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October 07, 2003 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2003-10-07

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8 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, October 7, 2003






Soul diva
Badu goes
By Andrew Horowitz
For the Daily
Music REVIEW ***3
With only three albums and seven
years in the spotlight, Erykah Badu
has established herself as a neo-soul
diva. On her newest release, World-
wide Underground, Badu once again
proves herself as a first-rate musi-
cian. Instead of creating an album of
expectancies, Badu creates a collec-
tion of ideas that
seem entirely
impulsive. The Erykah Badu
grooves are con- Worldwide
tinuous, allowing Underground
Badu to lay back
and let it flow. Motown Records
Underground is
as if jazz singer Nina Simone took a
soul band into the studio and told
them to jam while she improvised.
This is an album for devoted lis-
teners, not radio. The production is
minimal and there are no memorable
"singles" on the entire album. With
three multi-platinum albums and the
respect of fans and musicians alike,
Badu has nothing to prove.
It's difficult to single out any par-
ticular song that makes this album


"fi. ^ oa'

what it is. There's "Bump It," with its
solid trio backing (synthesizer, bass,
percussion) and relaxed chorus,
"Push up the fader / Bust the meter /
Shake the tweeter / Bump it ... well
well well." And there's the lead sin-
gle "Danger," which just isn't a sin-
gle with its way-too-long clocking
time of six minutes and its chorus
that repeats a slang word for male
genitalia. Not to mention, the entire
song contains about two chords total
and minimal textural shift. There's a
remake of "Love of My Life" from
2000's Mama 's Gun (with guests

including Queen Latifah and Angie
Stone), and "Back in the Day," which
easily could fit on an early '70s Mar-
vin Gaye album.
With so much structural freedom,
however, Worldwide Underground
seems at times to lose momentum. Its
grooves sometimes overstay their
welcome and there are moments
when not enough is happening. For-
tunately however, this isn't enough to
detract from the spirit of the album.
Worldwide Underground values
artistry over commerciality, and for
this it should be commended.

By Andrew M. .arig
Daily Arts Writer
Death Cab For Cutie are well
into an admirable indie rock career.
They've constructed a recognizable
sound for themselves, established a
relatively large fan base, deflected
advances from major labels and
honed their songwriting craft to a
fine point. All that, and four
albums in, singer/guitarist Ben-
jamin Gibbard still takes home the
award for "Most Likely to Drop an
Awe-Inspiring Couplet On Your
Jaded Ass."
So why, then, does the band's
fourth full-length album, Transat-
sound so
thoroughly Death Cab for
uninspired? Cutie
The band's Transatlanticism
sound is pol-
ished with Barsuk Records
age and pro-
fessionalism but returns otherwise
intact. Gibbard's deft vocal
melodies are as serene and autum-
nal as on any previous album. So
what the hell's the problem?
As it turns out, the band's prob-
lem lies in the fact that their sound
is simply too established. The lack
of variety, so forgivable on early
albums, now feels like an obstacle.
"Tiny Vessels" and "Title and Reg-
istration" are the most blatant
offenders, failing to distinguish
themselves sonically amongst the
band's catalog. The title track does-


Uourtesy of arufl Records

"Cutle" is a subjective term, I guess.
n't fare much better, as it's soft
piano intro turns into nearly eight
minutes of snowy slush. Gibbard
falters far too often for a lyricist of
his talent: The repetition of phrases
like "I need you so much closer"
simply aren't up to par, and his pen-
chant for vivid, wrenching story-
telling is curiously absent on most
of the album.
It's not all bad, though. "The
New Year" is as explosive and
rhythmic as anything in the band's
catalog, and "Expo '86" is mar-
velously addictive. Elsewhere, the
lilting folk of "A Lack of Color" is
an inspired lament, and "We
Looked Like Giants" is notable for
it's aggressive thrash, even if the
lyrics fall flat.
Transatlantisicm's most telling
song is "The Sound of Settling."
Falling in the middle of the album,

Emo pioneer burns with Fre Theft

its singsong chorus is a sunny slice
of pop heaven, and the chiming gui-
tars are as uplifting as they are pret-
ty. Unfortunately, it mimics the
album a little too well: Transatlanti-
cism is enjoyable, sophisticated
pop, but it lands too close to the
middle to be truly memorable. The
sound of settling indeed.

