February 9, 2006
arts. michigandaily. com
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Treat albums like art
Belle & Sebastian aren't exactly
the kind of band you'd expect
to cause controversy. The lithe,
pretty, melodic lines that support clever,
sometimes heartwrenching lyrics seem
more likely to serve as lullabies to the hip-
ster set, not material for rabid contention.
But for the intense emotional attach-
ment their first two albums created in a
fanbase of music aficiona-
dos set the stage for a little
controversy. For their last
two albums, the band has
moved in a poppier, brighter
direction - what some
fans, bereft of the music they
thought was theirs, might
even call "commercial."
In a recent interview
with Under the Radar,
frontman Stuart Murdoch ALEX
commented on the phenom-J
enon: "There is absolutely J
no point in pandering to anybody, no
matter if it's your loyalest fan ... We try
to please ourselves."
He has a point. Fans and artists have
always contended over shifts in direc-
tion, changes in a group's lineup, but lis-
teners' dissatisfaction would be mostly
reflected in record sales. Hitting musi-
cians in the pocketbook, whether they
stand to make thousands or millions,
sends a quiet, yet direct message.
But now, anyone with a LiveJournal
can slash to ribbons the year's work of an
artist. As listeners, of course, we're going
to form opinions about what we hear
- and if we hate something, we don't
just shrug and add the disc to our coaster
collection. We dissect condemned songs,
albums and even whole catalogues,
separating the sublime from the trash,
the great from everything else. And no
matter how much material tips the scales
in favor of the artists' ideas, media, con-
struction or overall sound, we'll vilify
them for the missteps they've made, no
matter how few.
I'm not saying that listeners, especially
critics, shouldn't be, y'know, critical. But
at the same time, pop-music connoisseurs
- those who, by definition, are followers
of not only the best and brightest, but the
weirdest, worst, most extreme and laugh-
able recorded music - all have to battle
our inner demons.
Inside every critic, published or arm-
chair, is a two-faced, ego-driven, raven-
ous force, both spectator and analyst,
enthusiastic acolyte and an artist's worst
nightmare. This force sparks our love of
music, creates our constant need for new
albums to consume, drives the search for
new imports and provides the motiva-
tion to take eight-hour road trips to see
Bob Dylan live when you already know
he's coming to your town a few weeks
later. You want it now. Admit it: Inside,
you're part smarmy teenager whose
fragile ego is bolstered by the size, scope
and rigorously maintained quality of her
record collection and part hopeful naif
who crumbles with sentimentality at the
thought of ever again bask-
ing in the revelatory glow
she got the first time she
heard Revolver or Bikini
In short, we derive plea-
sure from exulting in and
detracting from the work
of our favorite musicians
- not just in consuming
their product, which is the
kNDRA reason we tend to come
back for more even when
NES The Green Album robs
our pathetic lives of a precious 28
minutes or when Prince just kind of
decides to start sucking.
And there's nothing wrong with
trash-talking when a Yoko infiltrates
your favorite band or a great songwriter
sounds like he's taking way too few
mind-altering substances. But the notion
that we - listeners, critics, consumers
- are owed a goddamn thing by the art-
ists whose work we purchase and enjoy is
simply false. We pay for the album; they
provide us with the music of thousands
of listens, recommendations, makeout
sessions, car trips, emotional break-
downs. Brian Wilson's magnum opus
Smile was put off for 35 years because
the other Beach Boys (and eventually
Wilson himself) thought it wouldn't be
well received. Of course, there's another
side to this: Weezer, guilty of one of the
most egregious fan betrayals of the past
decade, lost a million sensitive geek-rock-
ers and gained 10 million listeners who
didn't give a fuck that what the band was
producing, suddenly, was shit.
