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October 04, 2004 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-10-04

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ARTS

The Michigan Daily - Monday, October 4, 2004 - 9A

'Ladder 49'
inspires with
heroism
By Phononzell Williams
For the Daily

Tyler Hilton impresses
with versatile debut

By Mary Catherlne Flnney
For the Daily
Tyler Hilton's major label debut,
The Tracks Of, is a well-crafted
collection of 11 original songs that
introduces Hilton as a talented
young artist with a bright future
ahead.
The 20-year old native of Palm
Springs, Calif., plays acoustic and
electric guitar,

It was inevitable that a film about firefighters
was going to be made after the attacks of Sept. 11
and the filmmakers behind "Ladder 49," screen-
writer Lewis Colick and director Jay Russell, are
up to the challenge. They skillfully depict a group
of America's most overlooked public servants as
universally noble and coura-
geous outside of the context
of the Sept. 11 attacks, though Ladder 49
nonetheless leaving remnants At Showcase
of that unforgettable day in the and Quality 16
minds of the viewer. They cre- Touchstone
ate a film that reconciles the
heroism of selflessly running
into a flaming edifice with the fear and anxiety that
must inevitbly accompany these feats of bravery.
"Ladder 49" begins with firefighter Jack Mor-
rison (Joaquin Phoenix) helplessly trapped inside
a horrific inferno that had been a 20-story office
building. After sacrificing himself to rescue a man,
the floor falls out from under him. With Jack sur-
ronded by flames, Mike Kennedy (John Travolta),
his onetime captain and now assistant fire chief,
quickly shows up to personally head the rescue
effort. While lying in the bowels of this monstrous
hell-hole, Jack's career flashes before his eyes and
viewers are taken on a journey throughout his life
since he first joined the company. As he drifts in
and out of consciousness, his life unfolds in chron-
ological order and the audience is transported to
his initiation into the ranks of Ladder 49 and his
formative days as a firefighter.
From the first day as a rookie assigned to the

piano and sings
on the record,
and it is his
weathered vocals
that initially cap-
ture the attention
of the listener. A

Tyler Hilton
The Tracks of
Tyler Hilton
Maverick

Mister, you're on fire, mister.

firehouse as a "pipeman" (the guy who holds the
hose); he gets the welcome hazing from the guys.
The camaraderie of the house of men known as
Ladder 49 is edgy and affectionate. They are an
earthy group of men, who have a great time drink-
ing and joking but are professional and dedicated
to serving the public. The crew consists of the
usual stereotypes: easy-going Tommy (Morris
Chestnut), loudmouth Lenny (Robert Patrick) and
ladies' man Dennis (Billy Burke).
"Ladder 49" does a particularly fine job por-
traying the domestic conflict - having a family
while simultaneously coping with the possibility
of going to work and never making it back home
to see your wife and kids - inherent in the life of
a firefighter. There is a moment in the film dur-
ing Jack's flashback when he has to explain the
real dangers of being a firefighter to his 7-year-

old son. With second degree burns on both ban-
daged hands Jack sits on his son's bed, staring in
his face and tells him, "It's worth the risk to save
people." This scene offered a realistic depiction of
the struggles beyond the glory. His pregnant wife
sees him on television dangling from a building
engulfed in flames while rescuing a man and she
is afraid that one day he won't make it home for
the children. These moments imbue "Ladder 49"
with a somber tone that is often missing in big
Hollywood blockbusters.
The tight-knit family of "Ladder 49," encoun-
tering joy, hurt, glory and loss, provide a wonder-
ful vehicle for exploring the virtues of courage
and self-sacrifice. "Ladder 49" succeeds by pro-
viding an honest assessment of the conflicts and
tradeoffs that these brave citizens face every day
on the job and at home.

combination of a growling John Mel-
lencamp and a sincere John Mayer,
Hilton's voice adds a unique stylis-
tic element to his songs that makes
him identifiable among the masses
of emerging singer/songwriters.
The lead single "When It Comes"
is a catchy song that begins slowly
with an acoustic guitar riff and Hil-
ton's melancholy vocals singing "I
study up my hollow / piece of wood
to follow / A day that doesn't come
to the lucky." The verse builds to
a very energized chorus with Hil-
ton belting out "I'll let you know /
When it comes / When it comes / I'll
let you know / But don't stay up for
me / Don't wait up for me if I'm not
home." "When It Comes" continues
in that fashion, alternating from
folk-acoustic verses to high-energy
chorus breaks that give the song a

