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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Tuesday, September 16, 2015 -- 5

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Tuesday, September16, 2015 - S

MUSIC COLUMN
When live albums
come alive

This picture is now on your i Phone,
U2 gets personal
with mixed results

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tains
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Songs
gation
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rprise album not in a nostalgic storytelling for-
mat. The lyrics are direct and
P to band's high threaded with references to the
past, heightening the experi-
standard ence for the listener where the
song may have otherwise suf-
By AMELIA ZAK fered. .
For The Daily Written through the eyes of
50-year-old men as they look
tt year, Beyonce surprised back, the album describes the
vorld when she unexpect- process of reanalyzing one's
eleased the super-sensual, adolescence in an empathetic
y femi- and understanding light. "Song
BEYON- for Someone," for example, tells
some of the life-long love story
issing Songs of of Bono and his wife, Ali, and is
retail- threaded with personal refer-
schemes Innocence ences. Bono sings of an album
periodic U2 they once shared, Kraftwerk's
releas- The Man-Machine, singing "But
typically Island it was you who made me your
ng up to man/Machine."
album's Other songs, like the techni-
, music's best marketing cally mediocre "Cedarwood
gy (for an international Rood" and "Iris (Hold Me
star at least) was real- Close)," similarly draw in lis-
release your album with teners with emotionally raw
irning. This ambitious and lyrics that share memories of
ately highly fruitful deci- a lost childhood by the early
however, had one impor- death of a mother. Songs with
ariable: this was Beyonce. little sonic value are made
a fan base as vehement as interesting by sprinkles of
of Ms. Knowles, the plat- highly personal and therefore
of any album would have fascinating reflections to a pre-
red little. viously unmentioned past. The
releasing their unexpect- album is also used to pay hom-
ngs of Innocence, U2 has age to U2's vast spectrum of
nc6'd" a well-written, influences, ranging from Joe
lgic and at times powerful Strummer to The Beach Boys
a. Appropriately named to The Ramones. The heavy
William Blake's 1789 influence of The Ramones is
tion of transcendence even outrightly declared on
s, this surprise album con- the opening track of the album
all the elements intrinsic through Bono's effusive lyri-
U2 album: undertones of cism, describing them as "the
rousness, Bono's unwaver- most beautiful sound I ever
cal abilities and awesome heard." Together the tracks
r jolts via the Gang of Four could create the preface to their
ge guitar of The Edge. musical anthology, working to
this album, however, the make a sound that pays homage
has prioritized variety. to the bands U2 has recognized
of Innocence is an investi- as their glorious influencers.
of their past influences, Sonically, the album is unin-
her personal or musical, teresting. Songs of Innocence

is similar to Coldplay's Mylo
Xyloto in that they both mix
synthesizers and industrial
electronics in hopes of famil-
iarizing their classic sound to
the 21st century. By attempting
to make their music more relat-
able to the kids these days, both
bands lost the intrinsic ele-
ments of what once made their
sound cool. The addition of con-
temporary artist Lykke Li to the
album's final song, "Troubles,"
wasn't a bad decision, but per-
haps the influence of youthful
producers like Danger Mouse
and One Republic's Ryan Ted-
der molded the music too much
to please another generation of
music listeners. However emo-
tional and personal the album
may be, it feels over-processed
and forced on too many occa-
sions.
The unforeseen success of
Beyonce's most recent album
was impressive and inspir-
ing, but unsurprising when
considering the passion of her
fan base. U2's surprise release
succeeds in accomplishing its
purpose: to act as a sonic time
capsule for the band's past and
the influences and anecdotes
they garnered along the way.
U2 and even Bono person-
ally have experienced decades
worth of stardom, yet the age
group they tried to access in
their album's release has less
passionate connections to U2.
Adamant followers of U2 are
generally more likely to buy a
material CD of this album and
less likely to attempt to update
their iTunes account. An
instantly downloaded album is
an exciting prospect for future
popular artists, but is realized
here as another mistake col-
lected in attempting to amass
appreciation from the uninter-
ested millennials running the
Internet.

