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March 07, 2007 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2007-03-07

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The Michigan Daily - michigandyaily.com

Wednesday, March 7, 2007 - 5A

News, meet comedy

F or better or worse, "The
Daily Show with Jon Stew-
art" has become the voice
of a generation and "The Colbert
Report" is that voice's smartass
best friend. Comedy Central's duo
has blown up in the past year and
everyone from slacker college
students to
ultra-liberal
Hollywood
types loves
to shower
the duo with
praise. And
for good rea-
son: Stewart
and Colbert MICHAEL
consistently
put out intel- PASSMAN
ligent,
funny shows
- unlike most of their late-night
talk-show counterparts.
But while the blue states love to
half-joke about a Stewart and Col-
bert presidential ticket, most fail
to realize that the televised politi-
cal comedy landscape isn't limited
to Comedy Central's 11 p.m.-to-12
a.m. weeknight block.
The most recent addition to the
political comedy arena, "The 1/2
Hour News Hour," premiered two
weeks ago. A red-state rebuttal
of sorts to Stewart and Colbert,
"The 1/2 Hour News Hour" is
right-wing political humor in the
form of a weekly news show that
resembles "Weekend Update" on
"Saturday Night Live."
Loyal Daily readers may have
noticed that we didn't review "The
1/2 Hour News Hour." For those
of you who were saddened to see
that 500 words on the Republican
"Daily Show" didn't grace our fine
publication, I'll give you my five-
word review: The show is fucking
terrible.
Sitting through the arduous
half hour is painful like nothing
else on television. "The 1/2 Hour
News Hour" suffers from poor
writing, horrible execution and
a tragic laugh track. Once and a
while, the show appears to tap into
somethingwith moderate comedic
potential, but it's quickly squan-
dered by poor execution.
Although the show is painfully
unfunny, the most objectionable
aspect has nothing to do with its
crappy material. While "The Daily
Show" and "The Colbert Report"
air on Comedy Central, "The 1/2
Hour News Hour" airs on the Fox
News Channel, an actual news
network. Does anyone else see a
problem with this? How can you
claim to be a legitimate 24-hour
news network when a promi-
nent Sunday evening timeslot is
occupied by an openly slanted
right-wing "comedy" show? The
issue isn't just that it's on a news
network. The show is intentionally
counteracting another network's
left-wing comedy show and airs
on a news network. Rupert, I
don't know what your people told
you, but "The Daily Show" isn't on
MSNBC, it's actually on Comedy
Central.
Not all of the non-Comedy Cen-

tral news comedies are this loath-
some. Case in point: HBO's "Real
Time with Bill Maher," which airs
on Friday nights at 11:00 p.m. dur-
ing a few multi-week runs every
year.
"Real Time" isn't a new show
- it debuted in 2003 shortly after
ABC cancelled "Politically Incor-
rect with Bill Maher" following
comments from Maher that the
network deemed inappropriate
in the wake of Sept.t11- but the
show hasn't garnered the attention
most quality HBO original pro-
gramming does.
"Real Time" typically consists
of a short opening monologue
from Maher, a satellite interview
with a relevant political voice, an
in-studio panel discussion and a
closing monologue called "New
Rules." The bulk of the show is
occupied by the panel discus-
sion where three guests discuss
relevantctopics with Maher. The
panel discussion is usually the
most entertaining portion of the
show, but, interesting enough, out-
side of the satellite interview, the
panel discussion is the least come-
dic aspect of "Real Time." Sure,
Maher and the panelists crack
jokes here or there, but the show's
most redeeming value comes from
the debates between Maher and
Models to actors:
Stop hogging the
covers.
his guests.
The real difference between
what Maher is doing on HBO and
what Stewart and Colbert are
doing on Comedy Central is that
the Comedy Central shows are
comedies with a political slant, but
"Real Time" is a news show with
a comedic edge. "Real Time" may
not get the laughs Stewart and
Colbert do, but the Comedy Cen-
tral guys can't touch the conversa-
tion depth each episode of "Real
Time" reaches.
The distinction between Maher
and the Comedy Central guys is
demonstrated by the interview
guests the shows attract. Jon
Stewart is able to get almost any-
one on his show because his pseu-
do-interviews are almost always
non-threatening. Conversely,
Maher doesn't let his guests off
the hook, souit's more difficult for
him to lure in big names. "The 1/2
Hour News Hour" is hardly rel-
evant, let alone not funny.
Stewart and Colbert maybe the
news source of choice for those
frustrated with the current politi-
cal climate, but "Real Time" takes
the news aspect of the news com-
edy to another level. Plus, "Real
Time" is on HBO, so they can say
"fuck," and that's always fun.
- E-mail Passman at
mpass@umich.edu.

