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April 12, 2005 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-04-12

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ARTS

The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, April 12, 2005 - 9

I

PLAYING
BY THE
BOOKS
ELECTRONIC DUO THE
BOOKS DISAPPOINT
WITH NEW DIRECTION
By Chris Gaerig
Daily Arts Writer
A song's meaning and structure are depen-
dent on its vocals. Vocal delivery and content

Courtesy of Comedy Central

"They used to call me Grifty McGrift!"

Comedy Central
gets away with'Con'

By Samantha Force
Daily Arts Writer

TV REVIEW
While college students across
the country get ready for gradua-

tion with hopes
of finding a suc-
cessful job, a new
show premieres
that undermines
everything hard-
working students
have strived for.
Comedy Cen-
tral's "Con" takes
ent kind of young
one who sails by

Con
Wednesdays at
10:30 p.m.
Comedy Central

a look at a differ-
adult in America,
on the gullibility

and kindness of others.
Skyler Stone, the host and cre-
ator of "Con," gives a new lesson
each week on how to scam people
in different ways in this "how-to"
guide for slackers. In the pilot, under
the guise of the fake reality show
"Extreme Homeless Makeover,"
the show convinces a local salon to
give a homeless man a free massage,
facial, manicure, haircut and ward-
robe. Throughout the rest of the
show, Stone and his accomplices run
several different hoaxes, including
convincing a limo service to donate
a free ride with complimentary
champagne.
"Con" avoids taking itself too
seriously: Stone and his accomplices
have fun while crafting elaborate,
well thought-out plans that account
for any possible situation that may
arise, including making press passes
and creating false histories. Stone
makes a great host for the show
because of his playful yet down-

to-earth nature. Though he seems
goofy, Stone puts effort into research
in order to accurately portray differ-
ent personas.
The show is full of humorous
moments that give the audience "tips"
on how to con for themselves (even
though a disclaimer in the beginning
tells them not to try these situations
at home). One of the show's funniest
moments occurs when Stone pulls
into a local fast food restaurant and
opens his trunk to reveal several
cups from different restaurants. He
then proceeds to demonstrate how
to get free drinks from a restaurant
without being questioned.
Along with a funny host and elab-
orate setups, "Con" has a compel-
ling premise. It's intriguing to see
how much a person can get away
with under false circumstances. The
show demonstrates how far people
are willing to go to accommodate
others, and whether people are help-
ing in the situations out of genuine
sincerity or to get a few seconds in
the spotlight.
The fact that this show exists
indicates that there is an audience
for dishonesty. The show provides
a lesson on how to callously take
advantage of the kindness of oth-
ers. At one point during the show, a
salon employee is brought to tears at
Stone's condition while in his home-
less persona. Stone's amusement at
this development exposes the major
problem with "Con" - it exploits
those whose trust is easily manipu-
lated. Other than that, "Con" is an
enjoyable show that should be taken
with a grain of salt and an ambition
to accomplish more than a success-
ful con.

can propel an artist to iconic
of Bob Dylan and his unfor-
gettable voice, singing tales
of Americana - or send a
group into a downward spiral
of garden-variety recordings.
The Books's brand of elec-

tro-pop has never been a conduit for lyrical
expression; instead, Nick Zammuto and Paul
de Jong opt for sporadic instrumentation and
random samples of rambling strangers. Their
latest LP, Lost and Safe, departs from their
previous work and turns toward becoming ste-
reotypical pop.
The Books's previous full-length releases,
The Lemon of Pink and Thought For Food, are
templates for greatness. Their gorgeous elec-
tronic landscapes and smooth integration of
morphed samples give both albums a warmth
that is uncharacteristic of similar electronic
bands. It's disappointing that the material on
Lost and Safe doesn't compare to the strength
of the essence and feeling of these albums.
The most blatant and ill-advised difference
on Lost and Safe is the focus on vocals, which
causes Zammuto and de Jong to structure
each track more rigidly than before. One of
The Books's greatest attributes had been their
ability to create spastic yet catchy songs like
Thought For Food's "Enjoy Your Worries, You
May Never Have Them Again." But almost
every track on Lost and Safe progresses pre-
dictably, based on a standard pop formula. On
"A Little Longing Goes Away," they try a more
adventurous approach to lyrical delivery, using
airy, soft cries, but the track resembles mellow,
ambient art-pop.
The frequent, uninteresting samples on Lost
and Safe don't compensate for the album's sub-
par music and muffled croons. The Books's other
releases use sound clips more erratically; the
group would tamper with miscellaneous ram-
blings to add a new dimension to the music. One
of Lost and Safe's most uninspired tracks, "Be
Good To Them Always," combines a monotonous

status - think
The Books
Lost and Safe
Tomlab

"Is it just me, or is there some kind of elf standing back there?"

clip with soft vocals, while intermittent keyboard
flares become tiresome and boring.
The Books aren't completely off their game
on Lost and Safe: The introductions on "Vogt
Dig For Kloppervok" and "An Animated
Description of Mr. Maps" are reminiscent of
their older works. Keyboard drones quickly
give way to spare, random percussion and well-
placed samples, but both degenerate into artsy
pop songs.
The focus on vocals on Lost and Safe is an
unfortunate deviation from The Books's sig-
nature electronic sound. Though they don't
abandon their previous style completely, The
Books have produced a mostly lifeless release.
By focusing on the music again, The Books
may be able to continue in the tradition of their
previous two releases and avoid the mediocrity
of Lost and Safe.

the f1::3
tov L1r
:J

I

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I

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