There are only a couple of live
albumsthat, in full, ISwould put
in that special pantheonof Music
That Has Truly Affected Me. One
is by Van Morrison, one of the
most legend-
ary singer-
songwriters of
all time. The
other is by a "
one-hit-won- Y
der ska-punk
band.
Let's start AM
with that THEISEN
second one.
Ihappened
upon OurLive
AlbumaIs Better than Your Live
Album by Reel Big Fish when I
was in middle school, an age at
which it seems any boy who dis-
covers skamusic will inexplicably
fall in love with it. Unless you also
had askaphase, though, you've
probably only encountered Reel
Big Fish if you've seen the movie
"BASEketball" or have heard the
Michiganopep band play "Sell
Out" (the group's only charting
single, released in 1997).
I don't necessarily recommend
that you go listento allitwo hours
of OurLiveAlbum ... right now, but
I will say that I played the crap
out of that CD set. I'll still go back
to it nowadays every once in a
while when I'm feeling nostalgic.
It's filled with juvenile, annoying
jokes, but there's still some fun to
be had, with'80s songs like "Boys
Don't Cry" and "Take on Me"
covered and the genre experi-
mentations that accompany that
10-minute version of "S.R."
The banter and the playful-
ness of the album helped me feel
like I was building a relationship
with the band as I was listening.
Live albums, when they're not
just greatest hits collectionsewith
cheering placed in between the
tracks or cashgrabs from bands
who don't really have much to
offer in concert, canmake you feel
like you're experiencingan artist
for real. Even if Inever actually
saw Reel Big Fish in person, Ikind
of felt like I had met them and got-
ten to know them, just from how
accessible, inviting and well-put-
together its live record was.
But what about Van? I'll never
feel likeI can truly know Van
Morrison. His music is amazing
because it always soundselike he's
on a higher spiritual plane than
all of us. Its Too Late to Stop Now,
a live record released in1974, still
stands up todayas one of the most
beautiful, fun and astounding
albums ever recorded. Anyone
who has listened to masterpieces
like Astral Weeks orMoondance

and lo
needs
It's
Morris
transc'
light-u
he doe
slightl
moref
riskier
From t
the Bo
Ain't N
the sax
afogh
throug
Them
Van do
ness a
Ifth
bole,lii
"Cyp
but-no
ofAstr
into at
if there
is fami
beginn
incline
drumb
to pou:
gettha
Van slo
can, an
exactl
wheny
when y
unexp:
LATE
asudd:
as thel
whip t
can't s
compr
pening
cohere
and, st
and st
back in
again t
exper
List
Bruce
from T
1975-8
same k
the ste
tops it
in con
er sar
E Stree
fromtl
has an
licable

