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September 10, 2002 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-09-10

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ARTis

The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, September 10, 2002 - 9

BREAKING

RECORDS

REVIEWS OF THE MUSIC INDUSTRY'S NEW RELEASES

SPOON
KILL THE MOONLIGHT
MERGE RECORDS
By Andy Taylor-Fabe
Daily Arts Writer
Spoon was on the verge of oblivion
when they were dropped from Elektra
9 Records after their second LP Series
of Sneaks'(1998), but their phoenix-
like return Girls Can Tell (2001)
established them as a point of light in
the muddy, often tedious world of
pop/rock. The tight and appropriately
cathartic album was appreciated by
critics but has been largely ignored in
favor of an onslaught of "The (plural
noun)" garage-revival acts peppering
the airwaves.
Spoon's follow-up to Girls, Kill the
Moonlight, with its stripped-down
guitar and percussion, is a sharp
departure from the poppy, smooth
sound of their previous release. The
group retains its pop sensibilities,

s.~'o~ / Ku~m~eX1

tion into these songs that made his
vocals on Girls so refreshing.
.The big secret to the success of
Moonlight, however, is drummer and
producer Jim Eno, whose syncopated,
driving drum work gives songs like
"Something to Look Forward to,"
"Jonathon Fisk" and "Don't Let it Get
You Down" a dirty, Ginger Baker feel
that contrasts nicely with Daniel's pop
melodies and unpredictable rhythms.
The album feels more like an
experiment than a masterpiece.
While pushing the outside of the
envelope for a new direction, they
missed something. Moonlight's min-
imalist mix of twangy guitar, drums
and piano is the right course for the
group, and it contains a few classics,
but it feels like a first draft of their
next remarkable album.
Spoon has mined the ore; when they
refine it, they may become truly great,
but watching their struggle to evolve is
as exciting as seeing the final result.
RATING:* *

with threads of Elvis Costello and
Big Star woven into its Pixies-influ-
enced rock style.
Frontman Brit Daniel has a voice
that ranges from untrained rock
("Small Stakes") to melodic falsetto
("Stay Don't Go," which also stakes
indie claim to the percussive beatbox)
to vocal tracks with a hint of angsty
John Lennon ("Don't Let it Get You
Down" and "All the Pretty Girls go to
the City"), and he puts the same emo-

YE LLOWP-ER, N
COLDPLAY
A RUSH OF BLOOD TO THE HEAD
CAPITOL RECORDS
By Mike Saftsman
For the Daily
The latest trend in music coming from across the
Atlantic has been the return.to rock 'n' roll. Bands like
The Strokes, The Hives and The Vines have come to the
US sporting a devil-may-care attitude and a sound to back
it up. However, a lack of variety in their music coupled
with an extreme case of overexposure (the most annoying
of which is MTV, who, for all.
its viewers know, was on the
ground floor when these bands
broke) has left some listeners
crying out for something new
Could Chris Martin's crooning
be the breath of fresh air lis-
tenets need? Coldplay's latest
A Rush of Blood to the Head
has the answer.
Coldplay builds on an idea
of "simple music" with this
album. There are no compli-
cated verse riffs, mind-blowing
solos, or jazzy drum parts fea-
tured in any song. Like their
first album Parachutes, they've
taken the lonely and begging
words of a lead singer, a basic
piano or guitar line, and pulled.
them together into a tight
musical composition. The difference on A Rush is in the
studio production. Clearly this is a band trying to get their
music out to the masses by making it much more listen-
able. The mild overdrive and acoustic guitar that quietly
guided Parachutes has been replaced by a wall of sound
from guitarist Jonnie Buckland. Added to that is a combi-.
nation of piano and full orchestration that gives this new
collection of songs a very regal, ballad-like feel.

..........
... ...... .... ..... ... ... ... ........... .. .....

[OT BRIGHTER
Perhaps this is the natural evolution of Coldplay, a
direction in which they were inevitably going to head. A
Rush is an album lacking nothing - and therein lies the
problem. Each song is so filled with sound and studio pro-
duction that it is difficult not to desire the simplicity of
Parachutes. The weakest spot on this album, the single "In
My Place," is full of noise and strings and studio effects,
but wholly lacks good lyrics or songwriting. It forces lis-
teners to wonder if Coldplay's focus was on making their
music sound its best, or simply replicating the success of
their hit single "Yelow."
There are bright spots here, specifically those carried by
lead singer Chris Martin's piano playing. Although I ini-
tially questioned the lack of
acoustic guitar, the notes
played by Martin on songs like
"The Scientist" and "Amster-
dam" show his emotion and
amplify his lyrics in a'way the
guitar never could. The center-
piece of this album is the song
"Clocks," which could be an
Enya composition if not for
the drum beat. A beautiful
piano riff glitters and floats in
the background, while Martin
takes his voice up to the falset-
to heavens.
This newest Coldplay album
sounds great - there is no
denying that. However, in
expanding their sound they
have sacrificed the originality
that made their debut album so
powerful. A Rush is nothing new and walks on the well .
beaten path, whether it was the story with Morning Glory,
an Invisible Band, or The Man Who. For a band with this
much talent, it would be a shame if they find themselves
content being filed away in a category called Brit-rock.
Coldplay' shouldn't settle, and at times on A Rush, it seems
they already have.
R A T ING- G

