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April 12, 2005 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-04-12

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Tuesday
April 12, 2005
arts. michigandaily. com
artspage@michigandaily.com

ARTS

8

. . . ........ .....

Courtesy of Octone

"Curse you, Kelly Osbourne! That was my big break ... "

Troubadour Tolcher
tours with DeGraw

By Mary Catherine Finney
Daily Arts Writer

FOREST CASEY/Daily
Magnolia Electric Co., led by frontman Jason Molina, performs at Division St. Arts Collective in Grand Rapids on Sunday night.
STEEL MAGNOLIA
MOLINA'S LATEST PROJECT SAGS ON 'WHAT COMES AFmER THE BLUES'

Now that the
bowed out, a new
"TRL" circuit -1
bands. The newest
geting trouba-
dours includes
Gavin DeGraw
and Michael
Tolcher, both of
whom are try-
ing to follow in
the footsteps of
predecessors like
John Mayer and
Maroon 5, acts
that have hit it big

boy bands have
craze has hit the
boys with actual
crop of teen-tar-
Michael
Toicher
and Gavin
DeGraw
Wednesday at
7:30 p.m.
At the
Michigan Theater

By Andrew M. Gaerig
Daily Arts Writer

It's (somewhat) fitting that my final work for The
Michigan Daily should be a Jason Molina release. For
the last three years, I've chronicled the Songs: Ohia/

Magnolia Electric Co. frontman's
artistic path on these very pages.
It's been a fruitful endeavor, to be
sure: Molina moved from deso-
late folk to Technicolor alt-coun-
try in the time it took me to go
from wide-eyed and bushy-tailed
to hung-over and unemployed.
Quite frankly, What Comes After
the Blues, Molina's second album

Magnolia
Electric Co.
What Comes
After the Blues
Secretly Canadian
with his now full-

I've earned some fanboy capital, and now I want to
spend it.
Here, good friends, is where the plot thickens: What
Comes After the Blues is, well, a bit disappointing. It
seems that Molina's ever-growing obsession with Neil
Young has unfortunately extended into emulating
Young's habit of releasing wildly inconsistent albums.
What Comes After is a confusing record, opening with a
thunderous electric shout and ending with a tiny acoustic
whimper. The production, carried out by notable indie-
rock vet Steve Albini, often sounds muted and distant.
The last three songs - all stripped, acoustic ballads
- sound not just sparse, but unfinished (the treatment
of "Hammer Down," a shit-kicking electric storm when
performed live, is especially disappointing). There's
a five-minute dud in the middle of the album ("Give
Something Else Away Every Day"). Molina - who
could once be counted on for several spine-tinglers per
album - seems content to drop a bunch of woe-is-me
drivel. I want fireworks; I want genius; this is bullshit!
And yet, What Comes After is a strangely alluring,
even addictive album. Get over the fact that Molina
back-loaded the disc with weepers and you realize
that they provide a soft, velvet curtain call for Molina's
affected verse. "Hammer Down" is still instantly grati-
fying, with Molina crooning,"When it's been my ghost
on the empty road / I think the stars are just the neon
lights / Shining through the dance floor / Of heaven
on a Saturday night." Molina even follows "Hammer"
- which relies heavily on the repetition of the line "I
saw the light" - with the shivering "I Can Not Have
Seen the Light."

At the front end, Molina and his band tear through a
couple of the best tracks from Trials and Errors. "The
Dark Don't Hide It," though slightly subdued here, still
rolls like an 18-wheeler on a joyride. "Leave the City,"
the culmination of all that artistic progression I blath-
ered about, finally delivers the northern soul Molina's
been tempting us with for so long, accenting his rich,
emotive tenor with quivering horn interludes. "The
Night Shift Lullaby," written and sung by longtime
Molina collaborator Jennie Bedford, is a little too tradi-
tional in its melody and delivery, but the steely electric
arrangement brings the song to life. The ethereal vio-
lins on "Hard to Love a Man" frames the album's most
passionate lyric: "It was hard to love a man like you /
Goodbye was half the words you knew."
Repeated listens of "Northstar Blues" - the third of
the three aforementioned ballads - reveals not only a
subtly layered arrangement, but a sickly sweet tune that
swings Molina's starry-eyed romanticism through a
soft waltz. Molina intones, "Where were the rest of my
songs tonight/ I only remember the North Star Blues/
That simple old tune on the stage.each night / Marking
the time that I lost you." Cue the strings, whisper the
high harmony, shoot the ornery rock critic dead. What
Comes After the Blues is neither the album I expected
nor wanted, yet its flaws melt away on the fingertips
of this longtime fan. It seemed fair to expect closure
and reward from What Comes After the Blues. I got a
batch of ragged, effervescent country songs. And after
a couple of weeks, any disappointment that originally
festered was tempered by the fact that Molina's train
doesn't stop here - just mine.