ved them as much as Ihave is when Bruce introduces his saxo-
to check this record out. phonist, Clarence Clemons, who
Too Late to Stop Now is Van passed away in 2411. "AND LAST
ton at hisjazzy, hyped-up, BUT NOT LEAST," Bruce yells at
endent best. He has more the crowd, "DO I HAVE TO SAY
p-the-room energy than HIS NAME? (No!) DO I HAVE
s on Astral Weeks (though TO SPEAK HIS NAME? (No!)
y less mysticism), and he's DOI HAVE TO SAY HIS NAME?
ascinating, confident and (No!) IN THIS CORNER, KING
than he is on Moondance. OF THE WORLD, MASTER OF
he opening jauntiness of THE UNIVERSE, WEIGHING
bby Bland cover "There IN AT TWO HUNDRED AND
lothin' You Can Do" to SIXTY POUNDS ... THE BIG
cophone that blows like MAN! CLARENCE CLEMONS!"
orn on "Into the Mystic," Inthat moment, moreso than on
h the other soul covers, any of his wonderful studio solos,
songs and Celtic ecstasies, Clemons feels absolutely immortal
minates your conscious- to me.
nd fills your heart. . These moments can be pro-
duced ina recording studio under
the right circumstances, but a
R o icrowd just makeseverything
more powerful. Therehave been
nius for multitudes of legendary con-
50 certs:Dylan's infamous electric
posterity tour in'66, Nirvana on "MTV
S* Unplugged," Kanye and Jay-Z's
Watch the Throne Tour when
they'd close by playing "Niggas
is sounds like hyper- in Paris"nine times in a row. But
stentothe album's closer, there'sadisconnect betweenmany
us Avenue." The very-pretty- firsthand accounts of these shows
t-overpowered centerpiece and the footage that remains. I
al Weeks is turned here read them and thenlisten to the
rue roller coaster of a song concert itself and I always get the
ever was one. Everything feeling that I'm not quite getting
liar and chilled out in the something. The Beatles at Shea
ing, but gradually the Stadium, I'm sure, was an amaz-
starts to get steeper. The ing, formative experience for all
'eat, like your heart, starts the kids who wereilucky enough to
nd a little harder, and you see it, but the videos that remain
t twinge of discomfort as simply sound like Beatles classics
ews it down as much as he played with ugly sound quality. I
d you're just anticipating mean, it's stillgreat because The
y what's to come. Finally, Beatles are legendary have tre-
rou can't take it anymore, mendous charisma and the crowd
you're at the peak, Van is astoundingly large, but it's much
ectedly screams "IT'S TOO cooler as a historical document
TO STOP NOW!" and all of than as something I would actu-
en you're rushing downhill ally listen to regularly and enjoy.
horns inthe song's climax It's Too Late to Stop Now and
hrough your hair and you the few albums it can be com-
eem to close your mouth or pared to are unlike anything else
ehend what exactly is hap- because it takes the greatness that
and before you can-form a Iexpect from someone like Van
nt thought again it's all over Morrison and putsit in front of
unned, you get off the ride a crowd, without any decline in
art thinking about getting the "wow" factor. Studio albums
line/cuingup the record certainly have a better hit-to-
o attempt to recapture that miss ratio, and that's where most
ence. songs are best heard, but the
en to the live version of mind-blowing quality of someilive
Springsteen's "Rosalita" albums thatnot only proves that
he E Street Band's Live transcendent musical works of art
5 record and you'll feel that can be replicated in a place where
ind of energy. "Rosalita"in plenty of people can share it in,but
.dio is a classic, but the band also records that experience for
whenever it plays the track the enjoyment of posterity, makes
ert. There's an even tough- them essential, unrivaled achieve-
l in Bruce'svoice, and the ments.

et Band as a whole - freed
he confines of the studio -
even more palpable, irrep-
chemistry. But the clincher

Theisen is revisiting his ska
phase. To boogie with him,
e-mail ajtheis@umich.edu.

Animation fuels modern cinema of attractions

By CONRAD FOREMAN
Daily Arts Writer
When I talk to people about
films (a go-to topic when I feel the
social awkwardness closing in on
me), I find a majority of people tend
to focus on the plot - whether the
characters' actions were believ-
able, the ending fulfilling enough
or the climax sufficiently exciting.
Being a film nerd, I often focus on
visual elements that seem to go
unnoticed and/or unappreciated
by many of my fellow viewers (or
maybe just appreciated in different
ways).
Don't get me wrong - I believe
that film (and serial TV) is the
most powerful platform for telling
stories that we've ever seen (sorry,
books). But film is so much more
than just a story-telling medium.
This idea hearkens me back to my
SAC teachings at the University,
specifically regarding the cinema
of attractions. For those who don't
know (and probably don't care), the
term 'cinema of attractions' refers
to films that appeal to viewers not
for their stories, but for their trick
photography, unique camera work
and the ability to show viewers
things they have never seen before.
Most often the cinema of attrac-
tions refers to a period of early film
history around the turn of the cen-
tury (remember the old filmmaker
from "Hugo?" - he was a real guy
named George M6lies who spe-

