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March 23, 1999 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-03-23

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._The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, March 23, 1999 - 9

BLUR

The Revelers throw
intimate music party

Few bands these days can get away with drastically
changing their sound album to album without alienat-
ing fans.
In the '60s, the Beatles and The Rolling Stones per-
petually shed their sonic skin in search of new and
challenging musical adventures, only to the all-
embracing delight of their "tuned-in" fans.
Perhaps it is the turbulent nature of our media-satu-
rated culture. Perhaps itsis the increased shortening of
our collective attention span. Whatever the case,
today's music fans tend to scowl with disdain when-
ever one of their favorite artists undergoes a process of
Sradical self-reinvention. More often than not, these
types of changes are attributed to "selling out" or
"bandwagon jumping." Only older, more deeply-root-
ed artists, such as David Bowie, U2 and REM, and
those who pride themselves on their genre-warping
eccentricity, such as Beck, seem to be capable of
maintaining the balance of total creative freedom and
commercial appeal.
Somewhere along the line, someone forgot to
explain these rules to Blur.
Blur's 1994 masterpiece, "Parklife," elevated them
to superstar status in their native England and earned
them widespread critical acco-
lades. But its 1995 follow-up,
"The Great Escape," saw its
trademark blend of Cockney-
Blur mod Eurodisco growing
13 increasingly bloated and pre-
tentious.
Virgin Records 1997's self-titled "Blur,"
Reviewed by while still fairly pleasing,
Daily Arts Editor seemed to be largely derivative.
Steve Gertz It seemed as if the band, in a
moment of hasty and cathartic
elightenment, had concluded that Pavement is the
end all-be all of rock 'n' roll and that it was a duty to
spread the gospel to the world.
After riding the crest of the "Blur's "Song 2"
,~ymember, "Woo-hoo!") into the American stardom it
had so desired for so long, Blur left its fans stumped
as to what its next move would be. Would it continue
its love affair with Pavement or would the band revert
*back to its original Britpop designs?

And the answer is:
With its latest LP, "13," Blur has been catapulted by
the stylistic change of its last album into a darker and
less compromising area of low-fi rock. The album is
simultaneously the band's most original and prolific
since "Parklife" and its most listener-challenging.
This continued shift in direction indicates that the last
album was no one-off fluke, but a valid and calculat-
ed step toward a new horizon.
Assisting in the changes is new producer William
Orbit. While famed knob-twister Stephen Street had
been behind the boards for all five of the band's pre-
vious albums, Blur had decided to go with a change
ofexpertise in the form of Orbit, a techno-savvy beat-
meister who has worked with artists as varied as The
Orb and Madonna.
Rather than transforming Blur into the latest elec-
tronica phenom, as he did with Madonna on her "Ray
of Light," Orbit pushed the band's sound down into a
murky mire that reeks more of highly-influential '80s
post-punk auteurs Wire and The Fall than it does of
Pavement or The Kinks.
The album's opening number "Tender" is also its
first single and has been scaling the British charts for
the past month or so. A victorious blend of Velvet
Underground-inspired two-chord guitar jangle and

Southem gospel harmonies a la Spiritualized, the song
lollygags across seven minutes of drunken cheer and
features the assistance of a full gospel choir Always a
singles band in the proper British sense, Blur scores
big with "Tender." Although quite simple, it is among
the most moving tracks the band has ever recorded.
The rest of the album dives headlong into quirky
blasts of guitar-fuzz and recorded-in-the-basement
style production. Songs often wander in and out of
disjointed false endings that are reminiscent of
"Saucerful of Secrets"-era Pink Floyd.
Both "Bugman" and "Swamp Song," with their
overdriven guitars and gargled, repetitive singing,
could easily be mistaken for The Fall, while the
scathing tribute to themselves, "B.L.U.R.E.M.I."
strongly recalls the band's prior forays into punk.
Wonder-guitarist Graham Coxon redeems himself
and his criminally mediocre 1998 solo album with the
self-sung "Coffee and TV' another of the album's
highlights. A wispy, Sunday afternoon of a song,
"Coffee and TV" celebrates the joys of lethargy with
delightfully off-kilter guitar work and a memorable
chorus that may stick to listeners' psyches like sugar-
coated napalm.
"Battle" and "Trailerpark" continue the experi-
mentation with the dingy trip-hoppish soundscapes
that the band touched on with its last album's "Death
of a Party." A lazy, hypnotic song, "Trailerpark" has
singer Damon Albarn whining in a faux-southern
accent about how he "lost his girl to the Rolling
Stones." Classic.
An apt conclusion to such a claustraphobic album,
the haunting ballad "No Distance Left to Run" evokes
a feeling of desperate isolation with its sparce instru-
mentation and densely understated vocals.
Overall, "13" is another fine addition to Blur's
already stellar catalog. But whereas their other
material wears its pop on its sleeve like a shiny
badge, listeners will have to look deeply into "13"
and feel around for a while before they feel its
dizzying effect. Itsis challenging, but ultimately
rewarding. Just as those who are expecting a resur-
gence of "Parklife"-era Blur will be sorely disap-
pointed, those who are willing to court the myste-
rious new Blur will be duly satisfied.

