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February 09, 2005 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2005-02-09

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February 9, 2005
arts. michigandaily. com
artspage @rmichigandaily. com

ARTS

a

8

~rq~ - '*~s.,,, ~

THE HOTTEST PICKS IN ENTERTAINMENT
FROM A DAILY ARTS WRITER

S

Alternatives to Pitchfork - Since Pitchforkmedia.com's
steady decline has turned into an all-out nosedive, fans must look
elsewhere for indie-rock news and reviews. Check out the quality
writing at indieworkshop.com (where you can, uh, read some of
my work. Shameless, I know); junkmedia.org, whose layout puts
The Fork's recent redesign to shame; or my personal favorite, sty-
lusmagazine.com, whose feature articles shit all over Schreiber &
Co.'s lame attempt to increase content.

Fader Magazine - I recently picked up an issue of this fine publication
and was blown away by how much awesome I got'for $5.99. There's a fea-
ture on Swedish psych-rock phenomenon Dungen and a piece on NORE's
reggaeton shotblast that details, among other things, how to "hustle and
hustle and how to fight and shoot and kill." Also, it comes with a LeBron
James poster - what more could you possibly want?
Albert Ayler - Albert Ayler and his music are currently domi-
3 nting my life. The recent revenant box set Holy Ghost, makes
clear what Albert was saying when he philosophized, "Trane is
the father, Pharoah is the son, and I am the holy ghost." The 10
discs of rare and unreleased material, including the heavily antic-
ipated recording of Ayler's quartet playing at Trane's funeral, are
downright aural sex.

Courtesy of Sub Pop
"I got nothing."
ON THE DOWN-Low
SLOWCORE TRIO DOESN'T FIT GUITAR-BASED STYLE

2t

Philly sports - Despite the fact that Donovan McNabb shit his pants
in this year's Super Bowl, I'm confident his newly gained experience
will lead my Iggles to victory in Detroit next year. One bright spot in the
doom and gloom of Sunday's game was TO's
performance, proving all those doubters
wrong ... even if he didn't deliver
one of his trademark endzonem
celebrations. .

By Andrew Gasdg
Daily Arts Writer

1

Malcolm X -Feb.
21 will be the 40th
anniversary of Mal-
colm's assassination;
his words reverberate
now as much as ever. I
just finished his autobi-
ography - it ought to be
required reading in every
high school in America.
Malcolm's mes-F
sage has opened
my eyes and
had more impact
on my personal
philosophy than
any other book
ever has.

There are two, maybe three singers in the history of
rock'n'roll who can get away with singing about mon-
keys. Alan Sparhawk,the unassuming,
pale-faced frontman of Duluth, Minn.
trio Low, is not one of them. Frank Low
Black of the Pixies and John Lennon The Great
pulled it off by burying their tongues Destroyer
so far in their cheeks that it took years Sub Pop
of self-serving solo work to excavate
them. Almost no one, however, could
sing a line like "Tonight the monkey dies" in earnest
and come out on top. Can someone please add this to
the rock'n'roll holy tablatures? "Thou shall not sing
seriously about monkeys" or something?
On The Great Destroyer, Low set out to redefine
themselves as a rock band, taking up the cause with
loud electric guitars and upbeat tempos. For anyone
even tangentially familiar with Low's body of work,
this is the sonic equivalent of Shaquille O'Neal try-
ing to reinvent himself as a point guard. Fans will

rightly wonder why the trio is suddenly playing mid-
tempo alt-rock after more than a decade of crafting
famously slow, embarrassingly pretty anti-anthems.
Not surprisingly, Destroyer places Low in a context
so far removed from their strengths that even the
occasional showstopper won't save them from their
self-imposed exile.
To the band's credit, they make a wholesale trans-
formation: Only a few moments on Destroyer could
even conceivably exist on the band's older records. But
their failings aren't mechanical: Drummer/vocalist
Mimi Parker provides a steady spine for Sparhawk's
robust guitar sound and surprisingly assured vocals.
Instead, the faults lie in Low's abandonment of their
molasses lullabies. All of the band's stylistic strides
are aimed squarely at the middle of the road. The icy
harmonies of Parker and Sparhawk that guided the
band's best material suffocate amid the throaty guitar
attacks.
Downcast tracks like "Everybody's Song" and "On
the Edge" choke out melody with Sparhawk's brood-
ing, which is decidedly less appealing in the context
of these guitar-heavy tunes. "Cue the Strings" is a
self-fulfilling prophecy, riding a god-awful string
section. "Broadway (So Many People)" paints a pic-

ture of a picturesque (but boring) trip to New York.
"Silver Rider" and "Pissing" are violently forgettable
five-minute rock songs.
The band's career experience does occasionally
show. "Walk Into the Sea" benefits from a fuzz-
stained recording, which lends it a vibrancy miss-
ing from Destroyer's lackluster six-string stew.
"When I Go Deaf" slides along slowly with the
album's most clever lyric before erupting brilliant-
ly into a coda of warm, distorting guitars. "Just
Stand Back" is an example of what happens when
things go right. As Sparhawk coolly sighs, "I could
turn on you so fast," bassist John Nichols forges
a melodic undercurrent for the album's only great
pop hook.
It's perfectly reasonable to expect a band to rein-
vent themselves a few times over the course of 15
years, especially when that band built its name on
Midwestern dirges, but The Great Destroyer fails
both as a rock album and as a Low album. It is the
worst kind of compromise, abandoning the band's
calling card in favor of an uninteresting blend of
underground rock workouts. Low may have been due
for a change, but The Great Destroyer does nothing
to dissuade the notion that Low is a one-trick pony.

