8 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, November 17, 1998
'OH HAPPY DAY'
Chesnutt sells the
beauty of vulnerability
Spiritualized has never been a stranger to
From the limited "special packaging" editions
of its records - 1995's "Pure Phase" came in a
glow-in-the-dark case with a slide-out cover and
last year's "Ladies and Gentlemen We Are
Floating in Space" was first issued in a pharma-
ceutical pill box - to its slightly eccentric con-
cert venue choices - it has performed on top of
both the Empire State Building and Seattle's
rotating "Space Needle" and are scheduled for
an upcoming show under the Northern Lights in
Sweden - the band has always been a bit, well,
Considering this it comes as no surprise that
the band has chosen to release a two-disc live
album that features a 12-piece gospel choir and
respective four-piece horn and string sections
aside from the three core members of the band.
Recorded at London's Royal Albert Hall in
October of 1997, the album is a remarkable
showcase of the group's trademark sound:
Imagine The Velvet Underground and mid-
career Pink Floyd jamming with The London
Philharmonic Orchestra in
an Amsterdam hash bar.
Disc One of the set slides
into gear with a brief and del-
Spiritualized icate rendition of a church
Royal Albert Hall hymn, "Oh Happy Day,"
Live which is immediately fol-
Arista lowed by a violent onslaught
Reviewed by of fierce noise. Feedback
Daily Arts Writer screams, horns wail, drums
Steve Gertz hammer out abstract jazz-
influenced patterns and the
whole thing escalates into a massive swarm of
And then, right as the climax hits, the seem-
ingly uncoordinated chaos shifts tightly and per-
fectly into the lethargic space-blues of "Shine a
Light," sending chills down the listener's spine
and leaving him or her in awe of the sheer preci-
sion of the band.
The rest of Disc One follows a similar pattern.
Top-notch tracks from all three of Spiritualized's
LPs are woven together effortlessly, each song
overlapping the next and fleshed out gorgeously
by the classical orchestration. Highlights
include the raging rush of snarling guitars in
"Electricity" and an updated version of the clas-
sic "Walking With Jesus," a holdover from band
leader Jason "Spaceman" Pierce's days with the
seminal psychedelic pioneers Spacemen 3.
The six songs on Disc Two are all selections
from the band's acclaimed 1997 album "Ladies
and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space."
The absolute crown jewels of the concert are
included here: The woeful "Broken Heart" and
the Gospel-soaked "I Think I'm in Love." Both
of these songs illustrate Jason Pierce's resorting
to substance abuse to assuage the pain of a
"Broken Heart" is simply and utterly beauti-
ful. Pierce bears his vulnerable soul for all to see
as he whispers "Lord, I have a broken heart ... "
over weeping harmonicas, moaning cellos,
bluesy organs and the powerful bellowing of the
blues music, the lyrics operate in linear conjunc-
tion with the instrumentation, everything work-
ing in unison to conjure the song's deep emo-
Similarly, "I Think I'm in Love" finds itself
greatly enhanced by the inclusion of the gospel
singers. These church-house crooners transport
the song from the psychedelic landscapes of
reverb-soaked slide guitar in the song's begin-
ning to its eventual transformation into an all-
out extravaganza of anthemic soul.
The magnum opus "Cop Shoot Cop" closes
the album. A sprawling 17-plus epic, the song
fluctuates between hypnotic groove-heavy vers-
es and dramatic flashes of roaring guitars and
brass that build tension to its breaking point and
let it regress into complete abstraction, only to
bring the structure back and begin the process
again. Like The Velvet Underground's "Sister
Ray," Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile" or The
Verve's "Gravity Grave," "Cop Shoot Cop" uti-
lizes the power of repetition, avoiding redundan-
cy by allowing volume to slowly increase until
the climax hits and the whole thing explodes in
a burst of otherworldly splendor.
The band then reprises an extended "Oh
Happy Day," which brings the event around, full
cycle, to its denouement.
If nothing else, this album proves that
Spiritualized is just as much in its element on
stage as in the studio. While its last record
topped critics lists worldwide last year - rank-
ing above even Radiohead's already-classic "OK
Computer" and The Verve's "Urban Hymns" on
many polls - "Royal Albert Hall" shows them
shining even harder, playing even tighter and
allowing their expansive sound to wander even
Spiritualized has shown us that the sky is def-
initely not the limit as they have, since their
1991 incarnation, proceeded to extend more and
more into increasingly celestial regions of the
cosmos. "Royal Albert Hall ... " reinforces this
progression, and is an absolute must-have for
any fan of the band.
Vic Chesnutt's new album, "The
Salesman And Bernadette," is primarily
a collection of slow-tempo ballads that
convey themes of sorrow, loss and the
passage of time. On "Parade," Chesnutt
sings "everybody over 10 years old is
drowning" and repeatedly asks, "Where
did you go after the parade?" And
although such themes are far from novel,
and often enter the realm of self-indul-
gence, in the hands of an artist as capa-
ble as Chesnutt, they become the key
ingredients of an album of striking beau-
ty and focus.
