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October 01, 2003 - Image 5

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2003-10-01

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Wednesday
October 1, 2003
michigandaily.com
artseditor@michigandaily.com

ARTS

5

SING A SAD SONG
ELVIS AND RUFUS PLAY IT SERIOUS

By Scott Serilla
Daily Arts Editor

In a season of slumping album
sales, Rufus Wainwright and Elvis
Costello have bravely bucked simple
commercial sense. Both chose to
release piano-based and fully
orchestra-backed chamber pop to the
masses used to subsisting on Hilary
Duff sugar rushes. It's downright
scandalous to hear strings this full
and lush swelling behind a well-
crafted ballad these days, but talent-
ed artists like these pull it off
without so much as a smirk.
Wainwright offers up the theatric
but heartfelt Want One, while
Costello delivers the sophisticated
and somber North. Although sepa-
rated by a generation (this is Wain-
wright's third album and Costello's
20th), the two albums are united not
just by concurrent release dates and
bittersweet vocal melodies but also
by a deep personal investment from
each songwriter. It's that "all-too-
human" that edge keeps these
records from drowning in the obvi-
ous excesses and baggage of orches-
tral arrangements in pop.
Wainwright uses Want to chroni-

cle his bottoming out on drugs and
booze after years of the party-boy
life, his subsequent climb back up to
sobriety, turning 30 and his perpetu-
al search for Mr. Right. His usual
flair with mixing Tin Pan Alley pop,
folk and opera with Leonard Cohen-
esque reflection is on full display
here. Want also wisely undercuts the
serious subject matter with plenty of
wit and beautifully rich multi-
tracked background vocals.
Though no single track seems to
leap out like "April Fools" or "Ciga-
rettes and Chocolate Milk" did on
Wainwright's first and second
albums, the epic build of Ravel's
"Bolero" beneath opener "Oh What
a World" and poignant title refrain of
"Go or Go Ahead" follow their own
logic of catchiness, making you
crave this album's promised spring-
time sequel Want Two even more.
Yet perhaps the most enduring
song here is "Dinner at Eight,"
which captures an angry falling out
between Rufus and his folk-singer
father, Louden Wainwright III. The
heartbreak and complexity encapsu-
lated here alone warrants picking up
the record.
Costello also seemed to have his
dear old dad in mind when he com-
posed the slow, jazzy torch songs on

S

OutKast's "Hey Ya" - Andre 3000's lead single from the Out-
Kast twin solo album project Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, "Hey
Ya" features poppy ghetto bounce and Andre's clownish vocals.

THE HOTTEST PICKS IN ENTERTAINMENT
FROM A DAILY ARTS WRITER

His aim is true.

North. His father Ross was a noted
British bandleader/singer and Elvis
seems more than a little intent on
proving he's up to snuff in the vocals
department. Focusing less on lyrics,
and leaving most of the ivory tin-
kling to Attractions cohort Steve
Nieve, Costello does an admirable
job improving his status as a singer
from the pub-shouting days of This
Year's Model.
Obviously, the man who wrote the
immortal "Shipbuilding" knows a
thing or two about ballads, but the
introspection into the recent demise
of Costello's marriage hangs as a
cloud over North. Still, despite the
slow-burning gloom, the album still
seems like a must listen to Costello
fanatics.
Want One, DreamWorks: ****
North, Deutsche: ***I

"Intolerable Cruelty" - The follow-up to the Coen brothers'
understated and underrated "The Man Who Wasn't There" "Intolera-
ble Cruelty" features an all-star cast including George Clooney,
Catherine Zeta-Jones, Geoffrey Rush and Billy Bob Thornton. The
Coens can do no wrong.
Michael Ian Black on VII-1's "I Love the '70s" - Mak-
ing VH-1 tolerable again, Black offers up gems like this one about
Monty Python: "They were a comedy group from Canada, and they
did a nice job. They understood that to be funny you just had to speak
with a British accent. (He demonstrates) It's very funny when I do it.
I'm a professional."

2

Fountains of Wayne - After seven years and three records,
the "Stacy's Mom" band is finally getting the respect and attention
they deserve.

Major League Base-
ball playoffs on
ESPN and FOX -
Now that the pathetic
Detroit Tigers' season is
over, it's time for some
good baseball for once.
And finally there's some-
thing on TV. Red Sox
over Cubs in six.

One Man Guy.

