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April 08, 2009 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-04-08

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.come

Wednesday, April 8, 2009 - 5A

A 'Hymn' of
epic beauty
By JACK PORTER the cost of human violence
Daily Arts Writer The next track, "Burial at
Sea," further probes themes of
"Epic" is an overused word. But disaster and loss. The rumbling
to call Hymn to theimmortal Wind timpanis and twanging bass gui-
anything less than epic would be tar chords add to the atmosphere
an understate- of a tumultuous ocean storm.
ment. Epic is to The songthen segues quietly into
be expected of "Silent Flight, Sleeping Dawn."
any album that Mono Led by a repeating piano melody
stretches seven and mournful cellos, the band
tracks for more Hymntothe performs a maudlin dirge that's
than an hour Immortal Wind simple but powerful.
and features a Temporary "Pure as Snow (Trails of the
full symphony Residence Limited Winter Storm)" signals a rebirth
orchestra.Thank- with its bright, ascending guitar
fully, Mono rose figures and triumphant, crash-
even above these expectations and ing drums. Later, swirling dis-
recorded a landmark post-rock torted guitar riffs seem to reach
opus. skyward and erupt into howling
Like any odyssey, the album feedback, creating the sensation
is rife with sound, fury, blood, of being caught in a fierce bliz-
thunder and everything in zard.
between. Because it's entirely The album's journey comes to
instrumental (like the rest of a close with the two-part suite
the Japanese band's work), the of "The Battle to Heaven" and
album's abstract themes are wide "Everlasting Light" While the

"You can alwaysojust use the backdoor!"

A state of horror

the inc
of r
(or at
sic hor
"The I
in Con
is very
part of t

he Haunting in occurred in a Connecticut house
not too long ago. While the tech-
nnecticut' is the nique of adding "based on a true
story" to the beginning of a horror
horror flick that movie can result in an overly dra-
matized plot, "Haunting" breaks
ts the mold and creates a genuinely
paranormal experience.
By HANS YADAV The film follows a financially
DailyArts Writer burdened family forced to find a
home close to a major hospital so
scariest horror stories are that the oldest son can receive can-
the true cer treatment. The mother, Sara
which Campbell (Virginia Madsen, "The
explain **7 y Number 23"), finds a place that's
reasingly cheap, close to the hospital and
trend The Haunting spacious enough for the whole fam-
ecreating j onnecicut ily. But, of course, there's a catch
least re- nobody realizes until it's too late.
ing) clas- At Quality16 Surprisingly, the film's greatest
ror tales. and Showcase asset is its plot, and that's what sep-
Haunting Lionsgate/Gold Circle arates "Haunting" from others in its
necticut" genre. Many of the plot details actu-
much a ally make sense, and the characters
that trend. are not victims just to be victims.
movie begins with real The fact the family has no money
es of the strange events that and is forced to pick an abandoned

home to live in isn't just an arbi-
trary fact - it matters. Even the old-
est son's weakened condition (he's
pretty much living with one foot
in the grave) is made an acceptable
justification for his ability to see the
ghosts. Finally, the strange occur-
rences in the house are teasing and
realistic enough to engage audienc-
es. Ultimately, it's the combination
of realistic detail and plausible sce-
narios that make "Haunting" stand
out from similarly styled films.
Horror films are often criticized
for not being scary enough because
movie audiences have become so
desensitizedtthey're almostimpossi-
ble to scare (especially when watch-
ing with others in the room). So
it's not surprising that "Haunting"
employs age-old, cheap scare tactics
- someone's face suddenly appear-
ing out of the dark, for instance - to
jolt the audience from time to time.
Of course, it would have been nice to
see something disturbing in a mind-
fuck sort of way instead of the tradi-

tional swift camera turns. But a film
can only do so much while main-
taining a cohesive plot and a PG-13
rating. Still, it's unfortunate there's
nothing truly horrific or terrifying
throughout the movie.
While acting is generally not
worth discussing in horror mov-
ies, something must be said for Kyle
Gallner ("Gardens of the Night") as
the ailing son. His portrayal ofaboy
who has little chance of survival
but struggles every day for his fam-
ily is marvelous. He's creepy, but in
an appropriate way. Gallner's per-
formance is yet another detail that
makes "Haunting" stand out just a
little bit more from the pack.
"Haunting" isn't perfect, but
it comes closer than many other
horror movies today, boasting a
provocative story, a few scares and
even some decent acting. Though it
may not be remembered for long,
the film contains elements that hor-
ror movies will (hopefully) adopt in
the future.