By Andrew M..Gaerig
Daily Arts Writer

Jeremy Enigk never deserved this. His former band,
Sunny Day Real Estate, churned out some of the most excit-
ing guitar rock of the '90s, driven by reeling distortion
attacks, cryptic lyrics and a surprising pop awareness. A
stubborn refusal to tour widely, and willfully obscured lyrics
and artwork distanced the band, and their legacy unfortu-

Indie rock gets fancy with Dressy

By Alex Wolsky
Daily Arts Writer

nately remains thousands of hack imi-
tators. Indeed, most of what's
considered "emo" can be directly
traced to SDRE.
The Fire Theft reunites Enigk with
SDRE's formidable rhythm section,
and while the band is certainly not
unrecognizable, Enigk seems to be pur-

The Fire
The Fire Theft
Rykodisc Records

From beneath the shadows of pure-
pop music, lies power-pop a genre for
punks laced with mass appeal. As one

posefully distancing himself from his early work, a process
he had already begun on SDRE's final albums.
The Fire Theft's eponymous debut picks up where SDRE
left off: ambitious, aching pop music that lunges for the best
of the progressive-rock '70s. The guitars float majestically
under keyboard textures and string sections, while Enigk's
sky-high croon takes center stage. If the band has gleaned
one thing from SDRE's best work, it's a drive and push that
was too often absent on the group's later work. "Heaven,"
for instance, is a storm of circuitous guitar lines and cymbal

of many bands
that have
emerged at the
forefront of the
genre, Dressy
Bessy has
released their lat-
est self-titled

Dressy Bessy
Kindercore Records

the bands stripped-down sound.
"Baby Six String" and "New Song
(From Me to You)" exemplify the
band's pop roots, while throughout
the album they consistently flip it
over and rock out, as seen best on
"This May Hurt (A Little)" a bitter-
sweet song, ripped from the heart of
In the end, Dressy Bessy is a solid
addition to an already brimming
genre; however it shows the band
retracting from the sound that once
made them so popular. From start to
finish, it seems that they're dancing
between the self-actualization of
being a simple pop band and some
other side that's constantly attempt-
ing to prove that they're something
more. All in all, it's a fun record,
nothing more.

crashes, while "Houses" is a pining pop gem.
The Fire Theft embody virtually none of the urgency
and mystery of SDRE, though this is likely by design.
Rather, Enigk uses a vehicle for what was always lurking
beneath the surface of SDRE's enigma: smart, sophisti-
cated pop music.

album from Kindercore records.
Through a quick 35 minutes and
eleven tracks, Dressy Bessy incorpo-
rate the modern sounds of Saturday
Looks Good to Me to classic power-

pop founders the Ramones and
Group leader Tammy Ealom lets
her voice ring true throughout the
album, allowing her sensual, sugar-
coated, brooding voice to linger over


MATMOS track. Two tracks, "The Lemon of
Ttam CwV WAR Pink, Part One" and "There is No
MATADoS RECORDS There" sway like a mind falling in
and out of consciousness, while
While modern electronic music others like the string-jumping
fumbles with *80s electro nostal- "Tokyo" strike with a vibrancy like
gia, Matmos springs for more nothing they've ever done.
timeless influences on their new The only definite thing a listener
album, The Civil War. They can take from the Books' latest
reached back to Medieval Eng- offering is that they've grown out
land and Colonial America, mash- of the disjointed sampling that
ing together bagpipes and sonic made their first album so unique
glitch. The result is a schizo- and they've adopted a more struc-
phreuic opus of electronic deliri- tured, song-driven style that flows
um. The tracks blip, grind, warble through your auditory senses. And
and sparkle while channeling dis- in retrospect, that is the only thing
tinct, crisp sounds of centuries that was missing from their first
past. The magic of the disc falls album. This time around, they've
in the delicate integration of completed the full circle. ****
antique and artificial. The synthe- -Alex Wo sky
sis offers homage to the evolution
of musical instrumentation, song-
writing and sound itself. It man- JET
ages to be at once perverse, G ET BRN
maniacal, beautiful and limitless- E.EKT.RA.
ly listenable. **
- John Notariami This album is a kick in the balls.
Plain and simple. From their
skintight jeans and greasy dark
THE BooKS hair, to their love of all things alco-
T HE L EMON OF PINK hol, Melbourne's Jet, is 100%
TOMA.. . . rock'n'roll.
Jet have molded themselves after
Nick Zammuto and Paul de Jong their Australian forefathers,
are existentialists at heart. They AC/DC, and British rock legends
build their music arounda loose the Rolling Stones. Raging guitar
acoustic track and then add the r iffs stolen from Angus Young's
sounds that build live aund the back pocket are the epicenter of
musi. What resuits is a stirring.Geti ns stadium rock anthems.
f e e,# :An ; : tym t a t rndrmoment

