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November 30, 2004 - Image 5

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November 30, 2004
arts. michigandaiy.com

b e 3 i gurn & t 1 igRI


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r- --




Daily Music's list of the millenni-
um's top 50 albums continues today,
moving slowly up the ladder. Today's
albums represent some of the spe-
cific tastes of our writers, manifesting
itself in relative obscurities like the
wordless Books or the cartoonish
Viktor Vaughn. Old standbys -
Dylan, Blur and The Roots - make
appearances as well, rounding out
our second installment. Placing our
favorites next to giants of popular
music led to some of our toughest
choices. Enjoy the selections, debate
the omissions and check back
tomorrow for the next installment.
If you missed 41 through 50, check
out wwwmichigandailycom.
40 39

Music geeks unite

Courtesy of Roo A Fella

Be cool. Stay in school.

4 OFugazi - The Argument
For Fugazi's last release, I was expecting some-
thing along the lines of their previous output: furious
riffs, vitriolic shouts and a visceral, "local band" qual-
ity. Yet right from the start, Fugazi challenged me with
melodic tunes and complex arrangements, all the while
maintaining the cathartic choruses and inspiring, call-
to-arms lyrics. Fugazi started a revolution in the '80s,
and if they continue their mutation into a more mature
version of the same $5 show band, they will influence a
whole new generation. - Will Gary
Ghostface Killah - The Pretty ToneyAlbum
Ghostface is hysterical yet masculine, as he
gets rap's best soul samples and spins out surreal,
vibrant narratives. I want someone to make the great-
est Blaxploitation film of all time just so Ghostface
can stuff the soundtrack with ridiculous metaphors,
grimy horns and earthy redemption. He's got images
a poet would kill for and the gusto to hammer out each
verse like it owes him money. Pretty Toney is what
every Jay-Z album after Reasonable Doubt should've
sounded like. - Evan McGarvey
The Constantines - Shine a Light
If Lou Reed dragged you into an alley and
screamed the lyrics of "Rock and Roll" through a mega-
phone, or if Iggy Pop bled on the ground beneath your
feet or if Springsteen pocketed his ham-fisted dad-rock
and transmitted all of Born to Run through a cracked
Telecaster, you still wouldn't be able to fathom the
youth, spirit and vitriol that The Constantines channel
on this album. Castoff phrases, like post-punk and indie
rock, cease to have meaning when the searing, hellhole
sloganeering of "Nighttime/Anytime (It's Alright)" hits
the stereo. You want a label? How about "Best Young
Band in America?" - Andrew M. Gaerig
' he Roots - Phrenology
3' n many waysThe Roots had come to be defined

by Common's line on their song, "Hip Hop (The Love Of
My Life)" - "When we perform, all you see is coffee
shop chicks and white dudes."Phrenology was billed by
none other than ringleader ?uestlove as the album that
would finally break The Roots into the mainstream. It
was a conscious effort for more widespread acceptance,
but that didn't mean it didn't retain the unique sensibili-
ties of the world's self-proclaimed indie hip-hop band.
Yes, it is more accessible. But it's also undeniably better
off because of it. - Amos Barshad
36 6The Books - Lemon of Pink
If The Books were to write one of these
entries, it may look a little something like this: Bunch
if a first grade collage over-perceptive musicians The
Lemon of Pink with something akin they might wind
up art project of to took part, in a. Non-electronic The
Books listener somehow make electronic composi-
tion to a pool. Words and most basic elements to their
imagery mimics the its title subliminally, dissecting
music phrases. - Andrew Horowitz
35Cat Power - You Are Free
Cat Power has been defined throughout her
career by sadness and struggle. You Are Free shows
Chan Marshall in a new light, but even this light is dark
and depressing. Marshall makes incredible use of raw-
sounding pianos and twanging guitars to produce slow-
ly building, crisp tracks. The songs ring with a bell-like
clarity, echoing metallic reverberations and mechani-
cal precision. This album will put you through the
emotional ringer, but at the end of the day, Marshall's
emotive lyrics and textured melodies overshadow your
despair. - Jacob Nathan
34 Bob Dylan - Love and Theft
Love? Theft? Why not both? Shakespeare, after
all, wrote, in Sonnet 35, "That I an accessory needs
must be I To that sweet thief which sourly robs me."
In his twilight, Dylan is not afraid of redundancy. His

