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January 20, 1999 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-01-20

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The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, January 20, 1999 - 9

ANI DIFRANCO RISES 'UP UP, UP UP UP UP'

Super F Animals
bring pop rom Wales

For the first 10 years of her career, Ani
Difranco's music consisted of nothing but magi-
cally unique guitar playing and sincerely emo-
tional vocals. It didn't need anything else.
Difranco's style allowed her profoundly poetic
lyrics to dominate while vicious fingerpicking
made it sound like there were three guitars in the
background instead of just one..
So it was natural for Difranco's fan base,
which has been a work in progress since day
one, to have difficulty adjusting when the
tompy-booted, feminist folksinger added
another guitar and drums. And just when every-
one was getting used to the new sound, Difranco
added a bass guitar and keyboards, turning the
long-time soloist into the head of a full-scale
rock band.
Last year's release of "Little Plastic Castle,"
complete with instruments ranging from key-
boards to trumpets, marked another huge leap in
Difranco's musical style. The new sound made
Difranco's 12th album the most commercially
successful yet, even though it was by no means
her strongest artistically.

personal song about her relationship with her
father, whom she spent most of her life being
upset at for leaving her and her mother when she
was a child.
Now, after 20 years, she is finally able to see
things from his point of view and says to him
through the chorus, "I just want you to under-
stand / That I know what all the fighting was for
/ And I just want you to understand / That I'm not
angry anymore."
"'Tis of Thee" and "Angry Anymore" both
excel musically as well as lyrically with
Difranco's traditional guitar playing in the fore-
ground. The songs are made even stronger thanks
to the addition of Julie Wolf, who plays every
instrument from the accordion to the wurlitzer
organ.
But Julie's presence is a mixed blessing.
Sometimes, the addition of a clavinet or an organ
is just too much for an Difranco song. Difranco
was smart enough to leave crazy new instrumen-
tation off of "Everest," and the tune's raw sim-
plicity makes it one of the record's best tracks.
The overly instrumental mistake shows up all
too often. The band should have left the pocket
cajun, space phone; drum machine and water
cooler (yes, in track 10 she plays a water cooler)
locked in its tool kit.
Jamming together on new toys created the eight-
minute long "Come Away From It" and 13 gruel-
ing minutes of funkadelic junk on "Hat Shaped
Hat." The band would have been better off accept-
ing the fact that it is not The Grateful Dead.
"Up Up Up Up Up Up" doesn't contain the
dense quality necessary to create the desire to
listen to an album all the way through. But strong
individual tracks are so great that they are able to
carry the weight of the album's mistakes and
make it a success. Things are definitely looking
"up."

Ani Difranco
Up Up Up
Up Up Up
Righteous Babe
Reviewed by
Daily Arts Writer
Amy Barber

"Little Plastic Castle's"
title track attracted a whole
new group of fans that did-
n't understand the message
of her music - what drew
them in was its catchy
melodies. Spin Magazine
even put Difranco on the
cover, complete with an arti-
cle that watered down every-
thing about her image from
her ardent feminism to her

started producing her own work, on a label she
established nine years ago.
"Up Up Up Up Up Up" (did I get all six of
them?) is, in many ways, a return to good old
fashioned Difranco. Gone is the poppy sound of
"Little Plastic Castle," as well as the theme of
obsessing over what the media thinks of her.
This time, the lyrics maintain a good balance
of political and personal observation. Two songs,
"'Tis of Thee" and "Come Away From It," deal
with the United States' war on drugs.
"'Tis of Thee" expresses the belief that drugs
are not the problem, but a symptom of deeper
psychological and societal problems. Difranco
takes an expectedly negative opinion on current
government policy with lyrics like "The old dogs
have got a new trick / It's called criminalize the
symptoms / While you spread the disease."
"Angry Anymore," easily the album's best
track and its first single, is a beautiful and very

With a name like the Super Furry
Animals, it is hard to be taken seri-
ously. Of course, cartoonish album
covers and songs about alien abduc-
tion, video game characters and the
joys of smoking pot don't help mat-
ters much.
While they may be easily noted for
their eccentricity, SFA, for the latter
half of the decade, have been secret-
ly concocting some of the most cre-
ative, hook-laden pop this side of
Beck's Odelay.
Along with their peers Gorky's
Zygotic Mynci and Catatonia, SFA
are part of a recent invasion of inno-
vative and frighteningly catchy bands
from Wales.
Their two LPs,
*** 1995's Fuzzy
Super Furry Logic and
Animals 1997's Radiator
Outspaced were every bit as
tuneful and
creation memorable as
Reviewed by anything from
Daily Arts Writer the adjacent
Steve Gertz "Britpop" scene
- you know,
Blur, Oasis, blah blah - and earned
them a considerable UK fanbase.
Outspaced documents the best of
SFA's non-LP offerings, pasting
together B-sides from their extensive
singles catalog, as well as several
early demo tracks and non-album
singles. Almost as much of either of
their proper LP's, it showcases their
uncanny knack for melding
unabashedly Beatlesesque jangle-
pop, cheesy '70s cock rock, techno,
funk and just about any other seem-
ingly random contemporary musical
form out there, sometimes within the

