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September 07, 2005 - Image 51

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ARTS

The Michigan Daily - New Student Edition - Fall 2005 - 9D

'Want Two' pulls at heart of Rufus

By Alexandra Jones
NOVEMBER 24, 2004
Daily Staff Writer
MUSIC REVIEW
Rufus Wainwright is missing some-
thing. The genetically talented, operatically
trained (his parents are Canadian folk-
singers Loudon Wainwright III and Kate

McGarrigle) and
very, very openly
gay male chanteuse
has released Want
Two, the second
installment of tracks
recorded concur-

Rufus
Wainwright
Want Two
Geffen

From left, Wilco's Nels Cline, Jeff Tweedy and John Stirrat performed for students at Hill Auditorium in. October.
RE TB ORNR
CHICAGO'S W ILCO TEAR DOWN H1ILL AUDITORIUM

rently with 2003's spectacular Want One.
But Want Two, the darker and more intense
of the two albums, lacks a clear voice. As
a whole, the album's tracks don't support
each other to create anything bigger than
the best song, "The Art Teacher," and only
a few individual tracks stand out from the
rest.
Both albums feature Wainwright's sub-
lime vocals and highly developed orches-
tration, but they're maddeningly different
from one another: One's ideology revolves
around a sort of sophisticated New York
glory, underscored by sumptuous baroque
trimmings, but Two's ideas are more scat-
tered, moving from psych plainchant
"Agnus Dei," to soft piano ballads, "Peach
Trees," to major-keyed, Mozart-inspired
technique pieces like "Little Sister."
Listeners may have expected Two to
follow One's tonal shifts between poppy
exuberance and hyperbolic sensitivity
with material that's less clearly polarized,
and that's exactly what Wainwright did.
However, without these obvious extremes,
Wainwright's overarching ideas are lost in
the miasma of styles and characters stuck
uncomfortably together on Two.
The more Wainwright-esque tracks
on Want Two, "The One You Love" and
"Peach Trees" recall the great songs that
appear on Want One - love songs combin-
ing piano and a backing band. But others,
like "Hometown Waltz" and "Memphis
Skyline," sound like almost-there attempts
at love songs, not finished pieces of music.
Closing track "Old Whore's Diet" is a

By Andrew M. Gaerig
OCTOBER 12.2004
Daily Staff Writer

Wilco's meteoric rise from alt-country also-rans to
noise-mongering poster child of underground rock has
been well-documented on record: Summnerteeth, Yankee
Hotel Foxtrot and this year's A Ghost
Is Born all mixed fruitful Americana Wilco
with malignant electronics and eerie
white noise. Live, however, the band Sunday, Oct. 10
has failed to make such large strides: Hill Auditorium
The ham-fisted, "rock'n'roll" attitude
that pervaded the band's early material often rears its head
in front of an audience. The band always performs marvel-
ously, but the audience is left with an awkward mix of art-
school histrionics and rock-show bombast.
For the recording A Ghost is Born and the accompany-
ing tour, Wilco fleshed out its lineup, adding guitarist Nels
Cline and multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone, which effec-
tively allows the band to employ at least one electric guitar-
ist the entire show. It seems like a marginal difference on
paper, but its impact on the show is tremendous, fleshing
out the band's sound and taking the burden of filling space
off frontman Jeff Tweedy's voice.
These factors - as well as Tweedy's newfound sobriety
- contributed to a rejuvenated band Sunday night at Hill
Auditorium. The change was notable in longtime bassist
John Stirrat, who hopped around the stage and attacked the

Misunderstood.

microphone with a unique charm and energy. For his part,
Tweedy brought his warm, tobacco-stained voice and sev-
eral distortion-fueled guitar solos. Cline, however, proved
the catalyst. His furious leads and knob-twiddling impro-
visations bridged the gap between Wilco's underground
ambition and their classic-rock mentality.
The setlist choices were typically excellent, with the
Ghost material taking. on -a life that it mostly lacks on
record. "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" was transformed into the
classic-rock centerpiece it was meant to be, while the gui-
tar solos on "At Least That's What You Said" burned and
twisted around the room. "Hell Is Chrome" benefited great-
ly from Stirrat's excellent harmony vocals, which are far
more noticeable in the live setting.
The band also dipped into its back catalog. "A Shot in
the Arm" was far more aggressive, and "Via Chicago,"
long absent from the band's live repetoire, was rejuvenated
by Cline's piercing guitar and drummer Glenn Kotche's
simple, inventive rhythms. The band did fall into the "clas-
sic rock" mode during the first encore with the laughable
"Kingpin," but mostly just turned up and rocked out. Clos-
ing with a cover of little-known folk artist Bill Fay's "Be
Not So Fearful" was a savvy move coming from a band that
heretofore had trouble identifying its own best material.
Wilco's transition as a studio band has outpaced their live
show - until now. The audience Sunday night was treated
to a feverish show put on by a veteran band finding its second
wind. Wilco's new lineup isn't a dramatic transformation so
much as an essential tune-up. Watching them pull from their
increasingly impressive catalog and translate it into a gor-
geous, invigorating whole is nothing less than thrilling.