THE FLAMING LIPS
YOSHIMI BATTLES THE PINK ROBOTS
WARNER BROS.
By Luke Smith
Daily Arts Editor
How does a band follow up the lushly orchestrated; big
Spector-like wall of sound the Flaming Lips cultivated on
their critical cream-dream, 1999s The Soft Bulletin? If you're
Wayne Coyne and the rest of the Flaming Lips, you return to
the lab, tinker with more toys and re-emerge with the engines
primed for shot out of the sky.
On Yoshimi Battles.the Pink Robots, the Flaming Lips have
done just that.
They took the songs from The Soft Bulletin, widened
their sonic range, pushing, driving, building, whatever-
ing verse/chorus/verse structures into outer space-y
melodies. Songs warble and beep like flashing lights on a
starship control console.
On each Flaming Lips record, Wayne Coyne tinkers the
band's sound like a mad scientist. On 1993's Transmissions
From the Satellite Heart, the lucid braintrust of the Lips com-
posed a guitar-based album, playing with, if not poking fun at
the heavyset grunge-junk found all over the airwaves, the
result - a top 40 hit with "She Don't Use Jelly." Yoshimi fea-
tures more of Coyne's tinkering, this time pushing the band
deep into the digital age.
The Lips show that their foray into electronica isn't their
forte on "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 2." While the
techno-explosion lunges out of place at first listen, with each
spin it fits better and better into the record.
The first track, "Fight Test" is as beauteous as anything the
band has record, and arguably the best song the Flaming Lips
have ever recorded. From the hooky chord progressions to
Coyne's smugly bittersweet lyric "I thought there was a virtue,

in always being cool," - you never can tell if he's cracking a
joke or not.
The album often teetoles on the absurd, on the title track
Coyne sings about a fictitious woman, Yoshimi saving him
from giant evil pink robots. The background of the song is as
orchestrally dense as anything from The Soft Bulletin.
Contradicting the Lips oft-absurdist tendencies is the
morosely sad single "Do You Realize." The song hangs the
pathetic lyric "Do you realize, that someday, everyone you
know / will die." These thought-y couplets drip from time to
time on Yoshimi, creating an emotional push/pull not seen on
previous Flaming Lips records.
While not better as an album than Bulletin, and little could
surpass 1995s Clouds Taste Metallic, Yoshimi Battles the Pink
Robots is a cohesively sweet bag of euphonic candy and one
of the finest albums thus far, of 2002.
RATING: * * * '

QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE
SONGS FOR THE DEAF
INTE RSCOPE
By Scott Serilla
Daily Music Editor
Josh Homme isn't harboring too
many illusions about his band's
chances with modern radio any-
more. The Queens Of The Stone
Age mastermind realizes in a world
where Fred Durst and buds literally
buy up what tiny.little airtime there
is on over-formatted stations, a
quirky and unidentifiable heavy
rock act like the Queens -isn't going
to have much of a chance.
And if the bands last effort, 2000's
remarkable Rated R, didn't break
Homme and his rotating stable of
musicians on to the airwaves then not
much will. So instead of courting
radio on their new record, the Queens
have moved on to a more ambitious
SLEATER-KINNEY
ONE BEAT
KI LL ROCK STARS

task; inventing their own broadcast.
Songs For The Deaf is concept
record setup as flip through imagi-
nary Southern Cal. radio where sur-
prising the Queens' own brand of
super heavy, trance-inducing rock are
thumbing out of every station (think
1967's seminal The Who Sell Out).
Now concept albums are, naturally
suspect, but its hard not to like one
that's as free as from pretension and
as fun to listen to as this one.
While Rated R seemed largely
concerned with the development of
individual songs, Songs is a much
looser affair about constructing a
cruncher feeling harking back to
Homme's original band, desert
sludge rockers Kyuss. These tracks
are decidedly groove focused, bleed-
ing into one another and making this
one of the best road albums in years.
We'd be remiss if we didn't men-
tion the Queens' very special guest
drummer for this record, a certain

Mr. David Grohl, who works off
whatever old punk guilt he might
have from the commercial trimuphs
of the Foo Fighters by once again
violent thrashing away at his kit. His
performances on "First It Giveth"
and "Song For The Dead" are noth-
ing short of heroic and neither is the
rest of the record.
RATING:* * * *

