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October 27, 1998 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1998-10-27

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8 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, October 27, 1998


Rollins continues to
move spoken words

No one ever said that being in a rock 'n' roll band
was easy. But someone forgot to tell that to R.E.M.
- perhaps the most influential and significant band
of the past two decades.
Since 1982's debut "Murmur," the band has suc-
ceeded in carving and paving the non-mainstream
promenades of rock music - outliving virtually all
of its contemporaries with muted fanfare, relatively
little controversy and complete irreverence to the
commercialism that has come to plague today's
music industry. Indeed, there were no real "turds in
the punchbowl" of R.E.M's career, as frontman
Michael Stipe once told reporter Craig Rosen in his
book "R.E.M. Inside Out."
So with such a seemingly unblemished history, it
was a big deal when drummer-from-day-one Bill
Berry decided last year that it was time for him to quit
the band that he had helped create. For the first time
in its 18 years, R.E.M. hita major snag.
But instead of dwelling on the negatives of such a
stinging loss, the remaining three members of R.E.M.
capitalized on the opportunity to throw caution to the
wind by completely revamping their approach to
The result is"Up,"a densely
textured, sprawling master-
* piece that simply outshines and
outclasses virtually all of the
R.E.M past few years' rock releases,
up with the exception of
Warner Bros. Radiohead's "O.K. Computer."
Having set the electric guitar
Reviewed by aside in favor of keyboards,
Daily Music Editor mellotrons and kitschy noise
Brian Cohen machines, guitarist Peter Buck
and bassist Mike Mills traded
job descriptions for "Up," playing each other's instrĀ«-
ments in addition to a host of other rhythm machines
and analog synthesizers from Buck's private collec-
The first listen to "Up" is likely to incite a few
raised eyebrows and dropped jaws. Aside from
Stipe's trademark vocals, its not always easy to
believe that the music underneath is being played by
In fact, the album begins with the band's most
experimental offering to date, as the low gurgles of
"Airport Man" fizz, pop and crackle into an eerie
coagulation of soft vocals and vibrating keyboards.
Much like 1996's "New Adventures in Hi-Fi" and

1995's "Monster' the second track on "Up" proves to
be the album's real jumpstarter "Lotus" kicks off
with a raspy "Hey, hey!" chant and a dazzling roller-
rink keyboard intro, ultimately simmering into a
swaggering chorus. A vintage Buck riff rattles around
the verses, recalling the warped and jagged edginess
of 1994's" "ahles of the Reconstruction."
For all of its weirdness, "Up" bears a striking
resemblance to many parts of other R.E.M. albums,
in addition to "Fables of the Reconstruction." The
mandolin sections on "You're In The Air" could just
have easily fit on "Out of Time," while the darker
aura of "Sad Professor" and "The Apologist" would
not be terribly out of place on "Automatic For The
Thanks to Stipe's ease with channeling his emo-
tions in third person perspective, "Up" is another
"character record," much like "Fables of the
But whereas the subject matter of the latter's songs
came from actual fixtures of Stipe's local Athens
neighborhood, the characters on "Up" are mostly cre-
ations of Stipe's imagination. The protagonist of
"Hope" struggles with the decision of whether to
trust science or religion, while the elderly gentleman
in "Sad Professor" finally comes to grips with his
inability to get through to his students. A courtroom
drama unfolds in the spooky bass-driven
"Diminished," while a moment of epiphany bursts
open for the subject of "Walk Unafraid"- Stipe's

favorite new song- which was lyrically inspired by
Patti Smith.
Similarly to "O.K. Computer;" "Up" works best
when the drips and churps of the added instrumenta-
tion enhance the melody instead of drown it out. The
frazzled synthesizer on "Suspicion" fills out its sub-
tle background, which elicits one of Stipe's most gor-
geous melodies in recent memory. First single
"Daysleeper" benefits from a few wisps of feedback
and remains the album's most traditionally structured
R.E.M. song.
Here, Stipe discusses the dangers of technology
and its affects on a night worker whose stressful
nights have been colored "headache grey" with
responsibility. The song's infectious minor-keyed
chorus has already convinced the majority of
America's modern rock radio stations that R.E.M. is
still more than capable of appealing to a mass audi-
For the first time in R.E.M.-album history, fans
will have the opportunity to read all of Stipe's lyrics
in the liner notes. But don't expect all of the singer's
words to make sense ("I'll be punce pony/phony
maroney" on "Falls To Climb").
The album's lone love song is perhaps the best
track on "Up." It is also home to some of the most
romantic imagery ever to grace and R.E.M. album. "I
read bad poetry into your machine/ I save your mes-
sages just to hear your voice," croons Stipe in the
Beach Boys-esque "At My Most Beautiful." With
multi-part background harmonies and an orchestral
swirl of strings and piano, this is clearly the best song
that Brian Wilson never wrote.
In the tradition of strong album closers such as
"Automatic's "Find The River" and "New
Adventures""'Electrolite," the closing salvo of"Up"
reveals a chilling session of self-introspection.
Finally, Mills' soft organ and Buck's acoustic guitar
melt with Stipe's harmony to unearth the quintessen-
tial R.E.M. feel that generations have come to
There's no hiding the obvious differences in
R.E.M.'s approach to the mixing and arranging of
"Up." But there's also no hiding the unmistakably
familiar elements of melody and beauty that remain
at the songs' cores.
Repeated listens to "Up" will assure fans that
R.E.M. is currently making some of the best music of
its 18 year career, which shows no signs of slowing
down any time soon. .,

