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December 01, 2008 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2008-12-01

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Monday, December 1, 2008 -5A

Grandiose
album goes
small town

By MIKE KUNTZ
For the Daily
Brandon Flowers would love
for you to believe that his band,
The Killers, is the most important
act around. With
towering cho- *
ruses and soaring
arrangements The Killers
thattry so hard to
give the Romeo- Day&Age
in-rags-themed Island
ballads a sense
of purpose, almost every song by
the Las Vegas quartet seems larger
than life.
But with lyrics constantly
exploring penniless small-town
glories and choruses ready-made
for fist-pumping fans, it's hard not
to crack a smile at the irony of the
million-dollar pop production that
bathes each Killers song.
Since the release of 2004's Hot
Fuss, Flowers and the gang have
had a merciless obsession with the
music of the '80s. The band draws
as much from the poignant nar-
ratives of Springsteen and playful
warbles of David Byrne as from
the dance pop of Duran Duran and
New Order. With Day ft Age, the
band takes a bolder step into the
past, employing countless layers

of pristine production to give the
album's revivalist dance-rock a
surprisingly fresh sheen.
Day ftAge follows the more dar-
ing moments of 2006's Sam's Town
and elevates them to uncharted
highs. Broadening the band's
instrumentation with promi-
nent saxophone on album opener
"Losing Touch" and pleasantly
sprinkling steel drums over the
world-beat-tinged track "I Can't
Stay," the Killers expand beyond
their synth-pop horizons.
Flowers's examination of moder-
nity pervades the album, providing
a thematic backdrop that gives Day
ft Age more continuity than their
previous releases. In the resigned
philosophizing of "The World We
See KILLERS, Page 8A

"Don't move. Your forehead looks stunning in this light."

Dysfunctional fun

Hip-hop gang
supports Luda
in leading role.

Holiday season comedy
balances silly slapstick
with realistic humor
By ANNIE LEVENE
Daily Arts Writer
The holiday season is often associated with
happiness and the ever-popular notion of
"peace on earth." But any
sort of occasion thatinspires
family members to gather in
close quarters is also bound
to result in some kind of dys- Four
function (especially as far as CjhiStmseS
spiked' eggnog is involved.)
Christmas is a holiday At Qualityl16
where sass and stress go and Showcase
hand-in-hand with sweet- New Line
ness and stocking stuffers.
Holiday-themed films have
long relied on this classiccrope for plot lines
and "Four Christmases" is no exception to the
rule.
"Christmases" tells the story of Brad (Vince
Vaughn, "The Break Up") and Kate (Reese
Witherspoon, "Rendition"), a blissfullyunmar-
ried couple who are bonded by their uncon-
ventional long-term relationship. For the two
characters, marriage is highly optional, having
children seems unreasonable and contact with
family is unnecessary. And that makes sense
because both Brad and Kate are products of
divorced parents. In an effort to remove them-
selves from any holiday drama, the couple has

spent the past few Christmases lying to their
parents aboutcvolunteering in foreign countries
to slip off to a peaceful, private vacation. When
a sudden fog grounds all outgoing flights, Kate
and Brad are caught by a news crew - and sub-
sequently, their parents - and are forced to
celebrate four Christmases, one at each of their
parents' houses.
It's a romantic comedy, so ofcourse problems
for the couple arise in the familiar form of low-
brow hi-jinks: Brad falls from his father's roof

and Kate chases her niece all over the house in
order to retrieve a pregnancytest she justtook.
But at itscore, "Christmases" differs from other
rom-coms. First, while the humor is far from
sophisticated, the film is actually quite funny.
Also, unlike other films in the genre where
couples are held apart and brought together by
extraordinary circumstances, "Christmases"
is strangely rooted in reality. Brad and Kate's
relationship suffers because of a realistic
See CHRISTMASES, Page 8A

By JEFF SANFORD
DailyArts Writer
The artistic integrity of Chris
"Ludacris" Bridges's work is open
to debate, but from an objective
perspective, there's no denying
that hip hop's
renaissance
man was born
to entertain. .
He peppers
his verses with Theater of
stand-up-esque the Mind
punch lines and DTP
cleverly ris-
que metaphors.
Early in his career, when making
records no longer satisfied him, he
brought well-seasoned charisma
to the big screen in a relatively
successful foray into film, occa-
sionally checking up on the music
world and dropping an album to
remind everyone he could still
spit with the best.
Now, Luda aims to bring his
newly formed cinematic insight
back to hip hop with the film-
themed Theater of the Mind.
Within the conceptual glam-
our of Theater, featured rappers
aren't just guests, but co-stars.
Ving Rhames narrates a track a la
Isaac Hayes in the "Shaft" theme,
and a brief appearance by direc-
tor Spike Lee lends the album a
vague sense of directorial super-
vision.
But despite the superficial
attempts at maintaining the film
motif, the only common thread
holding the tracks together is
Luda's lyrical wit and unmis-
takable dirty-South flow. The
album's artwork - which sees
various incarnations of Ludacris
expressing varying emotions - no
doubt alludes to his engagement
in an array of hip-hop personas
throughout the record. Depend-
ing on the track, he's a boastful,
self-aware industry titan, a moral-
izing-for-the-kids street preacher
or a thugged-out, ho-slaying
gangster.
The versatility needed to take
on such varied identities, not to
mention the inherent contradic-
tion of assuming all these roles
on the same album, would spell
disaster for just about any other
emcee. But Luda pulls it off with
convincing ease, implanting his
homespun humor and dead-on
similes to make the multiple per-
sonalities mesh perfectly.
The list of "co-stars" on Theater

reads like the attendance sheet
of some high council of hip hop:
Nas, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, the Game,
T.I. and Common all contribute
verses. There's the obligatory
T-Pain track "One More Drink,"
in which Luda revels in the beau-
tifying effect alcohol has on the
more cosmetically disadvantaged.
He ultimately decides "People are
too picky these days." On "I Do It
for Hip Hop," Luda proves himself
a hip-hop purist, spitting a heart-
felt verse over a brilliant J Dilla-
inspired beat.
Considering the legendary
guest list, it's funny that the
album's most powerful track finds
Ludacris without lyrical support.
On "MVP," he sounds as raw and
zealous as he was on his debut,
announcing "I'm still hungry as
Breakingfrom
the big screen,
Ludacris keeps
his street cred.
the day I began." DJ Premier's
beat is a monster, conjuring up
the gritty streetwise production
that made his work on Illmatic the
stuff of legends.
Still, not everything on Theater
works. Throwaway songs pol-
lute the track list, like the unin-
spired "Wish You Would" and the
tediously predictable "Nasty Girl."
First single "What Them Girls
Like" sounds like a cheap Pharrell
knock-off.
These are minor qualms,
though, and just like any cinemat-
ic experience, a few bad scenes
don't drastically compromise big-
picture entertainment. Which
is, for all intents and purposes,
Luda's true forte.

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