Handpicked by Puffy, da Band sounds icy cold

By Steve Cotner
Daily Arts Writer
Any group that begins its album "shout out to
MTV, baby, shout out to MTV" dooms itself to
the back shelf of history - or to high-profile

spots on TRL. Forever branded
as P. Diddy's Bad Boys and
MTV's creation, Da Band does
not have two legs of its own to
stand on. The fame of "Mak-
ing the Band" however, has
made it huge for the moment.
Its debut release, Too Hot

da Band
Too Hot
For TV
Bad Boy Records

for TV, does have a sort of Snoop Dogg-"Girls
Gone Wild" appeal, but it suffers from the same
paradox of raw material marketed on mainstream
TV. Da Band cannot escape its origins, and when
female rapper Babs says, "I ain't frontin' ... You
think I bought a box of lifestyles for nothin'?
Please, I got blunts, you supply the weed," we
know it was all okayed, if not even planned by
MTV execs.
They all look hip-hop. They are wearing ban-
danas and chains, and they talk about their big
cars and tires. But they give shout outs to Tra-
verse City. They brag about how their TV show is
number one. If this really is hip-hop, or music for
that matter, we should be worried.
It seems unfair to single out one member of the
group, but Babs is especially bigheaded. When

impression. They are just a few amateurs who
entered an MTV contest seeking the approval of
P. Diddy and MTV, and throughout the recording
process, rapped and sung every line with the
intention of pleasing the people in charge.
The album is only worthwhile as secondhand
evidence of P. Diddy's artistic vision (if he has
one), much in the same way that Wyclef's "City
High" group was nothing more than a poor imita-
tion of himself or, worse yet, a vehicle for more
poppy, less refined songs that he would never
record under his own name. The music industry
has a proud history of studio spin-off groups,
including Whitfield and Strong's Motown project
The Undisputed Truth, which survived on songs
spurned by the Temptations.
But that group existed for the sake of experi-
mentation, whereas Da Band strives to turn profit
on a formula. Or, assuming that all groups serve
some creative purpose, Motown's spin-offs tested
what works musically, while Bad Boy's are exper-
iments in personality and celebrity. Unfortunate-
ly, the only criteria for judging such a group are
TV ratings and album sales. By the former, they
are a success, but we can still do something about
the latter: We won't buy this.
We won't buy the album because we are not
buying the faux graffiti on the cover; we are not
buying their chins-up, boobs-out poses; and we
are not buying it when they say "this is not a
game" over and over. That's all this thing is: a big
game that MTV and Bad Boy are playing with
consumers. And sadly, they're winning.

she raps on the track "Living Legends," telling us
"My flow is not to be fucked with," she sounds a
bit premature and stylistically flat - better to
describe your prowess in a more artistic fashion,
like Muhammad Ali's "I am the astronaut of box-
ing. Joe Louis and Dempsey were just test
pilots," or Hemingway's metaphor of boxing with
the great dead writers. Then, once you have
proved your worth, you can say things like "I am
the greatest" or, my own recommendation, "My
flow is unfuckwithable."
None of the other performers will receive harsh
treatment here because none made a lasting

Nelly puts out his friend's terrible album

By Joel Hoard

Iv mask his incompetence. He snits

you're straight-un lonely" is auickly _.1h <. k j

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