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February 12, 2002 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2002-02-12

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8 -The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, February 12, 2002
BREAKING RECORDS
REVIEWS OF THE MUSIC INDUSTRY'S NEW RELEASES

0
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CARL COX
GLOBAL
LON DON-SIRE RECORDS
By Jeremy Kressman
Daily Arts Writer
Carl Cox is one of the biggest
names in electronic music. Ever
since breaking onto the UK scene
back in the late 80's, Carl Cox has
been building a reputation as the
world's greatest DJ. One only has
to witness a live
performance to
see the ferocity
of a Carl Cox set
- his tendency
to use three
turntables, his
preferences for a '
distinctive style
of hard techno,
and his playful
sh o w m a n sh i p
usually whip
most crowds into
a frenzy.
Global is a
compilation of
previous Cox material as well as a
showcase for some of his more
recent collaborations. Not only is
Global an exhibition for many of
Cox's favorite styles like deep,
soulful house and edgier techno,
but it also an excellent example of
his many years of mixing experi-
ence. Yet the mix is never defined
by any obvious preference.
Instead, Carl Cox moves in and
out of a variety of genres. The

first several tracks start us off
with a few house appetizers. "Turn
it Up" is a vocal house journey,
and "Kick Back" provides a tech-
house hint of where the album is
headed. By track 4, Global is
clearly headed to Techno Land.
Cox spends most of the rest of his
CD showing off his techno
prowess. Only once in a while
does he catch you off guard with
an off-kilter selection. "Simula-
tion" is pure new-wave revival.
Think of this
song like that
crazy relative
we all have
th at -only

STEPHIN MERRITT
EBAN AND CHARLEY ORIG. SNDTRK
MERGE RECORDS
By Keith N. Dusenberry
Daily Music Editor
Date someone long enough and you'll notice that
you can complete the cycle of happy-to-bored-to-sad-
to-frustrated and back again multiple times in any
given week. Get really good and you'll wind up doing
it a few times a day. Develop a relationship with
Stephin Merritt's soundtrack to the film "Eban and
Charley" and you'll run through the circuit six times
injust over half an hour.
The film depicts, apparently, the troubled and
socially "inappropriate" homosexual relationship
between a 29 year-old ex-soccer coach and a 15 year-
old boy. Its soundtrack reveals the tension between
experimentally influenced background music and
melodic kitsch pop. The results are something akin to
aural manic depression.
This album represents Merritt's first release under
his own name. But not surprisingly, the best songs on
this album resemble Merritt's work under his Magnet-
ic Fields project. They are the pop songs with melody
and wit, delivered by Merritt's foghorn voice and
backed with quirky instrumentation. "I wish I had an
orchestra behind me. / ... an orchestra can tell you
pretty stories but this little ukulele tells the truth,"
sings Merritt over a jaunty uke strum. It's clever and

simple, but not easily discardable. Merritt's voice
projects earnestness and a pathetic, yet heartening,
dignity even when singing silly lyrics over toy pianos,
such as he does on "Tiny Flying Player Pianos."
Though the majority of the lyrics are an intentionally
inflated discourse about baby grands going to sleep,
when Merritt moans the ending refrain, "Oh, if only I
could sleep," you feel for him despite yourself.
However, this is not always the case. "Poppyland"
and "Water Torture" are disposable pop songs with
higher aspirations. "Poppyland" gets weighed down
in reverb and deliberately sloppy vocal double-tracks
that do nothing but distract from an otherwise pass-
able Magnetic Fields song. The obvious nonchalance
of "Water Torture" comes through in its endlessly
rhyming and fatuous lyrics, making it the more attrac-
tive of the pair.
Just to give the album some claim to gravitas, and
further fool with listener emotions, two sad songs
crop up. "Some Summer Day" with its Western tinge
and morose melody, and "Maria Maria Maria," mix-
ing melancholy and longing, complete the showcase
of Merritt's diverse compositional abilities.
Unfortunate are the tracks of abstract incidental
music, which fulfill a purpose in the movie but stand
to only disrupt and divert the soundtrack album.
These conceptual compositions consist of odd instru-
mentation laid over boringly repetitive structures. On
a whole, they come off as pitiful attempts at Mark
Motherbaugh's creations for the Rushmore sound-
track. Merritt's most grievous offense in this genre is

?1

Eban & Charley

r 41 r It Vx m

seems to pop
out of the
w oo d w o r k
every now and
then at a fami-
ly reunion. He
amuses us for
a while, but we
probably
couldn't stand
him if we saw
him more than

"Stage Rain;' whose "music" turns out to be even less
exciting than its title. The track is literally almost
seven minutes of ambient rain shower noise. Though
destined to be the talk of certain New York circles,
this song tenders nothing innovative and could fit on
any of the "natural sounds" tapes long-proffered at
yuppie day spas.
Pretentious indiscretions aside, Merritt's album
should hopefully place his name on the list Holly-
wood looks to for musical assistance. However, given
what it implies about his emotional stability, it will
not help him in the personal ads.
RATING: * *

once a year.
Ultimately, Global is a "sam-
pling" of the future of DJing. As
producers and DJs increasingly try
to out-fox one another using
obscure limited release offerings
and white-labels, the strength of a
DJs mixing will shine through as
their true source of talent. With a
DJ as experienced as Cox, expect
him to lead the pack.
RATING:**k' *

BEN KWELLER
EP PHONE HOME
ATO RECORDS

BREAKING REcoRws STAR SYSTEM
* ****CLASSIC
* * * **GREAT TIf you missed a week of
BREAKING RECORDS
*FAIR check the archives at
* * SUB-PAR www.michigandaily.com
* WORTHLESS

By Gina Pensiero
Daily Arts Writer
You can tell what genre Ben Kweller's release EP Phone Home is going
to be just by looking at the cover art. Poor quality shaggy sort of puzzled
looking guy spells indie rock.
His voice and musical style are a cross between Ben Folds and Steve
Malkmus. He kind of looks like a cross of them too.
The happy-go-lucky power pop, which fluctuates between being heavily
based in guitar riffs and reliant on piano work, sounds great, especially on
the first two songs "Launch Ramp" and "How It Should Be." Just about
every song has cheesy background vocals too, which is always a plus.
"Don't bother me / when I'm watching Planet of the Apes on TV / That's
how it should be. / That's right. / Sha-sha-sha-doop," is a typical lyric.
The rest of the release basically follows this construction and it works for
the most part, assuming you haven't gotten really goddamn sick of all the

indie crap that is practically the new,
smarter and hipper emo. As a warning
>;kthough, Kweller's website reports that
he's going to be opening for Dashboard
Confessional in the coming year,
though none of the songs on EP Phone
Home can really be pigeon-holed into
the emo niche.
The only thing that really throws off
the album is the third song, a sleepy
countrified number called "Debbie
Don't Worry Doll." Something about
this track just doesn't flow with
Kweller's style. Maybe it's the harmonica.
Kweller will be releasing a full album, Sha Sha, come March. But if you
want to give him a try before that hits the stores, EP Phone Home is a nice
and cheap way to get a taste of him - though a taste of him might be all
you need.
RATING: ***k

9

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