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March 09, 2000 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2000-03-09

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12A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, March 9, 2000

RETURN OF STEELY DAN IS FORCE OF NATURE'

Rollins and company
'Get Some' new raga

I was going to give "Two Against Nature,"
Steely Dan's first recording of completely new
studio material in twenty years an "A," until I
stumbled upon an old "Down Beat" article about
the band from September of 1975. The article
features an interview with Donald Fagen, half of
Steely Dan's creative team, in which he calls
electronic instruments "one aspect of the End of
Art" and then states "it's interesting how rock
and roll seems to be able to revive itself period-
ically. There's some strange regenerative quality
in all that simplicity. You can get away with
playing the same thing over and over again and
audiences don't mind. In fact, they seem to pre-
fer it."
The biggest problem with "Two Against
Nature" is that it sounds just like vintage Steely
Dan, a style of indulgently arranged guitars,
keyboards and horns that, 20 years later, is a bit
dated and appears to be an attempt by Fagan and
Steely Dan's other half, Walter Becker, to assert
their own (disdainfully) self-described regenera-
tion of simplicity.
But audience-prestidigitation aside, the same
old Steely Dan is good stuff.
I've had friends tell me
Grade: B+ that they like Steely Dan but
sometimes find their music
Steely Dan "too cheesy." Part of this
Two Against Nature misconception is probably
due to the band's elaborate
Giant Records construction of vocals and
Reviewed by electronic instruments, a
Daily Music Editor symptom of '70s excess
John Uhl that, after "Saturday Night
Fever" and "Dazed and
Confused," our generation finds hard to take
serious. Yet by ignoring the fact that tight vocal
harmonies and too many synthesizers recall
'orange butterfly collars and Styx, Steely Dan's
masterful use of the recording studio should
become apparent.
Barring a brief period before anyone had ever
heard of them, Steely Dan has never existed as a
"band," a performing ensemble with a fixed cast

of musicians. Their tunes emerge from the heads
of Becker and Fagen and the manipulation of
hours of music recorded by an assortment of the
musicians that the various compositions call for.
Some solos are written out and others are impro-
vised as needed, and the instrumental raw mate-
rial is usually limited to a standard rock band
augmented by a small horn section. Similarly
the tunes themselves are perversions of standard
pop song structures, like (especially) the blues.
Only the result is not a cut and paste impression
but rather one of an orchestral tapestry woven
tight enough to enable an entire piece to revolve
around the snap of a single high-hat.
The real reason, though, that some may erro-
neously find Steely Dan to be sentimental is hid-
den in the irony of their lyrics. After a cursory
listen to "Almost Gothic" from "Two Against .
Nature," one could be inclined to pass it off as a
maudlin song-soliloquy from the middle of a
Broadway musical and only be half wrong.
Fagen's solo voice divulges a gorgeous lovesick
melody, complete with sweeping clarinet-led
reed accompaniment and a stageside choir to
help with the chorus. But listen and notice that

this hero's heroine is "severe," "cryptic" and
"telling ... mostly lies." It is a twisted romance
that is "spell(ed) L-U-V" and stars a girl who is
"almost gothic," popular culture's latest embod-
iment of bitter isolation.
This idea of sarcastically finding beauty in
bizarre bordering on ominous places, evidence
of 1970s disillusionment, was and still is pure
Steely Dan, surfacing throughout "Two Against
Nature": glamorization of incest; kidnapping
runaway girls; arson; deals with the devil; indif-
ference.
Perhaps Fagen and Becker have become too
good at paring down to the essence of their
songs, though. The straight-faced delivery of an
unlucky criminal's "got a case of dynamite, I
could hold out here all night" against the cool
melodic rock of 1976's "Don't Take Me Alive"
achieves such an emotional detachment from its
singer that most listeners don't recognize that
they are being asked to morally judge him.
"Two Against Nature" goes even further, elim-
inating all frills unnecessary to conveying the
music's gist. The solos are uncomplicated but
the arrangements are immaculate and serve their
purpose. It seems too slick to this listener, how-
ever, who misses the days when Steely Dan
sounded as cool and instrumentally daring as the
satirical implications of their lyrics: The glori-
ous guitar jubilation of "Reeling in the Years;"
the artistic disco (only time that's not an oxy-
moron) of "The Fez;" all of the saxophone solos
that defined soulful rock before the eighties
turned the instrument into a cliche.
Instead, "West of Hollywood," the final track
of "Two Against Nature," features Chris Potter's
tenor saxophone, (notably of the Dave Holland
Quintet) following the giant footsteps of past
Steely Dan guests Jerome Richardson, Phil
Woods, Wayne Shorter, Tom Scott and Michael
Brecker, in a dull solo that simmers monoto-
nously with hip licks for nearly four minutes.
Although, give Fagen and Becker credit for
prefacing the solo with the words "I'm way deep
into nothing special."

