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March 09, 2004 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-03-09

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ART S

The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, March 9, 2004 - 9

BREAKING

RECORDS

REVIEWS OF THE MUSIC INDUSTRY'S NEW RELEASES

Courtesy of Palmetto

It's just a little bit further up the hill, Mr. Berkman. I swear.

Bebopper's awaited
follow-up entertains

Courtesy of Mute
Mister!
There are
wolves
behind you,
mister!

By Andrew Horowitz
Daily Arts Writer

EXPERIMENTAL TRIO REGROUPS

By Andrew M. Gaerig
Daily Music Editor
Liars' debut album, They Threw Us All in a
Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top, proved a
number of things: They were difficult, weird even;
They were clever - check the album title, and a
number of the equally witty song names - and

they punctuate correctly. They
lously talented, mixing drum-
machine beats with rhythmic
guitar cuts, guttural bass
explosions and rotten, dilapi-
dated drumming. Frontman
Angus Andrews ran atonal,
spastic poetry over the whole
mess, which was somehow,

were also ridicu-
Liars
They Were
Wrong, So We
Drowned
Mute

ways, they have a point: The album is layered to
the point of incomprehensibility. The sounds run
so deep and thick that wrapping one's head around
them is difficult, if not impossible. Gone are the
shit-kicking choruses of "Mr. You're On Fire Mr."
or the genius low-end rumble of "Nothing Is Ever
Lost or Can Be Lost My Science Friend." They
are replaced by shivering dirges, eerie chanting
and so much industrial scrape that the speakers
drip scrap metal.
The record isn't without precedent, though. The
harsher works of German noisemongers Ein-
sturzende Neubauten, and Lou Reed offer context,
if not explanation. They Were Wrong holds some
merit as an academic exercise: Liars deserves
credit for taking a chance on a record. Indie rock's
tendency to take sonic risks is monumentally
overstated, and short of anything else, Liars have
crossed that line, creating an album that is as dif-
ficult as it is informed.
But referencing old records and waxing philo-
sophical about academic merit distracts from the
fact that They Were Wrong is a fascinating listen.
Forget all of that stuff about witches - it's win-
dow dressing for the band's aural adventure.
Instead, focus on the ghastly hymnals, the skitter-
ing electronics and observe pulse and breath of an
album that takes sonic extremes to heart. The
band lost its rhythm section after the first album,

and so it's almost natural that They Were Wrong
abandons the band's dance-punk lean. Andrews's
vocal input is now a purely aural affair.
"We Fenced Other Gardens With the Bones of
Our Own" is surrounded by tribal percussion
and ethereal incantations. The "single,"
"There's Always Room on the Broom," is a
playful romp through rusty nails and wet floor-
boards. "Hold Hands and It Will Happen Any-
way" forgoes any sort of powerful rhythm,
instead relying on Aaron Hemphill to thrust
bricks of guitar onto the fire. The funeral organ
on the closer, "Flow My Tears the Spider Said"
is mockingly tuneful, a whimsical swipe at lis-
teners who finished the journey.
Listening to They Were Wrong, it's impossible
not to assume that Liars are being intentionally
difficult. Their first album - far from accessible
- at least featured discernible songs and
moments. In contrast, They Were Wrong presents
itself as a glob of music, to be either totally con-
sumed or rejected. Make no mistake: It's not a
work of genius, but to dismiss it as a "difficult"
album is a mistake. They Were Wrong is the sound
of a young band challenging themselves, their lis-
teners, and the conventions of a stagnant scene.
They Were Wrong, So We Drowned isn't the young
year's best album, but it's easily its most interest-
ing, challenging listen.

Two years after releasing t
ically acclaimed Leaving
composer/pianist David B
returns with the stellar Star
Finish There. This outin
again finds
Berkman honing
his ability to cre- Day
ate idiosyncratic Berkn
tunes within the Quar
context of tradi- Start H
tional jazz. His Finish1
refined composi-
tions are met Palme
with vigor by the
accomplished quartet,
includes saxophonist Dick
bassist Ugonna Okegwo and
mer Nasheet Waits.
Start Here opens with "C
ballad with an intervallicr
on top of peculiar chord cf
Oatts's fluid tone produces a
choly effect that continues fr
first note onward. His soun
intrinsic match for Ber
becoming apparent in the r
doublings and solos. Ber
playing, like Oatts, is reserv
understated, and his technica
ty takes a back seat to comp(
al premise. As the

progresses, his reserve is relentless,
- almost to a fault.
Not until four choruses into
Berkman's solo of the album's sec-
he crit- ond tune, the quirky blues "Tricer-
Home, atops," do we hear the pianist's
erkman bebop dexterity. Berkman instead
t Here, experiments with timbre, tonality,
g once harmony and fragmented melodic
ideas, emphasizing ingenuity over
"lid pianistic virtuosity.
Id Perhaps the strongest testament
nan to Berkman's talent lies in his
tet diverse stylistic knowledge. The
here, brief "English as a Second Lan-
There guage" demonstrates comfort with
modern atonal concert music, soni-
tto cally alluding to the confusion
inherent in the title's subject. "Old
which Forks" retains the feel of a stan-
Oatts, dard, but moderately progresses to
1 drum- the point of discordant freedom.
Oatts solos without piano accompa-
ells," a niment, creating a seemingly irrele-
melody vant harmonic structure.
hanges. In a language overcome with vir-
melan- tuosity and showmanship, Berkman
tom the is the rare example of a jazz musi-
d is an cian who sacrifices ego for the
rkman, greater musical cause. Although his
nelodic ideas sometimes falter (as in the
kman's lagging "Iraq"), these shortcomings
ved and are easily overlooked. Start Here is
al abili- an accomplished effort, an uncom-
osition- promised realization of a compos-
album er's vision.

