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November 26, 2003 - Image 5

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2003-11-26

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Wednesday
November 26, 2003
michigandaily.com
artseditor@michigandaily.com

Ulb £di 46,an ltI
ARTS

5

By Alexandra Jones

Daily Arts Writer
You'd expect the mood backstage at Detroit's
Majestic Theatre to be jubilant, chaotic, outra-
geous - groupies hanging on band members
alcohol flowing, other substances available in the
tiny alcoves that flank the cramped hallway.
If not for theasweat drying on bassist Dave Her-
nandez's forehead, you wouldn't know that the
Shins had just played a galvanizing set to a rapt
audience. Singer and songwriter James Mercer
sits in a folding chair against the wall of the
Majestic's green room. He looks like a Vincent
van Gogh self-portrait, piercing eyes and receding
hairline, but he's friendly and relaxed.
"We've been the Shins since 1996, when thex
only other band (with a "the" name) was the Drag.
We were way before the Strokes and all those
bands," said Mercer bemusedly.
"We sounded like shit (tonight)," says Hernan-
dez. Levels had been set at sound check, but when
they took the stage, the band didn't hear what
they'd expected. "Somebody fucked with the lev-
els or something," says Mercer, his voice tinged I can dance like the king of the eyesores.
with disappoint-
ment. Despite their
dissatisfaction, the
show sounded fan- ODD BAND OUT
tastic and the audi-
ence hung on their TH SHINS SPILL ABOUT FITTING IN
every action. Their
reputation has

THE HOTTEST PICKS IN ENTERTAINMENT
FROM A DAILY ARTS WRITER

St

Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time"
list - Alright, so everyone knows that Big Star's #1 Record -
quite obviously the 437th best album ever released - should not
have been buried at 438. Otherwise, the list is flawless.

Anthropology 425, "The Evolution of War and Peace in
Unstratified Societies" - Actually overheard at a University
counseling appointment: "You don't want to take that, not unless
you want to learn about thousands of natives running at each other
with spears and boomerangs. Besides, it's only two hours a week,
and they give you three credits for it."
Handclaps - Please see Broken Social Scene's "Stars and Sons"
and the Strokes' "12:51," during which indie rock poses the question,
"Do you love me, now that I can dance?"

grown since their debut album, Oh, Inverted
World. "It's crazy, the last time we played Detroit
we were at the Magic Stick, and this is so much
bigger, a huge show."
Although the Shins work with standard pop ele-
ments - sparkling, driving guitar lines, efferves-
cent keyboard hooks - their songs have a
numinous quality not found in most modern rock.
"I don't really think we fit in," says Mercer of the
indie rock scene. The Shins have been touted as
Beach Boys successors since World became one

of the most talked-about albums of 2001; they cite
Echo and the Bunnymen, the Jesus and Mary
Chain and the Cure as influences. "I find we've
got kind of a super '60s R&B pop thing, like Sam
Cooke would do."
Whatever their inspiration, the Shins' sound on
sophomore release Chutes Too Narrow has tight-
ened since their debut. "With the first album, I
was left fiddling with it on my computer. At the
time we had really cheap equipment, so we
already had this low fidelity sound. Reverb made

things sound a lot better. If I'd been able to fiddle
with (Chutes) for six months, it probably would
have sounded more like that. I get clouded up and
tend to overthink," Mercer explains.
Mercer's lyrics possess a rare combination of
universality and quirk, specific verses and acces-
sible choruses that hold listeners' interest. "I just
try to write original metaphors. People across the
board need to make sure not to use cliches.
They're inherently dishonest, like you're lying
because you can never feel exactly the way the
guy who first wrote that felt."
"I guess I remember how I felt when I wrote the song
when I'm singing, but not all the time. I had a girlfriend
who used to say, 'You need to stop writing songs about
such depressing shit,' and a lot of it is depressing. I don't
know - sometimes you're faking being emotional, and
sometimes you really feel it."

2r

"Die Hard" and "Die Hard 2:
Die Harder" - The finest holiday
films ever made. Not to be confused with
"Die Hard: With a Vengeance," the finest
summer film ever made.
Hypin' the new Jay-Z
album - The new "Hypin'
the new Outkast album."
'Kast got the early press, but
give the slight edge to Hova
and his Hall of Fame lineup
of producers. Real Bronx
Bombers don't get dropped by the
Marlins in six.

jw

r'
< :v
::
tY'.

.

Blink boys return
with self-titled gem

Naked strips much of Beatles' charm

By Alexandra Jones
Daily Arts Writer

By Sean Dailey
Daily Arts Writer

Music REVIEW
Pop punk. Poser Punk. Mall
Punk: No matter what you call it,
blink 182 (yeah, it's a lowercase "b"
now) more or less invented it, or at
least brought it to the mainstream.
Bands like Good Charlotte, New
Found Glory and The Starting Line
owe their liveli-
hoods to blink. blink 182
The band's fifth b
full-length album blink 182
finds Mark, Tom Geffen
and Travis going
through more changes than merely
capitalization issues. Blink 182 is a
large step forward for the boys, fur-
ther blurring the line between emo
and pop punk. Yes, there is a line.
In the interim between the band's
last album, 2001's Take Off Your
Pants and Jacket, all three members
explored differing solo projects.
Guitarist Tom DeLonge and drum-
mer Travis Barker collaborated on
Box Car Racer. Barker also formed