The
'Fire' stillyi
burns
'NEW BIBLE' A WORTHY
FOLLOW-UP TO 1
VAUNTED DEBUT
By MATT EMERY
Daily Arts Writer
Arcade Fire became a household name when
Funeral slowly crept its way into the indie-
rock VIP lounge in 2004: The *
album wasn't a wall of sound,
it was a Fucking-Great-Wall- * Arcade Fire sur
of-China Sound. So many
instruments and so much Arcade Fire The opene
energy were packed into a band's depart
single album, despite being Neon Bible introduction t
produced in the wake of the Merge ry backgroun
deaths of several band mem- siren-like gui
ber's loved ones - hence the of old has not
title. With a single album (and a debut, at that), section gives
Arcade Fire became the "it" band of the year. depressing lyr
Then lead singer Win Butler announced / Show me w
Neon Bible months before its release. track is dema
It's the album that required its own special ideas to come.
website, complete with full lyrics weeks before The title tr
the release date; the album that demanded its sent the albu
own telephone line, which gave fans the chance ty, it's oversh
to speak with the band; the album recorded grandiose "In
mainly in a Montreal church, complete with first dose of
pipe organ; the album that followed a so-called Neon Bible's
masterpiece, one regarded as the best of the suite "Wake U
new millennium by critics; the album with beauty, coupl
unreasonable expectations, hype and pressures to-Earth orga
usually reserved for curing terminal illnesses. tar riffs care
Surprisingly, Neon Bible is a dark epic. The dark lyrics gl
band spends an ample amount of time mull- "Working for
ing over the depression that has encompassed dies / You ta
America and the world, including the chance keep it inside.
of world war, problems within the Church and other son
the most dreaded of all: MTV. Some of the dis- Noise" cuts d
cussions are urgent and immediately gripping. favor of a res
Some border on campy and childish, leaving piano and a
behind an inconsistent trail of a few orgasmic christ Televi
tracks, a number of listenable - but surely parents in th
mind-blowing live - tracks and a few outright pletely forget
stinkers. but she don't
RISE TO THE TOP: HOW ARCADE FIRE HAVE
BECOME SO DAMN POPULAR
1.The band kicks out the bestlive show out there. If you have to pawn
your soul for tickets, do it. Imagine motorcycle helmets, Rgine Chassagne
playing a hurdy gurdy and "Napoleon Dynamite"-lookalike guitarist Richard
Reed Parry beingswarmed in the middle of the audience. And that'sojust the
first10 minutes.
2.Its style dwarfs all competitors. Only Arcade Fire can pull off playing
harps, xylophones, violins, violas, electric guitars, organs, pianos, mandolins,
French horns and accordions and still make itlsound soul scorching, deeply
impassioned and without a touch of lunacy.
3. The best acts of today are in love with the band. U2 and Coldplay's
Chris Martin herald Arcade Fire as one oftthe best bands performing today.
David Byrne attended a number of their early gigs. David Bowie insisted on
releasing alive compilation with them on iTunes. Who's next - Mick Jagger?
Thom Yorke? Jesus?

vived the brutal hype machine of indie rock with Neon Bible, their sophomore release.

r, "Black Mirror," signals the
ure from all things Funeral. The
hunders ominously against drea-
d percussion met with warning-
tar plucks. But their grand sound
left, and an overwhelming string
way to frontman Win' Butler's
rics: "Mirror, mirror, on the wall
here them bombs will fall." The
nding, setting the tone for darker
ack is a peculiar choice to repre-
m. Though gorgeous in its subtle-
adowed by the louder and overly
tervention." Emphasized by the
church organ, "Intervention" is
equivalent to Funeral's feature
p." The track is astonishing in its
ed with the God-has-returned-
an concordance and fleeting gui-
of Richard Reed Parry. Win's
ow despite the awful undertones:
the Church while your family
ke what they give you / And you
gs aren't as realized. "Ocean of
own the large Arcade sound in
erved rainy day track, with dull
n empty-room-echo feel. "Anti-
sion Blues" characterizes pushy
e MTV generation, but it's com-
table as Win quips, "My girl's 13,
act her age / She can sing like a