after 10 or 12 listens, very danceable. But forget
all that. If They Threw Us proved one thing, it's
that Liars are just the sort of band to float a rumor
concerning a concept album about witches. More
than that, it proved they're just the sort of band to
make that album.
The result is the polarizing They Were Wrong,
So We Drowned and make no mistake: It is a
dense, difficult album. Many of the mainstream
rock rags have lambasted it as such. In some

Etheridge's good luck runs dry on latest release

SHORT

TAKE S

By Elie Perler
Daily Arts Writer

Melissa Etheridge continues to
personify the archetypal pop
singer/songwriter on her ninth stu-
dio record, Lucky. This album
blends in perfectly with the frame-
work of the current lackluster music

however, refreshingly contrasted
with the strikingly urgent and heat-
ed "Giant." Once again, the grunge-
rock sound Etheridge conjures is
rather unexpected. Pent-up anger
displayed in her raspy singing style
parallels the juicy guitar solo and
excited fervor. Upon initial expo-
sure, she could erroneously be mis-
taken for a hard-rock artist. In
comparison, "Come On Out
Tonight" is more in the vein of her
typical catchy pop style. Upbeat in
nature, the song boasts an addictive

yet fluid chord progression and
melodic hook that succeeds in hold-
ing listener interest.
Etheridge's flirtation with grunge-
rock and hard-rock influences with-
in her folksy style give the music a
hard-edged makeover, clearly hint-
ing at a fresher and much-needed
change in direction. However, in the
end Lucky falls short in sustaining
the vigor captured on a handful of
unique songs. Instead, the listener is
forced to plod through an album
that is average at best.

THE MOUNTAIN GOATS
WE SHALL ALL BE HEALED
4AD
The Mountain Goats' John
Darnielle has a voice so fragile
and melodies so elegant that even
when he's downright pissed off
(which happens often), there's an
underlying tenderness to his work.
As they were on previous Moun-
tain Goats releases, Darnielle's
bare-bones compositions on We

Shall All Be Healed are limited
primarily to strummed acoustic
guitar and vocals. These stark
backdrops lend certain warmth to
his odd, often acerbic lyrics. Who
else could sing a line such as "A
year or so ago I worked at a liquor
store / And a guy came in / Tried
to kill me / So I shot him in the
face" and still sound so affection-
ate? ***J
-Joel Hoard

mainstream. It is
predominantly
composed of
unexciting tracks
peppered with a
few stand-alone
sensations.
Moreover, aside
from the warmly
aging and liner

Melissa
Etheridge
Lucky
Island
fadedsretro pack-
notes, the main

i

YOU ARE INVITED n i
TO A SERIES OF DISCUSSIONS: I
VIETNAM: Then and Now 9 x z

Vietnam Veterans

attractions of this album are her
atypical compositions.
Often considered folksy and mel-
low, Etheridge scoffs at this judg-
ment by presenting an anger-ridden
dark side. "Secret Agent" is a depar-
ture from her usual sound and is
easily the musical apex of the
album. An emphasized bass line,
punctuated drum rhythm and "surf"
r guitar sound forcefully open the
song. Mixing these three distinct
elements creates a diverse sonic
hybrid - flavorful reverb with a
twist of grunge. Yet the high point is
short-lived, hitting a trough no
sooner than the next title, "Will You
Still Love Me," which slows the
tempo to painfully boring levels.
Much of the subsequent album
material is filler, quickly fading to
background noise. Fittingly, her
failed attempt to mobilize patriotism
in "Tuesday Morning" and the sappy
ballad "Mercy" are poor contribu-
tions to Lucky. The mellow drivel is,
DA> .AlRS. DESPITE
POPULAR OPINION,
WE'RE RCK JAMES,
BITCH!

Wednesday, March 10 2:00 PM
k < Michael J. Martin, Silver Star
recipient, can tell more in a three
minute song than can be told in a
one hour lecture. Michael and other
vets will tell their own stories and
answer questions from the floor.
Two conditions are set for this
experience;
one is on the audience and the
other is on the panel:
1. Attendees must arrive with an
open mind
2. No question is off limits

" What was it like to fight in the jungles and rice paddies?
" How do the vets feel about the enemy that they fought?
" Has Hollywood ever gotten it right?
" What do Vietnam Vets think of Robert MacNamara?
" How does the average Vietnam Vet feel about his experience?
Be prepared with your own questions; we have heard the worst.

Mike Benge

Wedne

sday, March 17 2:00
A civilian working with the
Montagnard people, Mike was taken
prisoner during the 1968 Tet
Offensive and held in a bamboo cage
in the jungle for over two years.
Then he was transported to Hanoi,
where things went downhill. Mike is
a recipient of our nation's highest
civilian award and still works on
mhalf of the Mnntannard

I : A

w

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