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March 16, 2004 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-03-16

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8 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, March 16, 2004

ART S

a

I

ALEX
WOLSKY

DETROIT ROCK CITY
LOCAL BANDS DROP NEW LPs

Bozo Dionysius Revisited

Country-infused Blanche break
the mold with multifaceted debut
By Andrew M. Gamrlg
Daily Music Editor

Let me preface this by stating
that I never bought Jim Morri-
son, neither as the Lizard King'
nor the poet. Since the 30th anniver-
sary of Morrison's death, there has
been a mid-level revival of The Doors.
Morrison's popularity has become
glamorized and iconic, as a typical
mode of operation for rock'n'roll
stars. In an era bent on the guttural
exhibitionist antics of reality televi-
sion and the loss of culture and
sophistication in art, Morrison's resur-
gence is all but expected.
Morrison was always a jerk. At 10
years of age, he rubbed dog shit in his
little brother's face and later put cello-
phane over his brother's mouth, nearly
suffocating him. His brother had
chronic tonsillitis at the time, and
impeding his breathing for such a long
period of time nearly killed him. Mor-
rison pissed on himself, would threat-
en to throw his body out the car
window to gain attention from his par-
ents and constantly ridiculed para-
plegics. Once, while tobogganing,
Morrison even barricaded his two sib-
lings in the front of the cart where
they couldn't move, got up to a good
speed and aimed the shackles towards
a cabin. Surely this man is a god.
In the fall of '66, when the band
went in to record its first album, Mor-
rison covered the building in chemical
fire extinguisher foam. Around the
same time, he packed a taxi full of
people and drove out to Elektra
records president Jac Holzman's apart-
ment in the middle of the night, where
Morrison ripped out carpet and vomit-
ed all over the lobby.
This is the type of behavior that was
accepted, if not encouraged by people.
Granted, reality TV stars aren't always
whipping out their genitalia in public
(except Richard Hatch on "Survivor"),
but we, as a society, are encouraging
them to be as vile and inept as Morri-
son. If he cared so little about his life
and was so willing to make it one big
joke, why should anybody care, if not
for shameless, trashy entertainment?
Morrison was a failure as a musi-
cian and one of the most overrated
people in music. He couldn't sing,
he couldn't write a single note of
music, he never played on any of

The Doors' records and his lyrics
were pretentious bullshit. Most reali-
ty TV stars today can't act, they
can't write and they sure as hell
aren't winning any Emmys.
Morrison's life and death should be
written off as a blueprint to the pathet-
ic "artist as a star" system. The very
idea that stars, whether they be TV
rubes or rock'n'roll dropouts, are
somehow a race apart and thus able to
piss on their wives, trash hotel rooms
and commit unthinkable acts of socie-
tal taboo is beyond me.
One of the more ridiculous claims
I've heard is that somehow curbing
this exhibitionism would be detri-
mental to their art and their creativi-
ty. The ironic thing about this
(despite the fact that it assumes that
they have talent in the first place) is
that the tolerance of such acts con-
tributes to them eventually drying up
as artists. How could you truly emote
when you have absolutely zero input
from the real world, because every-
one around you is catering to and
sheltering you? Morrison couldn't,
and the very thought that he would
be alive today, singing about chaos
and revolution is laughable, much
like the idea that any reality star will
be whoring themselves on the small
screen a decade from now.
If he did indeed die in a bathtub
in Paris, it was a suitable ending for
a narcissistic parody of '60s rock
like Morrison. He belonged in a
daycare center for counterculture
casualties, another one of those chil-
dren ruined by drugs and left
scratching for some kind of authori-
ty as a significant artist.
Rock critic Lester Bangs branded
this type of glamorized, moronic
behavior, "Bozo Dionysius," the ami-
able blend of divine grace and bozo
idiocy. Morrison wasn't a poet or a
god. Instead, he was a drugged and
drunken maniac, a propitious male
prostitute who lives posthumously as
an icon for the vapid and inane.
- While Jim Morrison may not
appeal to Alex, Clay Aiken sure lights
hisfire. Send fan mail to
wolsky@umich.edu

For a scene that has been in the spotlight since
2001, Detroit has produced very few middle-of-the
road sounds. The Gories and The Detroit Cobras are
straight garage. The White Stripes mix genres, but

polarize within hard rock, blues
and punk. And so it goes with
Blanche, the first overtly coun-
try act to emerge from the
Detroit scene.
Blanche is, above anything
else, refreshing. They play
country music that would