Courtesy oMLB

Decemberists deliver
early Christmas gift

L1Cf/ tr:
J / I XWf'.
. q/est

No hatin' allowed for the RC Players

By Lauren Hodge
Daily Arts Writer
With October approaching in the wings, the RC Play-
ers will take the stage for their first performance in the
East Quad Auditorium Oct. 3-4 at 8 p.m. This student-

By Alexandra Jones
For the Daily

.Music REVI EW ***
The Decemberists are not the next
Neutral Milk Hotel. They never were:
While Jeff Mangum created In the
Aeroplane over the Sea, one of the most
inventive albums
of the '90s, The
Decemberists The
frontman Colin DecemberistS
Meloy has done Her Majesty,
something a little the
more calculated Decemberists
and no less
admirable: Her Kill Rock Stars
Majesty, the
Decemberists contains some of the
most effective storytelling outside of a
Raymond Carver anthology. Where
magnum crackles sound into catharsis,
Meloy spins tales over a carefully-laid
blanket of sound. In nasal and insistent
tones, he details characters tragic, dain-
ty and peculiar, singing of street
urchins, quirky authors and curious
bodily appendages.
Attention to characterization and
music complimenting lyrical ideas
shows that the Decemberists have
grown since their debut, Castaways and
Cutouts. The crunchy combinations of
unlikely instruments and occasional
bursts of racket have given way to a

cleaner, more measured approach that
better sets each track's mood. Though
tighter focus improved the band's song-
writing, it made the songs on Her
Majesty slightly less compelling with
the first few hearings.
They may have perfected quirky,
expansive ballads, but the Decemberists
still create sweet and dark acoustic
songs. Notable track "Red Right Ankle"
sounds tender without getting sappy,
and the album's undoubted high point,
"I Was Meant for the Stage," articulates
the desire for fame and adulation nearly
perfectly, then devolves into a cacopho-
nous coda. "The Soldiering Life" and
closing track "As I Rise" are Her
Majesty's slightly lower points; while
they're decent songs in themselves, they
seem to lack the momentum and intri-
cacy of the other tracks.
Happily, the band has improved their
incredible versatility in creating charac-
ters; the first three on the album are
respectively ghostly, jaunty and inspir-
ing. The album opens with the hollow
creaking of low strings and piercing
scream that introduce "Shanty for
Arethusa," the band's most effectively
orchestrated pirate tune yet. Strains of
Jenny Conlee's accordion recall pre-
Industrial Europe, and galloping drums
and guitar chords give one the feeling
that marauding bandits might jump out
from around the next corner. An
account of a pubescent boy's lazy sum-

directed, written and performed act-
ing troupe has been preparing for its
bi-annual production, an "Evening of
Scenes," featuring a variety of drama
and comedy sketches.
Though much work has been put
into the performance, LSA senior
Susie Schutt says, "Our'niaini goalis to

The RC
Players
www.umich.edu/
-rcplayer
have furi. rt's i'ot

mer, "Billy Liar" serves as the super-
catchy second tune. In "The Gymnast,.
High Above the Ground," the haunting,
pensive gauze of sound introduced by
git r h lp build antic patjon before.
the gymnast's leap. At the track's cli-
max, the Decemberists' full sound
surges forward, propelling listeners off
the platform and out over the crowd.
Meloy has placed some of his most
precise lyrics in "Los Angeles, I'm
Yours." Phrases like "An ocean's gar-
bled vomit on the shore" lilt indolently
over the chunk-chunk of acoustic guitar.
Impressive alliterative lines are found in
"Song for Myla Goldberg" ("... I know
I need unique New York" - it's easier
to say than it looks); "The Bachelor and
the Bride" features meditative rhymes
("And the windows and the cinders /
And the willows in the timbers") as well
as one of the band's most memorable
choruses: "I will box your ears and
leave you here stripped bare:"
The Decemberists use playful and
sharp ingenuity to fill your dreams with
pirates, orphans, soldiers and Geisha
girls, so tuck yourself in and listen

as many as 80 people auditioning for parts this year," a
number Caputo said grows each year. Shetadded that
one of the best perks of joining the players is the laid-
back atmosphere that surfaces both on and off stage.
The RC Players, which has been on campus for over
20 years, presents four student-run plays during each
semester. "Just Sitting Down To Dinner," which will be
performed Oct. 19-21, is one of the student-directed
plays that will be showcased this term. Scripted by two
of the RC members, the play is based around issues that
arise among conservative American families.
LSA junior Sam Botsford attributes the strong quality
of each performance to the fun and relaxed environment
that the Playeris eTifit."I've'bben acting since I was in
sixth grade, and I feel like I've developed more as an
actor because I am able to grow off of others. And when
you come as an audience member, it's just a good time,"
said Botsford, who has acted with the group for three
years.
"We stress a comfortable environment because we
want people to know that this is a place of total safety,"
said Caputo of the group. "You don't have to be a the-
ater major to be on stage."

as competitive as some of the other groups on campus."
The RC Players offer students the opportunity to par-
ticipate in all aspects of the stage. Whether it be writ-
ing, directing, performing or working on the set, the
players give students the chance to test out one or sever-
al areas of theater production as they so desire.
LSA senior Morgan Caputo, who has been with the
RC Players for four years, said, "We want to get as
many freshmen involved in the group as we can. We had