Grade: B-
Rollins Band
Get Some Go Again
Dreamworks
Reviewed by
Daily Arts Writer
David Reamer
contrived, and the

From the first day he stepped onto the
stage with Black Flag, Henry Rollins
has thrilled audiences with his gritty
voice and discordant lyrics. The man is
worshipped by fans of punk and main-
stream rock alike, and is known as one
of the most passionate musical perform-
ers on earth. For the year 2000, the leg-
endary musician has also released an
album of all new material.
"Get Some Go Again" features guest
appearances by Thin Lizzy guitarist
Scott Gorham and MC5's Wayne
Kramer, and the members of Mother
Superior have replaced the original
Rollins Band, but the music is essential-
ly the same as it was over a decade ago.

Driving guitar
riffs still propel
lyrics - full of
despair and anger,
and the band has-
n't lost its former
intensity.
Sadly, the same
old sound doesn't
quite cut it any-
more. Biting
lyrics come off as
background music,

his heyday. Even his attempts at social
commentary fall somewhat short, com-
prised of complaints about the artificial-
ity of Hollywood and the like.
The other aspects of "Get Some Go
Again" are similarly unoriginal, but not
as disappointing as Rollins' contribu-
tions. The guitar and bass work supplied
by members of Mother Superior s
actually quite good, including several
scorching solos and funky basslines that
are impressive to hear. They do not break
any new ground, however, and the result
is neither a revitalization of punk nor a
criticism of the state of rock and roll, two
accomplishments Rollins has achieved
in the past.
"Get Some Go Again" is not the
scathing social commentary that many
listeners had hoped for, but it does han
a number of redeeming qualities.
music is, if not compelling, at least
entertaining, and although the lyrics
have lost some of their bite, they are still
the words of a pissed-off man ashe
looks at the world around him. Of
course, the biggest and best reason to lis-
ten to the album is simple: The Man is
back. Even after all these years, Henry
Rollins is an imposing presence, and
even a bland offering is an offering. *

while technically sound, is not anything
that can't be found elsewhere. From the
man who reinvented punk, one would
expect something a bit more original.
For the most part, Rollins sounds like
he's trying very hard to recreate the bad-
ass image that he had prior to his more
sentimental releases, including a spo-
ken-word album of his own poetry.
Lines such as "Talk is talk/Kill is kill"
aren't imposing anymore and make
Rollins appear to be stretching to find
the cutting-edge material he flaunted in

Gang screams for 'Boobies' [7

The Dwarves 'Come
,Clean' with new effort

The Bloodhound Gang first made a name for them-
selves in 1996, with the unlikely radio hit "Fire Water
Bunn," and then promptly dropped out of the American
musical spotlight. Four years later, the Gang is once
again attempting to regain mainstream fame with a new
album full of unconventional tracks. With a title like
"Hooray for Boobies," it's not hard to imagine what
we're all in for, and it's not com-
mercial success.
Grade: C+ "Hooray for Boobies" is a col-
Bloodhound lection of diverse tracks with two
underlying themes: sex and
ang drugs, not necessarily in that
Hooray for Boobies order. Titles ranging from "I
Geffen Hope You Die" to "A Lap Dance
Reviewed by Is So Much Better When the
Daily Arts Writer Stripper Is Crying" give a good
David Reamer indication of the material in the
album. Soft and hardcore drugs
surface in many of the songs, often taking the forefront.
Crude sexual references and suggestions of drug use

showcase the band's not-so-charming immaturity, and
help create an album that cannot be taken seriously.
The actual music of "Hooray for Boobies" is an
eclectic collection of seemingly random styles and sam-
plings. Cheesy European techno-pop beats are com-
mon, although certainly not the rule. The aforemen-
tioned "Lap Dance" is a country-western narrative, and
the album's opening track is a Weezer-like alternative
rock song. "Mope" features samples of Metallica,
George Michael and Homer Simpson, put together to
form a strangely palatable ode to perversion and sub-
stance abuse. Vocal styles range from rap to rock to red-
neck, making for an unusual listening experience.
The results of such a varied collection of styles are
not entirely positive. Although the band does manage to
show off its range and various talents, the songs do not
flow together, and are further broken up by useless
intermissions containing vocal clips from random peo-
ple outside of the band. While many of the tracks are
funny and have some musical merit, the album's lack of
continuity causes its replay value to suffer.

