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January 15, 2002 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-01-15

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7 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, January 15, 2002

Love is Here, Starsailor;
By Matthew C. Borushko
For the Daily

Starsailor are four chaps from
Chorley, England who've had two
hit singles across the pond and
who've toured to critical acclaim in
London and Australia. These days,
it's usually the Strokes to whom the
title of Saviors of Rock and Roll is
handed. But now many in this busi-
ness want to give Starsailor a shot
at the Strokes crown. In Starsailor's
case, the title should be amended to
Saviors of Indie Rock in the Vein
0 f Jeff Buckley.
These boys are unabashedly
indebted to Buckley, even taking
their name from a Buckley EP.
Starsailor have prepared for the
American release of the eleven-
song Love-is Here by making late-
night stops on Letterman and
Kilborn just last week to perform
the unremarkable title track.
Frontman and guitarist James
Walsh gets most of the press.
Walsh, the musical force behind the
band, milks his untucked good
looks into a persona best described
as earnest, serious and charming.
His voice gets the hype; it's acro-
batic, endearing and reaches

towards Thom Yorke before stop-
ping short somewhere between a
sedated Robert Plant and a
depressed Neil Young.
Not to be underestimated are
keyboardist Barry Westhead,
bassist James Stelfox and drummer
Ben Byrne. The collective effort is
a batch of melancholic modern
rock - darker than successful and
similarly-instrumented Coldplay,
but a blend of experimentation and
classicism that yields promise.
A rock song can succeed without
superior lyrics, but the reflective
mood Starsailor seem to be aiming
at probably requires something
more than Walsh offers on Love is
Here. Think of his two most appar-
ent influences-Buckley and
Young. At the very least, Walsh
leaves me scratching my head as to
whether he is mockingly profound,
or simply picking words that sound
good in falsetto: "Don't you know
you've got your daddy's eyes /
Daddy was an alcoholic." What?
The musicianship on Love is
Here is tight; the bass drives and
the keys, whether piano or Ham-
mond or synth, are pillowy and
exquisite. Check out the lead keys
on "Poor Misguided Fool," one of
the album's better songs. The melo-
drama builds in the solid "Alco-
holic," but lifts briefly for
"Lullaby," Starsailor's best chance
at a hit over here: a number seem-
ingly lifted directly from the 70s.
The melodies are vast and sweep-
ing throughout Love is Here. The
best songs - "Talk Her Down,"
"Good Souls," and "Coming
Down" - emerge when Starsailor
break what seems to be a program-
matic and confining song struc-
ture. Let's hope Walsh's lyrics
mature and the quartet looks
toward greater innovation for what
will be an eagerly anticipated fol-
Grade: C

It's a rare day when a European band storms over to the
United.States and returns to the respective fatherland
sounding "Americanized" (hell, Bush always sounded
American, so they don't count). The Euros tend to keep
some of their musical integrity,
some of their panache, and
some of themselves when they :{
return home. Daft Punk never.
returns home to France sound-
ing like a cheapened Orgy. In ~
fact, this musical transmogrifi-.
cation tends to work vice versa.
The Anniversary must have ^
spent substantial, perhaps inane.
amounts of time overseas
imbibing the culture and sound
before they went to work on the{
royally titled our Majesty, thek
follow-up to their insecure and ?{
undoubtedly emo-debut
Designing a Nervous Break-
down. *
Gone are the loopy synthesiz-
ers, too-damn jangly guitars and
vocals that sound as if they
were recorded from the other end of the parking lot at Mei-
jer. In the place of these detriments The Anniversary
strengthened their once thin guitar sound, and sucked the
cheese out of their Mloogs. It is both a polished and differ-
ent sounding Anniversary, revised and revamped from the
rag-tag bunch of schmaltzy emo-kids that dropped Design-
ing in 2000.
The record business isn't Arby's and different isn't
always good. In fact, different is definitely not good when
your sound (which wasn't incredibly original at first gets
redux'd into something different, but still derivative)
becomes an inexcusably shameful symbiosis of Pulp and
Seven More Minutes-era Rentals.
When Matt Sharp's high-profile moog-driven pop band
headed to Spain singer/songwriter Sharp made no qualms
about the European cultural infusion onto his music - he
also made good music. The Rentals had obvious problems
on Seven More Minutes (like the sudden British-twang that
mystically appeared in Sharp's voice, and has since infected