great texture.
All of Hilton's songs are intro-
spective and thematically, the songs
on The Tracks Of are centered on
love and romance with the excep-
tion of a few. One such exception
is the fourth track on the album
entitled "Rolling Home," which is
written about life on the road and
traveling on a tour bus. "Rolling
Home" is a lyrical standout on the
The Tracks Of, although the entire
album is very impressive lyrically.
Hilton's hit-writing ability is appar-
ent on upbeat, radio-friendly tracks
such as "Pink and Black" and "Kiss
On."
* The last two tracks on The Tracks
Of, "Insomnia" and "Picture Per-
fect" have a completely different
feel than the previous songs and
showcase Hilton's musicality and
versatility. "Insomnia" features Hil-
ton on the piano, and a very pretty
and gloomy vocal line that brings to
mind Ben Folds and Chris Martin.
"Picture Perfect" is the last song on
the album and the sole track pro-
duced by Hilton himself. It is a sim-
ple and sincere song, only supported
by a finger-picked acoustic guitar,
and a stripped-down production that
gives it a very personal feel, as Hil-
ton's vocals on this track are espe-
cially striking and emotional.
Tyler Hilton's major label debut
The Tracks Of is a great first album,
demonstrating his instrumental
talents, songwriting ability and
musical versatility over 11 original
tracks that reveal his wide range
of capabilities and show incredible
promise for his career ahead.

Amin looks
at U.S.
through
new eyes
*in Virus'

Mountain Goats serve up stripped-down sound

By Joel Hoard
Daily Arts Writer

"I've always considered what I do, if not
unique, at least different," says John Darni-
elle, the man who has been behind the Moun-
tain Goats moniker for the past decade. On the
surface, Darnielle's music is shockingly simple:
Most songs consist of only strummed acoustic
guitar-and Darnielle's shrill yet affecting vocals
- only rarely do backing instruments and per-

By Steve Cotner
Daily Arts Writer

It is always a touchy thing for
Americans to hear how their country
looks: through foreign eyes. Samir
Amin has perhaps the coldest stare in
this regard, but also one of the most
compassionate for humankind.
As director of the Third World
Forum in Dakar, Senegal, for the past
30 years, Amin has produced a canon

of works, always
painting a critique
of global capital
and liberalism
that, in its broadest
strokes, captures
the expanding
inhumanity of the
world's dominant
system.
"The Liberal
Virus: Perma-
nent War and the
Americanization

The
Liberal Virus:
Permanent
War and the
American-
ization of
the World
By Samir Amin
Monthly Review Press

of the World" is perhaps the broadest
stroke yet. Compared to other works
on political economy, it is bite-size.
But viewed alongside most of what
passes for political content today
- something like a caveman making
his point with a club - "Virus" looks
rather like a good paring-knife, all the
sharper and more incisive for its brev-
ity.
Whereas other authors leave ques-
tions of ideology, nationality and class
aside, forcing themselves to confront
perceived enemies in a head-on col-
lision, Amin peels back the layers of
confusion and cuts to the center of the
! world's conflicts.
At its core, he sees a "Triad" of
powers - the U.S., Europe and Japan
- for whom capital alone makes the
decisions, inflicting an ever-widening
North-South economic divide upon
the world. At the helm of the Triad is
the U.S., which has succeeded in mak-
ing itself a "low-intensity democracy"
run by a "de-facto single party, the
party of capital," a model that it seeks
to export around the world. Most

importantly, this system succeeds not
because of the imagined advantages of
liberalism, but because of a particular
brand of "really-existing capitalism"
that relies on military force to sus-
tain it, a stage in the system's life that
Amin likens to violent senility.
Despite his flight into rhetoric,
Amin succeeds by a cool analysis of
the mechanisms that hold the system
together. Moreover, he provides a
strategy for action that should shield
him from any accusations of utopia-
nism. The strength of such recommen-
dations lies in his understanding that
history always advances by compro-
mise, and that capitalist powers always
seek to negate this by polarizing the
groups that have convergent interests.
But compromise is not the same as
accommodation; he envisions a politi-
cal, economic and military alliance
that unites Paris, Berlin, Moscow, and
possibly Beijing and Delhi. It would
include both European liberalists and
socialists, all of whom could oppose
U.S. hegemony, as well as non-Euro-
peans of the economic South, and even
Americans on the left. It would be a
slow and difficult transition from the
establishment of this alliance to genu-
ine democratic progress in the world,
but Amin believes such an anti-hege-
monist front "is today the very first
priority, just as forming an anti-Nazi
alliance was yesterday."
Amin takes joy in reshuffling the
flags on the map as if he were play-
ing a giant game of Risk, but this is no
contest between colonizers. He writes
on behalf of a world seeking libera-
tion from imperialism, passionately
resisting the powers that seek to cover
the map with a single color, the flag
of neo-liberalism. In his concern for
people, not nations or capital, Amin
preserves the humanist perspective
that is currently lacking in American
discourse.

