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April 11, 2005 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-04-11

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8A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, April 11, 2005

ARTS

'Hi-Fi's' latest lacks originality

01

through a flam-
ing $100 bill off
a stripper's ass American
and then cozy- Hi-Fi
ing down with a Hearts on Parade
pad of paper to Maverick
write sentimental
pop songs. The
band responsible
for the 2001 smash, "Flavor of the
Week," American Hi-Fi returns with
Hearts on Parade, a pop-punk trea-
tise on the nuances of Los Angeles
night life.
American Hi-Fi's sound on their
new album is a continuation of the
successful formula that embedded
their singles in the consciousness of
American pop culture. It lies some-
where between the melodramatic
energy of Blink-182 and the epic love-
sickness of the Goo Goo Dolls. The
catchy qualities of this late '90s style
led to the coveted chance to appear
on Now 7. The harmony, rhythm and
three-minute song structure remain
decidedly unaltered on Hearts on
Parade, and the lyrical drama placed
on the L.A. party scene is particu-
larly irksome when considering the
band's newfound wealth.
Everyone knows that L.A. night-
life is vapid and glamorous - an
empty fagade. Yet, Jones seems to

Courtesy of Maverick

Remember guys: Girls dig apathy.
have had a callow preconception of
this soul-sucking culture, only to
be surprised by its actual nature. In
"Something Real," Jones cries with
maudlin tones, "Nobody said it would
be easy / Fighting your way through
another day / We all want something
real." However, on "Hell Yeah," the
album's second track, Jones depicts
a joyous guys-night-out image of the
club - picking up girls and compet-.
ing for phone numbers. Does he love
it or hate it? Jones's bipolar attitude
alternates between extremes; a coex-
istent like and dislike for materialism
and decadence.
Along with the emotional immatu-
rity of Jones' lyrics, the musical con-
tent is painfully derivative. In "We
Can't Be Friends," the background

vocal harmonies are virtual dupli-
cates of The Beatles' "You Won't See
Me." Furthermore, "Highs and Lows"
opens with a piercing guitar line and
a gruff bass riff that imitates, almost
note for note, the opening line on
Gang of Four's masterpiece, "Dam-
aged Goods." Jones continues this
butchery by name-dropping The
Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix's "Axis
Bold as Love" and ZZ Top.
The combination of Jones's child-
ish behavior and his fellow band
members' unoriginal ideas reaffirm
American Hi-Fi's ineptitude. Hearts
on Parade suffers from a lack of
musical ingenuity - a void that the
band wishes to fill through calculat-
ed imitation, in which it fails miser-
ably.

Brendan Benson performs at the Blind Pig with the Wellfed Boys playing back up.
HOMECOMING
BENSON RECEIVES WARM A' WELCOME

Weaknesses hold back 'Dialogue'

By Cyril Cordor
Daily Arts Writer
The artistic gap between the commercialism of today's
hip hop and the quality of its heyday has been a cen-
ter of debate. Underground hip-hop
heavyweights Mr. Lif, Akrobatik
and DJ Fakts One, who all hail from The
Boston, are each known for their Perceptionists
throwback styles. Under the indie Black Dialogue
label of Definitive Jux, they have Definitive Jux Recordings
combined their musical personas
to form The Perceptionists. Despite
differences in their flows, a collab-
orative spirit and shared politics weld Black Dialogue,
their debut release as a group, into an ample and hetero-
geneous album.
Given their respective styles, the tinge of old-school
flavor found throughout the album comes as no surprise.
The type of drum patterns and breaks used together with
DJ scratches should signal all B-boys and B-girls to take
to the dance floor. DJ Fakts One's thick drums, synco-
pated snare taps and simple bassline of "Career Finders"
make the cameo of Shock G from Digital Underground
all the more appropriate. Nevertheless, as Lif, Akroba-
tik and Shock G suggest that today's MCs change their
careers and fly to Iraq, they still maintain a contemporary
perspective: "What's your skill? / Everyday I blast niggas
with tecs / Can you use an AK? / Hell yeah! / Is that a
fact? / Ak, pull up the plane and get this kid to Iraq."

From potent subject matter to cunning articulation,
Black Dialogue is lyrically very strong. One of the
album's most striking features is Lif and Akrobatik's
tag-team delivery, an art form somewhat lost in express-
ing rap lyrics. On "Let's Move" and "Blo," they honor
the "dynamic duo" style in its traditional form with
battle rhymes. However, another political track, "People
4 Prez," shows that they don't limit their double-team-
ing for just "Sucka MCs," as they cuss out President
Bush. All through the album, they weave a sophisticated
vocabulary into their rhyme structure yet execute a flow
and diction that is extremely clean-cut.
Although these three demonstrate talent and creativity
on many tracks, Black Dialogue has some critical weak-
nesses that hold it back. It's admirable that they produced
an album that isn't completely bound to battle rhymes or
social commentary as, they did on "Love Letters," but the
album does not come together as tightly as it should. One
cultural element that Lif and Akrobatik forget to incor-
porate into their political raps is race and racism, which
is confusing given the title of the album.
With the exception of the title track, much of the dis-
cussion is limited to commonplace political themes that
do not reflect their unique perspectives as black figures.
Although the misleading title keeps it from the few
elite quality hip-hop albums that have been released in
the past few years, none should underestimate the cali-
ber of the this project. The Perceptionists are not Public
Enemy, but with Lif and Akrobatik on the microphone
and DJ Fakts One on the boards, these three underdogs
have demonstrated charisma and dynamism that's defi-
nitely a formidable force.

