendo of emotion on "Dirt Floor" starts with
the bluesy nonchalance of"Scrapyard Lullaby" and ends
with the quiet balladry of "Loco Girl." Whitley plays
dobro, acoustic guitar and banjo on the album, blending
blues and country to create his own distinctive sound.
It's hilarious, extremely witty, intelli-
gent and sometimes blatantly offensive.
No, it's not the latest episode of "South
Park." It's "Fifty Eggs," Dan Bern's sec-
ond major label release.
Bern truly proves on this album that
he is one of today's greatest lyricists.
Most of his lyrics are sarcastic reflec-
tions on current political, religious and
t ' ~
Bern cooks up 'Eggs'
Whitley's quiet rebellion is apparent in lyrics like
those in "Wild Country": "Soon I'm gonna lose these
rags and run, returning to the wild where I'm from."
Whitley's lyrics have always been his strength, and his
performance on "Dirt Floor" is no different.
Each song is equally powerful on "Dirt Floor", a
relatively short album with only nine tracks. While the
album doesn't have the commercial appeal that
"Living With the Law" may have had, it's a strong
album with haunting lyrics and a deep emotional res-
onance. On "Dirt Floor," Whitley sounds like he has
finally come home after a long wayward journey.
. On "Dirt Floor," Whitley's fourth release, Whitley
;return to his acoustical roots in response to pleas from
'tis loyal fan base to record a solo acoustic album.
Daily Arts Writer
Some of these
and thought pro-
voking. In "One
Bern describes a
had with Jesus in
"offered (him) a
umm r s
(keC.p tC 1hs. $;ttd Ad~tvt.
toke and said two thousand years is1ong
enough for this particular joke."
One apparent problem with the album
is that on the few songs where Bern is
serious and sensitive, it is difficult at first
to recognize that he is not being sarcastic
and offensive. It is like trying to imagine
listening to Adam Sandler talk seriously
about spirituality or being in love.
But once you get used to the fact that
Bern can in fact successfully sing about
issues such as these, it is easy to learn 4
appreciate those songs.
In "Monica," for example, Bern does
an exceptional job reflecting on the trag-
ic stabbing of tennis great Monica Seles.
There are probably no more than three
or four chords played throughout the
entire album, but the music is excellent
despite the lack of instrumental genius.
Bern has a real knack for producing
catchy chord progressions that stay
the listener's head for hours.
Bern shows growth on "Fifty Eggs."
His debut album had a few real gems on
it, but overall, was not nearly as strong as
his new release. This time, there aren't
only a few songs to carry the album.
Practically every song is excellent.
And "Fifty Eggs" is one of the most
entertaining new releases to come along
in a long time.
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AND PROVOST NANCY CANTOR
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