Henry Rollins, the vein-busting,
throat-testing, self-admitted "aging
alternative icon" that is the lead vocalist
of the Rollins Band and the former lead
screamer of the legendary group Black
Flag, has come to be quite an accom-
plished storyteller.
With the release of his new double-
disc spoken word collection, "Think
Tank," Rollins spares nobody as he
spews out cynical diatribes about the
world we live in today.
Unlike the other lengthy and rant-
heavy spoken word discs Rollins has
released, this new one proves that he
has learned how to refine his
comedic and storytelling talents for
the best - much
like any profes-
sional stand-up
act would. The
Henry Rollins first disc,
recorded earlier
Think Tank this year in
Epic Chicago, is the
Reviewed more fluid of the
for the Daily by two - one that
Lucas Rakocija finds Rollins
offering us his
humorous insight on the stupidity
that he feels is contemporary
American media and our culture's
obsession with contrived television
fare such as "Friends."
While this isn't new territory, it
doesn't sound as if it's being told by
your average individual. The ultimate
charm of this spoken word disc lies in
the way Rollins' honesty and observa-
tional humor blur the fact that he is a
rather mediocre speaker.
The confidence he has come to hold
in his voice is that of a person who has
seen it and done it and truly wants to
share all that he has learned - per-
haps more to make sense of it all rather
than just for.the simple sake of show-
ing off a heavily logged journal.
The second disc, recorded in'

Australia, is slower and less episodic
in its delivery. therefore leaning more
toward the storytelting aspct of
Rollins' spoken word pe rformances.
Within it lies more personal matcrie
al that covers embarrassing onstage
moments that Rollins has survived
well as his travels to Russia, where
and his band were thrust into a foreio
culture while waiting to play a gig that
was sponsored by the local Mafia.
Perhaps the most heartfelt moslent
of the Australia performance comes
towards the end of the disc when
Rollins speaks of a leukemia-plagued
teenager he befriended in Melbourne
the vear before. It is here that the out-
spoken, muscle-bound, and super-cyrs-
ical Rollins seems almost humbled *
an individual who, although weathere
by a life-threatening disease, seems to
possess the kind of internal strength
that he, the seemingly self-confident
Henry Rollins, wishes he had.
Ultimately, "Think Tank" marks a
decided improvement on behalf of the
spoken word career of Henry Rollins
- a man who may be single-handedly
responsible for the genre's existence t
your local record store.
While this collection may not be
worth the sticker price of a double-disc
set, it's definitely worth a listen, if
found in the used bin.


eels shock
te norms
Behold the latest battle in the never-
ending war between artistry and medi-
ocrity. Listen as the eels struggle to
avoid the dreaded second album curse,
which threatens to throw them into the
fiery pit of one-hit wonder hell!
Is the band's new album, "Electro-
Shock Blues," up to the task?
The answer is a qualified yes.
"Throughout the album's 16 tracks, eels
frontman E stirs up enough of his
unique brew of spooky keyboards,
drum loops, and
other assorted
oddities to prove
he's more than
eels just an alternative
Electro-Shock flavor of the
Blues week. But over-
Dreamworks reliance on this
Reuiewed bysound and little
Daily Arts Writer growth from its
Rob Mitchum previous album,
"Beaut i fu I
Freak," hold the
eels back from its brilliant potential.
.A concept album of sorts, "Electro-
_hock Blues" is definitely not an uplift-
j.ng work. In many of the songs, E deals
with the recent suicide of his sister,
Often suggesting that he isn't far from
following suit. This theme is directly
confronted in the opening track,
"Elizabeth on the Bathroom Floor," a
lament over a lightly strummed
coustic guitar and strings.
The most successful tracks, however,
-are the ones that transform this grief
,nto a kind of eerie hopefulness. The

moe. lacks true character

Sometimes an album is just solid - nothing
more, nothing less. "Tin Cans and Car Tires" from
New York jam band moe. is one of those albums,
enjoyable to hear but for the
most part forgettable.
A major reason for the
**'d album's unremarkable feel is
moe. moe.'s relatively straightfor-
Tin Cans and ward rock sound. While the
Car Ties four members all show consid-
erable talent on their instru-
Sony 55 ments and an increasing knack
Scvinced by for songwriting, they stick
Daily Arts Writer mostly to a standard guitar-
bossMi - sum
bass-drums lineup that is

