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March 27, 2009 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-03-27

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Friday, March 27, 2009 -- 5

Ascend ing to
NB C's throne

All-out aural 'Blitz!'

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs go
avant-garde and play off
retro music cliches
By WHITNEY POW
Senior Arts Editor
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are more baffling than
your average band. In an attempt to hype up
its third studio release It's
Blitz!, YYYs released a series ***
of short films called the
"SNAKESWEAT TRILOGY." Yeah Yeah
The films, according to the YeahS
band's blog, provide an inti-
mate look into the "day to day It's Blitz!
recording activities" involved DGC/Interscope
in the making of its music.
The films themselves, how-
ever, are crazy and avant-garde: They're filmed
in black and white, set in the desert and star
guitarist Nick Zinner setting Barbie dolls on
fire and drummer Brian Chase doing yoga on
an industrial oil drum. Perhaps the films really
do document YYYs's daily recording routines,
but, then again, probably not.
One might venture to guess that It's Blitz!,
the album the odd "SNAKESWEAT" films
endorse, is similarly ironic. Just as the films
play off avant-garde art cliches, the album
plays off retro music cliches - namely dance

music of the '70s and '80s - with an abun-
dance of kick-drum-heavy beats, an excess of
Enya-like synths and twangy disco guitars.
The sound is a step removed from sophomore
album Show Your Bones's acoustic center,
and it's a leap away from first studio album
Fever To Tell's art-house rock. But It's Blitz!
is still infused with the previous albums'
penchant for the dark and brooding hidden
beneath catchy melodies and sexy vocals. It's
a welcome move toward a more genre-specific
sound that, while playing off cliches, is ironi-
cally fresh.
It's Blitz! doesn't try to appropriate disco
music per se, but instead creates a moody,
dark parody of it; it's a dance album filmmak-
er David Lynch (in his "Blue Velvet" period)
would have made had he possessed the musi-
cal chops. While the album contains a copious
amount of upbeat dance grooves, its lyrics,
sung by the versatile Karen 0, are hauntingly
ironic and oddly macabre. On "Heads Will
Roll," while Chase knocks out a "Heart of
Glass"-like beat, Olashes out, honey-sweetand
reverb-heavy, "Off with your head / Dance 'till
you're dead / Heads will roll / on the floor."
Songs like "Soft Shock" and "Dull Life"
showcase O's voice as an essential instru-
mental component backing the drums and
guitars; her voice presents the album with a
necessary driving force with its sharp breathy
intonations and deep-throated moans. Still,
certain songs on the album lose their momen-

tum when the band tries to back-track and
revisit sounds from previous albums. "Skel-
etons," with its calming, atmospheric synths
and sparse drummer-boy percussion, tries
too hard to imitate YYYs's single "Maps" with
heartfelt yet overly reminiscent lyrics: "Love
my name / love left dry / Frost or flame / skel-
eton me."
Another such song is "Shame and Fortune,"
which revisits Show Your Bones's sound with
its loud, fuzz-heavy guitar lines and plain,
predictable rhythmic beat that doesn't strive
to achieve It's Blitz!'s twisted retro dance
sound.
The album, however, makes intriguing
headway on tracks including "Dragon Queen,"
where YYYs consciously uses harp plucks and
Bee Gees-reminiscent disco guitars to create
a dark dance feel, and "Zero," which relies
on addictively droning keyboards and Moog
synths.
It's Blitz!'s movement towards a new sound
is a welcome one, but the band on occasion
slips back into safer territory, preferring, at
times, sounds that've been done before. Per-
haps a more gutsy move into dance territory
would have made the album much more out-
standing, but YYYs has already cemented
itself into an art-rock oddity not only with its
Barbie-melting film series but with It's Blitz!'s
conscious foray into uncharted musical terri-
tories that still retains the band's characteris-
tically macabre feel.

By RACHEL HANDLER
DailyArts Writer
"Kings," NBC's overly ambi-
tious attempt at retelling the bibli-
cal story of David
and Goliath, is*
essentially a soap
opera dressed in .n
prime-time dra-
ma's clothing. The Sundays at
plot is complex 8 p.m.
and occasionally NBC
baffling, making
the rewind func-
tion on a DVR more necessary than
ever. But its allegorical overtones
and resonating themes eventually
make it something more than just
arcane melodrama.
The two-hour premiere intro-
duced an alternate reality, a sort
of pseudo-New York City in which
King Silas Benjamin (Ian McShane,
"Deadwood"), ruler of the nation of
Gilboa, unveils his newly built capi-
tal city of Shiloh. Silas continuously
waxed poetic about the moment
God told him he would be king, and
a group of butterflies landed on his
head in the shape of a crown (view-
ers were beaten over the head with
this symbolism throughoutthe pre-
miere).
All of a sudden, it was two years
later, and viewers were intro-
duced to newly war-torn Gilboa
through the eyes of David Shep-
herd (Christopher Egan, "Resident
Evil: Extinction"), the aptly named
populist hero with a heart of gold, a
love for his country and an uncanny
resemblance to Matt Damon.
David and his brother Eli
(MichaelMosley, "The Insurgents")
are Gilboa's answer to white trash
- the siblings initially lived athome
with their mother and ran a car
repair business out of their garage.
The two are now ridiculously moral
and good-natured soldiers fight-
ing against the northern nation
of Gath. When Jack, King Silas's
whiny playboy of a son (Sebastian
Stan, "Law & Order"), was taken
hostage by Gath's soldiers, David
defied his superiors' orders and ran
haphazardly across the border into
the looming headlights of Gath's
tank, predictably named Goliath.
David wasrewarded handsomely
by King Silas, who threw him a lav-
ish banquet, allowed himto date his
daughter Michelle (Allison Miller,
"17 Again"), and gave him a shitty
apartment in Shiloh where he'll
work as army liaison to the press.
Naturally, country boy David was

