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September 08, 2004 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2004-09-08

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September 8, 2004

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Look Ma, no bald spot!

Guided By Voices
take one last shot

By Andrew M. Gaerig
Daily Arts Editor
Bob Pollard has spent the last decade
living the indie rock dream. Stuck as a
grade-school teacher in suburban Ohio,
he and his band of basement tapers
took one last shot at indie glory (the
legendary Bee
Thousand) and
launched a decade Guided by
of famous drunk- Voices
enness and shame- Half Smiles of the
less Who-inspired Decomposed
pop. Unlike the Matador
other major play-
ers on the indie
scene - Pavement, Radiohead, Flam-
ing Lips - Guided By Voices albums
never felt like events, but rather some-
thing you could set your watch by. A
new album simply meant that eight to
12 months had passed and that Pollard
had penned 15 to 30 new songs, 10 to
20 of which were likely very good.
Half Smiles of the Decomposed,
however, is different: Proclaimed the
last album of GBV's illustrious career,
it comes with a sense of finality and
weight that prior albums lacked. The
title says a lot actually: Whereas no
one knows what the fuck Mag Earwig
Meant, Half Smiles is both annoyingly
wordy and humorously morbid, sug-
gesting that Pollard is connecting on
a far more personal level than on prior
The last two GBV albums were
widely hailed as a "return to form" for
Pollard after the disastrous studio-pol-
ished outing Do the Collapse, but after
those two albums failed to live up fully
to his early work, it's clear that they
weren't a return to form. They are the
form. Pollard isn't nearly as consistent
as he used to be, and it seems the best
fans can look for is moments of shining
brilliance and really solid filler.
Half Smiles is no different: There's
nothing here that approaches the
tossed-off talent of earlier albums. In
his heyday, Pollard seemed to have so
many songs seeming from his curly,
beer-soaked locks that they were
strewn around the studio, just wait-
ing to be thrown onto an album. The
"new" Pollard writes longer, meatier
songs that - gasp - actually repeat
choruses and verses.
Half Smiles is, on the whole, a slow-

I should have taken the elevator.

any GBV release before it. Pollard is
far more transparent here than he's
ever been before. "Everybody Thinks
I'm a Raincloud (When I'm Not Look-
ing)" is exemplary of his mood. "Sing
For Your Meat" is a black hole of a
song, as Pollard exclaims "18 is the
legal age to die" over four minutes
of lonely electric chords. The song
works, as Pollard convincingly con-
veys a hurt not present on earlier
albums. It's a sad, sight, however, to
see indie rock's Peter Pan give away
rock'n'roll's enduring myth: youth.
Even amid his darkest moments, Pol-
lard turns in inspiring moments. The
aforementioned "Everybody Thinks
I'm a Raincloud (When I'm Not Look-
ing)" survives on rollicking, gleeful
melodies, even as Pollard talks 'of "the
pillars of self esteem." "Girls of Wild
Strawberries" is not only the best song
on Half Smiles, it's one of Pollard's best,
period: dirty, romping chords give way
to sickly sweet, romantic musings.
Fittingly, there's nothing particularly
gripping or special about Half Smiles.
Sonically, it will be remembered as
nothing more than an average GBV
album. Emotionally, it's the album on
which Pollard finally betrays his trump
card: the eternal hope and joy of youth.
He's been dark in the past, but Half
Smiles is the first album on which Pol-
lard actually sounds old, betrayed by
the fallacy of rock'n'roll and longing for
more. On his final song as a member of
GBV, "Huffman Prairie Flying Field,"
he sings passionately in a blur of Pete
Townshend's glorious power chords,
crooning "Far too long." Nothing lasts
forever, Bob, not even glorious, fuzzy,
minute-and-a-half pop songs.