First, Vic Chesnutt's gift for melody is
nearly without equal. Throughout the
album, his simple strummed chord pro-
gressions are the
* * which he weaves
melodies that con-
Vic Chesnutt sistently conjure
The Salesman emotions of a
and Bernadette seemingly impos-
Capricorn Records sible depth. The
Reviewed by emotive quality of
Brian Egan Chesnutt's voice is
For the Daily also an asset. His
raspy, yet supple
vocals call to mind artists such as
Camper Van Beethoven/Cracker front-
man David Lowery, Tom Waits and per-
haps even Bob Dylan at his most melod-
Also, the album is embellished with
touches of instrumentation that further
establish its collective mood, for exam-
ple, the flourishes of guitar sprinkled on
the longing "Maiden" and the opener
"Duty Free." More noticeable is the
impressive use of horns on many of the
tracks, and the resistance of the tempta-
tion to overuse them. They never over-
power the songs' gentle arrangements,
but rather play to this strength, and in
this way, the album is further reminis-
cent of "Rain Dogs"-era TornWaits.
in a few instances, Chesnutt does
lighten the mood. On "Until The Led,"
the peppy horns suggest a sly sensecoi
distaste, and the tongue-in-cheek vocals,
boogie beat and "What's the, who's the
prick?" refrain of "Prick" is the closest
he comes to cracking a smile. The boun-
cy pop of "Replenished," complete with
"sha-la-la-la-la" chorus is like a sliver of
sunlight that creeps into a dark room.
Not that that room is such a bad
place after all. The album's centerpiece
and saddest song, "Mysterious Tunnel"
features guitars that shimmer like tears
in the dark, while Chesnutt's voice i.
likewise at its shivering best. The
results are at the same time breathtak-
ing and unnerving, the same of which
can be said for the album as a whole.
On this sublime, prancing waltz and
really on all of "The Salesman And
Bernadette," Chesnutt succeeds in
making the listener believe that the var-
ious states of vulnerability and
heartache he presents are acceptable,
even beautiful, places to be.
Gospel singers. The
heartache, but totally
song is not only about
embodies it. Like good
Janus Stark is not a familiar name to
most people. Fans of The Prodigy,
though, probably know about this
group, as it is The Prodigy's live gui-
tarist Gizz Butts' band.
Unlike The Prodigy, however, Butts'
Janus Stark has very little to do with the
electronic aggression that is The
Prodigy's specialty. In fact the only
thing remotely electronic-like about
Janus Stark is the fact that the name
refers to a rumored British super com-
puter that controls everything in
England and that
it has a
Jans Sark on its album
Adventure En g I a n d' s
Cigar Janus Stark bears
Earache/Trauma more of a resem-
Revieweds blance to the Foo
Daily Arts Writer Fighters and other
Adlin Rosli punk-yet-pop
the knack to write songs with catchy
sing-along parts that are completely
smothered with loud abrasive guitars.
With its debut release, "Great
Adventure Cigar" the band intends to
prove that it rocks just as hard as its
counterparts from across the pond.
Cube secures victory on'War'
Who are the true icons in hip-hop? To be an icon,
an MC must have a revolutionary style that has a
definitive impact on hip-hop music and culture. An
icon has to stand the test of time, and must be as
respected in all hip-hop circles today as when he or
The Dave Grohl worthy "Every Little
Thing Counts," for example, is a com-
plete fist-pounding anthem that would
easily fit on either of the Foo's releases.
Album opener, "Enemy Lines" also
forcefully assaults the listener and is
followed by its many similarly fero-
cious siblings on "Great Adventure
Lyrics on "Great Adventure Cigar"
provide the sonic punches too, as on the
Helmet-like "White Man Speak With
Butts growls how the "white man
speaks with fork tongue, he's always
right even when he's wrong.
He also shows his sensitive side on
his junkie lament, "Floyd, What are you
on?" where he sings "this is a means to
an end my friend and I am telling you
because you used to be my friend."
Despite the group's well-executed
efforts however, there is an overwhelm-
ing feeling of familiarity to this release
that prevents it from delivering a signif-
Although British listeners may not be
as numb to the guitar-heavy posturings
of post-Nirvana bands, American lis-
teners will be bored silly with the over-
Xeroxed rock formula on "Great
War & Peace
Vol. 1: War
Daily Arts Writer
she debuted. Some artists that
lay claim to the title fail the for-
mer criteria, and many artists
that were supposed to become
icons fail the latter criteria.
There aren't many who can
legitimately call themselves
icons: Rakim, KRS-One, LL
Cool J, Tupac, A Tribe Called
Quest and Queen Latifah are
part of this exclusive club. With
his new double album "War
and Peace," Ice Cube reminds
losophy throughout the album, adding to the dark
aura of the album. In "Dr. Frankenstein," Cube
reminds every hardcore rapper in hip-hop just exact-
ly where they got their styles from. Then, Cube spits
pure venom on "Fuck Dying," over another ultra-
hard groove featuring Korn. After getting you open
with the hardcore gangsta rhymes, he turns around
and hits you with unforgiving ghetto war stories,
such as "Ghetto Vet," "Once Upon A Time In The
Projects 2" and the paranoid "Extradition."
