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March 09, 2005 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-03-09

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Wednesday
March 9, 2005
arts. michig'andaily. com
artpage@rnichigandaily.com

1£tirigan aUg
ART s

5

STICKY eA'e:'BIn
FINGERS

FOLK ROCKERS' FOURTH
LP A RETURN TO FORM
By Andrew M. Gaerig
Daily Arts Writer

ThE HOTTEST PICKS IN ENTERTAINMENT
FROM A DAILY ARTS WRITER

S

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" film - Author Douglas
Adams may have not gotten to see his 20-plus-year project get this version
of his famous stories up on the big screen, but I think he would have been
happy to see the results. The trailer seems to carry the book's comedic qual-
ity and adds the technological innovations the 1981 BBC version lacked; I
thought the Vogon ships looked great "(hanging) in the sky in much the
same way that bricks don't."

Ten years ago, no one would've predicted that Eric
Bachmann - then the gruff, hipster-mocking lead
singer for still underappreciated
indie-rock stalwarts Archers of
Loaf - would be fronting a Span- Crooked
ish-influenced folk rock band. He Fingers
was, after all, the guy who turned Dignity and
"Stuck a pin in your backbone / Shame
Smoked you down from there" Merge
into a rallying cry for the type
of scenesters who thought White
Out was a designer drug. By 1998 the prospect seemed
even less likely, as the Loaf's last album, White Trash
Heroes, explored a sonic netherworld of hiss and white
noise. Bachmann seemed mired in a hellish pit, unable
to live up to the off-the-wall goofiness that his band's
first two albums had forced on him.
Dignity and Shame, is Bachmann's fourth album
with Crooked Fingers, a number that every music critic
is quick to point out equals his output with The Loaf.
And while Bachmann may never fully escape the shad-
ow of his former band, he's doing his God-damndest. It
took two albums of decay and entropy for Bachmann
to break out of the gloomy spell that befell his late '90s
output - any man who pens a song called "The Rot-
ting Strip" is simply not on an even keel. Last year's
Red Devil Dawn, while still primarily focused on life's
darker pleasures, showed glimpses of decaying light at
the end of the rotting tunnel, namely in the Latin-tinged
"Sweet Marie," which effectively combined Bach-
mann's ever-present melancholy with his long-absent
lightheartedness.
It's surprising then, that Dignity and Shame, an

The apex of sex, drugs and rock'n'roll.
album that effectively focuses on these two refresh-
ing aspects, Spanish-flavored horns and guitars and
a hard-won sense of hope, isn't more uplifting. It is,
without a doubt, Bachmann's most emotionally well
balanced work in over a decade, but it struggles to
capture a true sense of release for anything but short
stretches of time.
Above anything else, Dignity and Shame suffers
from a couple of false-starts. "Islero," a piddling, soft
guitar instrumental justifies all of the matador art-
work, but it, coupled with the call-and-response vocals
of "Call to Love," makes for an awkward beginning.
"You Must Build a Fire," a five-minute plus plodder
that trades Bachmann's gruff, Tom Waits-ian howl
for a limp falsetto, serves as a momentum-killer in the
middle of the album.
When Bachmann builds steam, however, he reminds
everyone that he's a clever, captivating songwriter with
a helluva band behind him. On "Valerie," the Fingers
construct an airy jaunt for Bachmann's lighthearted
deflowering story. The buoyant horns on the bridge
are brilliant, and no one cares that Bachmann's sing-
ing about whores and loneliness because the whores are

dancing and loneliness will be there when he gets home
anyway.
"Valerie" moves into the thrilling "Andalucia," which
is punctuated by hard-edged drum stabs and a snarling
indie-rock guitar. The chorus breathes with exultant,
warm chords that make the dense rhythms shimmer.
Elsewhere, "Destroyer" combines Bachmann's new-
found folk charm and the Loaf's guitar prickishness in
ways that would've seemed embarrassing three albums
ago. "Coldways" glistens with an electric shuffle and
"Sleep All Summer" finds the boy/girl caprice that
"Call to Love" misses.
Dignity and Shame isn't the post-Loaf masterpiece
that Bachmann fans have been pining for, but it's sig-
nificant in that "refining his sound and moving on"
sort of way. The Spanish theme pervading the album
is largely a construction of the album artwork and a
couple of well placed horn sections, but it's refresh-
ing nonetheless. Bachmann spent the first two Fingers
albums trying to outrun his own shadow. He's past that
now, and while his gruff voice and hard-luck songwrit-
ing remain, Dignity and Shame is missing the type of
urgency that's fueled his best work.