time quintet, should be the payoff - a fitting senior
goodbye that allows me to drool over Molina's consid-
erable talent one last time.
After Molina's final Songs: Ohia album, Magnolia
Electric Co., established him as the new guardian of
blustering country rock, I was understandably ecstatic.
I was more than patient with the drawn-out, dirge-filled
Pyramid Electric Co. that followed, understanding that
it was just a stopgap release. I sat slack-jawed in the
audience during his October appearance in Detroit. I
lost sleep over the first document of Molina's new band,
Magnolia Electric Co., Trials and Errors, a bruising
testimonial that, while inconsistent, spoke volumes
about the band's power. To paraphrase our president,

and are now experiencing worldwide
success and critical acclaim.
DeGraw and Tolcher have teamed
up for a tour, and they're stopping
at Ann Arbor's Michigan Theater
tonight. These guys play instru-
ments, write their own music and
put on shows that attract throngs of
fans whose loyalty rivals those of boy
bands past.
Headliner Gavin DeGraw's recent
fame has been bolstered by the place-
ment of his song "I Don't Wanna Be"
as the theme of the WB hit "One Tree
Hill." This exposure to his target audi-
ence has earned his video for the song
a spot on MTV's rotation. Ironically,
Michael Tolcher wasn't as lucky with
his song "Sooner or Later," which
was chosen as the theme for ABC's
teen drama "Life As We Know It."
Unfortunately, the show was can-
celled after 13 episodes.
However, the publicity has still

ber of young, breaking acts like
Maroon 5, Toby Lightman and Marc
Broussard.
Freshly awake from a nap, Tolcher
spoke about the introspective themes
of his debut album I Am. "I think all
of the themes are kind of part of who I
am and what I like to express. I try to
express as deeply as possible what's
within myself," he said. "(My fan-
base is) definitely young girls (ages)
13 to 22. I'd like to expand it by play-
ing to some adults, a male audience
as well," Tolcher said. He attributes
some of his demographic appeal to
artists like DeGraw, with whom he
tours. "I think it (will) be a matter of
which bands I'm paired with."
While Tolcher's native Southern
charm seems to have secured the
female fans, he still takes issue with
our Northern men, "(They) seem to
have a refusal to call me Michael,
they (all) want to call me Mike." By
all evidence, he seems to be taking his
young fanbase a little too seriously.
The last book he read was Rud-
yard Kipling's "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi," a
classic children's story, but Tolcher
insists that it was a gift. "Somebody
gave me this classic, beautifully illus-
trated version."
Even with his rising star status,
Tolcher sounds like any other lost 20-
something when talking about eating
on the road. "The best (meals) are
free and the worst (meals) are expen-
sive," he said.
Tolcher's pockets are likely to
deepen with the success of his tour
supporting Gavin DeGraw; tonight's
hotly anticipated appearance at the
Michigan Theater is sold out. If you're
lucky enough to have snagged tickets,
you'll be in for quite a show - and
who knows, you could be watching
the next big thing.

helped Tolcher attract a
lowing and opening gigs

strong fol-
for a num-

Canseco discusses steroids in tell-all'Juiced'

By Josh Holman
Daily Arts Writer
I E
It's hard to talk baseball without touching on the hot-
button topic of steroids. The issue has even been debated
in Congress, partly thanks to Jose
Canseco's writing debut. "Juiced"
is a fascinating narrative of all the Juiced:
aspects of Major League Baseball Wild Times,
people wish they could be a part of. Rampant
But one problem plagues the expos6 'Roids,
that has opened the eyes of even the Smash Hits
most indifferent fans: Jose Canseco and How
is the author. Baseball
Canseco, perhaps the least repu- Got Big
table player in the history of the By Jose Canseco
game, has taken the responsibil-
ity on his own artificially manufac- Regan
tured shoulders to expose just how
rampant steroid use has become. After a disclaimer from
the publisher voids any type of endorsement of illegal

drugs without proper medical supervision, Canseco pro-
nounces on the next page that steroids may be the greatest
thing ever to happen to the sport.
That Canseco was a professional baseball player who
took steroids is the easiest claim to accept in the book.
He expresses no remorse for what he did to his body or
sport. Readers may have a problem choking down the
charges and contradictions that follow.
Canseco's accusations are as ubiquitous and prepack-
aged as the steroids he claims have circulated through
major league locker rooms, but they're too often vague
and unfounded name drops that look like an attempt to
capitalize on the hot topic of the day.
His first target is former Oakland Athletics teammate
Mark McGwire, who eventually broke the single season
home run record. After being traded to the Texas Rang-
ers midseason in 1992, Canseco claims to have intro-
duced then-Rangers Juan Gonzalez, Rafael Palmeiro
and Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez to steroids. From that
point on, injecting in the majors became as common-
place as the set-up relief pitcher - pretty soon every
team had a ready supply.
However, Canseco's witchhunt is just that. His tales of

putting a needle in McGwire's ass in a clubhouse bath-
room stall come out as asides; he never dedicates more
than a few pages to the players he implicates. Instead,
Canseco persecutes anyone who crossed his path: the
racist media, greedy team owners and vengeful umpires.
The ignorant slugger never seems to understand some
of the most obvious things around him. His claims that
steroids have kept him as healthy as any man in his 40s
are ludicrous. Canseco admits that he kept his third back
surgery a secret to prevent teams from viewing him as
damaged goods; he never once considers that steroids
may have contributed to his health problems.
Besides the injuries, Canseco downplays his legal
troubles, from his arrest for illegally possessing a firearm
to a probation violation that landed him in jail for three
months. Ultimately, this ignorance kills Canseco's cred-
ibility. "Juiced" could have been an intriguing look into
the underground - and sometimes not-so-underground
- steroid community that likely still exists in the MLB.
But he's just not a source that anyone can or even wants
to believe. While "Juiced" might succeed in opening a
dialogue on steroids, the book fails to bring any new or
refreshing information to the debate.

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