confines of one song.
The first song in the collection,
"The Man Don't Give a Fuck," is rea-
son enough for any dedicated fan to
purchase Outspaced, being that it is
not only one of SFA's finest songs but
is also extremely rare. Other stand-
outs include "Smokin," quite possi-
bly grooviest space-funk George
Clinton never recorded, and
"Guacamole," a song that morphs
from a turbo-charged Ramones riff to
a "Hey Jude"-like singalong without
thinking twice.
While Outspaced may not be quite
as essential as the bands two full LPs,
it is easily one of the best "odds 'n'
ends" assemblages in recent memory.
SFA have avoided the patchiness that
inevitably plagues similar collections
by simply not releasing low-quality
songs, even as B-sides. Their "filler"
walks all over most other bands' fea-
tured work. They haven't faltered yet
and, judging by the strength of
Outspaced, SFA's next proper
album-which is due out this
spring-will launch them even fur-
ther into the stratosphere.

bisexuality, making the singer more marketable.
But to put to rest any notions that the 28-year-
old sensation has sold out completely, this week
boasts the release of her 13th album since she

Depeche Mode
"or those who just can't seem to get enough
Dppeche Mode singles collections, the largely
unheralded release of "The Singles 81>85" comes
aa rather pleasant surprise.
'For those who can and just want "People are

P dple," "Personal
IJ"*
Depeche
Mode
The Singles
81>85
Reprise
Reviewed by
Dily Arts Writer
Bryan Lark

Jesus" and the 1997 hit "It's No
Good" on the same disc, this
third in an overwhelmingly
comprehensive greatest hits
series is merely frustrating.
Either way, this single, 17-
track disc is much more listen-
able - and danceable, for that
matter - than last November's
two-disc, 20-plus track "The
Singles 86>98," which covered
the more somber Depeche
Mode tracks and watched the
band creatively unravel as time

Singes seduces
People," plus "Everything Counts," "Master and
Servant" and "Blasphemous Rumours."
The disc also offers two long lost remixes of
"Photographic" and "Just Can't Get Enough" and
the chance to rediscover, by name, those new wavy
tunes like "See You," that you may have caught on
retro night and immediately forgotten.
By far its greatest assets, however, are the
scathing quotes from reviews of the singles by crit-
ics who appear to have had a seething hatred that
accompany the liner notes.
"I can, you will," is a particularly spiteful take on
"Just Can't Get Enough," while "People are People"
garners "I really laughed the first time it came on,"
and the critical response to "Get the Balance Right"
gets more metaphysical with "I have often wondered
why God created Depeche Mode."
Still, the amusing "Another big hit, and nothing
short of driving a rusty meathook through David
Gahan's malformed cranium will prevent it" in ref-
erence to "Love in Itself" and "What do you expect
from this lame bunch of dickheads" about "Master
and Servant" put the loathing for Depeche Mode
most succinctly.

Buzzrats fail to capture
classic folk sound

Even if one finds Depeche Mode loathsome, try
not to be seduced by the album's pulsing beats and
pseudo-goth lyrics or attempt to avoid the urge of
mistakenly singing, "I just can't get it up."
Whether seduced or not, "The Singles 81>85"
will surely transport the listener back to another era
- when Depeche Mode still mattered or were just
"Football hooligans as sensitive wimps" perform-
ing a "routine slab of gloom," depending on who
you asked.

wore on.
fut the new disc finds Dave Gahan, Vince Clarke
a the boys in top synth pop form, with such peppy
and influential early Me Decade hits as the afore-
mentioned "Just Can't Get Enough" and "People are

Seaweed takes 'Action' to revive grunge guitar rock

If rock 'n' roll keeled over and died
in 1998, then Seaweed is one of the
bands that will give guitar rock mouth
t 3outh and revive it in 1999.
is band, an underestimated
grunge relic takes a more classic
approach to
°r music on
"Actions and
** Indications."
Seaweed Sinking deeper
Actions and into lyrics and
Indications distortion than
the everyday
Merge Records radio parade, this
Reviewed by Tacoma, Wash.
Daily Arts Writer outfit uses indis-
Jewel Gopwani
tinct lyrics and a
monster guitar
sound to ach-ieve a state bliss that
fans of the long gone Seattle scene
miss dearly.
On the whole, the album has a pretty
fast tempo and is actually catchy. With
agenerally gloomy outlook on "Actions
and Indications," Seaweed explores
than what the songs let on.
Actions and Indications" is meant
to be listened over and over again, in
order to obtain a feel for how the
obscure lyrics sink into the steady