Existentialism and
laughs mix on DVD

"Timesplitters: Future Perfect" - Keeping its tongue planted in its
cheek at all times, "Time Splitters 2" has the gameplay of "Goldeneye"
with more unlockable mini-games than I knew what to do with. And it
was INCREDIBLY hard; something not often seen in video games today.
"Future Perfect" looks to make the "Timesplitter's" saga even better.
Ten by Ten - Though its focus is mainly on art, this contemporary maga-
zine covers architecture, fashion, art, photography and design equally well.
Headquartered right here in the Midwest, it gives a unique perspective on
the design community often dominated by East and
West Coasters.
Fox - It's hard to believe that a net- e
work known for such distasteful trash
as "When Animals Attack" and "The
Swan" could be my most watched
station. But with my addic-
tion to "24" stronger than
Jack's addiction to the
needle and "Arrested
Development" staying
onboard for one more
season, not to mention
"Family Guy" coming
back, I've got my reasons to;
be tuning to Fox.
"Sin City" - Web-heads
have been ogling over
this flick ever since it was
announced that the Frank
Miller-based comics
were going to be made
into a feature film. It's
been a while since we've
had a good looking and
well-developed film noir.
"City" looks like it pushes the
technological envelope and
has enough big names to
attract even the most casual
moviegoers Courtesy of Dimension
SH ORT TAK E S
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Plot to Blow Up the Ejifel Tower's and eWTsch9I noise-punik, E3iffeI
latest release, Love In the Fdscist Tower's upbeat basslites juxtaposed
Brotzet, is exactly what the title sug- against seethilg feedbck~ and dis-
gests: an album full otabrasivespastic toted gtuitr gives t b.a txnqe,
guitars, searing v~ocaWs ftrd seamiless, ingenious sound. "Angry Yowng and9
rapid shit. Mocking goverrneatsand R4Ch transforms from a jazzy,jsyni
theirliticalj ideals, this epi album copated groove into a piano drive&"
pushes limits of rarely 'touched upon freak-out.
topics while being musically sound. Its 'While generally weD) doieih
arrworkcderides fascist prnpagandaa$d political and social satire cani be over-
its song titles and lyrics matke a farce f the-top.~ Also, the album's comes off as
numerous social mroventns. tacy rather than substantial criticisnt
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rtheis plealoythygd.Theot spastic release from an Velpe
of-tunecadencepf iHail to the COdef"' pushing group. The harsh guitarsa&'d
6o "Exile On Vain Street" mcks bhe combative subject mattet form ap#w
American govrnment. The fanfare erfhl release on all levels. Plot to BOw
horn intro on "Reihstag'Rockr decays Uip the Bif'fel Tower delivers another-
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ig vocals - anothertspofon govern ****
mental powe.-
topics iY ┬░ l'C'WO

By Marshall W. Lee
Daily Film Editor

That "I Heart Huckabees" was an
utter failure at the box office - it
earned a mere pittance of 12.2 mil-
lion, watching from the periphery as
"The Grudge" and
"Shark Tale" ran
away with mounds I Heart
of cash - seems Huckabees
just another indi- Fox Searchlight
cation of the
growing distance
between interesting, competent films
and the inclinations of middle-Amer-
ica's filmgoing masses. Case in point:
The recent Academy Awards were
perhaps most remarkable for the min-
iscule earnings of the five Best Picture
contenders. In a poignant, if rather rat-
tling, Oscar sketch, host Chris Rock
interviewed a group of black moviego-
ers, all of whom gushingly adored the
lame-duck Wayans brothers comedy
"White Chicks," and none of whom had
taken any interest in such Hollywood
darlings and Best Picture contend-
ers as "Sideways" and "Finding Nev-
erland." In fact, all five of this year's

Best Picture nominees combined have
earned just under 13 million less than
last year's winner, "Lord of the Rings:
Return of the King." It appears that the
failure of "I Heart Huckabees" is yet
another example of Friday-night film-
goers' aversion to anything left or right
of center.
Those lucky few who ventured out
into the late-fall chill to see writer-
director David O. Russell's ("Three
Kings") quirky comic gem already
know what they're in for: A free-wheel-
ing and subversive satire that is at once
an intellectual slapstick comedy and a
verbose metaphysical mind-trip. The
ensemble storyline of "I Heart Hucka-
bees" whirlpools around the intercon-
nected lives of four individuals - an
angst-ridden environmental activist,
Albert (Jason Schwartzman, "Rush-
more"); a live-wire fireman, Tommy
(Mark Wahlberg); a knockout com-
mercial spokesmodel, Dawn (Naomi
Watts); and a smarmy corporate hot-
shot, Brad (the ubiquitous Jude Law in
a pitch-perfect role). As their respective
lives, jobs and relationships begin to
dissolve before their eyes, all four off-
kilter leads experiment with new age
philosophy in a convoluted attempt to
find meaning in the mixed-up world.

Cu tesy uf r "mSercighIt
"Quit staring. I looked that good when I was 25 ... 25 years ago."

This is the type of movie that really
blossoms on DVD: Each subsequent
viewing of the film holds new and won-
derful rewards, both in the context of
the film's humor and in the subtle, sly
production. The heap of special features
on the three-disc special edition run
the full gamut of home-video extras,
including multiple audio commentar-
ies, alternate and deleted scenes, addi-
tional production footage and a couple
making-of featurettes. The cream of
this crop is Russell's unaccompanied
commentary where the surprisingly
soft-spoken genius expounds upon
his wide-ranging influences (every-
thing from J.D. Salinger's "Franny and

Zooey" to Mike Meyers in "The Cat
in the Hat") and his intensely personal
relationship with the film's philosophi-
cal content.
When first seen in theaters, "Hucka-
bees" could be regarded with a weary,
sidelong adoration. However, watching
it for the fourth time, it becomes prized
with the unembarrassed passion that
held for timeless DVD treasures such
as "Jaws" and "Rushmore," and now
there's no denying it: This is a truly
great film.
Movie: ****
Sound and Picture: *****
Special Features: *****

In]

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