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April 14, 2009 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Tuesday, A pril 14, 2009 - 5

ALBUM REVIEW

Are we the
post-originality
generation?

11 original thought is
effectively dead." I would
attribute this quote to a
face, but this little zinger has been
spit out and
reprocessed
so many times
it has become
about as dead
as the original
thought it's
supposed to JOSH
represent. Well,
not dead maybe,
but it's at least
become a household idiom (that
is, if said "house" is situated in
the angsty nihilism of the college
campus).
Ever since the modernist
boom of the early 20th century,
which was a cultural movement
that called for a wholesale coup
d'9tat of tried-and-true artistic
conventions in favor of outside-
the-box experimentation, the
knights of the intellectual round
table have segued into discussing
postmodernism. And, in short,
postmodernism is the belief that
all fathomable modes of formal
innovation have already been
deflowered, and that all we can
do now as artists is play mix-and-
match with the modernist devices
our artisanal forebears have so
generously handed down to us.
Of all the art forms, music has
probably had the longest shelf
life in terms of legitimate inno-
vation (that is, if you boot video
games out of the equation). This
is largely due to technology's
inextricable role in sonic evolu-
tion - with the invention of each
new instrument, a new genre (or
two, or five) has followed. The
electric guitar? Hello rock'n'roll.
The synthesizer? Late '70s New
Wave and electro-pop. The drum
machine, the music sequencer and
any other techno-apparatuses of
the digital age? The birth of elec-
tronic music.
The sampler occupies a para-
doxical spot on this timeline
of musical modernization, as it
paved the way for a "new" genre
(bastard pop, mash-up, Girl Talk-
ianism, whatever you want to call
it) comprised of noises that have
already been made by other peo-
ple, serving as a sort of ambiguous
hinge between modernism and
postmodernism.
Theater's implicit niche as
the "timelessly nostalgic art
form" prevents it from being too
developmentally dependent on
technology, and relatively recent
technological advances in film
(like CGI and digital rotoscop-
ing) have served to evolve aes-
thetics rather than create new
genres (unless you count "the
Pixar movie" as a genre). But the
perpetually shapeshiftingastate
of music technology kept it a rela-
tively fluid art form up until about
the mid-'90s. Suddenly, computer
programs and digital sound pro-
cessing have given us the ability
to synthesize any noise our hearts
desired. And I guess my question
to the future of formal innovation
in music is this: What's next?
Technology has bestowed
upon us a sort of platonic dream
machine - a wish to end all wish-
es. And while digital audio pro-
grams can (and will) be infinitely
. revamped, it's hard to imagine
any device that could drastically
revolutionize the course of music
history (barring the idea of a
contraption that enables us to

hear in a new dimension and/or
induces synesthesia). It seems, at
this point, that we've sufficiently
emptied our bag of tricks.
Just look at the past few years:
All of the major musical "move-
ments" have been little more than
WANT TO
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E-mail battlebots@umich.edu.

mass pilgrimages to the nostalgia
bank. Last year, it was the rootsy
folk-rock revival, with rustic-
minded artists like the Fleet
Foxes, Bon Iver and The Dodos
dropping name-making records.
A few moments before that, it was
the disco revival, with dance-
punk babies like LCD Soundsys-
tem and The Rapture adding a
Gen-Y edge to the bouncy synth-
pop and post-punk of the late '70s.
Hell, at this rate I wouldn't be
shocked if 2009 ended up going
down as the year of the "revival
revival."
Postmodernism seems to have
reached such full swing in the
field of music that we're even
getting what are fundamentally
"pastiche bands" - bands that
harness their appeal by subjecting
us to a giant game of spot-the-
influence. Indie rock outfit Tapes
'n Tapes wears its patchwork
quilt of influences on its flannel-
wearing, counterculture sleeves,
functioning as a sort of walk-
through museum of the college
rock circuit. Like Quentin Taran-
tino. flicks, these quintessentially
postmodern bands specialize in
Using old sounds
to create new
music is all we
can do anymore.
the flattening of musical history,
compressing decades of formal
innovation into one nifty little
MP3 file.
As an artist, this notion that
original thought is effectively
dead is particularly alarming.
What's the point of calling myself
a creator when all I'm really doing
is making club sandwiches from
unconsciously pilfered fragments
of shaved ham and stagnant
culture? When my film history
GSI told us we're nothing more
than passive receptacles of a
consumerist society, my artistic
ego flipped a shit. I went down
the whole "I'm just a genetically
predisposed bundle of automatic
responses to stimuli, caught in the
pinball machine of natural law"
rabbit hole - and that's never any
fun.
But then I thought about some
of my favorite bands - bands that
continue to produce (in my opin-
ion) seminal records after this
postmodern hump. The Flaming
Lips may not have invented psy-
chedelic pop, but I think it can be
unanimously agreed upon that no
album in existence sounds any-
thing like The Soft Bulletin. And
while Animal Collective hasn't
technically invented a genre, the
band has managed to craft an
exotic sound that's undeniably its
own.
Cynics and theorists can con-
tinue to hammer out proofs that
original thought is effectively
dead - in a way, I agree with
them. But in the end, music is all
about the x-factor; something
much less tangible than any
Sony Acid Kit. And if I can create
anything that gives people the
same kind of shivers I get while
listening to a song like "Phantom
Other" by the Department of
,Eagles, I'm not going to give a fly-