the Transplants with other punk
rock notables. Bassist Mark Hop-
pus, well, he did vocals on that A
Simple Plan song. The influence of
these diversions can clearly be felt
on this album. Most notable, is the
larger presence of Delonge vocally,
as well as a songwriter. Blink 182
almost feels like a Box Car Racer
album, featuring Hoppus. But where
Box Car failed in repetition and
mediocrity, the new blink succeeds
with a new-found diversity.
Gone is the toilet humor and silli-
ness of the former blink. Blink 182
is dark and brooding, at times very
angry and at others incredibly
somber. "Violence," with its abra-
sive guitars, has Delonge screaming
"Like violence, you have me, forev-
er and after/Like violence, you kill
me." That's not to say that the usual
poppy singles aren't still thrown
into the mix to add a bit of levity.
Opening track "Feeling This" fits
right in with the band's former
efforts. "Go" is an equally fun song
as well. The rest of the album does
its best to break the conception of
what a blink song is. "I Miss You"

and "The Fallen Interlude" experi-
ment with samples and drum
machines. With more than just the
usual guitar/bass/drums combina-
tion, the album on the whole feels
fuller than previous releases, and
much more mature as well. "All of
This," perhaps the most moving
track on the album, features bitter-
sweet vocals from Robert Smith of
the Cure. Since when are blink
songs moving?
It only makes sense that the band
is beginning to mature. Now in
their 30s and with wives and chil-
dren, it was about time. Perhaps
because of their past, not in spite of
it, the band's latest shines more
brightly. Blink 182 is an unexpect-
edly strong album from three guys
known for adolescent skateboard
punk. Hopefully, they'll continue in
this direction.

,Music REVIEW **I
Paul McCartney intended Let It Be ...
Naked to correct a perceived injustice,
but this sterile, artificial attempt to
clean up musical history can't compare
to the original. -
Originally a musical film project,
"Get Back," Let It Be was recorded dur-
ing the death .______..___
throes of the Beat- let it Be
les' career. When e d
the band was Naked
unable to create a The Beatles
cohesive product, Capitol
John Lennon
insisted that producer Phil Spector fin-
ish the album. Attempting to dress up
lackluster tracks, Spector padded "Let It
Be" and "The Long and Winding
Road" with syrupy string arrangements
and choral backups. Paul McCartney
expressed dissatisfaction with the
album for years, but only participated in
Naked's inception: Remastering was
done by three Abbey Road Studios
engineers who were instructed to cull a
new Let It Be from 32 reels of raw tape.
Surprisingly, McCartney was satisfied
with this new version and made no
changes before its release.

Naked features high-fidelity sound,
minute edits and a modified tracklist, as
well as Fly on the Wall, an inconsequen-
tial bonus disc featuring boring, barely-
intelligible dialogue and guitar
noodling. Now "Get Back" starts the
album, and the unadorned "Let It Be" is
a somber finale. "Don't Let Me Down,"
the only unfamiliar material on Naked,
compliments the album well, Lennon's
harsh vocals communicating desire and
fear borne of drug addiction and need.
De-Spectorized, "The Long and Wind-
ing Road" sounds clear, pretty and sin-
cere with Paul, piano, bass and Billy
Preston's keyboards. "Let It Be" fea-
tures a new guitar solo. The changes
made to "Across the Universe" are
insignificant; Naked's version evokes
the same meditative calm as the others.
While Spector left intact snippets of
silly dialogue between tracks from the
original "Get Back" sessions, they're
nowhere to be found on Naked. Without
John hollering nonsense phrases, the
album loses its twisted feel: the origi-
nal's appeal lay in the disjointed produc-
tion, the juxtaposition of maudlin
strings and piano with wiseass com-
ments and casual conversation. "Get
Back" loses meaning without John's
wry "I hope we passed the audition"
farewell. This remark served as a wink
from the band, a reassurance that the

music would last.
Naked is cleaner, a cohesive work
that realizes McCartney's back-to-
basics concept, but the revamped ver-
sion cannot replace the original. If art
imitates life, the spite, despair and dis-
solution of the Beatles' final year
together should be apparent in the
album. Let It Be documents the end of
the most analyzed, idolized and dissect-
ed group in the history of popular
music, and shouldn't be disregarded
because their lives interfered.
Let It Be and its peculiarities are the
Beatles'. It doesn't matter who pro-
duced or if John plays bass horribly or
the choral "aahs" lurking in the back-
ground are cheesy. Naked might sate
fans' curiosity about "Get Back,"but it's
inherently a lie, an altered version of a
historic document with all the sad,
angry truth polished away.
Sanitized and reorganized, the songs
lose their original meaning in Naked's
context. Let It Be was never a swan
song, a planned denouement to the most
fascinating musical group of the twenti-
eth century - who could plan that end-
ing? It's circumstance captured on tape,
four people's careers, art and lives col-
liding and splintering in all directions.
"Get Back" may contain the whole
story and Naked the ideal, but Let It Be
really happened.

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