melodies.
The record makes sense in the end,
and maintains a contemplative quality
throughout. Albums that make listen-
ers think were common offerings of
Seaweed's now passed on Seattle
cohorts and are lacking in music
stores more often than not.
Lyrically and musically, the album
reaches its peak on "Hard Times."
"You got sad eyes / never realized /
lost your balance / got no talent /
broke and flat / You got the hard times
on your side," sings vocalist Aaron
Stoffer, sounding as if his voice is
about to go hoarse. Backed up by
periodic strums of beloved distortion,
Stoffer uses his vocal power to add
additional emotion to the already
intense arrangement.
On "Actions and Indications,"
Seaweed doesn't stray far from the
style established on its previous
release, "Spanaway." "Against the
Sky" displays steady and fluid move-
ment from tempo to tempo, which
was exemplified on "Spanaway's"
"Start With." In addition, the band
pays homage to Joy Division, by
adding "Warsaw" to the new release's
line up.

SEAWEED

diversity that makes stellar records
shine. Only a few songs stand out,
and could be winners on the radio,
that is if the radio ever decided to
play "Actions and Indications." Fat
chance.
On its long and winding road
through the forests of three record
companies, change is what many
expected to see in Seaweed's discog-
raphy. But on "Actions and
Indications" the band does not divert
from the path that makes rock 'n' roll
an American staple.
Glued to raucous guitars, unbreak-
able melodies and challenging lyrics,
Seaweed takes listeners back to the
day when Soundgarden reigned king
and Pearl Jam was still making
videos. Seaweed's intentions on
"Actions and Indications," will seem
admirable, especially to those who
rely on the tough strum of a six string
to get through the day.

I'd never heard of The Buzzrats until
coming to Ann Arbor to begin my
tenure here at the University. I suspect
that after leaving this campus I'll never
hear from the group again.
A local group of folky-type musi-
cians, The Buzzrats latest release,
"Cartoon Twilight," is a weak attempt
to capture the
essence of soft,
* relaxing pseudo-
The BUZ ts folk so near and
dear to the hearts
Cartoon of Dead fans and
Twilight devotees of pio-
Dirty River Records neers such as
Reviewed by Daily Bob Dylan and
Music Editor his contempo-
Gabe Fajuri raries. Beware
children, beware.
This mixture is far from the magic
potion you might expect.
The predominant sound on
"Cartoon Twilight" is that of an
acoustic guitar. Mixed with a wide
range of other traditional instruments,
the band also managed to include
instruments like the oft-unheard
"space car" and the highly underrated
"b-bender."
The end result of this eclectic amal-
gam is wholly disappointing. Even on
songs like "Little Wren" and "First
Engineer," where an organ plays a pre-
dominant role, listeners are bound to
get the impression that The Buzzrats
were in a rather "experimental" mood
when "Cartoon Twilight" was record-
ed. In the two songs previously men-
tioned, for example, the organ playing
is on the level of a second year piano
student.
Other songs, like "The Cuckoo" and
the title track present further evidence
in the case against The Buzzrats. The
former, which begins with an interest-
ing, if complex guitar lick, and holds
on to it all too long. Listeners have to
wonder if the band was fascinated with
the fact that their electric guitarist

Complimenting consistently in-
comprehensible lyrics on its Joy
Division cover, Seaweed draws up
such a strong bass that allows it to
catapult fans into listening frenzies.
Tweaking guitars here and there
and offering a few slower tracks, the
band gives little way for musical vari-
ety. Seaweed sinks in a few lulls on
"Actions and Indications." On "What
are we taking," the sole slow song,
the band still maintains its musical
depth, but is missing some of the
melodies that make similar tunes
great.
On the whole, this album lacks the

I

could actually play something other
than a solo, or just forgot to tell him to
stop playing the riff when the finally
made it into the recording studio.
"Cartoon Twilight" is an attempt by
The Buzzrats to write a song based
around harmonics. There's not much
else in the song aside from an occa-
sional harmonica blurt and vocals that
are in no way as soothing as the har-
monics the tune is based around.
To compound the band's existing
musical problems, the lead vocalist,
Steve Leggett (I am only assuming
here, as there is no lead vocalist
named in the disc's sparse liner notes)
is perhaps the worst aspect of the
band's sound. His voice, while not out
of tune in a Pavement sort of way, is
just not suited for folk-type music.
His stylings might be more suited to a
punk rock outfit, but certainly not
The Buzzrats.
It seems, in short, that the Buzzrats,
all 10 of them, are in desperate need of
advice. While a disc like this may sat-
isfy friends, family and loyal fans from
the Ann Arbor area, those are about the
only people that should even consider
shelling out hard-earned cash for
"Cartoon Twilight."
Those fans of good music should
pool their resources and buy the entire
band a lifetime worth of music
lessons.

X-PLORE THE 1GO-R FND EXC1TEYENT
OF CLf551CfL TRI91N1NG IN ICT1NG
PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS
*A faculty of some of Britain's most distinguished
actors and directors
# " 9 Maser Clases

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