As always, Cube is at his best when he is throwing
out razor-sharp social commentary, as on the scalding
"3 Strikes You In," and the thoughtful "Penitentiary."
This is Ice Cube at the next level. Also, the majority
of the beats are head-nodders, like the desolate
"Pecking Order," and the vicious "X-Bitches."
There are a few duds on "War." The songs "War
& Peace" and "Greed" are fodder, although they'd
probably be the best songs on somebody else's
album. Cube's guests Mack 10, K-Mac and Mr.
Short Khop aren't spectacular. But they aren't the
worst you've ever heard, and at least they don't get in
Westside Connection was the first. Player's Club
everyone that he is as much of an icon as any of these
Cube starts by calling out all of the detractors and
non-believers over the sinister strings of "Ask About
Me," and gets even deadlier on "Pushin' Weight," his
first single. An ominous voice spits out gangsta phi-
was the second. With "War" The Don Mega's three-:
part plan to retake gangsta rap has reached its fina
stage. Cube himself said "War & Peace" was his best
effort since "Death Certificate," and it's hard to
argue. "War" is a gangsta masterpiece. While you're
waiting breathlessly for "Peace" to come out, take
out your list of hip-hop's biggest icons and write
Cube's name in.
It's where he belongs,
KMFDM goes 'Retro' with new compilation release
When a band releases something that
was previously only available promo-
tionally, fans normally have reason to
celebrate. There will normally be live
tracks or a studio track that was hard to
find. But "Retro," KMFDM's "new"
best of collection, has neither; it doesn't
even have new artwork.
"Retro" collects KMFDM's best
tracks from its first eight albums, com-
pletely ignoring last year's "Dingbats,"
because the compilation came out two
years ago. Other than that, it's strong and
full of singles showcasing the band's
Teutonic electronic sound - storm and
blood and iron and guitars and key-
Daily Arts Writer
logical order of
the band's releas-
es, "Retro" starts
out with "Power,"
writhing with fast
beats and entranc-
slides into "Juke-
Joint Jezebel," one of the best exampleP
of the slinky darkness that underlies all
of the band's work. The tracks are most-
ly similarly good, all the way to the end,:
where the far less advanced but still real-
ly catchy "Don't Blow Your Top" closes
out the collection.
Fans could have bought "Retro" on its-
last tour, but many probably own some
KMFDM material, and there's nothing
new on this record. But it is a bett4
introduction to the band's oeuvre than
any of its other releases. Like a
Whitman's Sampler, only not so sweet.
Sublime acoustic album makes
death all the more noticeable
Avoid 'Home' at all costs
Aside from the T-shirts, hats,
stickers, mugs, magazines and other
similar paraphernalia, a teen boy
group must produce the mandatory
Christmas album. New Kids On The
Block, Menudo and Hanson all have
Sublime fans, you're in luck. An official version
of the band's bootleg acoustic album, which went
for as much as $150 can now be purchased at your
local record store for the standard $12.99.
The 15-track acoustic solo album, highlighting
the talents of the late Bradley
Nowell, is appropriately titled
- "Sublime Acoustic:
Sublime Bradley Nowell and Friends."
Sublime "Sublime Acoustic" is the
Acoustic: Bradley third Sublime album to be
Friends released in the past 12 months,
MCA/Gasoline with "Second Hand Smoke," a
Alley collection of B-sides released
Reviewed by last November and the live
Daily Arts Writer
Dikran ornekian compilation "Stand by Your
Van" released in June.
to Freedom" and "Robbin the Hood" that make it a
must-own for new and hard-core fans alike.
Nowell's tremendous talent as a performer
shines through on this record. The diversity of his
songs, which combine elements of punk, ska, surf,
reggae and even hip-hop, was also the key to the
Indeed every Sublime album has its own unique
and appealing sound, which is why the band still
has such a vast and varied following including
braided reggae lovers to bikini wearing beach bun-
nies and even those mosh-pit loving punks.
Ska-heavy tunes on "Sublime Acoustic" include
live versions of the ubiquitous single "Wrong
Way" and the fan favorite "Saw Red," sans No
Doubt singer Gwen Stefani.
Songs showcasing Nowell's reggae influence
Daily Arts Writer
under their belts.
in this hideously
N'Sync with its
Plenty of sac-
ness is here,
from the heart
sentation from the band's entire discography.
The fact that most of these songs were recorded
at small clubs or bars before Nowell and company
N'Sync's die-hard fan contingency, it
would be virtually impossible to
actually listen to this album all the
way through in one sitting.
Repeated themes of adolescent
cruhes a~nd nuinnv love~ that tie' in
warming "Under My Tree" to the
cheeky "Kiss Me at Midnight."