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September 08, 2006 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-09-08

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Friday
September 8, 2006
arts.michigandaily.com
artspage@michigandaily.com

RTe Sjdatit,

4

8

'MODERN'
MAN
DYLAN'S LYRICS
DEEPER THAN HIS
WRINKLES
By Lloyd H. Cargo
Daily Music Editor
Music Rriaw * *
Bob Dylan is a bad, bad man. Bob Dylan
is 65. Bob Dylan does ... not ... give ...
a ... fuck. And that's why Modern Times
is a great rock'n'roll album at a time when
very few artists are making them. Because
Dylan is morbid, regal,
nostalgic and janky. Bob Dylan
Because what's more Modern Times
rock'n'roll than his
shredded vocal cords, Columbia
and the fact that he
can't be bothered to pronounce every single
brilliant word?
The name on the front of the album car-
ries a lot of weight. One of the living titans
of poetic criticism, Christopher Ricks - the
world's preeminent scholar on Shelley and
Tennyson - says Dylan, as an "American
poet," is rivaled only by Waltfreakin' Whit-
man. In fact, he wrote a book about it.
Think about that for a moment.
It's impossible to ignore the weight of his
legend, and that right now Dylan is doing
something that's never been done before. He
started a major musical movement, and now
he's seeing it to its grave. It's been 45 years
and no new Dylan has emerged, no equiv-
alent - there will only be one. The times
they've a-changed and protest folk, stream-
of-conciousness narratives and fiery evan-
gelism are no longer the priorities of youth.
Still, Modern Times debuted at number one,
making this his fastest-selling album since
Desire, 20 years ago. What the fuck?

"Dear Jesus, do you think I'm cooler than James Van der Beekl
Gridiron reality
e

"Go ahead, make fun of my moustache, but I probably did your Mom."

The first track, "Thunder on the Moun-
tain," opens with Dylan's bleak views on
love, death, religion and food. Everyone and
their mother already knows he drops an Ali-
cia Keys reference, but how about "Gonna
raise me an army, some tough sons of bitches
/ I'll recruit my army from the orphanages /
I been to St. Herman's church, said my reli-
gious vows / I've sucked the milk out of a
thousand cows / I got the porkchops, she got
the pie / She ain't no angel and neither am I /
Shame on your greed, shame on your wicked
schemes / I'll say this, I don't give a damn
about your dreams."
Elsewhere on the album he's equally cagey.
On the mysteriously (and sort of creepy) sex-
ual slow blues of "Spirit on the Water," he
moans "You think I'm over the hill, past my
prime / Let me see what you got." He delivers
that line gently, but it still instills the album
with a sense of impenetrability. What drives
Dylan? Who is his muse? He's still angry at
an age when most rock stars are cashing in
on greatest-hits tours and sentimentality.

Maybe Dylan is starting to feel himself
knocking on heaven's door. Modern Times
is full of gallows humor, even more so than
usually comes with the territory of a Dylan
album. It's dark but funny, but most of all it's'
rock'n'roll done the right way, by one of its
most iconic figures.
He does show some signs of his age,
but they're minor distractions. The string
arrangements on "Workingman's Blues #2"
are a little corny, although the syrupy strings
are more than obscured by the heavy knowl-
edge he drops.
The album ends strongly with the closing
trio of "Nettie Moore," "The Levee's Gonna
Break" and "Ain't Talkin.' " "Nettie Moore"
might be the best song on the album, with
its simple 4/4 gently loping alongside sparse
guitar accompaniment. The song is the per-
fect example of lyrics only a mature Dylan
could write: "The bright spark of the steady
lights / Has dimmed my sights / When you're
around me all my grief gives way / A life
time with you is like some heavenly day."

Simpsons latest LP
beyond unnecessary

By Punit Mattoo
Daily TV/New Media Editor
Football or God? It's debatable
which topic SEC-country residents
are more fer-
vent about. Two-A-Days
College and,
increasingly, Wednesdays
high school at 10 p.m.
football as de- MTV
facto religions
to be worshipped are discussed and
analyzed. "Friday Night Lights"
introduced Americans outside of
NASCAR nation to high school
fanaticism. MTV's "Two-A-Days"
continues with the Hollywoodizing
of high school football, with newer
elements of egotistical coaches and
national attention courtesy of ESPN.
And after a few episodes, the viewer
might start to wonder why the net-
work's latest foray into the lives of
those still trolling high school hall-
ways took so long to happen.
Following specific starters from
Alabama's Hoover High School
football team, "Two-A-Days" (refer-
ring to the early morning and after-
school practices) provides a more
serious tone than the wildly popu-
lar and derided "Laguna Beach."
Instead of worshipping their parents'
credit cards, these teens worship
their beloved Hoover Buccaneers.
While "Laguna" focuses on the
banality of upper-class teens with
guaranteed futures, "Two-A-Days"
more resembles MTV's "True Life"
documentaries, focusing on the pres-
sures of winning against increas-
ingly competitive opponents from
across the South, and the players'
season-long interviews for lucrative
college-football scholarships.
Though MTV's inevitable need
to manufacture drama serves as
nothing more than an excuse to
reinforce existing stereotypes
about jocks, cheerleaders and those
who love them, most of the show's
storylines stay on the field or in the
locker room.
The show pays more attention to
the players' relationships with their
parents, or, more particularly, their
fathers. With almost-too-frequent
shots of fathers sitting in their pick-
ups staring down the coaches and
players on the practice field, "Two-
A-Days" sets out to establish them as
former players stillholding onto their
past glory. With a level of overarch-
ing involvement typically reserved
for parent teacher conferences, each
player's father prods the coaches for
their opinions of the players' per-

