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January 22, 2010 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2010-01-22

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
'Heart'of a washout
Tffr~*i--- -

Friday, January 22, 2010 - 5
Tap and ballet
meet Radiohead

Jett bridges echoes
Mickey Rourke's Randy
"The Ram" Robinson, but
with a gentler touch
By TIMOTHY RABB
Daily Arts Writer
As powerful and emotionally evocative
as its message of hopeless struggle is, Dar-
ren Aronofsky's gritty
character study that epit-
omizes "The Wrestler"
ends too ambiguously to Crazy Heart
provoke any change in its
audience. Despite Mickey Atthe
Rourke's standout perfor- Michigan
mance, this lack of reso- FoxSearchlight
lution feels rather hollow
and trite, considering
that the same despairing, inconsequential
endings are reworked time and time again
in an increasingly cynical society. But now,
a year later, debut director Scott Cooper
has set out to prove that not all lost souls
are fated to perpetual wandering.
Part contemporary road film and part
musical, "Crazy Heart" invites us to walk
a mile in the boots of Bad Blake (Jeff
Bridges, "The Big Lebowski"), a folk artist
whose pitiable state pales in comparison
to his former glory. Blake is a stereotypi-
cal failed musician; living in the shadow of
his former protege, Tommy Sweet (Colin
Farrell, "Pride and Glory"), he continually
struggles to make a respectable living and
to forge meaningful relationships despite
the rootless nature of a life on the road.
Even at first glance, the parallels
between "Crazy Heart" and Aronofsky's
low-budget gem "The Wrestler" are evi-

That random guy on the Diag, 40 years later.
dent. Washout Blake (who hasn't yet real-
ized he's a washout) finds his true love
Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal, "The
Dark Knight") and subsequently endures a
series of unfortunate trials. Like Rourke's
Randy "the Ram" Robinson, Blake is
estranged from what little remaining fam-
ily he has, and his doctor heckles him for
his poor lifestyle choices. Essentially, he's
faced with many of the same difficult life
decisions that determined the Ram's fate
in "The Wrestler."
In contrast to the Ram, Blake's genuine
nature is far more relevant to his story,
and he makes sensible choices based on
the hard lessons he learns. Though the
story's resolution may not seem ideal, it
certainly doesn't lambaste the possibil-
ity of reformation. And no one can dis-
pute the effectiveness of folk music as a
presentational format - Blake's crooning

lamentations, ample belly, choice liquor
and portable plastic chamber pot are far
more endearing than the Ram and his
constant presence in strip clubs and tan-
ning salons.
Make no mistake; "The Wrestler" and
its unlikely protagonist are formidable
predecessors to Blake and his meander-
ing quest for identity. But the methods of
the former exaggerate things too much
to retain plausibility, and (like Aronof-
sky's "Requiem for a Dream") the feeling
of manipulation one gets after watching
it is more akin to the ignorant propa-
ganda of a D.A.R.E. commercial than a
realistic character piece. "Crazy Heart"
expounds on the concepts of isolation
and self-destruction in ways that a main-
stream audience can more easily relate to,
and that certainly represents a marked
improvement.r

By BRAD SANDERS
For theDaily
It's that time of the year when a
select group of students trades in boots
and winter footwear for tap and danc-
ing shoes. The Pur-
eRhythM show is PURE Dance
a display of PURE
Dance Xtreme's and Xtreme and
the RhythM Tap RhythM Tap
Ensemble's dedica-
tion and hard work Ensemble
throughout the fall Tonight at
semester. 730 p.m.
PURE Dance Mendelssohn
Xtreme's jazz and bal- Theatre
let style will be paired Ticketsfrom $5
with songs ranging
from classical to mod-
ern pop. RhythM Tap Ensemble will be
tap dancing to a similarly wide range
of music, from Radiohead to Broadway
hits. Both groups will share the stage
and combine their forms of dance in
the finale, accompanied by The Beatles'
"Come Together."
"We try to do a variety of numbers
to diversify our performance, as well as
add an element of surprise," said Nurs-
ing senior and Laura Langberg, direc-
tor of RhythM. "You don't normally see
people tap dancing to a Radiohead song,
but it works."
Three other groups will also be per-
forming: the Michigan Bhangra Team,
an Indian dance group, Encore, a hip-
hop dance group and Compulsive Lyres,
an a capella group.
"We get invited to different student
groups' performances, so we like to
invite others to ours," explained Kinesi-
ology senior and RhythM dancer Jessica
Rapp.
Langbergfeels akinship with 'U' alum
and co-founder of PURE Dance Xtreme
Shelby Kaufman, who now dances pro-
fessionally in New York City.
"Shelby believed that dance was the
lost art of American youth, and strived to
bring it back to campus," Langberg said.
Both groups are largely made up of
girls with intense dance backgrounds.
"I've been dancing since I was three
because my mom is a dance teacher, so
she inspired me to pursue it," Langberg
said. "The group is very advanced and is
'coffipletely stiudent run, Ahd'gives inulti-
ple members the chance to choreograph
pieces for the performance."
"I've been dancing since I was five,