cussion make an appearance.
It's in that simple approach
that Darnielle's uniqueness
lies. The excess is trimmed
away, and the focus rests
squarely on Darnielle's ele-
gant melodies and engaging,
narrative-filled lyrics.
In many ways, Darnielle

is the anti-rock star. Intelligent, witty and com-
pletely unpretentious, he separates himself from
the ever-expanding mass of indie rockers with his
refreshingly down-to-earth attitude. For example,
while most musicians only hold down day jobs
until their careers take off, Darnielle continued
to work as a psychiatric nurse well after his music
career first began. And when he finally left that
job, he did so reluctantly: "I held on to my day job
as long as I possibly could, but around August of

The
Mountain
Goats
Tonight at 8 p.m.
The Magic Stick

last year touring commitments got too intense,"
he said. "I miss the work I was doing. I love play-
ing music, of course, but there's nothing like in-
the-trenches work with people in need."
With the four-piece band currently dominat-
ing the indie rock genre, solo artists like Darni-
elle are a rare commodity. "There are already so
many regular lineup bands," he explained. "Who
wants to be a face in the crowd? ... When I started
this stuff, you couldn't turn right on sixth with-
out hitting several four-piece bands. I still don't
understand why people think of 'The Band' as
this platonic ideal of pop music."
Nevertheless, Darnielle did do more collabo-
rating for the latest Mountain Goats record, We
Shall All Be Healed. Peter Hughes, John Vander-
slice, Scott Solter and Franklin Bruno all joined
Darnielle in the studio. "I'm enjoying the col-
laborative aspect a lot these days. It's a welcome
changeup after several years of it's-just-me," Dar-
nielle said.
The record was also a bit of a change lyrically.
While Darnielle's lyrics have always involved a
strong first-person narrative in the past, never
before were the characters Darnielle inhabited
so personal. "We Shall All Be Healed was the
most autobiographical album to date, actually.
I used to just tell stories, now I like to poke my
own head out through the window and wave a
little," he explained.
On his current tour, Darnielle is joined onstage by
Hughes, with whom Darnielle has toured in the past.

"Live, we're a duo, and we've toured a lot in the past
few years so we really hear each other well," Dar-
nielle said. "That's the main thing about us live, I
think, is how electric we sound when we're hitting on
all cylinders." And just because there are only two of
them, it doesn't mean that they can't put on a strong
show. For anyone who doubts them, Darnielle issued
this challenge: "Peter and I will happily out-rock any
four-piece who wanna scrap."

The Delgados eschew darkness on 'Universal Audio'

By Punit Mattoo
Daily Arts Writer

of musical excellence, but in a dif-
ferent manner. The sound and mood
of Universal Audio departs great-
ly from the large orchestral and
darker pieces that dominated their

Scotland has seen its fair share
of indie pop/rock artists go abroad,
from Belle & Sebastian to this year's
ubiquitous band of the moment, Franz
Ferdinand. The most underappreci-
ated of these, The Delgados, look
to surpass both their own and their
peers' success with Universal Audio.
The quartet became the center
of the Glasgow music scene with
its Chemikal Underground label,
which jumpstarted the career of
cerebral-rock act Mogwai and also
released three of The Delgados'
own critically acclaimed albums.
Their new release continues a trend

previous albums,
including 2002's
Hate. Here, the
Delgados deliver
the aural defini-
tion of what indie
pop/rock should
be. The listener

We're sliding to the right.

The Delgados
Universal Audio
chemikal Underground/
Transdreamer

With fewer instruments and sim-
pler production involved, Pollock's
voice consistently shines through
and carries the album to the levels
of playful indie pop that exceeds
that of their peers, Belle & Sebas-
tian and Rilo Kiley.
Woodward's vocal contributions,
however, fall short of anything spe-
cial. They are instead featured on
the worst track on the entire album,
"Is This All I Came For?" The
song sticks out with its bland, late
'80s ballad sound and is unforget-
table because it leaves the listener
wondering how it could get on an
otherwise consistently great CD.
Woodward is better suited accom-
panying Pollock on tracks such as
"Girls of Valour." Essentially a
tribute to the melodic complexi-

ties of the Beach Boys, the chorus
features Woodward's layered vocals
interjected by Pollack's sweet voice,
creating their most radio-friendly
song yet.
The Delgados, however, don't
entirely abandon their darker past.
The haunting "Come Undone" fea-
tures a lone piano plunked slowly
and apprehensively as Pollack's
soft voice crescendos into a moody
chorus repeating, "This how it feels
to drown / This is how we come
undone." The band's ability to meld
such dynamic songs together and
create magnificent music may not
be fully appreciated upon the first
listen. But with each additional lis-
ten, The Delgados' fun and free-
wheeling music makes Universal
Audio an addictive release.

discerns the playful mood and sum-
mery harmonies to come in the
lead track "I Fought the Angels."
A simple repetitive guitar line and
the beautiful union of lead vocalists
Alun Woodward and Emma Pollock
blossom into an unforgettable track
featuring no real refrain or hook.

4A

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