persona is distant, his tours all blend together and his
music sounds like an echo of lost forms. But with songs
like "Sugar Baby," he nurtures a sound and sentiment
that are, if not new, at least sanguine and self-assured.
In the "give and take" of well-worn styles, the album
earns its name by acceding to that central contradiction
in life and music. - Steve Cotner
3 Viktor Vaughn - Vaudeville Villain
It's another mysterious concoction from the
genius that is MF Doom, aka Viktor Vaughn, a spaced-
out being traveling through multiple dimensions, gets
stuck on planet Earth. With his cocky attitude, his
adventure leads him through the hip-hop scene and
streets of planet Earth. As Doom continues dropping
classics left and right, Vaudeville Villain will always
remain an interstellar masterpiece. - Cyril Cordor
3 2Blur - Think Tank
Think Tank is a bold step forward from a band
that earned its credibility writing witty, intelligent pop
songs. Soulful rhythm and sparse electronics swirl
beautifully throughout the album as Damon Albarn's
world music tendencies blend with the band's strong
British roots. The album is of an uncharacteristic beau-
ty for Blur, and it's exemplary of the evolution of an
underrated musical force. - Matt Kivel
Kanye West - The College Dropout
31 When it all fell down, Kanye spit it "Through
the Wire," slowing it down and bringing it all back to
Jesus. His impeccable production style and infectious
hooks made The College Dropout one of the most
successful albums among the gangster-filled, cut-
throat and unforgiving world of mainstream hip-hop.
In a genre filled with crunktacular club hits, Kanye
instilled his genre with a roots consciousness that hip-
hop mostly lacked. The College Dropout screamed
for, and received, the acclaim and praise it rightfully
deserves. - Chris Gaerig

t's an oft-forgotten truth that
music geeks exist in the same
world as literature geeks, cin-
ema geeks and fine art geeks. Why
forgotten? Well, it's a safe bet that a
majority of you out there have some
music aficionado in your circle of
friends, someone constantly making
mixes for you, but there's probably
no one nattering in your ear about
Tolstoy or Jasper Johns.
It seems that the desire to impress
one's taste on friends and associates
is uniquely that of the music geek.
People like myself get a lot of criti-
cism for this sort of behavior: "Why
can't I just listen to what I like?"
is the common rallying cry. And at
the same time, you wouldn't expect
a film critic to let you off the hook
for your Bruckheimer fixation, nor
would a literature snob tolerate your
J.K. Rowling fanaticism, sincere as
they may be. Why then, is it neces-
sary for me to point out that you're
listening to a cover of a cover of a
Leonard Cohen song, that Mitch
Ryder and the Detroit Wheels did it
better, that it's Sam Cooke, Otis Red-
ding, Al Green and Marvin Gaye, in
that order?
The answer, it seems, lies at least
partially in time and economics. A
song - a great song, the kind that I
would sit you in front of the stereo
and make you listen to under threat
of friendship - can be digested and
appreciated all before the opening
credits finish rolling on "Eraser-
head." Similarly, while it would take
months of research, numerous essays
and a broader understanding of art in
general to truly appreciate any single
painting of Edward Degas, an audio-
phile can explain to you the essence
of beauty in the opening seconds of "I
Want You Back," subtext be damned.
New technologies like Walkmen and
iPods have made immediate exposure
that much easier.
Although the possibility of instant
understanding is alluring, the poten-
tial of ownership catapults music
into an "every person" realm that no
other art form enjoys. If by playing
you "God Only Knows" for three
minutes can sufficiently encourage
you to go out and buy Pet Sounds,
then my job here is done. It's differ-
ent with other art forms. Books, even
when purchased, can take weeks to
fully engage. Paintings are prohibi-
tively expensive, and reproductions
are ultimately limited, failing to
capture the subtlety and thrill of a
first-hand experience.
In other words, while it's nearly
impossible to build an authentic art
collection, and even the most devot-