Your Majesty, The Anniversary; Vagrant Records 1
By Luke Smith
Daily Arts Editor

the vocal chords of Weezer singer Rivers Cuomo) but these
problems could for the most part be overlooked on account
of music that was cleverly arranged, and blatant in its
homage to Euro-pop culture.
It is difficult to imagine a more blatant cross-cultural
allusion than naming your album in reference to the
royals i.e. Your Majesty. But the indefatigable nods to
the European-scene as seen through the eyes of Ameri-
cans continues into the heart of The Anniversary's
Male-vocalists Josh
Berwanger and Justin Roleofs
{& adopt the same nasal breathy
h posturing that Sharp did on
Seven More Minutes, and they
do it even less convincingly,
Female vocalist Adrianne
Pope provides a sugary-sweet
Y foil to the breathy intonations
of her male-counterparts.
. ~Songs like "Husam,
. {. Husam" catch The Anniver-
sary falling into decidedly
~ indie-cliches with a near-
orchestral Verve-like arrange-
ment replete with Pope's'
choral cooing plodding along
for over a minute and a half'
before the "song" actually
starts. Once "Husan, Husam"
finally gets underway (for real) it drags listeners into
the streets of Barcelona for a beating with a thick blunt
object._ that object being boredom. Not surprising in
the least is another musical mock-montage somewhere'
near the four-minute mark, changing the song's pace
for some more of Pope's cooing, before a neo-tri-
umphant return to the overly lethargic hook. The
Anniversary deserve a bit of credit for their desire to
innovate dynamic changes throughout the song, but the
execution is shoddy at best.
Besides the all-tooobvious Euro-transitionalist motif
Your Majesty is an improvement on their unexciting
debut. The improvements in production and songwrit-
ing are pseudo-exponential. However, these improve-
ments are offset and marginalized by the fact that The
Anniversary break no ground other than the shaky foot-
ing on which their first record barely stood.
Grade: C-

...... .... .

Schubert String Quartet, Takics;
By Joshua Palay
For the Daily
Best known for their superb interpre-
tation of the six Bartok string quartets,
the Takics quartet has delivered a strong
performance in their recently released
CD of Schubert's String Quartet in G
major, D887 and Adagio for piano trio,
D897 "Notturno." Since receiving a
Grammy nomination for their record-
ings of the Trout String Quartet, the
release of another Schubert CD by the
Takis Quartet has been long awaited by
the classical music world; this CD does
not disappoint.
The Takacs quartet was formed in
Budapest in 1975, and has always drawn
from its Eastern European roots a play-
ing style that is impassioned and direct:
They play from the soul. Their perfor-
mance on this CD is no exception and
bursts (from all the boundaries of itself)
with these emotive aspects. With the
wrong performers, Schubert chamber
music easily slides from delightful and
charming to dry and mind numbing.
The Takacs quartet gracefully avoids
this pitfall with great attention to detail
in the music, but also by a performance
that is convincingly dramatic without
becoming ridiculous or inane.
The delicately tender opening of the
Notturno is something felt in one's gut
rather then simply one's ear. From the
very opening of the piece, a spell is cast
that renders the audience powerless to
resist. The attention to phrasing and
communication between the players is
palpable and flawless, culminating in a.
performance both moving and precise.
With such sublime and superb abili-
ties in both the performance and inter-
pretation, it is a shame that Schubert
was recoded with such a wet sound.
The acoustic space of the recording
becomes too gelatinous for one to hear
the subtleties in performance that give
the Takacs quartet its powerhouse repu-
tation. For those of more plebian tastes,
this recording ,blunder should p6d no
problem and, for those unfamiliar with
classical recordings, the CD certainly
stands on its didactic abilities encourag-
ing future, more in-depth listenings of
Schubert works.
Though significantly stellar, Schubert
fails to indicate any significant develop-
ment in the Takics quartet's growth. It is
a flawlessly performed rendition of the
Schubert chamber music, but I would
hope that soon this quartet moves
toward more contemporary composers
instead of riding the wave of previous
successes. Having already commis-
sioned and performed a work by
McArthur Award-winning genius Bright
Sheng, we can only hope that the most
talented Takacs quartet brings their
emotional integrity and shear power to
music that is of our own time.
Grade: B+