cialized in cinema of attractions),
during which the cinema of attrac-
tions had its glory days. Narrative
cinema coexisted with its more
avant-garde counterpart, but as
films in general became more
commonplace, trick photography
wowed audiences less and less, and
the psyche of the audience shifted:
the story became more important
that ever before.
There are a number of reasons
that narrative cinema won out
over the cinema of attractions.
Some are obvious, others more
obscure (studios perhaps wanted
productions that were easier to
mass-produce). Regardless, the
apparent truth is that classical
Hollywood narrative films are
far more popular than films that
appeal to us visually. But are they?
The top grossing film of all time is
"Avatar," and the new "Transform-
ers" film (which I haven't seen, but
by all accounts is a junkyard come
to life) has already earned over a
billion dollars. I can't speak to the
storyline of "Transformers," but I
will say, as many have, that the plot
of "Avatar" is nothing special; we'd
already been told the same story in
"Dances With Wolves," "Pocahon-
tas" and others.
So why was "Avatar" still so suc-
cessful despite telling an unorigi-
nal story? Because it is classic
cinema of attractions. The stun-
ning animation and innovative
3D experience made "Avatar" a

phenon
want to
tunatel
beautif
most v
nerds i
why, to
tions Iii
world a
And u
the was
Wa

nenon because people still ing-- it beat out "Monsters, Inc.").
be visually amazed. Unfor- In 2009, the Academy further
y, creative editing and recognized the power of anima-
tul direction don't amaze tion by awarding "Up" with a nom-
iewers (only people like us ination for Best Picture. You want
n the film section). That's to talk cinema of attractions - it's
me, the cinema of attrac- a freaking house being carried by
ves on most vibrantly in the balloons! On the flip side, "Up"
of contemporary animation. also tells an amazing, unique story
nsurprisingly, Pixar leads (not to mention the first ten min-
. utes would make the saddest short
film of all time). Still, the success
of the film seems to hinge on the
n quirky things that can only be done
through animation (dogs speaking
aand flying planes, a floating house,
a boy who defies racial classifica-
tion); were this simply the story of

a young, boisterous boy, the film's
magic (at least in the visual sense)
would be gone.
In 2010 perhaps the best ani-
mated argument for the continued
success of the cinema of attraction
hit theaters - "How to Train Your
Dragon." The story of the film is
nice enough, but the supporting
characters aren't as funny as they'd
like to be; the real magic of the film
is every scene in which Hiccup
flies with his dragon, Toothless.
I found myself somewhat unin-
terested in the plot, yet the flying
sequences never cease to take my
breath away. The follow-up to this
film mirrors its predecessor in this
wav and the nlmination of the

trilogy in a few years willbe remiss
if it doesn't show some major love
to the flight sequences.
I've listed only a few examples
and I'm not really sure if there's
an argument here, or even a coher-
ent train of thought. I suppose I'm
mostly trying to say that I love ani-
mation and offer a semi-academic
justification for why I see more
children's films than adult films in
theaters. The cinema of attractions
can survive nowhere if not the big
screen. Take your "Transformers,"
I'd rather punt all pretense of real-
ity and be swallowed by the sepa-
rate universe of animation.
By the way, watch "Kung Fu

"The Little Mermaid" took us
under the sea, "Aladdin" showed
us a whole new world, but the
two-dimensionality of the ani-
mation doesn't hold a candle (or
a "Lumiere," if you will) to "Toy
Story," released only three years
after "Aladdin." Computer anima-
tion offers opportunity to create
entire universes separate from our
own, where gravity works back-
wards, animals speak English and
everybody walks around doing
handstands. The leap forward
in animation technology even
prompted the Academy to cre-
ate a specific Oscar honoring the
year's Best Animated Feature, first
awarded at the 2002 ceremony
(won by "Shrek," if you're wonder- Up? More like DOWN.

I

I

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