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November 05, 2004 - Image 8

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2004-11-05

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ARTS
BREAKING RECORDS
REVIEWS OF THE MUSIC INDUSTRY'S NEW RELEASES

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Above: Le Tigre. Not pictured: Sexual tension.
Le Tigre's jump to
major label a success

s Courtesy of Def Jam,
Ow, this pepper
spray is great.
HALF-HEARTED VIBES
'BUSINESS' FOLLOWS IN THE FAILURE OF PREDECESSOR

By Alexandra Jones
Daily Weekend Editor

Historically, there hasn't been a lot
of effective (let alone fun) political pop
music produced in the past half-cen-
tury. These days, bands might drop the
occasional Hail to the Thief or Louden
Up Now, but few groups can combine
politics and pop in
a way that's inven- Le Tigre
tive, free and fun.
Le Tigre is one This Island
of those groups, a Universal
trio whose activist
electro-pop will
make you think while shaking your ass
on the dance floor.
Headed by original Riot Grrrl Kath-
leen Hanna, former leader of early '90s
punk progenitors Bikini Kill, Le Tigre
have been recording punk-inspired dance
albums since 1999. Hanna joined with
zinester Johanna Fateman and erstwhile
memberSadie Benning to form a backing
band forher DIY electro-experimentation
as Julie Ruin. Before recording their sec-
ond album, Benning was replaced by the
mustachioed J.D. Samson, a former mem-
berofthetroupe Dykes Can Dance.
Theirdebut,theself-titledLe Tigre, con-
tained experimental, poppy and political
tracks that were, above all else, danceable
as hell; its opener, "Deceptacon," captures
listeners' minds with the tenacity of aural
cocaine. Since then, Le Tigre haven't
quite recreated the candy-coated dance
awesomeness of their debut, but they've
sharpened their ability to meld politics
and pop without losing their message or
boring their audience. On This Island, Le
Tigre found the right formula to make a
great political dance-pop album.

If "Deceptacon" was Le Tigre's
absolute best track, that distinction
on This Island goes to future electro-
clash classic "After Dark." Hanna sings
syncopations over a bouncy disco beat
whose chorus is perfectly punctuated
with echoing synth beeps.
While "Don't Drink Poison" and the
Ric Ocasek-produced "Tell You Now"
both feature a liberal (ha!) sprinkling
of gender-related rhetoric, it's J.D. and
Johanna in the embarrassingly named
(but otherwise kickass) "Nanny Nanny
Boo Boo" who dole out their first confi-
dent dose of gender politics. They volley
back and forth: "We're like boys, just ask
her, dicks done by C.P. Caster ... I do it
every night / she does it in her man suit,"
And "All night we've been talking to
liars ... It's alright, man, it's just an inter-
view / You'll never get it, I guess this shit
is too new," they jeer at outsiders. Later,
on "Viz" J.D. describes the freedom of
dancing. " I find another butch ... We
put our hands / in the crowd / and over
and over we jump up and down ... They
call it coolness, and we call it visibility /
They call it way too rowdy, and we call
it finally free."
"New Kicks" combines news broad-
cast, peace rally and dance anthem with
an inventive beat, an infectious cho-
rus and sound bites (taken from Susan
Sarandon, Al Sharpton, Ossie Davis and
others). They may be preaching, but this
sure doesn't sound like a sermon.
From the grittier electro-punk aesthetic
of"This Island"totheircoverofthe Pointer
Sisters' "I'm So Excited," Le Tigre prove
that despite their move from Mr. Lady
Records to Universal, they've maintained
theirstreet cred and then some. If you want
music for your next party, polticial rhetoric
or a galvanizing combination of the two,
This Island won't disappoint.

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By Evan McGarvey
Daily Arts Writer
In no uncertain terms, the Jay-Z and R.Kelly
collaborative album, The Best of Both Worlds,
was a bomb. It posted horrible sales upon its
initial release in 2002 and was quickly over-
shadowed by a videotape
containing R.Kelly engag-
ing in some questionable R.Kelly
sex acts with an underage and Jay-Z
girl. Expectedly, the wave Unfinished
of late-night jokes and slew Business
of boycotts tossed the album Set Jam
out beyond the realm of pop
music and into the absurd.
What's interesting is that all the urine jokes
in the world managed to taint an album that
should have been neglected simply based on
artistic merit. The Best of Both Worlds was
an awful album and pretty much everyone
involved knew it. So why would these titans
of hip-hop and R&B try and rehash pure
refuse?
Sure, R.Kelly staged a Rocky-like comeback
and happened to put out the best album and
single of his career, 2003's Chocolate Fac-
tory and the dizzyingly beautiful lead single,
"Ignition (Remix)," while Jigga released two
career-defining albums and "retired" from
rap as the self-proclaimed best rapper alive.
They're two frighteningly talented, charming,
savvy artists at the peak of their fame. Maybe
that's why Unfinished Business isn't just a
horrendous wreck of an album, it's downright
mystifying.
The same second-string production team,