uncomfortable with all the atten-
tion and all them crazy city folk,
and he spent the rest of the episode
either silent or enigmatically poet-
ic. Conflict ensued when it became
apparent that not everyone in Gil-
boa is on David's side, including
Silas himself.
In any other time or place, this
show may have been solely ridicu-
lous. And in some ways, it still is.
The premiere got off to a slow start,
but divulged shocking plot develop-
ments at an alarmingly rapid rate
during the second hour. We found
out within a matter of minutes that
Jack is gay and Silas has been hav-
ing an affair for years, has an ille-
gitimate son and married his wife
for the financial support of her
brother - who's now refusing to let
him end the war with Gath.
The head-spinning duplicity of
every single character is enough to
make our own reality seem almost
inviting. And unfortunately, the
most cringe-inducing moient
occurred in the very last scene,
when David found himself sur-
rounded by you guessed it - a
When allegory
meets dystopia.
group of butterflies, descending
upon his head in the shape of a
crown while Silas looks on in hor-
ror. "Kings" manages to simultane-
ously echo Shakespeare, the "Bible"
and "The O.C."
And somehow, in 2009, "Kings"
manages to feel relevant. It has
all of the right allegorical ingredi-
ents: There's the nameless, faceless
enemy and the completely inexpli-
cable war; there's the young idealist
demonstrating the futility of fight-
ing to stop a war that's being waged
for all of the wrong reasons; there's
the bright, initially flawless leader
with dark secrets and complicated
interpersonal relationships; and
finally, there's the premiere's end-
ing, which hinted at a sharp and
protracted economic downturn for
Gilboa.
Despite its soapy overtones and
potentially outlandish plot, "Kings"
runs deep, hitting some of the right
nerves. Its intellectually developed
characters, oft-believable dialogue
and timely subject matter save it
from being too much of a guilty
pleasure.

An animation celebration at the AAFF

By ANDREW LAPIN
Daily Film Editor
The short films of Oscar-nom-
inated animator Don Hertzfeldt
employ varying
degrees of seri-
ousness. Some An Evening
shorts, like his wjt Don
absurdist black Hertzeldt
comedy "Billy's
Balloon" (about Tonightat
a child's balloon 7 p.m
that tortures its At the Michigan
owner), are just
meant to make
people laugh. Others, like his four-
years-in-the-making opus "The
Meaning of Life," leave audiences
amazed and in awe of the sheer
creativity and animation prowess
on display.
Then there's the darker side of
Hertzfeldt - the side responsible
for his 2006 Sundance winner
"everything will be ok" and its
sequel, the just-released "i am so
proud of you."
. Both films follow the sad,
strange journey of Bill, a stick
figure who lives every day of
his life in exactly the same way

until he suffers a mental break-
down and must compromise his
suddenly meaningless existence
with the possibility of death. The
films reflect the grim thoughts
of a man shaken out of his banal
state of mind to confront his own
mortality, and their dark nature
stands in direct contrast to the
bright and chipper exteriors of
most mainstream animation. Yet,
on closer inspection, perhaps all
of Hertzfeldt's work shares this
bleak motif.
"I think all of (my films) are
coming from more or less the same
place," Hertzfeldt wrote in an
e-mail interview. "A friend once
pointed out that the chain between
all the films, beneath the comedy,
is 'quiet dread' ... which sounds
like an underground goth band.
But I don't know, maybe it's true."
"i am so proud of you" will be
holding its regional premiere
tonight at 7 p.m. at the Michigan
Theater, when the Ann Arbor Film
Festival presents its program "An
Evening with Don Hertzfeldt."
The event will showcase many
selections from the filmmak-
er's past and present, including

"every:
Ballooi
his Os
and th
mission
which1
Anima
D(
ex
n
Mike
Hertzf
and an
screeni
Hert
movies
increas
ern fil
everytt
can tak
few mi
He e
digitall

thing will be ok," "Billy's bined techniques as "a hybrid way
n," "The Meaning of Life," of getting the best of both worlds,
car-nominated "Rejected" which I think all filmmakers do
e sublimely silly "Inter- now to some degree."
n in the Third Dimension," . He acknowledges his spe-
toured with the 2003 "The cific style can only be achieved
tion Show," produced by with 35mm: "I'm not exaggerat-
ing when I say that, visually, my
last four films would have been
on JHertzfeld impossible to create without this
old camera.:
amines e s "There's so many ways to see
a movie these days, and so many
nieaning via different forms of media buzz-
ing around people's heads that
tick figures. any captive audience anywhere
is a blessing for any filmmaker,"
Hertzfeldt said, commenting on
his perceived status as a fringe
Judge ("Office Space"). filmmaker and his return visits
eldt will hold a question to the AAFF. "I'm just as happy
swer session following the to screen at a festival like Sun-
ing. dance or Ann Arbor as I am at
zfeldt shoots all of his Cannes or at the small local Mud-
on 35mm film - an berg film festival in the middle of
ingly rare sight in mod- nowhere."
mmaking - and animates The filmmaker will next tackle
hing by hand, meaning it the final installment in his "Bill
ke him years to finish just a trilogy," and its eventual comple-
nutes of footage. tion will almost certainly warrant
dits and mixes all the sound another visit to the Ann Arbor
ly, and he views these com- Film Festival.

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