ing fuck that I'm ripping off Paul
McCartney a little bit.
Bayer's column is really a
pastiche of writing from other
writers. tell him how po-mo
he is at jrbayer a umich.edu.
Going Home?
1*3
When it's time to pack up and
movesatcal as We specialize
sn packing and shipping small
loads. Computers, skis, bikes...
youa eit

>URTESY OF PLUS ONE

Before and after the bull attack.

Most I
Upbeat 'Playground' is the
perfect album for ringing in
the spring sunshine
By DAVID RIVA
Daily Arts Writer
The snow has thawed and the sun shines
bright - the annual winter
depression has faded just ***J
in time for the sophomore
release of indie's cheeriest The Boy
duo, The Boy Least Likely To. Lead
According to some, spring is
a time for picnics, long walks LikelyTo
and a renewed sense of opti- The Law of the
mism. The Law of the Play-P
ground, lined with playful Payground
melodies and lighthearted Plus One
lyrics, is the perfect sound-
track for the season.
A band with an odd name like Boy Least
Likely To must be difficult to pin down con-
ceptually and musically. The band attempts
to define itself in one song in particular, "The
Boy Least Likely To Is a Machine," which play-
fully alludes to the band's conception ("I made
a machine / called The Boy Least Likely To")
only to follow with the confusingly immature
"It feeds me shortbread biscuits / and it makes

kely to
my little dreams come true." The juvenile
antics persist throughout the album and force
a question: How does a band that creates such
happy-go-lucky songs gain the respect of the
highly pretentious scene in which it resides?
To answer this question, one must take
time to understand the band's music. The
song structures are relatively simple, but the
band's pop sensibility and creativity produce
a consistently vivacious soundscape bursting
with energy. Employment of unconventional
instrumentation, including a banjo and wash-
board combo ("When Life Gives Me Lemons,
I Make Lemonade") and a violin solo inject-
ed with buzzy synth chords ("Every Goliath
Has His David"), is vital to keeping the band's
sound interesting while avoiding staleness
and redundancy.
Ultimately, TBLLT's ability to match its lyr-
ics to the overall feel of its songs distinguish-
es Playground. "The Boy With Two Hearts"
reflects the manner in which the band craftily
connects its narrative lyrics with its music. The
track tells the tale of a young lad who is too full
of love. The "oom-pah" of the trombone evokes
the image of a boy with an awkward and unat-
tractive demeanor, but the gentle glockenspiel
line reveals his charming personality and good
intentions.
Playground's witty yet immature lyrics are
equal parts self-deprecating and self-assured.
Frontman Jof Owen sings with a severe lack

of confidence, always pondering the prospects
of love and heroism. Owen sums up this sen-
timent in "Stringing Up Conkers" when he
exclaims, "I just want to change the world in
whatever little way I can," which is followed by
an appropriately understated harmonica solo.
Some may deem this bashful optimism
refreshing while others may find it bother-
some and annoying. Still, the presentation of
the subject matter is tasteful and flawlessly
falls in line with the album's many lush melo-
dies. TBLLT's cheerfulness is never forced and
never oblivious in a Pollyanna-ish sort of way.
The closing track showcases the way TBLLT
retains its realistic perspective while toying
around with fanciful ideas. "A Fairytale End-
ing" twists the conventional happily-ever-after
tale by viewing it with a much more rational
perspective. The song introduces themes of
gallantry and childish bravery before snapping
back into the harsh truth of reality.
The closing line, "Limping off into the sun-
set / with our tails between our legs / Mutter-
ing quietly to myself / and wondering if this
is the way that / my fairytale ends" seems to
come to the conclusion that valiant ambitions
may not always come out as one intends. In this
sense, TBLLT puts into practice the lessons it
sings about: It takes valiant stabs at creativity
without sounding too ambitious, which, fortu-
nately for them, results in songs that contain
meaning that is deeper than it first appears.