primarily ballet," said Business senior
and PURE Dance co-director Gina De
Silva. "I danced all throughout high
school, and during smy freshman year of
college I missed it and wanted to keep up
my skills."
Rapp, too, had a similar experience.
"I've been dancing since I was five as
well, in all styles such as tap, jazz and
ballet," Rapp said. "My dance company
in high school was -focused on tap, and
I had actually heard of RhythM before I
came to Michigan, so I joined freshman
year."
In addition to their love for dance,
PURE Dance Xtreme and RhythM Tap
Ensemble hope to create a sense of unity
within their groups.
"Joining this group is a great way to
come in contact with people you would
never have met otherwise, who share an
interest for different kinds of dance," De
Silva said. "We have five freshmen on our
team, so it's fun to be their mentors and
have participants from every age group."
Both groups, however, sometimes
struggle with finding funds for their
performances, but use their creativity as
a solution.
"(PURE Dance is) not funded at all by
the University, so it's really hard to pay
for everything that comes along with
a performance, such as renting out the
theater," De Silva said.
A variety of dance
and musical styles.
"RhythM is partially funded by the
University, but we have to figure out
our costumes and other factors by our-
selves," Langberg added. "We try to find
various ways to use things we already
have, look for cheaper items, or make
things, because we don't want people to
feel pressured to spend a lot of money on
costumes."
"We try to keep our costumes very
clean, and nothing too exorbitant,"
Rapp said.
Both groups share unbridled enthu-
siasm for the upcoming PureRhythM
show.
"We spend a'lot of"tithe prdcticing
and we all love performing, and we hope
it will be a great show," Langberg said.
"We're very excited."

RJD2's dynamic 'Colossus'

By SHARON JACOBS
AssistantArtsEditor
The Colossus opens big. With
bombastic trumpet bursts
anchored by a pulsating hip-
hop beat and
occasionally
Ibedkei up
by a heavy, RJD2
vaguely Mid-
dle Eastern TheColossus
* motif, opener Rs Electrical
"Let There Be Connections
Horns" lets
RJD2 loose at his instrumen-
tal finest - thick, melodic and
mesmerizing.
The creatively named Ram-
ble John Krohn (RJD2 is a
nickname from his high school
days) has always been bold.
Melding instrumental hip hop
and ambient electronica, he
managed to create a sound like
nothing else on his 2002 debut
album, Deadringer.
With an approach that rang-
es from unashamedly badass
("The Horror") to lounge-style
classy ("A Beautiful Mine" -
the theme song for TV's "Mad
Men"), RJD2's musical reper-
toire is vast and varied. Often
compared to California-based
DJ Shadow, RJD2 similarly

sticks to instrumental tracks.
So the world was confused
when, on 2007's The Third
Hand, RJ suddenly started
singing - and not very well.
But The Colossus shows lis-
teners what RJD2 has been get-
ting at the whole time. Most of
the album's'sorigs have l yics,
but RJ treats the vocal track
like another instrument, using
vocals to support the instru-
mentals instead of the other
way around. And as he explains
in an overdone Cockney accent
on "Salud 2," he's "assembled a
healthy bunch of folks who are
much more talented than (he
is)" to lend their voices to the
album.
As if ambient instrumen-
tal hip-hop electronica wasn't
enough of a mouthful, RJ has
added even more styles to The
Colossus. Single "Games You
Can Win" has somewhat of a
retro-soul feel, with Ethiopi-
an-born singer Kenna croon-
ing "Keep your mouth shut 'til
you get in / And only play the
games you can win." Only its
gentle chimes keep the track in
the realm of twinkly trip-hop.
"A Son's Cycle" is the hard-
est-rapping RJD2 song yet
- its bass line is simple and