On the whole, "Hooray for Boobies" is entertaining,
at least for the first few listenings: The novelty soon
wears off, though, and what is left is a collection of
average songs with extremely vulgar lyrics. Catchy
beats alone cannot save the album from mediocrity, and
sadly, even these are not consistent.
But perhaps the album's failure to impress isn't com-
pletely the Gang's fault. After all, as the song "Three
Point One Four" explains: "It's hard to rhyme a word
like vagina."

Mule's new 'Life' in studio shines with blues-rock intensity

The Dwarves have always been a sort
of punk metal stew, but on their last cou-
ple albums they've been sounding less
and less like a garage band, and that's
flustering. Not that it's bad, but when a
record like "Blood Guts and Pussy" gave
you 15 songs in 14 minutes and sounded
like it took maybe 27 minutes to record,
the cleaner sound is just a little freaky.
It's like "Come Clean" has gotten
cross pollinated by Gwar or something.
The drunken vio-
lent orgy themes
Grade: B+ have always been
'The Dwarves a constant but
some of the
Come Clean vocals, like those
Epitaph of "River City"
for instance, that
Reviewed by are higher pitched
Daily Arts Writer and sound a lot
Ted Watts like Beefcake
from the previous-
ly mentioned Halloween-core latex
mavens.
But that's in keeping in a lot of ways
with the Dwarves sound. The trippy part
is the more experimental stuff; "Over
You" has sound effects and an overall
sense that someone from Mr. Bungle
structured it. Considering the historic
straight ahead fast song structure of the
Dwarves, it would be the most surpris-
ing part of the album if there wasn't
some Peter Frampton-style vocal manip-
ulation on "Come Where the Flavor Is"
or the metal hop rap (in the way Vincent
Price was rapping on "Thriller") in the
middle of "Deadly Eye."
The music still bounds along at a

"Life Before Insanity," Gov't Mule's
third studio album since the group
farmed out of an impromptu Allman
Brothers Band jam session, is a solid
rock album marked by the heavy, tasteful
layering of Warren Haynes' signature
blues guitar, Allen Woody's rumbling
bass and Matt Abts' drumming. Fans of
the blues, especially in the vein of Mule's
earlier efforts and the Allman Brothers,
will appreciate that the band has not

strayed far from its equation.
The Gov't Mule sound is drawn from
layer upon layer of Haynes' stellar guitar
work. His licks are often heavy, evoking
much more sound from one note than the
whole of Third Eye Blind could do in a
song. It is this technique that gives many
of the slower songs on "Life Before
Insanity" an added element of soul,
which complements the album's honest,
back to basics blues songs. Of course,

Haynes' guitar can also just kick-ass,
proving Mule has not forgotten its roots;
first and foremost they are a power trio
whose songs hit early and often, like a
victorious bar fighter who has taken care
of his competition and sped off into the

chipper pace, but it doesn't sound like
they're just trying to cover up their inad-
equacies with speed anymore. There's a
certain amount of musicianship to Blag
Dahlia and crew that's welcome but
unexpected. Horror of horrors, are the
Dwarves at long last growing up?
Nah. While the sound has evolved
substantially for the band, the songs are
still traditional from a narrative point of
view. Sure, the new ditties now sound
different from older stuff and each oth*
but there's still the underage girls and the
fruitless search for sex by some loser
song writer saturating the experience.
You can only change a dumb punk so
much.
Yeah, the record has all the trappings
of a Dwarves album; pretty naked
women and ugly naked band members.
Nothing is revolting in quite the same
way as guitari
HeWhoCannotBeNamed in nothing b
a guitar strap and wrestling mask. But
when the band has rarely sounded better,
who cares?

Grade: A-
Gov't Mule
Life Before
Insanity
Capricorn
Reviewed by
Daily Arts Writer
Andrew Ladd

night on his
Harley-Davidson.
The opening
"Wander i n g
Child" demon-
strates this, com-
ing on strong after
a short period of
in term i t tent
instrumental work
led by Woody's
rolling bass-line,

which comes to detine the tune.
Perhaps the softer side of "Life" best
exemplifies the interplay between the
music and lyric of Mule's albums. Each
ballad is given a dynamic voice, often
See MULE, Page 14A

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