The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, February 4, 2003 - 7
By Andrew Jovanovski
For the Daily
For The Raven, seminal rocker Lou
Reed looks to Edgar Allan Poe for
inspiration. A loose concept album
that explores the gothic writings of
Poe, The Raven is a veritable melange;
of styles and guest artists that is more
successful than one might imagine for
such an ambitious album.
The album starts off with a softer
version of the serrated guitar-noise
assault of Metal Machine Music on
songs like "A Thousand Departed
Friends." There is the show business
satire of "Broadway Song" featuring
Steve Buscemi as a lounge singer.
The bluesy "I Wanna Know" finds
By Andrew M. Gaerig
Daily Arts Writer
Reed sounding like a preacher
backed by the gospel of the Blind
Boys of Alabama.
Reed flexes his poetic muscles on
"The Raven" by reworking Poe's orig-
inal. While purists might think Reed
to be sacrilegious and pretentious, one
listen to Willem Dafoe's alluring ren-
dition is enough to sway any skeptic.
At times it becomes difficult to
tell which parts are Poe's and which
are Reed's. Well, Poe probably
never called anyone a "sweaty,
While other aging rockers refuse to
grow up, Reed confronts his age on
the hauntingly beautiful "Who Am I?"
which features orchestral flourishes
and highly personal lyrics "about get-
ting older in a Poe universe."
Well executed in places, but either
overbearing or silly in others, The
Raven is a grand musical stew of Poe.
Although it contains filler like "Hop
Frog" (an asinine two-chord rocker
that offers David Bowie chanting
"They call me the hop frog"), Reed's
lyrical sleight on standout tracks like
"I Wanna Know" and "Who Am I?"
definitely make up for it.
RATING: ** *
Courtesy of NBC
The doll IS cocaine.
Pn worth the hype
By Adam Rottenberg
Daily Arts Writer
NBC offers up a new drama just
in time for February sweeps, the
six-part miniseries, "Kingpin."
Executive Producer David Mills
("Homicide Life on the Street,"
"ER") has the proper pedigree to
produce a gritty drama and his
latest effort is a success. "King-
pin" echoes the brilliance of "The
Sopranos" and the feature film
flesh out as the show kicks into
gear. The story shifts from the dif-
ferent players frequently, jumping
from the main story of Miguel to
subplots featuring a female Drug
Enforcement Agency officer, Delia
Flores (Angela Alvarado Rosa), try-
ing to stop the drug trade and
Miguel's brother, Chato (Bobby
Cannavale), in his interactions with
Jorge on the yacht.
The subject matter is definitely
not standard network material, and
Microphones' ringmaster Phil Elvrum has never been
one for subtlety. His records have gained increasing notori-
ety for inventive tape manipulations and marvelously-
inverted pop melodies, but his ridiculous ambition has
been just as instrumental. Consider, for
instance, that 2001's excellent The Glow,
Pt. 2 was a concept record about fire. It
should strike everyone as only slightly
bizarre that Mount Eerie, the follow-up, is
an album about terra firma. Mount Eerie
actually does a fair job of aurally repre-
senting the solidity and size of his subject
matter. Whereas previous Microphones
albums used tape hiss and mangled
acoustics to convey a sense of warmth,
Mount Eerie employs deep bass bubbles
and heavy percussion. The change in
theme and texture isn't a problem - Elvrum never seems
to run out of imaginative sonics to fill the headphones.
Problems do arise, however, when one considers the
quality of the songs. Elvrum has never cared much for tra-
ditional structure, and his tendency to sound like a child
improvising rhymes about wind and fire has always lent a
charming naivet6 to his music. The eccentricity of the
songs has always been more than enough to eclipse
Elvrum's occasionally groan-worthy ambition.
On Mount Eerie, however, Elvrum's aspirations have
overshot the capabilities of his band. It's a shame that
Mount Eerie fails to liven itself on headphones, as previ-
ous albums have, and it's equally shameful that the band's
formerly playful, light tone has been replaced with heavy-
handed symbolism. Elvrum's lyrics are now so strictly nar-
rative that plot takes precedent over taste; new "characters"
are introduced with jarring changes in structure and tempo
and often ruin any melodic momentum Elvrum builds.
Only occasionally do the charismatic
melodies shine through. "Solar System"
comes closest to the traditional Micro-
phones sound, and the gorgeous backing
vocals vary it enough to make it notewor-
thy. The melody that protrudes after a 10-
minute percussion experiment shapes an
intriguing, if abrasive song. The low-tide
chant of "Universe" is a fitting album
closer. Occasionally the band is able to stir
up a convincing white-noise cacophony,
and these moments serve as some of the
more thrilling on Mount Eerie.
I don't fault The Microphones for their ambition - it's
high time someone projected lo-fi recording techniques
onto a grand canvas. Mount Eerie, however, fails to pro-
vide the intimacy and charm of prior Microphones releas-
es. This album is interesting, creative and inarguably
inspired. Its ideas, however, are too large, even for its mas-
sive subject matter.