Lacking the lengthy explorations and energy of
their live shows and previous album "no doy,"
these tracks do little to separate moe. from your
typical traveling bar band.
But when the group adds texture to its songs
with guest musicians and quirkiness, the album
reaches its highest points. The jaunty horns that
bounce around guitarist Al Schnier's unusual
vocals make "Spaz Medicine" a danceable treat,
despite a guitar solo that, like many moe. solos,
borders on self-indulgent excess. A string quartet
intro adds drama to the epic nine-minute "Plane
Crash," while guests on saxophone and piano save
"Happy Hour Hero" from being just another moe.
song about being in a bar.

orchestrated instrumental "Going to
Your Funeral Part It" perfectly repre-
sents this sound, simultaneously bitter-
sweet and soaring. "Efil's God" takes a
disorienting backwards cello loop and
makes it uplifting beneath E's falsetto
The centerpiece of the album and
strongest indicator of the celsi talents is
"Last Stop: This Town," a startling col-
lage of harpsichord, synthesized choirs,
drum loops and turntable scratching.
The result is a brilliantly unique sound-
scape that rises above the album's
depressions with a surprisingly opti-
mistic demandtso "eel down" Other
strong tracks are the Morphine-inspired
saxophone chaos of "Hospital Food,"
and the country-ish "Ant Farm," with E
sounding like Beck's manic depressive
twin brother.
But the album is somewhat smothered
beneath sometimes pretentious 'lyrics,
and almost unceasing melancholy.
Tracks such as "Cancer for the
Cure 'and "Climbing to the Moon" are
hardly noticeable amongst the many
similar-sounding tracks that fill the
record. But it is the eels ability to
remain unique even when repetitious
that saves the group from fading into
alternative obscurity on "Electro-
Shock Blues."

rarely conducive to originality. moe. also achieves some success by adding a lit- But for the most part on "Tin Cans and Car
Thus the driving rockers "Head" and "It" get tle dose of funk to songs such as "Hi & Lo" and Tires," moe. seems to be too concerned with neat-
toes tapping but leave little impression beyond "Big World." But by far the strongest contribution ly packaging its live sound into a sellable album'
their five-minute durations. The mid-tempo narra- is bassist Rob Derhak's "Nebraska," featuring an format. The result is entertaining, but devoid of
tive of bar life "Queen of the Rodeo" and the con- irresistibly catchy vocal melody supported by a the unique character which the band is capable of,.
templative "Again & Again" are similarly generic. suitably mellow groove. thus reducing the album to merely adequate.
Reel Big Fish prove why they rock so hard

The success that Reel Big Fish experi-
enced following the release of the hit sin-
gle "Sell Out" was one of music's most
ironic occurrences.
The release of Reel Big Fish's sopho-
more album, "Why Do They Rock So
Hard?" answers the question by reveal-
ing that the band has not changed much
at all.
All the adrenaline-inspired instru-
mentation and sharp, catchy lyrics of
"Turn The Radio Off" are back. This
album is slightly more pop oriented,
which could upset hard-core ska fans,
but makes "Why Do They Rock So

Hard?" incredibly
***9 and will leave
Reel Big melodies ringing
Fish in listeners heads
WhyDo they Rock so for days.
Said. All the songs
Mojo Records are upbeat and fun
Reviewed by and the combina-
Daily Arts Writer tion of the electric
Amy Sarber guitar, bass,
drums, two trum-
pets and two trombones will keep you on
your toes, wondering which instrument
will jump in and play lead at any given

One striking aspect of "Why Do They
Rock So Hard?" is that the guys don't
spend half the album whining about how
they'll never be famous because of the-
kind of music they play, as was the cas
on "Turn The Radio Off." Stardo
apparently made them realized they w
The singing on the album is com-
mendable, particularly the backgroni
vocals. The lead singing is nothing spec,
tacular, but is extremely clear and ener-
getic and lends itself well to singing

Available to Undergraduate, Medical,
and Graduate Students
in these Underrepresented Minority Groups:
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Applications and more information can be obtained from
Kate at 764-2443 or by emailing

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Buy your cap and gown, order your class ring,
and join the Alumni Association all at one place!
The Graduation Fair is designed to take the stress
out of graduation!
Today, October 27
Michigan Union Ground Floor
Graduation Checklist
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