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December 11, 2006 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-12-11

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Monday, December 11, 2006 - 5A

Daily Arts Writer
Three years ago, Jay-Z released The Black
Album as his final project before retiring to
the managerial side of
things. Hova left on top,
sold Roc-A-Fella Records
for a startling $10 million Jay-Z
and became president and Kingdom Come
CEO of Def Jam - reaping Def Jam
the benefits of such artists
as Young Jeezy and Ne-Yo. Jay-Z should be liv-
ing the good life right about now and enjoying
his time away from the game, right?
Wrong. The king has stepped down from his
throne and pulled his jersey from the rafters,
returning with a new album titled Kingdom
Come - the same way DC Comics heralded the
return of Superman.
Despite first week sales of 680,000 and his
concert feat of hitting seven cities with his
Hangar Tour in a 24-hour span, Jay-Z's reviews
have been lackluster, to say the least. Longtime
fans have turned their backs to Mr. Carter for
what has been called the biggest disappoint-
ment since Blueprint 2. Is the album really as
bad as everyone says - even Raekwon the Chef
took shots at Jigga, calling his album wack and
his style commercial - or are they all just exag-
Well, it is and it isn't. There's no getting
around the fact that the album is a big disap-
pointment for the many fans who have been
following Jay's progression as an artist since
Reasonable Doubt in 1996. For an MC of his
standing,.much is expected, and he just doesn't
get it done - a large chunk of the album doesn't
represent the hip-hop hero's conscious style of
rapping. The man takes risks and tries some new
things, but, for the most part, they fall short.
Still, Jigga has released some quality tracks,
and there is nothing better on this album than
the production, with the majority of input com-
ing from Dr. Dre. Other notable contributors
include Just Blaze, Kanye West and The Nep-

Califone left the Michigan Union on Friday with several audience members writhing.
Califone shakes Union

The prelude is true H.O.V., reliving memo-
ries of drug deals and treating rap like a busi-
ness. "Prelude" also deals with Jay's mindset
about returning, with "I used to think rappin'
at 38 was ill / but last year alone I grossed $38
mil/ I know I ain't quite 38, but still/ the flow
so special got a .38 feel/ the real is back." And
despite the constant criticism he's received for
it, one of the best tracks on the album is "Beach
Chair," which Jay-Z worked on with Coldplay's
Chris Martin. The mysterious echoing sound of
bells behind heavy drum beats and violins gives
Jay-Z a Coldplay style of his own. The message
behind the song is even deeper as Jay's angels
ask him: Even with all the money he's stacked,
is he really happy?
Kingdom Come is a step above November's
other albums (Game, Snoop) in the way it
reflects a grown man's maturity and emotion.
Jay really wasn't kidding when he said he was
getting his grown man on. "Lost Ones" is espe-
cially touching because he's able to speak about
his split with his co-partners of Roc-A-Fella
Records without starting a slew of beef songs.
He speaks just as maturely when talking about
his temporary break-up with long-time love
Beyonce. Instead of passing the blame Hov sim-
ply says "I don't think it's meant to be (B) / for
she loves her work more than she loves me / and

honestly at 23 I would probably love my work
than I did she." Even deeper than his relation-
ship issues is his diatribe on Hurricane Katrina
and what he did to help in "Minority Report"
saying "sure I ponied up a mil, but I didn't give
my time / so in reality I didn't give a dime or a
damn / I just put my monies in the hands of the
sample people that left my people stranded."
Even with all its pros, none can overlook the
albums many cons. The song "Hollywood," fea-
turing Beyoncd, is basically Jay rapping about
how everyone else can't handle the fame and
having to seek refuge from the paparazzi in his
expensive high rise. Boohoo.
Hopefully with the recent break-up we won't
have to hear songs like this or "Ddja vu" any-
more. Jay-Z was never the kind of rapper who
made good pop songs, which is why so many
people look down on "Anything." Putting Phar-
rell and Usher on the hook did not make Hov
look any better in the eyes of rap critics. Lyri-
cally, songs like this are a big let down where
Hov does nothing but rap about partying and
living the high life. Coming from Marcy Proj-
ect's beloved son, this album is not what the
general public has been waiting for.
It's not so much that the album is bad, it's
just not an acceptable effort for an MC of his

The hard-clunking banjo spins its
dark chords like they're caught in
an angry astral
torrent. As the Califone
speakers crackle Friday
with distor- At the U-club
tion, a curly
haired kid is shaking tent-revival
style, whipping his limbs franticly
through the air.
He's clearly on drugs, but that
doesn't prevent his energy from
infectingthe crowd.
It's early in the set, and Califone
has already whipped the room into
an urbanized, alt-Americana fury,
turningthe crisp edge of country to
reckless ends. It's a dark energy, rife
with crude stories of heartbreak and
horror - the real essence of country
It has the feel of whiskey-soaked
nights, the dry caress of dust and
dementia. Whether or not this
country-fried homage - modern-
ized by keyboards, distortion and
sequenced beats - is reverentto the
genre's beer-swirling originals is
Califone rambles with the seedy
swagger of real beer-bellied West-
ern warriors. The Chicago band's
forerunner, Red Red Meat, was a
less experimental group, but Mod-
est Mouse's Isaac Brock still called
RRM his favorite indie act.
In the small U-Club room, the
band born of RRM displayed simi-
lar enthusiasm, but more often than
not the songs were tightly reined.
Clearly, those boys recognize that
there's a difference between riding
a slow horse and holdingthe rope on
a champion sprinter.
"Red Red Meat was enjoyable, but
I just got tired of playing really loud
music," Rutili explained in a phone
interview before the concert. "Cali-
fone is more instinctual and (grows
from) trial and error. Our sound
doesn't have to work on paper or
make sense. As long as it feels right,
we go with it."
A seamless combination of old-