Rock 'n' roll history is a difficult
area for many bands to navigate.
Countless groups fall victim to too
great a reliance on their influences,
causing their music to be
indistinguishable from that of their
predecessors. Then there are bands
like The Revelers.
On "Day In, Day Out," The
Revelers offer up an appealing batch
of energetic songs that feature ring-
ing guitars and bass-heavy drums
that leave room in the mix for
anthemic vocal melodies. The
Cleveland-based band's music equal-
ly acknowledges the influence of
'60s and '70s bands such as The
Who, and early
to mid-'80s
modern rock
bands like The
The Revelers Smiths. The gui-
tars on "There's
Day In, Day Out A Way" alter-
Spin Art Records nately sound as
Reviewed by if they could
Daily Arts Writer have come from
Brian Egan e i t h e r
"Revolver" or
"Murmur."

tempo that is characteristic of the
album and serves to maintain the lis-
tener's interest.
The album's highlight is the stun-
ning "So Long." A strikingly original
tune, a close comparison might be
Neil Diamond meets Pulp. This song
boasts gorgeous keyboards and a
devastating melody.
The warm production of "Day In,
Day Out" gives the album a pleas-
antly intimate feel, and the band's
performance conveys the confidence
of a group formed nearly a decade
ago and the successful synthesis of
their influences into their own prod-
uct. The Revelers' obvious aware-
ness and appreciation of rock history
suggests that they are similarly
aware of the exciting, distinctive
path that they are blazing on "Day
In, Day Out."

On "Time & Place," the Revelers
back their usual guitar, bass and
drums arrangement with the addition
of an organ and lock into a relaxed
groove worthy of Motown or The
Rolling Stones. This song represents
the effective variation of style and

Factor takes listeners
on dream journey

Black, with Catholics, attacks T

If you heard the music that Frank Black was writing in
1988, groundbreaking albums like Nirvana's
"Nevermind" don't sound so revolutionary. One of the
most influential rock musicians of the past ten years, clas-
sic albums by Black's former band,
the Pixies, such as "Surfer Rosa,"
"Doolittle" and "Trompe Le
***i Monde" cemented Black's reputa-
Frm-k Black and tion as a songwriter and prefigured
1the Catholics the '90's alternative revolution. In
Pistolers the wake ofthe Pixies'breakup and
Spit Ant Records the release of several solo albums,
questions have risen as to Black's
Reviewed by relevance to contemporary music.
Daily Arts writer With his newest project, Frank
Brian Egan Black and the Catholics, Black is
reasserting his importance.
The band's second album, "Pistolero," follows closely
6h the heels of last year's brilliant debut, "Frank Black
i the Catholics." Like that album, "Pistolero" was
torded live, on a 2-track machine, with no overdubs, in
an attempt to capture the spontaneity from which the

songs so greatly benefit.
"Pistolero's" opening track, "Bad Harmony," picks up
where the debut left off. It is a snotty, catchy explosive
song in which Black leads the aggressive charge of the
music with his trademark brash, yet melodic vocals.
The hooks on "Pistolero" may not be as immediate as
those of the debut, but this album is nevertheless an
equally strong effort. The length of the "Pistolero"
recording sessions was more than twice that of those for
"Frank Black and the Catholics" (though still only ten
days total), and this is reflected in the greater musical
complexity of the album. The best dxample of this is "So
Hard To Make Things Out," which begins as a slowly
simmering rant, twists its way into an all-out punk assault
and ultimately straightens out into a simple pop progres-
sion by the song's conclusion.
Many of the album's songs develop a Western motif
that is hinted at by both the record's title and artwork.
Strangely enough, this aspect of the music works quite
well alongside Black's more Pixie-ish compositions.
"You're Such A Wire" embodies this odd, yet successful
combination. The driving bass line and skewed har-

monies are reminiscent of Kim Deal's pre-Breeders days,
but the guitar lead sounds suspiciously like a melancholy
steel guitar. The overall effect is both consoling and dis-
quieting.
The quirkiness of "Pistolero" should not be misinter-
preted as inaccessibility. In fact, the album should prove
satisfying to long-time appreciators of Black's music, or
to fans of rock 'n' roll in general. On "Pistolero," the
band continues its quest to bring live, loud music.