its ele
minim
Cataly
vide a
sphere
The
the wt
Flowe
what c
lounge
Corpo
Th
the
fu
"Giz
Thieve
sion.
ing be
plucke
sound
early
domin
the tr.
the lil
been h
But
porati

ectronic embellishments background music. His songs
aal, letting guests The have enough exciting build-
st, Illogic and NP pro- ups and powerful backbeats to
heavy rhythmic atmo- stand on their own, and while
e. some of the tracks on Colossus
pan flute melody and wouldn't be out of place on a
oridly drum beat of "Tin movie soundtrack, they create
r" adds Andean flair to imagery that begs the listener's
ould alrhiost be a track by" 'Attstftiotl."" """"1"
e-music buddies Thievery At times catchy ("The
ration. Glow"), at times kitschy ("Walk
With Me"), but neither too
ridiculous nor too serious,
' iad ]M[en' The Colossus could easily have
spread its focus too wide and
nmecre to lost all cohesiveness. But some-
thing holds it together - maybe
ink-infused the thick production, maybe
the delicate chimes that pop up
new disc. on several songs.
Penultimate track "The
Stranger" has the smoothest
buildup on The Colossus, as a
ant Squid" also has a funk-infused melody is gradu-
ery-esque global infu- ally overcome by a choral motif
Above a simple puls- with power that grows over
rat comes a synthesized four minutes. It represents all
d instrument that that The Colossus is: animated
s like a harpsichord or and dynamic, drawing its influ-
guitar. Whatever it is, it ences from unexpected places
ates the last minute of and putting it all together in a
ack with an intense solo creative way. With The Colos-
kes of which have never sus, RJD2 has carved out a
eard before. niche for himself in the all-
unlike Thievery Cor- encompassing genre that is
on, RJD2 doesn't write good music.

The Spooniest Spoon yet

Asphalt rivalry makes for asinine television

By NICK YRIBAR
For the Daily
It's the best trick a documentarian can
pull off when she takes something obscure
- something usually
available only to the initi-
ated - and makes it acces-
sible. Better still when Madhouse
she makes it entertaining.
Recent documentaries Sundays at
have found critical and 10 p.m.
commercial success in History
this vein; "King ofKong: A
Fistful of Quarters" made
competitive, retro video-gaming a harrow-
ing human drama; "Spellbound" did the
same with youth spelling bees.
Television, especially in the form of
reality television, has aimed in the same
direction with mixed results. For every
"Pawn Stars" success story, there's three
or four iterations of "Fat Camp" trailing
behind, making us dumber one hour at
a time. History's new show "Madhouse"
aspires to something transcending fluff,
something like a meaningful exploration
of a particular American subculture. In
the end, it falls short.
"Madhouse" is focused on the 16-week
stock car racing season at Bowman Gray
Stadium in Winston-Salem N.C., a leg-
endary race track that was one of the first
NASCAR certified venues. The action is
centered .on the personalities and clashes
of four racing teams, and it shows their col-
lisions both on and off the race track. Two

of the teams, the Millers and the Myers,
have been nicknamed the "Hatfield's and
McCoy's of stock car racing" as a result of
their bitter and mutual dislike that finds its
roots in generations long passed.
This personal, emotional investment
gives "Madhouse" its initial appeal. The
racers at these events lack big name spon-
sorship and professional pit crews, and
there's little to no chance of any of the
teams making any money over the course
of the season. What's left is the drive to
win - and a mean, sunburned itch to beat
the other guy. It's hard not to be taken with
the drivers' willingness to sacrifice money
and family, blood and bone for a half year's
worth of bragging rights.
Unfortunately, when all is said and
done, there's only so much you can do with
a show about racing. How long can you
watch proudly self-proclaimed rednecks
assemble and then disassemble their stock
Rednecks take the
track by storm.
cars? Even the bitter rivalry between the
Myer and Miller families began to ring
false about halfway through, giving the
distinct sense that perhaps the vitriol had
more to do with upping attendance at the
races and putting on a show for History
than any actual animosity.