8 Track, Donkey Punch; Minor
League Records
By Stacey Anderson
Daily Arts Writer
What is ska? What is punk? What
is hardcore? Donkey Punch may be
all of these or none of the above, but
their newest release, 8 Track, doesn't
need a label to prove itself. Full of
contagious melodies and infectious
words, their second album is sick ...
in a good way.
Donkey Punch fans know what
they like, and what they like is on
this album: Songs about subjects to
which they can relate. Love/hate
relationships with boy bands, kissing
your girlfriend's sister and substance
abuse are just a taste of the delicious
album that this local band is offering
to their fans. With catchy choruses
and fast paced interludes, songs like
"Na Na Na" and "Oops My Bad"
will have you jumping, singing and
moshing after just one listen. And
choruses that contain lyrics like
"That's right I'm talkin' 'bout the
boy bands/And I'm confessing, we're
jealous of what they have/it's true"
and "I can't think of anything that I
would rather do/Than getting fucked
up for you," are bound to be stuck in
your head for weeks at a time. How

can that be a bad thing?
With eight straight tracks of hard-
core, sing-along, classic Donkey
Punch hits, these guys have taken
their live show and brought it
straight to your discman. Although
missing the timeless "East Coast
Girl," found on their first album,
Your Everything Else, the rest of the
set list on this new CD makes up for
it. It'll get you through the line at
Shaman Drum or a trip from North
Campus in no time. Just watch your-
self: Even though Donkey Punch
needs no labels, their lyrics and har-
monies are known to insight some
"punk rock" behavior.
Grade: B+

Sndtrk. Vanilla Sky, Various Artists;
Warner Brothers
By Gina Pensiero
Daily Arts Writer
Typically, soundtracks suck.
In the history of the world, there have been a maximum of
maybe five decent ones, ever. Additionally, there is a little-
known law of physics that states that no more than 10 quali-
ty soundtracks will ever exist in our space and time.
When I read the sticker on the front of the Vanilla Sky
soundtrack jewel case that said "Forget everything you know
about a soundtrack," I was a little skeptical. The fact that this
forewarning is juxtaposed against the album cover, an air-
brushed shot of a pensive Tom Cruise looking deeply out
into space, took me beyond skepticism and practically
rolling around on the floor, convulsing with uncontrollable
How could this soundtrack undo all the wrong that had
been done by the likes of every teenybopper movie ever?
How could it erase all of the associations with bad scores
and the latest crappy radio hit conjured by the evil "sound-
track" genre?
OK. So I was wrong.
The Vanilla Sky soundtrack may not completely avoid all
the awful cliches that come along with the genre (hello folks.
- there is a Monkees' song on it) but it comes pretty damn
If there is one single reason to buy this thing it's the first
song, "All The Right Friends," a new effort from our dear
old Athens friends R.E.M. If only every song on Reveal
could have sounded like this, Beatlesque Rickenbacker riffs
and an edgy sound reminiscent of the Life's Rich Pageant
days, the world would be a better place.

Grade: A-

As if that one song wasn't enough to make me want the
album, the soundtrack follows with a sequence of songs
which are all, surprisingly enough, really solid. Artists
include Radiohead, Paul McCartney, Peter Gabriel, Red
House Painters, Sigur Ros, Jeff Buckley and Bob Dylan.
Other highlights include the ridiculously fun Looper song
called "Mondo '77" and Josh Rouse's poppy "Directions."
Basically, this soundtrack makes an ass of all other things
known as soundtracks. It's true that they already seemed stu-
pid, repetitive and awful, but Vanilla Sky serves as a
reminder that we should think lower of them than we already
do because it is entirely possible to make an amazing one.
There is actually not one bad song on this thing - except'
for maybe the aforementioned Monkees.


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