An unusually nuanced cop show

By CAROLYN KLARECKI
Daily Arts Writer
It seems like too many TV pro-

grams have
been avoiding
the unusual.
There are
about five tele-
vision genres
and - with
the excep-
tion of a few

The Unusuals
Wednesdays
at 10 p.m.
ABC

standouts -
they all have the same predictable
plots. ABC's new crime-comedy
"The Unusuals," however, merges
genres in an attempt to break with
often-used molds.
When off-duty NYPD Detective
Burt Kowalski is murdered, Casey
Schraeger (Amber Tamblyn,
"The Sisterhood of the Traveling
Pants") is promoted and paired
with Kowalski's former partner,
Detective Jason Walsh (Jeremy
Renner, "28 Weeks Later") to
find the killer. However, Sergeant
Harvey Brown (Terry Kinney,
"Canterbury's Law") reveals to
Schraeger that the department
is corrupted, and her real job is
to uncover the detectives' many
secrets in hopes of nabbing the
infiltrator.
"The Unusuals" doesn't just
feature gritty murder crimes.
In fact, its best moments come
from smaller cases that ordinary
crime shows would never think to
feature. In the premiere, Detec-

tives Eric Delahoy (Adam Gold-
berg, "Saving Private Ryan") and
Leo Banks (Harold Perrineau,
"Lost") tried to bring down the
man responsible for a number of
cat thefts. First disappointed to
be stuck with such a dull assign-
ment, they ended up taking it
too seriously, and humor ensued
when the detectives gave the cat
thief a hardcore interrogation,
Flight down to shoving a bright
light in his face.
One particularly original ele-
ment of the show is that it comes
back from commercial breaks
with amusing broadcasts from
dispatch - one instructed officers
to watch out for a man dressed as
a hot dog who "may or may not
be yielding a samurai sword."
The dispatches also provide an
excellent example of the level of
detail in "The Unusuals": The
hot dog-samurai-swordsman
as well as the other suspects
described by the dispatch can
be seen in the station's back-
ground throughout each epi-
sode. These clever moments
give "The Unusuals" a style
distinct from other crime
shows.
"The Unusuals" is com-
prised of an impressively tal-
ented cast, and its characters
have well-defined, bizarre
personalities. Banks is a safety
freak who never removes his
bulletproof vest, but his part-
ner Delahoy seems a bit eager

to get himself killed in the line of
duty. Their opposing natures lead
to a genuinely comical relation-
ship, and each actor plays his role
commendably.
The most disappointing aspect
of "The Unusuals," though, is
that it's not really that unusual
(apart from the wacky subplots).
It even has a
hot-dog ninja.
There weren't many surprises
in seeking out Kowalski's mur-
derer - the romantic chemistry
between Schraeger and Walsh
is pretty predictable, and the
corrupt detective is revealed in
the first episode. It's all a huge

letdown for those who like to
theorize along with the protago-
nist. The show's promotional ads
boasted "a different kind of cop
show" and shoved the idea down
everyone's throats, but, while
"The Unusuals" is definitely not
boring, it's also not the ground-
breaking masterpiece ABC makes
it out tobe.
Still, the characters' wit and
intelligence and the strange cases
they try to solve compensate for
some of the show's predictability
and unoriginality. These qualities
may be lost on those who are put
off by the show's reliance on sub-
tle cleverness and weird subplots
rather than its main storyline.
Hopefully, new twists will be pre-
sented as the series continues and
"The Unusuals" will earn a spot
among TV's best.

*ucrnu m i

I

Clementa
a novel
Jim Martin
in 3 future world where hcrumnkind
has learned how to thrive in harmony
with a flourishing Nature, an oppressed
People awakens to its rage.

Mi1353navoav.com

2Pleas visit cletmentais'vel.coms.

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