And of course, there's not much in the
way of actual racing. Like so many racing
fans, "Madhouse" is more interested in
the crashes than in the race (which takes
up less than five minutes in the hour-long
program), whether those crashes are park-
ing lot fistfights or t-boned stock cars.
Ultimately, it's never quite clear whether
History wants us to observe and laugh at
these passionate amateurs or pop open
a cold one, yell at the TV and cheer them
on. The safe route is to do neither, to give
"Madhouse" a wide berth so it can pass
you by while you try not to choke on the
fumes.

By MIKE KUNTZ
Daily Music Editor
Perfectionism and rock'n'roll don't
tend to go hand in hand. For a style
that relies on impromptu miscues
and sheer feeling,
rock'n'roll is a label ****
typically reserved
for true greats --the $P"
Rolling Stones-caliber
musicians of yore. But Transference
Spoon has found a way Merge
to combine a perfec-
tionist work habit with the rhythm and
soul of traditional rock, creating a tight
style that comes off as unruffled and
spontaneous as that of the greats.
But while nearly every track the band
has recorded throughout its 16-year,
seven-LP career sounds like a coolly
half-hashed studio demo, frontman Britt
Daniel would be the first to admit how
carefully planned each track is - back-
ground chatter and all.
Transference, the Austin band's lat-
est, continues the remarkably con-
sistent streak of albums the band has
delivered in the past decade, though it
is decidedly less hi-fi and radio-ready
as its predecessor, 2007's Ga Ga Ga Ga
Ga. Spoon opted to self-produce Trans-
ference, and the album is a return to the
barest elements of what makes the band
tick: sparse, carefully-laid instrumenta-
tion, Daniel's cool if not cryptic lyrics
and a steady groove.
"Before Destruction" opens the album
with Daniel's acoustic guitar and vocals
captured from a distant room mic,
making it sound like he's playing from
a few feet behind your speakers. The
undressed sound of the first track sets a
tone for the rest of the album, in which
pop hooks and'Daniel's willfully obscure
lyrics are interspersed with longer, more
open-ended instrumental jogs.
"Is Love Forever?" is driven by quick,
punchy guitars and syncopated vocal
rhythms, eschewing additional studio
trickery in favor of meat-and-potatoes
indie rock. Leading single "Written In
Reverse" is more fully formed, with
jagged guitars and driving, fuzzed-out
bass filling in the gaps between the one-
two rhythmic jaunt of piano strikes and
drum hits.
"I Saw the Light" and "Goodnight
Laura" are also clear standouts, the lat-
ter being a rare Spoon ballad. Driven

Holden Caulfield's family Christmas.
by bare piano and a crooning Daniel,
it'd sound just as at home as one of the
more sincere, soft-spoken tracks on The
Beatles' TheBeatles (better known as the
White Album).
While the majority of Spoon's albums
have been restricted to a run time of 36
minutes, here the jams run free, making
for a more open-ended affair. Though
Transference is decidedly less neatly
wrapped than Spoon's previous efforts,
it nonetheless maintains the band's
It transcends into
awesomeness.
uncanny knack for implanting pop hooks
and memorable moments within songs
that may have otherwise turned out dis-
jointed and half-formed.
It would have been easy for Spoon to
replicate the immediate pop appeal ofGa
Ga Ga Ga Ga, its most successful record
to date. Even expected. But expectations
are overrated, especially with an album
as unassumingly brilliant as Transfer-
ence. If anything, it acts more as a sequel
to the o-fi minimalism of 2002's Kill the
Moonlight, with eight years of wisdom
in production and songwriting clearly
gained along the way.
Perfectionists as they are, it seems
only logical that the members of Spoon
are most in their element when they're
doing it all themselves: "It's the most
that we sounded like us yet," Daniel
said in an interview with the New York
Times. And if Transference is any indica-
tion, that's just the way it should be.

What's black and white and redneck all over?

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