open to interpretation. Despite
the album's daunting scale, the
band speaks a language anyone
can understand. Mono applies
paint to the canvas in broad
strokes, drawing on familiar
musical archetypes and focus-
ing on establishing an emotional
connection with its audience.
Because of these stylistic deci-
sions, it's easy to agree with the
band's assertion that the songs
on Immortal Wind are "hymns,"
eventhough they sound more like
a film score. Guitars accompany
the other stringed instruments
in the symphony instead of hog-
ging the limelight, and drummer
Yasunori Takada often abstains
from playing at all. Mono's songs
rise and fall on waves of romantic
stringswells, guiding the listener
from moods of quiet contempla-
tion to wild abandon.
"Ashes in the Snow" sets the
stage with its wistful tremolo gui-
tar and somber strings. Cymbal
crashes build mounting tension
in the background, which is then
released with wild rock drum-
ming and distorted guitar riffs
joiningthe orchestra's melancholy
cries. Its placid moments evoke
images of trudging through a
snowy wasteland, while the more
bracing passages seem to lament

A post-rock
war-cry of "Heaven" echoes
other tracks on the album, "Ever-
lasting Light" is an achievement
that stands on its own. Beginning
with a haunting piano line, the
piece builds for over six minutes,
finally erupting into a transcen-
dent blast of white heat.
Hymn to the Immortal Wind is
a sonic narrative that details the
escape from the horrors of war
and natural disaster ("Ashes in
the Snow" and its counterpart
"Pure as Snow") to the hopeful
ache of rebirth ("The Battle to
Heaven" and its victory found in
"Everlasting Light"). The album
is most immediately read as a
tale of death and ascension, but
it could be cast just as convinc-
ingly as one of grief and accep-
tance. It's a grand and ambitious
work that should deflect criti-
cism with its condensed roman-
tic fervor and universal appeal.
Its broad themes and repeating
melodies may be simple and sac-
charine, but why burden beauty
with subtlety?

ABC's 'Motherhood'
is a maternal mess

UGK's raunchy swansong

Daily Arts Writer
"In the Motherhood," ABC's lat-
est sitcom effort, attempts irony, satire
and feigned awkwardness. But instead
of succeeding at any of those things, it
creates genuine awkwardness. Despite
a great cast including Megan Mullally
("Will & Grace"), Jessica St. Clair ("Unit-
ed States of Tara") and
Cheryl Hines ("Curb
Your Enthusiasm"),
the episodes thus far In the
have been laden with
embarrassingly deriv- Motherhood
ative comic material. Thursdays
What's more, a nontra- at y
ditional sitcom format AB .
only makes matters ABC
worse - the lack of
both a laugh track and a studio audience
makes the silences between flat one-lin-
ers almost deafening.
"Motherhood" follows a group of
three matriarchs, each fitting snugly
into her own stereotype. There's divor-
cee Jane (Hines), fully equipped with a
heightened sense of desperation while
trying to get back into the dating world.
There's her younger sister Emily (St.
Clair), an infuriatingly moral mother
with a fantastic sex life and bizarrely
perfect children who enjoy folding laun-
dry. And then there's Rosemary (Mul-
lally), the blas6 and purportedly derisive
one, who's actually just Karen from "Will
and Grace" on sedatives.
In a way, "Motherhood" is just as des-
perate as the recently divorced Jane.
It jumps on what ABC writers must
believe are trendy bandwagon styles in
an attempt to be relevant. The show is
practically throwing itself unabashedly
at the modern, hip mother demograph-
ic, begging to be relatable and fresh.
Efforts to distract from the show's emp-
tiness abound, including an oddly bright
color palette, lots of makeup, countless
sexual innuendos and plenty of pop cul-
ture references. The premiere included
Horatio Sanz ("$NL") as a Hispanic