RATING: * * I
MARY STAR OF THE SEA
Slick, happy and screaming
with FM potential, Zwan's debut
release, Mary Star of the Sea, goes
to show that Billy Corgan will
never leave us alone. He shines in
his happiness; he basks in the
warm glow of his backing band
comprised of a laundry list of
artists whose credentials run
longer than a river. This album
explodes with songs like "Lyric,"
"Declarations of Faith" and the
album's first, glowing single,
"Honestly," before reaching a
monstrous ending on "Jesus,
I/Mary Star of the Sea." Overall,
Mary Star of the Sea makes for a
good listen and is packed with
hooks that are just about as addic-
tive as crack. Now let's just hope
Corgan's ego doesn't ruin this
band, too. ***
SUB POP RECORDS
Holopaw earned their indie-rock
brownie points in 2001 for their
involvement in Modest Mouse's
side project Ugly Casanova. On
their self-titled debut, however, the
Florida quintet crafts an inspired
album of southern pop embers.
All the necessary elements for the
alt-country pigeonhole (mandolin,
pedal-steel, slight vocal inflec-
tions) show up, but the band
shows more versitality than that.
Check the foggy keyboard
swoon of "Hoover" or the funer-
al-march horns of "Cinders."
Among these, substantial pop
instincts and impressive vocal
harmonies announce the band's
undeniable songwriting talents.
Even as the album loses momen-
tum on the back nine, the quality
of the arrangements and the
striking ease of delivery keep
engagement high. This band could
have legs. ***i
-Andrew M. Gaerig
"Traffic." The show features a would prob
panic cast which is a a
positive step, consid-
ering the lack of 7*kk
diversity in network
"Kingpin" focuses Sundays and Tuesdays
on the lives of a fami- at 10 p.m.
ly in the Mexican drug NBC
cartel known as "La
Cadena, wonderfully played by drug dealin
Yancey Arias ("The Time the interna
Machine"), takes center stage as the paranoia. F
No. 2 man in the family's crime feature pr
syndicate. Miguel, a graduate between M
Stanford University and married to son, Joey,
a "gringo," but is vying to take con- (Sheryl Le
trol of the family business from his the centrall
uncle, Jorge (guest star Pepe Serna) isons betwe
and his crazy and irrational cousin, Sopranos" e
Ernesto (guest star Jacob Vargas). Well supp
Conflict arises through Ernesto's pin" occupi
poor decisions and tension grows the crucial]
between him and Miguel. Miguel od and so f
maintains the role of an anti-hero this honor."
torn between his relationship with ing else on
his family and the sadness of realiz- obvious risk
ing his obvious evils. to be a suc
The opening segments begin at a fully, the n
brisk pace with little exposition. provide th
However, the characters begin to and excitem
bably be better suited
for HBO. The show
amounts of violence
and a significant
focus on drugs.
The desert plays a
key role in creating
the feel of the show
with brown hues
reminiscent of "Traf-
fic." Overall, the
ng takes a back seat to
1 family struggles and
Miguel and his young
and wife, Marlene
e). The importance of
family makes compar-
en "Kingpin" and "The
even more evident.
ported by NBC, "King-,
es two timeslots during
February sweeps peri-
ar it appears to deserve
"Kingpin" is like noth-
network television, an
k by NBC but proving
cessful venture. Hope-
next installments will
e same entertainment
nent as the pilot.
Paranormal 'Miracles' shows promise
By Daniel Yowell
Daily Arts Writer
ABC brings a unique premise to net-
work television in "Miracles" - a new
series about an underground detective
organization that investigates paranor-
mal occurrences. By channeling both
"The X-Files" and "The
proves to be chilling,
dark and suspenseful. O
Paul Callan, (Skeet
Ulrich, "Scream") an MIR
investigator for the Mondays
Church, checks onA
reports of miracles to
confirm or deny their veracity. Dis-
couragingly, after six months on the
job, Paul has not found a single valid
miracle and begins to question his
faith. On a soul-searching leave of
absence, he finally experiences first-
hand phenomena so bizarre that he
cannot deny their actuality.
In a scene highly reminiscent of
"The X-Files," Paul delivers an obser-
vation report to his superior. The Mon-
signor shoots him down, claiming his
reports are unsubstantiated. Frustrated
and weary, Paul resigns, only to be
found by Alva Keel (Angus Mac-
leader of the renegade
detective group,, Sodali-
tas Quaerito (Latin for
"brotherhood" and "to
search"), Keel reveals a
deeper, paranormal con-
spiracy directly related
to Paul's experiences
cognitive visions of the dead similar to
those in "The Sixth Sense."
Skeet Ulrich creates a very likable
character in the confused and frustrat-
ed, but truly pure spirited, Paul Callan.
Like Fox Mulder from "The X-Files,"
Paul wants to believe that there is
something else out there, and he grap-
ples with his faith throughout the show.
Conundrums straight out of an intro-
ductory philosophy course come up in
the first episode of "Miracles," making
the show more than just entertaining
but thought-provoking as well.
The combination of metaphysical
investigation.and religious subtext has
a quality that ties "Miracles" to the
films of M. Night Shyamalan, espe-
cially "The Sixth Sense" and "Signs."
There is truly nothing else quite like it
on network television today. "Mira-
cles" has an opportunity to fill the gap
left by the departure of "The X-Files"
last year, providing a weekly, 60-
minute fix for fans of the supernatural.
s at 10 p.m.
and asks him to join the
organization in pursuit of the truth.
Both the visuals in "Miracles" and
its ominous soundtrack are genuinely
creepy, building the show's well-con-
structed atmosphere. It is especially
easy to get sucked in during scenes
where it rains blood, or Paul has pre-
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