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February 01, 2010 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2010-02-01

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Monday, February 1; 2010 - 5A

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Monday, February 1, 2010 - 5A

The Magnetic
Fields craft a
Renaissance fair

"Nixon is getting away!"
United' is damn good

Michael Sheen echoes
RichRod in a grueling story
of dueling soccer coaches
Senior Arts Editor
Sports movies have been following such
a tried-and-true formula for so long that
when one comes around
that actually makes a sin-
cere effort to be different,'
we notice. Britain's "The The Damned
Damned United," which
follows the late-'60s/mid- ed
'70s rivalry between soccer At the Michigan
coaches Brian Clough and Sony
Don Revie, is just such a
sports movie. Like its pro-
tagonist Clough, "United" exudes flashiness
and showmanship, because the people who
made this movie know it's one of the best of its
genre in a long time.
It's okay if you haven't heard of Clough and
Revie. Chances are, most Americans haven't.
But they're legends in England, and their his-
tory together is one that will be familiar to
fans of American sports. Driven by the desire
to destroy what he sees as a team of "no-good
cheaters," Clough builds up the prominence
of his Derby County squad until they're on an

equal playing field with and eventually beat
Revie's perpetual league champions Leeds
United. But when Clough starts shooting his
mouth off too much, he loses his coaching
job, and, through a twist of circumstance, is
offered Leeds after Revie steps down. Tak-
ing the reigns of his former rivals, Clough
intends to best every accomplishment Revie
had with the team, but instead runs them into
the ground with their worst start in 20 years.
Maybe there's a bit of RichRod in Brian
Clough? Between all the misunderstandings
(Clough's hatred of Revie begins when Revie
doesn't shake his hand at the first match-up of
their opposing teams), shady dealings (Clough
goes behind the back of the team owner to sign
big-time players) and the fact that a personal
feud starts taking priority over the traditions
and fanbases of their respective teams, the
comparison certain doesn't seem far from the
truth. But let's try not to point fingers here.
The film is carried by Michael Sheen
("Frost/Nixon") as Clough, and Sheen once
again demonstrates that he's one of the most
talented and underrated actors working today.
It's not so much that Sheen reveals depth and
complexity to Clough's character. On the con-
trary, the genius of his performance is that
he makes Clough so aggressively driven, so
single-minded in his quest to overthrow Revie
(Colm Meaney, "Law Abiding Citizen"), that
our only two options are to root for him or slap
him across the face.

As the movie jumps back and forth in time
between Clough's rise to prominence at Derby
County and his brief but painful tenure at
Leeds, we watch his demeanor progress from
cheeky to cocky to all-out despicable. When
Sheen draws out his line deliveries to the break-
ing point of self-awareness, he'd be so easy to
hate if he weren't so much damn fun to watch.
Providing the perfect counterbalance to
Clough is his loyal assistant manager, played
with the cozy warmth of an afternoon tea
by Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew from the
"Harry Potter" movies). In a film almost
entirely sans women, the relationship between
these two men is the closest thing to an emo-
tional center.
Director Tom Hooper (HBO's "John
Adams") and screenwriter Peter Morgan treat
the events of "The Damned United" with the
same gravity as the stories of Queen Elizabeth
and Richard Nixon, which Morgan previously
scripted as "The Queen" and "Frost/Nixon"
(both also starring Sheen). You need that kind
of seriousness and dedication on the part of
the filmmakers in order to tell this tale prop-
erly; the audience needs to believe, as the two
managers;do, that sports is a matter of life and
death. Brian Clough has too much ambition
and likes to bite off more than he can chew.
But when he boisterously declares he wants to
take every accomplishment Revie's ever had
and beat it, we're united with him, RichRod
comparisons be damned.

DailyArts Writer
For years, Stephin Merritt
has been nudging The Magnetic
Fields further
and further
into baroque
territory. This T agec
effort has been FRlds
so natural
and seamless Realism
it's becoming Nonesuch
impossible to
conceive of the
band as the mod '90s synth outfit
that contributed songs to "Pete
and Pete" episodes. And consid-
ering Merritt's ability to string
his songwriting faculty across
eras and genres, it should appall
nobody that ole' Mr. Ornery
turned the clocks back even fur-
ther with Realism, presenting a
sound so quaint and antiquated it
makes baroque sound as modern
as a Moog synthesizer.
Realism is a Renaissance fair
of an album, beaming with lutes,
flutes, harps, tambourines and an
plague innocence that is sure to
awaken the chain-mail smith in
all of us. Like any music to which
one should slay a dragon, court a
maiden or enter a jousting tour-
nament, Realism is far too cloy-
ing and structurally simple for
the jaded 21st-Century palate.
It's polite and endearing, but it's
a snoozer.
Over the course of the album,
Merritt deftly plays all the usual
suspects: He's the balladeer on
"Walk A Lonely Road"; the jester
on "I Don't Know What To Say";
and the snake-oil salesmen hawk-
ing a bill of goods and services on
"We Are Having A Hootenanny"
(he and his assistants implore
audiences to "come and take our
personality quiz"). But some-
where in the creative process his
method acting went too far, and
even his inner tunesmith began
conforming to the aesthetic of the
songs' arrangements.
Whereas Merritt once orna-
mented his expected pop sensi-
bilities with instruments native to
an orchestra hall, he now seems
to be writing songs specifically
suited to his 14th-Century trou-
badour instrumental palette. The
result is a collection largely full of
melodies so sweet even Merritt's
bass growl can't deflate them. And