Blanche
If We Can't
Trust the
Doctors
Cass

stab at the traditional "Wayfaring Stranger" is techni-
cally flawless, if a bit boring.
Just like Lovett, Miller's got a redheaded bride of
his own: Bassist/vocalist Tracee Mae Miller plays the
vampy/virginal sidekick role. Unfortunately, she has
all of the attitude and none of the chops: Her vocals,
occasionally prodding the wit out of her husband, too
often sound vapid and uninspired.
Tracee's subpar voice is, in a way, a compliment to
the rest of the band. Backing a thousand twang-rid-
dled fakers, Tracee might go unnoticed. Not in
Blanche. The band ties knots of warm, fresh country
Scoutmaster-tight, exposing the best - and worst -
of the vocalists. The ingredients are all typical, but
the outcome is always crisp, hauntingly atmospheric
and charmingly familiar.
Country music has always had issues with identity
and Blanche will undoubtedly be accused of plagia-
rism. After all, what does the Midwest know about
country music? Blanche doesn't care. Somewhere up
north, in a ghost town on a shore, there's a ghastly,
awkward barn raising. And Blanche is the only band
that dressed warm enough to take the gig.
,.. , , ,,, .. 0 ,,,,,,,,,,,,.,
Newest on Bondies release lacks
knockout punch
By Scott Serilla
Daily Arts Writer
MUsic REVI EW

records (The Ramones, The Smiths, The Replace-
ments), The Von Bondies have made hefty career
strides since their days as D-town's favorite warm-up
act. With ex-Talking Heads keyboardist Jerry Harri-
son tackling production duties, Pawn Shoppe deftly
balances radio sheen and Motor City grit, easily off-
setting the lingering cries of "sell-outs" still echoing
off the walls of the Magic Stick. There is a showroom
efficiency to the album that reflects a band intent on
going places in the industry, with nearly every track
clocking in at less than three minutes. While you
have to admire the economy,
ultimately it might be adding to The Von
the static sameness of Pawnheon
Shoppe, which seems desper- Bondies
ately in need of mood shift. Pawn Shoppe
The opening tide of feedback Heart
on "No Regrets" and the irre- Sire
sistible slinking bass line on the
lead single "C'Mon, C'Mon" are the spine-shivering
seeds of something great. Anywhere the group's
blasting boy/girl call-and-response choruses between
Stollsteimer, bassist Carrie Smith and guitarist Mar-
cie Bolan crop up showcases excellence. But some-
how just when you're ready to air drum along to Don
Blum's pummeling antics on "Maireed" or get lost in
the buzzing distortion, Stollsteimer kicks back into
his "woe is me" bit and ruins everything.
Things perk up when Carrie pulls a Kim Deal and
hijacks the show on "Not that Social," a welcome,
unexpectedly poppy change-up to Stollsteimer's
exhausted fastball delivery. A perfect kiss-off to an
over-inflated drunk's ego, the girly vocals and manic
crank of guitar allow for the whole picture to briefly
crystallize, but Stollsteimer's refusal to flash a sense
of humor or take a stab at a well-crafted melody
over jackhammer attack
infuriates as much as it
engages.

offend non-country fans. That ol' Nashville twang
has seen a resurgence as of late, but it has as much to
do with misnomers as it does with men in black:
Contrary to underground myth, The Old 97's and
Wilco are not - and have never been - country. In
contrast, Blanche throw back the moonshine like sea-
soned veterans: fiddles, banjos, pedal steel, finger
picking and female harmony all echo like the lost
ghosts of the Midwest's past.
The catalyst for the hootenanny is Dan John
Miller, who busts out of the starting block like an
indie rock Lyle Lovett: tall, dapper and hopelessly
unkempt. He's got a lot of Michigan in his thick, res-
onant voice, but he's got enough inflection to pull off
the dilapidated doctor role.
Miller's no one-trick pony. The album's catchiest
track, "Who's to Say," finds the old hobo pleading
like a helpless romantic over gorgeous, organic
swells. He plays up his cornball poet role on "Do You
Trust Me?" ("It doesn't take an honest man to sing an
honest song") and the hammy "Garbage Picker."
Elsewhere, "The Hopeless Waltz" brilliantly wilts
like a sun-drenched garden, and if the lyrics of the
Gun Club cover, "Jack on Fire," draw the Detroit con-
nection a bit too clearly it's probably done intentional-
ly ("I am like Jack and I'll tell you this / I will be your
lover and exorcist"). If there's a criticism to be levied
against Dr. Miller, it's that he's somewhat vanilla: His

Courtesy of Sire

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El' 'r.

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