Trackmasters, who helmed The Best of Both
Worlds, is behind the mixing boards yet again
and nothing in their shallow bag of tricks has
changed. The same decrepit horn sections, all
the Indian flutes that don't sound good enough
for Timbaland and all those same, glossy, pseu-
do-Neptunes sonic flourishes clutter the disc's
11 songs. Most of these tracks are just simple
remixes or corruptions of songs off of The Best
of Both Worlds. Any listener with the slightest
bit of either S. Carter or Kells experience won't
bite. Even "She's Coming Home with Me," the
album's tightest song, is just "Somebody's
Girl" with some charmingly sloppy flamenco
guitar loops thrown into the mix.
Kelly carries most of the vocal load. He
puts down that distinct sing-rap over the usual
topics of VIP rooms, ridiculously plush May-
bachs and all those freaky girls waiting in the
Jacuzzi. His charming falsetto still manages to
elicit both a smile and giggle from lines like,
"Move that ass slow like you in the Matrix,"
even when the other 80 percent of his verse
feels like Chocolate Factory run-off.
H.O.V.A is the most disappointing on the
album. Jay-Z appears so peripheral on each
song it's a wonder he shares top billing with
Kelly. Cruise control is too intense a phrase to
describe Shawn Carter's output on the album.
Even if he is planning on coming out of retire-
ment, he sounds like he's too deep on some
golf course in Palm Beach to come back any-
time soon. From the man who brought some
of the most tightly packed narratives in rap
history, listeners have to deal with lines like,
"It's hot tubs, heated pools and no rules / Call
your old dude and tell him he old news / Tell
that fella you feel like Cinderella." These raps
aren't breezy, they're just hot air. Toss in some

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completely forgettable guest appearances, sub-
ject matter than doesn't get anywhere beyond
sweet-ass ways to enter a club with a girl on
each arm and all the album amounts to Magic
and Jordan playing a game of Sunday pickup
and missing 10-foot jumpers.
As bad as Unfinished Business is, it won't
be anything more than a sloppy footnote on
two fantastic careers. The real danger ahead,
20 years from now, when kids acciden-
tally turn on the oldies station, hear Unfin-
ished Business and start to think this is how
R.Kelly and Jay-Z made music. People will
seethe with aging resentment and try to talk
their kids into listening to The Black Album
and 12 Play. They'll dismiss their elders and
thus the chance for parent-child bonding over
"Dirt off Your Shoulder" or "Bump n'Grind"
is forever erased. Seriously, no parent wants
to miss out on that.

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Elvis Costello shows his age
By Alex Wolsky ping from every last verse. varied musical stylings, calling out
Daily Arts Editor The Delivery Man was inspired by critics that lambast the singer for
Johnny Cash, or that's what Costello changing his horse mid-race as deha-
There's no doubt about it - Elvis wants his listener to believe. Unfor- bilitating his creative and artistic
Costello is an old man. From his tunately, it's hard at least to see how ambition. Although, as he experi-
penny loafers to the massive amounts the plainspokenness of the late coun- ments with classical, country ("Coun-
of time spent in the Florida Keys, try singer has anything to do with try Darkness") and everything in
the man's reputa- Costello's preening sensibility. between, it becomes more ingrained
tion for being a Released simultanously with and Costello's long-time flaws come
rock'n'roll star is Elvis Delivery Man, Il Signo follows in a into focus. His incessant lyrical inepi-
dwindling. Last Costello long line of out-of-the-ordinary proj- tude, writing songs that come off as
year's disappoint- The Delivery Man ects for Costello in between proper an undergrad who discovered a the-
ing North didn't and I Sogno albums. Acting as the score to a bal- saurus, smothers any creative deci-
dispel the rumor Lost Highway let adaptation of Shakespeare's "A sion he makes musically.
that the once Midsummer Nights Dream," Il Sogno The end result with both of these
great, snot-nosed finds Costello branching almost too albums is Costello feeling isolated
British nerd-punk icon was softening far from his roots to make any imme- and backed into a corner by the world
with age. The album - a piano-laden diate impact. At times, it comes off around him. The Delivery Man comes
love homage to his wife - was a as forced experimentation done in off as prissy and uptight in his South-
failure only because people chose to the spirit of branching out and think- ern environment. His backing band,
view it through history's eyes. ing beyond the proverbial box. This, The Imposters, is musically very
This year's The Delivery Man undoubtedly hurts the artist because tight, but juxtaposed with Costello's
- similar in style and structure to it forces listeners to either criticize academic wit, the songs sound too
2002's seminal When I Was Cruel his roots ("He's not a classical man") much like they were forced.

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- has Costello's focus pointed in all
the right directions again: slamming
out guitar riffs with the spite drip-

or ignore his experiments ("To be
honest, I fell asleep.")
Costello combats criticism of his

The Delivery Man: ***
I1 Sogno: **

Got a dollar, son?

The Science, Technology, and Society Program Distinguished Speaker Series is pleased to present:
Reinventing Eden:
Science and the Fate of Nature in Western Culture
Carolyn Merchant
Chancellor's Professor of Environmental History,
Philosophy, and Ethics Environmental Science,
Policy, and Management
University of California Berkeley
Friday, 5 November 2004
4:00-5:30 pm
Michigan League, Michigan Room (2d floor)
Carolyn Merchant is the author of The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution (1980); Ecological Revolutions (1989);
Radical Ecology (1992); Earthcare: Women and the Environment (1996); and Reinventing Eden: The Fate of Nature in Western Culture (2003).
Co-sponsored by the Institute for Research on Women and Gender & Women's Studies Program
Science, Technology, and Society Program (STS)
734.936.6480
http://www.umich.edu/-umsts

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