bird in a cage."
"Windowsill" is the most glaring attack
on the United States, its lyrics ranging from
harsh ("World War III, when are you coming
for me?") to downright rubbish ("Don't wanna
fight in a holy war / Don't want the salesmen
knocking at my door / I don't wanna live in
America no more"). No one is safe from the
tirade as Win quietly sings, "MTV, what have
you done to me?" Though the song is lyrically
dull, something remains affecting in the lines:
"Why is the night so still? / Why did I take the
pill? / Because I don't wanna see it at my win-
dowsill!"
Though "No Cars Go" appeared on the
band's original EP, the track returns in even
finer form. For anyone who has seen the song
performed live, complete with motorcycle hel-
mets and drumming on virtually anything in
stick range, the new version competes wonder-
fully. An added string section tangled with an
even more hair-raising chanting section makes
the track a masterpiece.
Following an album like Funeral is awfully
tough, but Neon Bible does well despite its fal-
tering midsection. Even though the album will
undoubtedly melt Levis live, the album doesn't
dwarf the current indie scene like its predeces-
sor did.
From such a young band with limitless tal-
ent, surely greater efforts are still to come -
some possibly greater than the group's sterling
debut and its solid follow-up.

un iversity un ions-
almost as good as
[have everyone meet at our place.]
M University
SUnions

To play: Complete the grid so that ev

A'Pocket' full of well-tempered electronica

By CAITLIN COWAN
Daily Arts Writer
Great electronica is difficult to
craft.
When it's too simplistic and
detached it
sounds like
elevator music. ***'%
When it's need-
lessly complex it AIr
sounds geeky and
self-serving. The Pocket
ability to strike a Symphony
balance between Astralwerks
these two
extremes to cre-
ate something beautiful and endur-
ing often proves frustrating.
Unless you're one half of the
French duo Air.
Since the release of their 1998
masterpiece, Moon Safari, Jean-
Benoit Dunckel and Nicolas Godin
have received consistent acclaim
for their unique take on electroni-
ca. While the albums that followed
never quite matched the unparal-
leled beauty and grandeur of their

elusive first release, they remain an
innovative musical force.
Previous albums like 10,000 Hz
Legend, Talkie Walkie and Moon
Safari were filled with serene,
untouchable and far-out experi-
mentation, but Pocket Symphony
carefully hovers just outside the
atmosphere. In a way, Pocket Sym-
phony is a meditation on one theme
and one decidedly middle-of-the-
road sound. And they pull it off.
The album is slick and stream-
lined, like a chrome bullet coming
toward your head in slow motion.
This is aesthetic electronica. Pock-
et Symphony is more somber and
mature than some of Air's other
work, but with guest vocalists Jar-
vis Cocker and Neil Hannon and
producer Nigel Godrich (Radio-
head, Beck), the album succeeds in
treading a fine line between artistry
and accessibility
The opener "Space Maker" is
definitive, firmly introducing the
album. Thick, undulating synth
seeps out from under the hollow
woodblock percussion echoing

throughout, setting the tone for this
stony, spacey album. The first single
"Once Upon a Time" follows, rolling
on the waves of an undulating piano
line.
On "One Hell of a Party" Dunckel
evokes "the burnt-out husk of the
morning" while Godin plays the
koto in the background, a Japanese
string instrument he learned spe-
cifically for the album. The Japa-
nese influence surfaces again on
the aptly titled "Mer du Japon,"
on which Godin plays the koto as
well as the shamisen. The crashing
sound of waves on the shore gives
way to ethereal vocals and carpets
of churning synth beats.
The portentous "Redhead Girl"
sounds almost dated, like some
kind of a cosmic throwback or the
score to a 1980s episode of "Rain-
bow Brite." "Lost Message" feels
similarly passe, but its dream-like
sound somehow ends up charming:
Instead of a burnt-out husk, this
sounds like a space treasure from
the future.
The bubbline "Left Bank" and

Air's electronica
and cheese:
both age well.

l 5

"Somewhere Between Waking and -
Sleeping," on which Hannon sings,j
provide some of the most effective
and introspective moments on the
album: "There is a place that I have
seen / Somewhere between waking
and sleeping/ Now I can almost see
/ Figures upon the shore ... Where
are you taking me?"
The musicbox-like closer "Night
Sight" establishes itself and its pur-
pose from the first sparkling second
as "Space Maker" did in the album's
opening.
While it lacks the epic highs and
lows of some of the duo's previous
work, sandwiched between Pocket
Symphony's overture and finale are
10 of the most fully realized songs
Air has crafted.

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