Action
game offers
'GTA'-style
excitement
By Brandon Hang
Daily Arts Writer
Since "Grand Theft Auto" emerged
as a gaming phenomenon, developers
have attempted to produce comparable
games that offer fans free-roaming

Canadian rapper Buck 65 spins
unconventional rural rhymes

Courtesy of LucasArts

Girl with grenades. My prom date is here!

gameplay. While
lookalikes such as
"Driv3r" come off
as weak "GTA"
clones, LucasArts'
"Mercenaries" is a
solid, well devel-

Mercenaries
PS2, Xbox
LucasArts

oped game that goes above and beyond.
Set in a war-torn future, "Mercenar-
ies" puts players into the role of hired
guns, sent to capture North Korea's
corrupt government officials. Gain-
ers run through farmlands and cities
searching for wanted North Korean
officials from a deck of cards straight
out of the Desert Storm II. Depending
on the targets' type of service to the
former regime, bounties are issued for
these former heads of military, science
and government. The game's objective
is to capture the deck's Ace of Spades,

General Song.
"Mercenaries" puts a unique coopera-
tive spin on these missions, allowing the
location of the "cards" to be known only
after intelligence is gathered from war-
ring factions. Players must help factions
achieve goals before they can gain access
to information leading to where promi-
nent officials are hiding.
Even after locating a target, play-
ers must still take out an entourage of
tanks, rocket-wielding guards and roam-
ing riflemen before finishing the job. By
punching and binding a wanted figure-
head, gainers gain the ability to call in
a helicopter for transport. But if things
get too hairy, players can still pick up
half the booty after killing their target
if they snap his picture. This is just one
of the features that provides "Merce-
naries" with a wide range of mission-

completion options and varying levels
of success for gainers.
While some vehicle controls may be
choppy - such as turret with one stick
and driving direction with another - the
game is tailored for fast action. Hijack
an attacking helicopter and wreak havoc
with simple two-button acceleration and
stop/reverse controls. Shooting can be
finicky at times - bullets missing their
mark for no good reason - but the game
never falters with its camera or controls.
Gameplay is so simple that in less than
20 minutes, a new player will be blow-
ing up tanks and taking out generals
with no trouble.
The graphics are just as impressive as
the controls. While some soldiers may
look too similar to others to confidently
shoot a tank shell at them, the explosions
and environment interactions are superb.
This game feels like "GTA," plays like
"GTA," but goes into an arena "GTA"
never could. Taking the elevated third-
person vehicle "Mayhem" theme from
the popular franchise, "Mercenaries"
is an outstanding inclusion to any Xbox
collection.

Daily Arts Writer
Buck 65 is a rare breed: a white Canadian rapper.
On his latest release, This Right Here Is Buck 65, Buck
complicates things further by incorporating distinctly
American themes and instrumentation
into his esoteric production style. He Buck 65
not only presents new material, but
also reworks several of his aggressive This Right Here
raps into folkier numbers. His now Is Buck 65
subdued lyrics add to the sincerity of V2
his approach and bolster his candid
storytelling technique.
From the album's first twangy guitar riff, it is obvious
that this isn't the typical Buck 65. The rearrangements
begin shortly after the record starts with stripped-down,
string-ridden track "B. SC." "Centaur," whose original
release on Vertex carried a pompous and unwanted atti-
tude, is the most mutated tune. Though he still discusses
being literally "hung like a horse," Buck removes many
of the more outlandish lyrics in exchange for opaque,
cryptic musings.
Not all the songs are this trivial. Buck discusses
casual recreation - "Well, I went down to the fishing
hole / And I sat down with my fishing pole" that quickly
evolves into a mystical trip - "I jumped in the river and
I went down deep / Saw a hundred pound catfish laying
there asleep."
Buck's older style has not completely disappeared
on Right Here. "Cries A Girl" retains its minimalist
beat and tender essence. The track's morbid subjects
- a Southern girl knowing she's a product of incest and
another's struggle with drug addiction - pull at the lis-
tener's heart without making the tune unlistenable.
Occasionally on Right Here, Buck crosses the experi-
mental boundaries a bit too much. On "463," he attempts
to make yet another genre shift with a distorted guitar
riff and a confrontational chorus. He aggressively sings,
"463 / Ah yes / And no I can't think of a better way to
end the day" over an uninspired and monotonous gui-

I---- - ma m m - a ~

Courtesy of V2
The best rapper who regularly uses an Oxford knot.
tar line. The track sounds more like a B-side randomly
thrown onto the album.
As awkward as this combination of musical and lyri-
cal idioms may seem, this Canadian rapper is challeng-
ing American ideas. He incorporates the earthy themes
of artists like Johnny Cash, while adding something
wholly new to the genre - hip-hop. Buck thrusts rap
into the heart of musical Americana, and to him, it
seems ludicrous to separate the two.

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