With the release of "Dreams. of
Elsewhere," Planet F Records con-
tinues its focus on quality. Planet
E's refusal to flood the market,
instead selectively releasing the
occasional classic, has provided
them with the necessary longevity
to become globally recognized for
its diverse, yet consistent, output
of electronic music.
Common Factor producer Nick
Calingaert is the latest artist on the
Detroit-based label to bridge the
gap between the dance floor and
the living room. Much like the past
few CDs released by Planet E over
the past few years, "Dreams of
Elsewhere"
functions as a
modest concep-
tual album.
Common With a premise
Factor that "the com-
Dreamsf plete truth does
Plsewhere not lay in one
"PanetiE dream but in
Reviewe by s e v e r a I
Daily Arts Writer , the
Jason Birchmeier dreams, the
album's ability
to create dream
motifs instrumentally serves as its
most impressive attribute.
Beginning with the shimmering
synths and calm introspection of
"Reflections," the album immerses
the listener into its poetic dream
world, taking them on an electron-
ic journey into the imaginative and
emotional depths of Clingaert's
artistic mind.
Following the ambient introduc-
tion of "Reflections," the music
gets much funkier and more up-
tempo. "Positive Visual" sets the
pace of the album with some
booming bass in the background
and layers of digital melodies
working together to form a strong
rhythm. What separates this song
and a few others on the album
from calm techno is the inclusion
of sampled vocals. These samples,
along with some hints of disco

ah Sun's fonulaic rhyming gives nothing new

v.
cause "Get Down" and "Horizons"
to capture the soul and celebratory
feel of house music.
This blend of techno and house
with a relaxed, mellow mood slow-
ly fades after the first three songs.
The center of the album - "In
To," "The Sky I Stand Under" and
"Exploration / Meaning" - is
characterized more by intensity
and complexity than funk and soul.
The rhythms are more tribal, the
sounds are more cosmic and the
album's journey transforms from
joyful celebration to nightmarish
Utopian ecstasy.
Near the conclusion of the
record, the journey changes once
again. "Feel What I Feel," the
funkiest and most soulful song on
the album, alleviates the intense
techno bliss of the preceding
songs. It begins with deep bass,
high-pitched snare drums and a
vocal sample proclaiming "'be
cool, sweet daddy, be cool." The
song then picks up the pace .and
restraining yourself from dancing
becomes 'difficult when a vocal
sample of "baby, ooh, can you feel
what I feel" makes you want to
scream "yes!" After this emotional
height, the album concludes with
two atmospheric songs of mostly
ambient techno, perfect for coming
down from the beautiful journey
through the "Dreams of
Elsewhere."

As an artform ages and grows,
originality becomes harder and
harder to achieve. Finding some
new angle, approach or tech-
nique that no one has ever tried
before is more and more of a
chore. As a result, some don't
even bother trying. Case in
point: Epic Artist Rah Sun's
debut "It's not a game." Instead
of trying to break any new
ground, Rah decides to stick
with what works: namely,
overused samples, cookie-cutter
materialism and a diluted, "club
friendly" sound.
The album has a few gems,
though. "Move Direct," is a fast-
paced flow-a-thon featuring Rah
and Thug Felion that works the
"Mafioso" formula well. "Y'all
Ain't Crazy" is a pure head-nod-

der, and a certain back to basics
approach sets off another track,
"Wack Crews."
R a h
seems to be
**y most com-
forta b l e
Rah Sun with battle
raps and
It's Not a Game braggado-
Epic Records cio. His lyri-
Reviewed by cism and
Daily Arts Writer charisma
JuQuan Wilams make the
good songs
on this album outstanding. The
problem is that most of the other
songs are bland, both in the unin-
spired production, and formulaic
rhyming. "Shorty," "I'll be
Around," "Make 'em Clap to
This" and the horrendous "I

Ain't Missing You," all use tired
samples you've heard on dozens
of other rap songs. Also, Rah's
lyrics on the wannabe hardcore
"It's not a Game," and the silly
first single "WHAT?" are
unspectacular. Rah's guests
include Big Punisher and a
bunch of unknowns, but none of
them really add anything to the
album.
One of the biggest rules for
success in art is that if you fol-
low a tried and tested formula or
trend, no one should know that
that's what you're doing.
Unfortunately for Rah Sun, itsis
clear from the outset of "It's Not
a Game" that he's following a
formula, and not doing a really
good job of it, either. This album
has "Dub" written all over it.

fl

The Psychology Peer Advisors Present
Focus Groups: WinterTerm 1999
Where can your
Psych Degree
take you
(AB-BS)?
Wednesday
March 24, 1999
7:00-9:00 PM
4th Floor Terrace,
East Hall
with special guests
Enter East Hall by the
Psychology/Church St. entrance.
2 The elevator is to the left.
Go to the fourth floor and follow
the signs to the Terrace.

Deadline for Applications is Friday 3126 at 5:00 p.m.!!!

The Zippori Archaeological Dig is 6 weeks in Israel,
1 week of touring with five weeks of digging, free
weekends, seminars, field trips, plus six credits
from the University of Michigan, round trip airfare,
room and board, open ended ticket to travel to Europe
(if you want), all for only $2,000. No way.....-way.
Interviews for the Zippori Archaeological Dig
will be taking place Tuesday, April 13th.
Please call Hillel at 769-0500
to schedule an appointment
with Rabbi Rich Kirschen.

Doan ACCOUNT EECUTIVE or:::: r}
SpringlSumrner and Fall/Wintr sitions Available
Interested in Advertising or Business?
Have fun & get paid in a fast-paced
and friendly environment!
Applications available at 420 Maynard St. ,v
Any questions? Call 764-0557.

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