formance, they become the pathetic
superfan viewers can collectively
bemoan. But are they that much dif-
ferent than typical Michigan football
fans who go into an almost depres-
sive state after losses?
Essentially a high school version
of Bobby Bowden, the team's head
coach plays up the role of the celeb-
rity coach. His slicked back with
expensive wraparound sunglasses
and visor make him almost identi-
cal to the litany of big-time college-
program coaches. His presence is a
perfect complement to the drill-ser-
geant demeanor he projects in exple-
tive-filled tirades.
Equally intriguing is the team's
minister, who interjects his sermons
with deft proclamations that the
opposing teams' players should be
crawling off the field. Nowhere else
on television has the relationship
between religion and football been
so explicitly presented and the sup-
posed separation of church and state
so openly ignored.
The show's star football play-
ers face the typical issues of high
school athletes - albeit with per-
fectly kept bangs so common it
seems part of their uniform. Prob-
lem is, they're doing it in front of
20,000 fans every week' at their
impressive stadium, and millions
more on television.
It's here where the show has its
greatest fault. Most of the players
featured, though working hard to
impress scouts for scholarships, are
still from upper-middle-class fami-
lies, and face few issues outside of
what we all saw in our own high
schools.On such ahigh-profileteam,
it's likely that there are transplanted
students from inner-city schools
seeking greater interaction with
recruiters. It's these scouts who hold
the scholarship offers the poorer ath-
letes covet as their only avenue into
college. What could have been an
intriguing look into the pressure on
these students to become the finan-
cial windfall for their family, and the
detracting influences holding them
back, is ignored. Instead of becom-
ing a football "Hoop Dreams;" the
show sticks to the players' gridiron
highlights and not the daily strug-
gles with off-the-field issues, likely
including racism.
But this is MTV, and the sem-
blance of its staple shows is neces-
sary in order to garner the growing
ratings of recent years. Maybe
viewers seeking a deeper look into
the lives of high-profile athletes
shouldn't put the blame on MTV
but the rest of society's obsession
with seeminglv trivial things.

By Evan McGarvey
Managing Arts Editor
For a down-home Baptist girl,
Jessica Simp-
son leaves her Jessica
blinds awfully Sis
high. Each of Simpson
her album titles A Public Affair
purports tobe a Sony
mainline to the
real Jess. Ado-
lescent and bubbly-little-belle shit
on Sweet Kisses, fallen, "sensual"
"woman" on In This Skin, and now
she gives in. She's a doll.
But a postmodern doll, half
human, half blog entries and late
night jokes. Jessica Simpson's not
real. She needs us to imagine her
as a completely static and googly-
eyed Jess, simultaneously making
out with John Mayer at an awards
show, hawking Dominos and doll-
ing out some more tempo-murder-
ing melissimas covered in bubbly
little keyboards. Her biggest group
of genuine fans literally plays with

plastic dolls. She doesn't exist.
That's never stopped anyone from
putting out a successful pop album.
Kurt Cobain wrote for Courtney,
Diddy had Common and Jadakiss
ghostwrite, oh, pretty much every-
thing he ever said, and of course,
Milli Vanilli didn't say anything at
all. Jess is in good company, but she
can't stand out when she keeps put-
ting out albums that disingrate on
public impact.
A Public Affair, the newest docu-
ment of America's dumbest internal
monologue, doesn't even have the
decency to spawn a carbonated hit
single before the inevitable slide
into a second half that barely out-
ranks amateur dental surgery. That
"single;' "A Public Affair," crinkles
together some astral Madonna
synths, a childish xylophone and
more of Jessica reminding us,
"Tonight, carte blanche, first class
for the evening!"
There are no original artistic
ideas on the album. Within a three-
song stretch she tries to steal from
The Cars, Dead or Alive and Janet
Jackson. Back to back to back. She's

4

courtesy of Sony
My songs are also about sucking cock, only they're more subtle.

either having like, the blandest party
in the universe - "Push Your Tush"
and its fried, monochrome drum
patterns - orliketotally over Nick
- her attempt at sneering, ringing
separation ("Fired Up") sounds as
awkwardly non-committal as her
choice to scream "yeehaw!" mul-
tiple times on Affair.
Reviewing Simpson based on her
music seems unfair; she's clearly
drifting away from music as art and
toward music as good press. She
may be actively switching places
with Paris. Now Ms. Hilton is the

singer and Simpson seems destined
for the big screen. Only Simpson's
just-got-my-ears-pierced fan bloc
and the totally naive actually think
she's in the music game for much
longer. She trawls decades of pop
and only comes up with creaky,
barely-there horn section and heavy
breathing where there is, tradition-
ally, you know, singing. Criticizing
Affair is like trying to help someone
about to quit a job they hate - all
you can do is just try and speed the
process along. Do your part and
avoid this album like the clap.

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