school folk and new age electronica,
Califone's latest record Roots and
Crowns speaks to their maturation
both as a band and as individuals.
"(The album is) about uniting
where you come from with what
you strive tobe or whatyoureinvent
yourself to become. At the bottom of
these songs are the memories and
images you sift through in the pro-
cess," Rutili said.
Though the band's modern
reconstruction of "roots" music had
its prototype in the RRM albums,
with Roots and Crowns Califone has
finally found a retroactive state-
ment of purpose. Rutili still sings in
images, but the band's latest music
does more than uphold the point
Despite mediocre
venue, Califone
invigorates crowd.
- it encompasses and personifies it.
The band's new penchant for
straightforward melody didn't keep
it from trotting out its earlier hits on
Friday. They waffled back and forth
throughout the set between the old
and new, caressing melody before
destroying it in long, freeformijam
sessions. These later bits built dis-
tortion on the clanking of drummer
Ben Massarella's cowbell, and the
spiraling sounds of banjo and key-
boards mashed into one another.
Rutili, meanwhile, pounded a sec-
ond mic (this one atinytape-record-
er) against his leg before placing it
next to the real one to double his
vocal. As he wrung out his words,
the mini-mic added a delightfully
grainy edge.
By the end of the set, that wildly
dancing crowd member was burnt
out beyond repair. Glasses drooping
and beads of sweat plastered across
his forehead, the energy fried his
bones and shook the blood from his
veins. He was visibly sick with the
musical shakes - an appropriate
end to fantastic show.

Mel's 'Apocalypto': plenty of gore, no justice

Daily Arts Writer
Mel Gibson wants to tell you
something in his movies. Whether
it's about the
importance ***
of freedom
("Braveheart") Apocalypto
or selfless suf- At Showcase
fering ("The and Quality 16
Passion of the Touchstone
Christ"), Gib-
son always seems to have one way of
making his point: violence, and lots
of it. "Apocalypto" claims to be com-
mentary about social decay, but this
time around the message is lost in a
sea of gore. Beautiful as the film may
look, there's just not enough below
its surface.
Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood)
and his family are just your average
ritually scarred, nose-boned, loin-
clothed bunch of village folk. Their
children play with monkeys as they
hunt tapir in the jungle. But this all
changes one morning when their
peaceful village is invaded by the
bloodthirsty Mayans. Jaguar Paw
hideshis familyinadeep wellbefore
running back to help his friends,
and then is captured by the power-
ful invaders and forced to watch his
own father's execution at the hands
of a particularly masochistic Mayan
warrior. The Mayan general Raoul
tells his attack dog to keep Jaguar
alive, and they set out through the
The captives are lead to the peak
of the Mayans' highest pyramid,
where they are to be ceremoni-
ously executed to appease the gods.
Jaguar's two pals have their still-
beating hearts removed from their
chests ("Temple of Doom"-style,

though the resulting image is any-
thing but PG-13), and then decapi-
tated. Their heads are bowled down
the stairs to the roar of the crowd.
Jaguar is slated for a similar fate,
but moments before his turn, a solar
eclipse blanketsthe land indarkness
in one of the movie's many "what a
coincidence!" moments (chalked up
as "prophecy" by the film). The local
priest tells the crowd that the gods
have had their fill of blood; lucky
Jaguar is lowered down from the
altar to be executed non-ceremoni-
ously instead.
Motivated by the thought of his
son and pregnant wife still stuck
back in the well, however, Jaguar
makes a run for it, stabbing his way
through the general's son during his

These men face a potentially cruel fate in Mel Gibson's violent "Apocalytpo.


d escape.

Mel's Mayans tear
out hearts but
don't move them.
For the next 45 minutes the
movie turns into a Central Ameri-
can "Predator" as the Mayans chase
Jaguar Paw through the jungle, all
the while thinking up creative ways
to pick them off one by one. The vio-
lence in these scenes reaches epic
proportions: Mayans are stabbed,
skewered, poisoned and - oh my
God, did a live jaguar really just rip
that guy's face off? And that's before
his wife gives birth underwater.
"Apocalypto" is absolutely beau-
tiful in a terrifying kind of way.
The jungle, the village, the Mayan
city and the Mayans themselves
are all so authentic you'll swear

you can smell the human hearts on
the grill, an effect boosted by a cast
of unknowns (although lead Rudy
Youngblood shines brighter than
most Hollywood A-listers, and with
a much cooler name).
But the movie ultimately falls
short by lacking a higher purpose to
justify all the visceral gore. Gibson
has used similarly harsh violence to
emphasize the sanctity of his pro-
tagonists, but "Apocalypto" is at its
core an adventure movie. Any deep-

er social implications Gibson tries to
draw out simply get lost in the blood
and guts.
If the film is trying to. be a com-
mentary on society destroying itself
from within, it never really comes to
fruition. People can draw parallels
to an imperialistic America mind-
lessly sacrificing soldiers to war, but
it's a stretch. "Apocalypto" is stun-
ningly beautiful and fairly exciting,
but not particularly important. Gib-
son can, and has, done better.

'very row, column

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