By Lloyd Cargo
Daily Arts Writer
CONCEfu R EVI EW
Brendan Benson has come a long way - though he
ended just about where he started. The Detroit-based
power-popper played to a sold-out crowd Saturday
night at the Blind Pig, the third show of his abbreviated
seven-stop North American tour.
Nearly 10 years after his debut album One Missis-
sippi was released on major label Virgin, Brendan's
back promoting his most recent major label effort,
Alternative to Love. Benson was
dropped after One Mississippi Brendan
sales failed to live up to critical Benson
hype, but 2002's excellent Lapal-
co, released on indie Startime, At the Blind Pig
led to a renewed interest in his
McCartney-esque power pop and
a cult following that got him a second chance with
Virgin subsidiary V2.
He didn't disappoint with Alternative to Love either,
turning in radio-ready riffs and the type of melodies
that leave a lasting imprint. So why hasn't he achieved
the level of success of friend and collaborator Jack
White? Saturday's performance gave some clues.
Benson kicked off the show with a few songs from
Alternative to Love, including the ballsy rocker "Spit it
Out." Even when performing this kiss-off song or One
Mississippi's bondage fantasy "Sittin' Pretty," Benson
seemed timid, alternating between coy glances at his
guitarist and shy nods to friends in the crowd.
His 45-minute set was heavy on songs from Alterna-
tive to Love, highlights of which included the title track,
"Cold Hands (Warm Heart)," and "What I'm Looking
For." These songs translated well to a live-setting where
older songs such as "You're Quiet" and "Life in the D"
suffered. Benson's backing band, The Wellfed Boys,
were more than capable musicians, but were unable
to provide the rich backing harmonies Brendan him-
self performs in the studio. That said, Brendan's voice
sounded terrific, as he nonchalantly hit every note and
slipped into his sublime falsetto with ease.
His set was the perfect length; had it been any lon-

ger, the audience would have been liable to melt in the
intense heat of a packed Pig. His encore was prompt and
was kicked off by an altered version of "Tiny Spark"
- the lead track - and car commercial-featured song
off Lapalco. He then quickly ran through a cover o
The International Submarine Band's "Strong Boy" ard
ended with one of the weaker tracks on Alternative to
Love, "Biggest Fan."
Playing in front of his family and friends as well as
industry executives, the show was a relatively successful
homecoming for Benson. For the most part, he sounded
great and the crowd responded well. Still, Benson's lack
of confidence played into the feeling that he ought to
have moved onto bigger and better things by now.

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Murakami's ingenious,
prose illuminates novel

R51

Ell

By Mike Walsh
For the Daily
BOOK INVRW
Haruki Murakami's latest novel,
"Kafka on the Shore," is an engaging
and uniquely metaphysical spectacle.
His expansive imagination, uniquely
unfettered even by today's postmod-
ern standards, is in full effect. Read-
ers will find themselves hopelessly
immersed in the story and all of its
electric weirdness.
Thestory follows, in alternate chap-
ters, the trials of Kafka Tamura and

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Satoru Nakata, two
plicably connected
characters. Kafka
is a 15-year-old
runaway from
Tokyo who desper-
ately tries to escape
a horrific Oedipal
prophecy his father
has always believed

separate but inex-
Kafka on
the Shore
By Haruki
Murakaml
Knopf

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he will fulfill. On the other end, Satoru
Nakata is an illiterate, ostensibly senile
old man who lost his memory and abil-
ity to read after a childhood incident in
which he and a group of his classmates
mysteriously collapsed and lost con-
sciousness on a class trip. He lives alone,
supported by a government subsidy, but
supplements his rather meager income
by finding cats for his neighbors. The
accident granted him the ability to com-
municate with felines.
"Kafka on the Shore" may be deeply
metaphysical, but it doesn't take itself
too seriously. Quotes from Hegel and
Bergman get thrown around, but only
between blowjobs by a prostitute who
answers to her pimp, Colonel Sanders.

dollars, not yen. The familiarity of the
language is ultimately to the story's ben-
efit - in a novel that relies so heavily
on a dream like, almost hallucinogenic
brand of metaphysics, complex, dream
like narration would only render it inac-
cessible. However, the prose is, at times,
inelegant, and there is the occasional
trance-breaking, jarring cliche. Kafka
is prone to say things like, "Sometimes
the wall I've erected around me comes
crumbling down."
Thematically, the story seems to tie
together well, but in an odd and illogi-
cal way. The story is coherent the way a
dream is - it isn't particularly surpris-
ing when Colonel Sanders introduces
himself as a pimp, or when Nakata chats
with cats about the weather. The reader
remains convinced that it all meanis
something, that everything fits, though'
in a manner which always seems to lie

m

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