cyclical, rumba-inspired duet with a vocal-
ist only identified as "Antony." The track,
clocking in at nearly nine minutes, detracts
from the album's, and Wainwright's, musi-
cal integrity with the near-constant repeti-
tion of "An old whore's diet / Gets me goin'
in the morning."
Despite the fact that Wainwright has
linked the dregs of the Want sessions
together so poorly, Want Two contains a
few beautiful tracks that rival his previ-
ous work. "Crumb by Crumb" features a
cool, in-motion narrative voice languor-
ously singing "Suddenly you are the one
/ Who opens the gates to this unruly gar-
den / 'Cause baby I got to get through /
Crumb by crumb in this big black forest."
Want Two doesn't peak with acoustic bal-
lad "Gay Messiah" as some listeners may
have anticipated, but the innuendo and
metaphor behind it are both hilarious and
ingenious, and its chorus - "Better pray,
for your sins /'Cuz the gay messiah's com-
ing" - is utterly timeless.
Want Twos finest track, "The Art
Teacher,"rivals even the gorgeous "Beauti-
ful Child," "Dinner at 8" and "11:11" from
Want One. Wainwright's velvety-silver
voice tells the story of a private school girl

who has a secret crush on her art teacher
over a tense, repetitive piano ostinato: "He
asked us what our favorite work of art was
/ But never could I tell him it was him."
Occasional horn leaps between verses add
a rich sadness to the story. When Wain-
wright sings "He told me he liked Turner
/ And never have I turned since then / No,
never have I turned to any other man," his
voice alone eclipses the expansive orches-
tral production found on the more indul-
gent Want One. The DVD packaged with
the album - a mixture of concert footage
from his show at the Fillmore in San Fran-
sisco and short episodes of Wainwright
hanging out on the street and visiting
his cousin's new baby - includes a live
performance of "The Art Teacher" that
mesmerizes viewers when coupled with
Wainwright's image.
While the confident, sophisticated queen
leading his audience down Park Avenue on
Want One can make any listener feel like a
diva, the guy behind Want Two is a "Wiz-
ard of Oz" figure, a man behind the curtain
who isn't giving up any secrets.
Album: ***
DVD: ****

Nelly's new album splits in two

By Evan McGarvey
SEPTEMBER 15, 2005
Daily Staff Writer

It looks like hip-hop has been tak-
ing some nuclear physics classes. For
what seems like the umpteenth time,
a rapper made
like the Greek god Nelly
Janus and carved
himself into two Sweat/Suit
separate personas. Universal
With Nelly's
new releases Sweat and Suit, there's
only one thing left to say: The cyclo-
tron is just too full. OutKast managed
their way through a respectable - but
wildly overrated - double because
they are two different men with two
very different agendas. Jay-Z's dou-
ble was a flop, and let's not even talk
about R.Kelly's choice to self-divide.
Nelly has always been a great
singles artist and it's safe to say that
any "best of the 'O0s" collection that
gets printed in the next decade will
be crammed with plenty of his songs,
from "Country Grammar" to "Ride

Wit Me." Such mercurial energy is
awfully hard to maintain over an
album, and both of his full-lengths,
Country Grammar and Nellyville, hit
dramatic lulls after about four songs.
Each of these new releases is, not
surprisingly, Nelly's personality split
into two separate quarks of his St.
Louis energy. Sweat is the bottle-pop-
pin', whip-pushin' hoodlum whose
sound most closely resembles "Hot
In Herre" or "El." Like those party
anthems, Nelly pulls a surfeit of sam-
ples from the vault. Curtis Mayfield's
classic soundtrack from "Superfly"
provides the back beat and bubbling
drums for the Christina Aguilera/
Nelly duet on "Tilt Ya Head." Hell, he
even samples John Tesh's "NBA on
NBC" theme and gets help from the
Lincoln University Vocal Ensemble
on "Heart of a Champion."
Don't get your hopes up. Nelly
tosses almost everything possible
against the wall and precious little
sticks. The Neptunes-produced lead
single "Flap Ya Wings" has a tinny,
cheap drum machine that sounds
way too discount for the Pharrell
Williams hit-maker

In a delightful turn, Suit, the roman-
tically loyal, good natured, boy-next-
door album is the far superior of the
two. Once you get past the diabetic-
sweet "My Place," listeners run into
some pretty decent tracks. Nelly raps
to a recently-single mother, "Please
don't despise and hate all brothers/
have hatred and take it out on others."
It's not exactly lyrical innovation, but
genuine concern is a new thing for
Nelly. Give him a chance. The Nep-
tunes get back on track with "Play It
Off," a jam with deft synth effects and
some choice Nelly catchphrases.
Maybe the set's ultimate short-
comings are in the bizarre guest
appearances and lack of a dazzling
single. Tim McGraw sings the hook
on "Over and Over" like a Super
Bowl show and Jazzie Pha on "Pretty
Toes" just sounds foolish.
Let's chalk this experiment up to
bandwagon attitudes and a desperate
attempt to reclaim the party throne
from the Dionysian Lil' Jon. You
have to figure Nelly gets at least two
more solid shots to reclaim his posi-
tion as partier-laureate. There can
only be one.

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