GREEN DAY
SHENANIGANS
REPRISE
By Tony Ding
Daily Arts Writer

Before today's diluted pop-punk acts
had their training wheels, there were
three West Cost rebels who sold out to
the record conglomerates and inspired
us all to break out from the melancholy
of suburbia and pump our fists to tanta-
lizing slogans accompanied by three-
chord guitar strums and oh so naughty
words. Green Day has been around now
for a good decade - and millions of
records afterwards - have proven
themselves to be the kings of pop-punk..
But their newest debut Shenanigans,
absolutely fails to perform. It has the
distinctive Green Day sound and feel,
but the songs are too forgettable to
match any of the punk legend's past
offerings. The album is a splattering of
every flavor of rock Green Day has
tried, all hastily packaged and mis-
matched. Aside from a few notable
numbers, such as the instrumental
"Espionage," off of their stint in "Austin
Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me,"
most of the tracks are lackluster and
breaths of moldy basement storage.
Only die-hard Green Day fans will ben-
efit from Shenanigans, adding to their
collection this keepsake.
The album bursts out fast and furious
with "Suffocate," an instant flashback to
classic Green Day glory. Unlike their

2000 best-hits compilation Internation-
al Superhits however, this B-side album
looses its shine in less than three tracks.
Shenanigans is truly a melting pot for
all those songs that failed to make the
cut in previous Green Day records, such
as "Desensitized," which has until now
been a rarity that only graced the Japan-
ese release of Nimrod (1997).
The album clocks in at barely 30
minutes, which is sufficient for the
morning commute, but not long enough
for the hour-long macroeconomics lec-
ture. Green Day was smart to not have
included in this comp any mellow
acoustic snoozers, unrehearsed radio
spots, or incomprehensible "Live!" con-
cert dubs. There are some solid back-in-
time angst-ridden pieces such as
"Scumbag," and a couple worthy loser-
anthems in "Sick of Me," and "Rot-
ting." The only brand-new song is "Ha
Ha You're Dead," which rocks out in a
Dennis the Menace fervor.
Two covers discreetly positioned in
Shenanigans make Green Day appear
as British wannabes - fake accents
included. Their attempt at The
Ramones' "Outsider" proves that stray-
ing away from three-chord skate-punk
to two-chord Atlantic-punk is silly, and
the other cover, a quaint rendition of
The Kinks' 1965 classic "Tired of Wait-
ing For You" is justifiably executed, but
also uninventive, regurgitating all that
dopy, flower-power aura of song's era.
One educational value in Shenani-
gans is its presentation of GD's musical
evolution, from the rabid-speed minute-
long Berkeley-punk of "I Want To Be

tl!

,

NIE

By Gina Pensiero
Daily Arts Writer

On TV" and "Don't Wanna Fall In
Love," to the matured, measured proces-
sions in "Do Da Da" and "On The
Wagon Again."
Bottom line: Shenanigans is one new
Green Day song, two unadulterated
British covers, and a barrel of monkeys
for previously unreleased B-sides.
Green Day struggles to be young again,
to have the tenacity to churn out two
smash-hits a year again, like it was
1994. But alas we all age, so despite last
year's good times retrospective compila-
tion, and now Shenanigans, the truth is
Green Day hasn't made an original
new record since 2000's Warning.
Then again, it took the boys three years
after Insomniac (1994) to push out
Nimrod (1997), and three years more
to get Warning. So figure them in on
the three-year cycle and we can only
hope that they've got some good stuff
cooking on the back burner.
RATING: * *

They're nothing if they're not unique.-
They're unique in a good way.
They're unique in a "Time-Maga-
zine's-America's-Best-Rock-Band- ,.
Award" kinda way.
There is something immediately rec-
ognizable and distinctive about the
sound of the riot-grrl power trio Sleater-
Kinney. Hear them once and you will
know them always. ,,,
S-K's new album, One Beat, is fierce-
ly laden with the solid, take-no-prisoners
content that's become. Carrie Brown-
stein's riffs paired with Corin Tucker's
crazy vibrato and Janet Weiss's energetic rhythms totally
drive the album. The tracks mix indie and feminist ideals
with raw punk attitude and fall into that generalization
that is begging to be overused; riotgrrl (hey can't be more
anymore played out than emo).
One Beat continues where 2000's All Hands on that
Bad One left off. It rocks out like all the high-points of
Dig Me Out while retaining the emotional sensibility of
The Hot Rock. More than ever, the album encompasses

k'
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r r.A
LM "
.

every positive feature of a band that even the Village
Voice touted as unable to "make anything less," than
"masterpiece." It seems to be, for the time at hand, the
final exam in the S-K coursework.
The best tracks on the album include "Oh!" and "Pris-
stina," which are in the same strong vein as previous
classics like "I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone" and
"You're No Rock 'n' Roll Fun." But the
track with the most interesting content
by far is the extremely political "Com-
}. ' bat Rock," where Tucker and Brown-
stien belt their hearts out about the
state of American foreign policy and
feminist ideals. "Gentlemen, start your
engines/And you know where we get
the oil from."
My only warning to the listener is
that S-K has never been a band into
pitch or being on key. They're very
much about vibe and energy. You could
say this about a lot of music though.
For example, play me a Neutral Milk Hotel song where
Jeff Mangum hits the notes, and I'll be plain old
knocked from my seat.
Anyway, all minor criticism aside, no one should be
driven away with the "this is just-another-chick-band"
cop-out. S-K is something special. The soundsis ground-
breaking. The message is meaningful.
RATING:*** *

U

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