ed readers are limited to several hun-
dred pages a day, any plebeian can
enjoy a kickass music collection (an
idea supported by the fact that most
music snobs are semi-unemployed
social recluses, or at least pretend to
be as much).
The mostly intuitive, dryly aca-
demic argument outlined above goes
a long way to explain the abundance
of audiophiles. Ultimately, however,
it fails to explain the obsession: why
it's absolutely essential for me to
remind you that Dylan had the best
three-album run in the history of
rock music, even if I know, beyond
a shadow of a doubt, that you don't
give a damn. It fails to explain why
I've contemplated dropping out of
school to listen to The Constantines'
"On to You" professionally, and more
importantly, why I think so much less
of you if you don't feel the same way
after a few spins. It fails to explain
why more than 20 members of the
Daily's music staff gathered over
expensive pizza and cheap beer on a
Friday night to discuss which White
Stripes albums were among the 50 (an
even, if essentially arbitrary number)
best of the last half-decade, whether
Jay-Z's Black Album belonged higher
than the legendary Smile and wheth-
er Elliot Smith's fourth best album
belonged in such diverse, esteemed
That otherwise rational people
think about these things speaks vol-
umes about their obsessions. Imag-
ine a friend hounding you about not
reading "Ulysses" for days on end, for
making you watch "Full Metal Jack-
et" until you enjoy it. What instills
music elitists with such a sense of
social duty, of perfectionism, even
in others, isn't economics, it isn't
convenience and it sure as hell isn't
some sense of social Samaritanism.
It's the slight delay on the organ on
"Like a Rolling Stone," or the whis-
tling coda on "Sittin' on the Dock
of the Bay."-It's the throaty howl
of "Disorder," the perfect, fleeting
romanticism of "Summer Babe," the
playful gush of "Gigantic," the sail-
or's rant of "Louie Louie" and a bil-
lion other microcosms of girls, God
and growing up. And if this sounds
ridiculous in print (as I'm almost
sure it does), then there's a chair in
front of my stereo that you can sit
in until everything becomes a little
- Andrew would appreciate
your help in his quest to prove that
Maroon 5 is the greatest rock band
of our generation. E-mail him at
agaearig @umich.edu

Checkpoint' conversation delivers dire warning

By Will Dunlap
Daily Arts Writer

Ben is a historian, and Jay is an out
of work ex-teacher. Friends since high
school, the two men meet at a Washing-

ton hotel. Jay has
something on his
mind and has sum-
moned Ben to help
him sort things
out. With a tape
recorder running,
his intentions soon
become clear: "I'm

By Nicholson
Alfred A. Knopf
going to assassinate

narrative technique prevents access to
the unspoken inner life of its characters,
such digressions provide the reader with
good a sense of both men. If Jay and
Ben are the only characters to inhabit
the novel physically, they are hardly
alone in spirit as their conversation pro-
gresses. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Clinton and
Kennedy are all brought into the mix,
maligned by Jay or Ben for their inces-
sant warmongering. At the top of the
heap is President Bush himself, rarely
referred to by first or last name.
Jay's justification for assassination
is simple: "The guy can't be allowed to
get away with murder. Period." Though
liberal by nature and staunchly anti-war,
Ben is horrified by Jay's intent. Attempts
to leave result only in threats from Jay,
who claims to have a gun and a number
of "magic" bullets. Clued in to the pre-
cariousness of Jay's mental state, Ben
attempts to dissuade his friend from the
task at hand with a reminder of what
assassination could mean for fragile
U.S. interests at home and abroad. The
ensuing discussion results in a terrifying
portrait of contemporary America. "We
are so close to financial collapse in this
country," Ben declares. "We're just on the
edge. We're hollow. The termites have
been munching for decades."
In "Vox," Nicholson Baker considered

fantasy in sexual terms. With "Check-
point," he revisits the subject of fantasy
with renewed passion. On recounting
a visit to the book depository in Dallas,
Texas, Jay says, "And I thought, I want to
see what it feels like to be in the last place
where a president was shot dead. Where
somebody had moved from the fan-
tasy stage over to the reality stage, shall
we say." Baker's ability to walk the line
between the two is what makes "Check-
point" so interesting.
In a year when "What if?" fiction ful-
fills its literary quotient with Philip Roth's
"The Plot Against America," Nicholson
Baker never fully embraces his hypotheti-
cal scenario. While "Checkpoint" poses a
compelling "What if?" question, readers
are finally left wondering, "What now?"

Though Jay's intent is clear through-
out, the reality of the situation is never
revealed. When the taped conversation
ends, so does the novel.
In a book so passionately anti-war,
Baker's characteristic restraint minimizes
melodrama, keeping the heavy-handedness
of his subject matter from overwhelming
the plight of his characters. The resulting
gravity makes for an unsettling portrait
of rage and grief. Famous for his medita-
tions on the mundane, Baker breaks new
ground in "Checkpoint," delivering heart-
felt controversy, and with it, a dire warn-
ing. For a book capable of galvanizing the
left and infuriating the right, "Checkpoint"
is quick to show how easily, and terribly,
political matters can blind a nation to the
value of life and the terror of war.

the president." What passes between the
two men in the wake of Jay's declaration
is "Checkpoint," Nicholson Baker's pas-
sionately caustic diatribe against the Bush
administration and the war in Iraq.
As in "Vox," Baker's notorious explo-
ration of phone sex, "Checkpoint" serves
up a single conversation, impersonally
transcribed and structured in the manner
of a drama or screenplay. The objective
view, together with the novel's length
- a mere 115 pages - is unassuming
enough, but Baker's novel is surprising
in its scope, touching on subjects ranging
from chicken farming to the Cold War to
summers in Bermuda. In a novel where

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