Out of the garage come the Raveonettes

By John Notarianni
For the Daily

M usc REV IEW
Garage-drone band the Raveonettes
have composed their new album, Chain
Gang ofLove, under the following self-
imposed sanctions: A) All the songs are
recorded in the same key - Bb major.
B) No more than three chords are

\ ~&WMW'-OJ1A-lfM

Out of Sight! ABC's 'Sisco' a stylish success

allowed. C) Each
song has to be
under three min-
utes. D) No high-
hat or ride cymbals
are allowed in
recording the
album. And who

The
Raveonettes
Chain Gang of
Love
Sony

By Adam Rottenberg
Daily Arts Writer

Carla Gugino plays the titular charac-
ter, originally portrayed by Jennifer
Lopez in the film version, in ABC's
sleek new Miami police drama. Based
on characters from the Elmore Leonard
novel "Out of
Sight," "Sisco" fea-
tures a tough, street Karen Sisco
smart U.S. marshal Wednesdays at
(Gugino "Spy 10 p.m.
Kids") and her pri- ABC
vate-investigator
father (Robert Forster, "Jackie Brown")
solving crimes. This is a show clearly
built around Gugino, immediately giv-
ing the series a strong focus to build on.
Continuing in the tradition of
Leonard's other distinctive work such as
"Get Shorty" and "Rum Punch," the
series never takes itself too seriously. In
the pilot, Karen accidentally lets a

womanizing convict escape and subse-
quently has to recapture him. The ensu-
ing action plays out like most TV cop
shows, but the style and humor help to
deviate it from the rest of the "CSI"
pack. Countering "CSI" and "Law and
Order," "Sisco" is character driven, pre-
venting the cases from becoming the
focal point of the show.
An interesting sight is in store for
"24" fans as Xander Berkely and Sarah
Clarke both have roles in the series pre-
miere that put them into a situation that
never would have been believed over on
the FOX suspense thriller.
The Miami scenery and visual style
have been retained, giving the series a
unique feel. Gugino fills in admirably
for J-Lo, while a replacement for

George Clooney's character is nowhere
to be seen. Without the steady love
interest from the film, Karen is able to
entangle herself in different romantic
situations creating new storylines. The
reworking of the characters and con-
cepts succeeds and the theatrical ver-
sion is never referenced.
ABC's placement of the series
against NBC's powerhouse "Law and
Order" may not give it the best chance
for survival. But, with a slight schedule
change, ABC may have the perfect
compliment for its other empowered
female crime fighter on "Alias" with a
move to Sunday nights. Until then,
"Karen Sisco" is one of the freshest and
most entertaining new shows of the sea-
son no matter what the competition is.

says indie rock isn't pretentious?
Raveonettes bandleaders Sharin
Foo and Sune Rose Wagner (Scan-
danavians by birth and rockers by
trade) made a big, swaggering splash
in the garage scene last year with
their debut album, Whip it On. How-
ever, the transition to a major chord
(a departure from the Bb minor of
their last album) serves to transport
their pouty, drone-sludge sound to
something that, dare I say it, resem-
bles vintage pop music.
The album plays like a quick spin
of the AM dial through '50s radio
- that is, after being buried in stat-

ic and teleported across outer space.
Beneath the reverb-heavy vocals
and fried electric tubes, the songs
pay homage to early surf, county,
pop and even vintage soul. The dual
male-female lead vocals on "Noisy
Summer" are suggestive of the
Everly Brothers performing inside a
jet engine. "The Love Gang" sounds
like the theme song to an animated
children's show pervaded by whips
and leather.
The songs evoke a twisted view of
nostalgic summer fun. Lyrics
bounce from "pretty lover boys" and
"that perfect day" to "chains, black
leather and sex" in seamless synthe-
sis of old-time summer love and
heavy bondage. Still, the
Raveonettes fit right in with the cur-

rent flux of euro-rock revivalists
immigrating to U.S. airwaves, play-
ing American music with a decided-
ly foreign feel.
The album isn't helped by a few
mindlessly plunking tracks such as
"Little Animal" and "The Truth
About Johnny." With such regi-
mented song structure and excruci-
atingly consistent Bb major, it
sounds more like one big fuzzy jam
session than a conceptualized new
album. Three-quarters of the way
through the album thesummer fun
begins to lose its charm and the
songs become indistinguishable,
differentiated only by the feedback
freakouts and subtle tempo
changes.
For the calculation of their image
and the absurdity of their by-the-
rules schtick, the Raveonettes have
managed to put out a listenable, spo-
radically danceable album ("Heart-
break Stroll" is possibly the
underwear-rockout song of the year).
Chain Gang of Love is, considering
its stylistic limitations, an enjoyable
set of tunes, but writing without the
blessing of variety is no way to cre-
ate a memorable new album in such
an overpopulated genre. It's time to
diversify, or at least pick.a new
chord. After two albums and 21
songs, we're sick of Bb.

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