We have to make responsible deci-
sions as critics. While the intensity that
a visceral but innately immature reac-
tion to music we feel we have a stake in
might make us feel powerful, or make
us feel connected to something greater,
we should fairly appraise the work of the
artists we respect enough to shell out a
paltry $13.99 to hear.:They make art; we
criticize art - and art demands more
than a visceral reaction. If anything,
we owe them a few more spins to fairly
evaluate their work.
- Jones promises never to say "sell
out" again. E-mail almajo @umich.edu.
Courtesy ofthe School orM
The cast of "Gold Diggers" poses in full dress. They will perform the play starting tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre.
AVERY HopwooD's FAMED PLAY HITS -MEN DELSSOHN
By Caroline Hartmann
For the Daily
University alum and Phi Gamma Delta broth-
er Avery Hopwood began his career in the early
1900s with the support of
his frat brothers, who were
known to march down the- Gold Diggers
ater aisles clapping and Tonight at 7:30 p.m.
chanting his name to attract Friday and
attention from the press. Saturday at 8 p.m.
Hopefully he won't need Sunday at 2 p.m.
such an overture to captivate Tickets $16-$22
audiences Feb. 9 through 12 Students $9 with ID
when the Department of At the Lydia
Theatre & Drama puts on Mendelssohn Theatre
Hopwood's "The Gold Dig-
gers" at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre.
Hopwood's vision for the University led to the
establishment of the prestigious Hopwood awards,
which celebrated its 75th anniversary this year.
Hopwood went on to be immensely popular and
prolific, and is still the only playwright in history to
have four shows on Broadway simultaneously.
His play "Gold Diggers" follows Jerry, a 1920s
chorus girl who never fails to attract attention
and envy with her ability to woo the wealthiest
men without lifting a finger. Violet, her friend
and housemate, is the only chorus girl who
believes love conquers all - even money.
Violet wants to marry the well bred but awk-
ward Wally, whose uncle is convinced that
chorus girls only chase after rich men for their
money. The timid couple needs Jerry's help to
persuade Wally's uncle, Steven Lee, to give his
consent in marriage.
Jerry - usually lusty, opulent and vivacious
- behaves as outrageously and melodramatically
as possible to show Violet isn't an unsophisticat-
ed "gold digger" like herself. But when the uncle
breaks out of his shell and admits he loves Jerry,
her plan is ruined and she's forced to consider her
own feelings as well. Music senior Adam Caplan,
who plays the uncle, described the character as
a "stick-in-the-mud character who finally has a
coming of age and rebirth of childhood."
Hopwood is famous for writing risqu6 and osten-
tatious works that still maintained a mass appeal,
and "The Gold Diggers" is chief among them. Its
lack of an overarching theme gives it a frivolous
air, but its uncommon entertainment value alone
elevates it above standard fare.
"Don't go looking for anything more than
what you see and behold," said Philip Kerr, the
play's director. "But for goodness sake, be open
to what you behold. It sometimes is bliss to be in
the hands of a master craftsman who can cause
you to be entertained."
Although the play doesn't claim to be a musi-
cal, Phil Ogilvie's Rhythm Kings, a frequent
sight at Ann Arbor's Firefly Club, will provide
the show's big-band feel. Musical Director and
Music Prof. James Dapogny worked with Kerr on
previous productions. The '20s-inspired, upbeat
pieces are the perfect backdrop for the light and
airy bedroom farce.
There's no denying "The Gold Diggers" serves
primarily to entertain. Jerry's circle of friends,
who range from cynical and sarcastic to buoyant
and playful, each have a unique comic personal-
ity. Uncle Lee's lawyer adds more humor to the
mix, falling headfirst into a determined chorus
girl's tricks. Music senior Alexandra Odell said
she hopes the audience "walks out of the theater
chuckling, giggling, laughing."
But before buying your ticket, heed Kerr's advice:
"Just enjoy the craft, enjoy the effervescence. So it's
rather like having a very, very good glass of a very
splendid champagne - enjoy the bubbles."
WE WERE IN DECA.
earna- - U U .. ./ '11 . . : . ... ..