the scene to give the videogame Spidey an added
headache. There is also a subplot introducing the
Black Cat, an intriguing female cat burglar, who
creates a love triangle between her, Peter and
Mary Jane that was not found in the film.
The standard game mechanics found in "Spider-
Man 2" have been around since the first install-
ment on the original Playstation. Running around
the city and web-slinging should be second nature
to veterans of the series, though they are improved
greatly. The developers took their time in mak-
ing the swinging and aerial combat look and feel
like they do in the film and comics. Spidey zips
through the city on his webbing, but now it's the
major mode of transportation from one end of the
city to the other. Spider-Man can also do tricks in
the air, and while they are not quite as impressive
as those found in "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater," they
still add to the excitement.
The biggest change to the series is the more
open-ended nature of the game structure. Gainers
must now earn "hero points" and complete jobs
at both the Daily Bugle and the pizza parlor in
order to unlock story chapters. At first this con-
cept seems novel, and it actually provides a lot of
entertaining situations, as Spidey must talk to citi-

zens to help solve crimes or save civilians. How-
ever, these sequences grow tedious as most of the
missions require relatively the same basic tasks of
either foiling a robbery or arriving at a destina-
tion just in the nick of time to catch someone from
While not everything about the larger structure
works, the sheer size of the city is impressive. To
swing from one end of the city to the other takes
a great deal of time and the buildings and scenery
change noticeably, depending on what district the
player is in. And even though it becomes repeti-
tive, stopping holdups and following police chases
is initially quite fun.
The fighting itself relies strongly on special
moves, which are purchased with "hero points,"
and the use of "spider powers." Borrowing a page
from the "Max Payne" series, "Spider-Man 2" now
has its own form of "bullet time." With the press of
a button, everything slows down so that Spidey can
battle his unwitting foes with increased reflexes.
This ability is limited, as indicated by a powers
bar, which is also shared with his web-shooting
powers. These skills enable players to dispose
- almost too easily - of most foes. During the

boss battles, those super-villains follow a pattern
in their attacks, making them simple to defeat
once the gamer discovers the necessary strategy
and timing.
Graphically, player models feature the like-
nesses from the film, and even characters that
don't appear in the movie are remodeled to look
as if they do. Even though the big name talent like
Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst provides the
voices and appearances for their characters, they
still don't look that much like their big-screen coun-
terparts. Furthermore, the city looks a little sloppy,
with jagged edges and little detail on some of the
edifices. Interiors are not only poorly designed, but
also create awkward situations for combat with the
webhead. Spidey's powers better suit the outdoor
environments, which make the inside fights seem
cumbersome and clumsy.
"Spider-Man 2" shows a lot of promise, but ulti-
mately falls short of becoming a classic. Every-
one's friendly neighborhood Spider-Man actually
moves and acts just like garners would want, but
there are still a few kinks to iron out. For the web-
slinging and ambitious ideas alone, "Spider-Man
2" is worth a play.

British rockers The Libertines return on new LP

By Joel Hoard
Daily Arts Writer

licized antics of singer-guitarist Pete

Following the release of their debut
album, Up the Bracket, in early 2003,
The Libertines seemed doomed to one-
iit-wonderdom. But it wasn't because
Afa lack of critical acclaim - The
Libertines were critics' darlings both at
tome in Britain and in the U.S. - and it
0 :ertainly wasn't because of any lack of
:nusical ability or songwriting prowess,
is Up the Bracket proved that they have
:alent to spare.
Instead, The Libertines' apparent
Joom was caused by the much-pub-

Doherty. In the past
year, Doherty has
been in and out of
rehab for cocaine
and heroin addic-
tion, burglarized
band mate Carl
Bart's apartment,

The Libertines
Rough Trade

possessing an offensive weapon.
So given the circumstances, the mere
completion of the band's eponymous
second album was a minor miracle.
Predictably, the result is an album as
wonderfully messy and chaotic as Pete
Doherty's life.
While The Libertines lacks the bevy
of hooks that populated Up the Bracket,
it still benefits from the same reckless
approach. Doherty and Barat casually

throw off meandering guitar riffs and
engage in sloppy guitar duels like the
drunken jokester offspring of Tom Ver-
laine and Richard Lloyd, most impres-
sively on the opener "Can't Stand Me
Now," a three-minute epic that show-
cases some of The Libertines' most
complex songwriting to date without
sounding too refined. The band playful-
ly dabbles in genres from early Beatles
pop and Motown on "Don't Be Shy" and

"What Katie Did" to an undeniably Lon-
don Calling-era Clash sound through-
out, thanks in no small part to former
Clash guitarist Mick Jones returning as
As Pete Doherty has proven time and
again, The Libertines live on the brink
of self-destruction, and that's exactly
where their charm lies. They're con-
stantly falling apart at the seams and
enjoying every moment of it, and thank-

formed a second band also called The
Libertines and been sentenced to jail for

fully on The Libertines, they're willing
to take us along for the ride.

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