"manny" (male nanny) who speaks in
whale language, an annoying coworker
(Ken Marino, "Role Models") who does
"Borat" impressions and Rosemary's
"social experiment" that involves faking
pregnancy to get free coffee.
And then there's the writing. Though
the show clearly attempts to thwart the
sitcom curse of the obvious punch line, it
forgets to dodge the equally scene-ruin-
ing phenomenon of the unfunny joke.
"It's just like riding a bicycle - without
the seat," and "Get on it, girl!" serve as
words of wisdom, offered when Jane
finds herself nervous about having sex
again. And when manny Sanz falls off
a roof in a Santa Clause costume (in yet
another hackneyed moment), Rosemary
assures Emily's children, "Don't worry
kids, it's not blood, it's Christmas Juice!"
In a similarly conspicuous move, the
pilot is chock full of "hip" comedians
including Sanz, Marino and Rachael
Harris ("Notes From The Underbelly"),
who flail helplessly in the sea of predict-
able writing. Never before has so much
comic talent seen so little comic mate-
rial. But to be fair, the scenes between
Sanz and Mullally, in which the two con-
spire to further Rosemary's imaginary
Even hip moms
will hate it.
pregnancy, stand alone as the only truly
funny performances.
"Motherhood" is essentially an
ill-advised mishmash of pop culture
shout-outs and forced irreverence that
amounts to no more than its failed
sitcom predecessors. The writers of
"Motherhood" should realize there's no
reason to revive the split-screen phone
call scene or the cheerful montage scene,
especially when accompanied by equally
jovial music. And it looks like there will
be no reason to revive "Motherhood" for
a second season, either.

Daily Arts Writer
After more than 15 years of big pimpin',
straight hustling and riding dirty, hip
hop's "trillest" duo UGK
is no more. The 2007
death of rapper Pimp C
(due to a combination of UGK
sleep apnea and a pre-
sumably elephantine UGK4Life
amount of promethaz- Zomba
ine) has forced surviv-
ing group member Bun
B to declare that UGK 4 Life will indeed
be the pair's final album together. It's the
bookend to a long, sporadic career that is
perhaps defined more by popular guest
appearances than the group's own hit-or-
miss catalog.
Largely recorded before Pimp C's
death, UGK 4 Life is no sentimental tribute
record. Actually, there's hardly a whisper
of the late rapper's demise. Instead, the
album offers UGK's typical lyrical fare:
salutes to various chemicals ("Swishas
& Erb"), filthy sexual anecdotes ("Harry
Asshole") and general hip-hop thuggery
(pretty much the whole record). That's a
good move - the refusal to get sappy and
mawkish turns out to be the most fitting
tribute of all, considering Pimp C's long
devotion to keeping it real.
If only the album's quality was as con-
sistent as UGK's uncompromising credos.

With the familiar balance of laid back,
bass-heavy West Coast production and
Dirty South cadence, the pair doesn't real-
ly venture outside its musical precedents.
The most notable feature of the beats is
the prominent use of guitar. There's more
six-string on the album than on most
indie rock releases these days, resulting
in an organic, funky vibe not heard since
Death Row's heyday in the mid-'90s. But
for every solid song, there seems to be an
equally abominable counter-track.
First, the abysmal: UGK pays homage
to the bouncy, synth-heavy type of club
banger exemplified by Usher's "Love In
This Club" and T.I's "Whatever You Like"
by basically ripping them off. Take the
vocals off 4 Life's "Used to Be" and you're
left only with the production's compara-
tive awfulness to distinguish it from its
precursors. Where T.I. and Usher treated
listeners to crowd-pleasing choruses on
their hits, UGK neglected to supply the
requisite hook. Even more baffling, the
duo extends the already played-out con-
cept to a mind-numbing five and a half
minutes, making the dead-on-arrival track
even worse.
Similarly offensive is "Harry Asshole,"
which, I guess, the less said, the better
("When she pops it from the back /you see
that hairy asshole"). The title pretty much
covers it. The Akon-supported "Hard as
Hell" is less fetishistic but just as graphic.
It's a standard-issue Akon production, and

the group's prurient verses do little to save
it from the dregs of banality.
Still, the album's not without its saving
graces. Arguably the strongest cut, "She
Luv It" boasts an infectious, carefree aura
and a classic hip-hop chorus. UGK enlist
the help of Ron Isley on "The Pimp and
The Bun," the album's most soulful track
by far. The combination of seductive gui-
It has a song called
'Harry Asshole.'
Enough said.
tar lines and Isley's silky vocals makes for
a track that transcends the album's gen-
eral air of stifling mediocrity.
UGK's final album is assuredly not the
group's best (that distinction could go to
either 2007's double-disc Underground
Kingz or 1996's Ridin' Dirty). Apart from a
few stellar standouts, a couple fetid mis-
steps and some cringe-worthy moments
in which Pimp C portentously mentions
cough syrup (his death drink), UGK 4 Life
rarely elicits any strong feelings at all.
And as for the memory of Pimp C, a man
renowned for uncouth expression and lyr-
ical bombast, listener apathy could be the
biggest disservice of all.

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