when he's accompanied by sirens
Claudia Gonson and Shirley
Simms, the affair reaches helium
The Renaissance mold is bro-
ken on occasion, mostly to allow
for Merritt to pay homage to his
disparate influences. His affin-
ity for show tunes surfaces on
"Everything Is One Big Christ-
mas Tree," which sounds so much
like a Rogers & Hammerstein
number it's easy to imagine Maria
teaching it to the von Trapp chil-
dren (and it even has a verse in
German). Meanwhile, "We Are
Having A Hootenanny" reeks of
Appalachian folk, heavily bor-
rowing the structure and rhyth-
mic cadence of "She'll Be Coming
'Round the Mountain."
Only ppener "You Must Be Out
Of Your Mind" comes across as a
"serious" writing effort, bringing
Merritt's vintage triumphant-
yet-melancholic sense of song
together with his frank, fatalis-
tic humor ("I want you crawling
back to me / down on your knees,
yeah / Like an appendectomy /
sans anesthesia"). Elsewhere,
tracks like "Always Already
Gone" and "From a Sinking Boat"
offer no depth or sophistication
and fail to deliver the simple
'Realism' mixes
show tunes
love with some
baroque beats.
memorability Merritt intended of
them. (After all, he calls this his
"folk" album.)
With 10 tracks in the two-min-
ute range and the remaining three
in the three-minute range, Realism
ditties. It's not an outright failure,
but its lack of melodic achievement
certainly makes it an orphan in
The Magnetic Fields' catalog. Sup-
posedly, Merritt wanted to use the
titles "True" and "False" for Real-
ism and 2008's Distortion, respec-
tively, but was unable to decide
which was which. Though Realism
dutifully eschews amplification,
its artificial sweetness makes it a
poor candidate to represent any
sort of musical truth.

'American Pickers' rips off old people

DailyArts Writer
One man's junk is another man's
treasure, but with History's new
series "Ameri-
can Pickers," one
man's treasure
is another man's Amerian
source of income.
If the winter sea- cerS
son puts a damp- Mondays at
er on rummage 10 p.m.
sale connois-
seurs, "American History
Pickers" is the
next best thing to a junk-laden
garage. Mike Wolfe and Frank
Fritz are two business partners
out of Iowa's Antique Archeology
who search out, scrounge through
and even beg for old-time items to
recycle and sell anew.
The premiere episode follows
Wolfe and Fritz to the houses of a
few elderly men who. aren't even
having garage sales. The duo's
"business" entails finding out
about people who own antiques,

showing up unannounced on their
doorstep with smooth-talking
tongues and an intimidating cam-
era crew and asking for good deals
on their items. It sounds a little bit
like an antique auction, but - be
warned - if respect for the elderly
is a virtue, Wolfe and Fritz hold the
value of a dollar just a bit higher
than virtuousness.
Sure, the quirky duo salvages
antiques like a bigger-than-life
burger boy, which sits outside an
unused barn in the rain. Upon
ogling the statue, they knock on
the door of the unsuspecting old
man who owns it, asking the going

Which do yoa see: woman, or lamp-shade cyborg beet on human destraction?

Two trashy men are nobody's treasure.

the sel
they a
dred bi

(Business tip: "Always let three!") While this might make
ler name the first price. If capitalistic sense, screwing over
old people on national television
seems a little harsh.
In another visit to the elderly,
Wolfe and Fritz weasel an old
saddle for $75 which appraises for
over $2,000. The two spend hours
rummaging through an old garage,
asking for stories and memories
re only looking for a hun- that accompany a heap of antiques.
ucks, we don't want to offer It is hard to determine if they are

genuinely interested or trying
to figure out the dollar price on
the old guy's sentimental value.
Almost every item Wolfe and Fritz
try to buy, the old man refuses to
sell. They express their frustration
to the camera in "Real World"-
esque off-site interviews.
Antiques usually bring to mind
pawn shops, legit garage sales and

See PICKERS, Page 8A I H W 5,A E

No boredom on 'Romance'

Daily Arts Writer
There's really no better way
for a band to shed its delectably
twee persona
than by enlist-
ing the gro-
tesque image of
a bleeding leg
as album art- Campesinos!
work. For Los Romance
Campesinos!, is Boring
an indie-pop
band that once Arts& Crafts
boasted cutesy
claims like "You! Me! Dancing!,"
the artwork is a symbol of the
relinquishment of a once adorably
awkward image. On their third
album, Romance is Boring, the

members are out to prove they've
got more up their sleeves than just
sugar-induced kiddie pop.
Romance is Boring isn't any-
thing new. It's exactly what one
would expect from a band com-
posed of hormonal, soul-search-
ing youths. The record plays like
a melodrama that "Twilight" and
Twitter-obsessed tweens will
surely swoon over. Topics span
a laundry list of quintessential
teenage dilemmas, from anorexia
and suicide attempts to trips to
the E.R. and sexual frustration.
Our parents were right; teenagers
are exhausting - and miserable,
But even listeners who have
grown out of those pinnacle teen-
age years are sure to find the

album a nostalgic treat. The record
brings back memories of the self-
absorbed anguish-pop indie fans
listened to in high school when
sheds the pep for
some melodrama
and schmaltz.
they were first acquiring their
alternative musical tastes. If ever
an album defined the teenage
angst genre, this is it. So lock your

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