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May 09, 1981 - Image 13

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1981-05-09

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The Michigan Daily-Saturday, May 9, 1981-Page 13

RECORDS
Cale-tormented

John Cale -'Honi Soit' (A & M) -
What's this? John Cale giving it
another try, on a major label, no
less? I guess I shouldn't be so sur-
prised, those personal demons
fighting to be expressed were
always what made it so necessary
that Cale should produce music, and
so they have made the release of this
album just as inevitable. I guess I
thought that his recent gravitation
away from the mainstream and into
increasing obscurity was a pretty
much irreversible course. I'm glad
that it wasn't.
Mt X04CA LE-
Not that a fringe position is
necessarily alient to Cale. He's
always been on the edge of whatever
was going on. It's been a long way
from his initial appearance with An-
dy Warhol's (later to become ex-
clusively Lou Reed's) anachronistic
Velvet Underground through his ec-
ccentrially classical-influenced
albums to his Eno-abetted return to
rock and roll in the mid-seventies.
HONI SOIT seems to be a
reassessment of that journey, an
album of reflection as well as anger.
Cale has coupled the tortured
outlook of his last major album,

Helen of Troy, with the cultured
stylings of his classical period (e.g.,
the french horn-like trumpet intro to
"Dead or Alive" and the intermit-
tent harpsichord and viola
throughout. True, there is none of
the all-or-nothing, hell-bent ferocity
of "Sudden Death" (off Helen of
Troy) on Honi Soit, but neither does
Cale compromise any of his
visionary urgency on this release.
As uspal, Cale's boozy baritone for-
ces moments of gruff poeticism -
made up mostly of pure, almost
tangible conviction - out of the den-
se, raining , instrumentation.
Somehow, Cale always manages to
sandwich his unusually erudite in-
sights into the insatiable rhythm and
swirling momentum of his songs. It
is no mistake that many of his songs
are inspired by literature (i.e.,
"Cable Hogue," "Hedda Gabbler,"
"Even Cowgirls Get the Blues").
His own song-writing style is thick
with a literary flavor and symbolism
that establishes an uncomfortable
but intriguing relationship with the
rock and roll that backs it.
Blame comes remorselessly
transfixed
Like the sound of slamming doors
And doors have doors-Have
doors-have doors
Befitting his classical training,
Cale's compositions move for-
cefully, cautiously, not unlike sym-
phonies. Luckily, they don't fall prey
to the hyped-up, bombastic mock-
classicism of lesser "progressive"
groups. Cale remains continually at-
tuned to the gut of his music, the
hands that pull the heart strings -
hic dnr his vie hi-, musc

genius
SURPRISINGLY, the quiet
moments on Honi Soit are the most
affecting. On "The Riverbank" and
"Magic and Lies," Cale's personal
state-of-siege and accompanying
world-weariness are most clear. As
with the protagonists of "Magic and
Lies," it seems that Cale has seen
too much and felt too much, but is
unable to stop seeing and feeling.
Look at that young man with
the tired eyes,
He believes in magic, he believes
in lies.
The sad fact remains that the bit-
tersweet emotionality of Cale's view
and the relentlessness with which he
expresses it will probably keep Cale
from the public attention he deser-
ves. (After all, to most people music
is entertainment, while to Cale it is
expression. The two seem unrecon-
cilable.) Listening to a John Cale
album is not often a pleasant ex-
perience. It ism- more often a tor-
turous, draining, touching experien-
ce. But Cale's demons soon affect te
listener - Once you have started
listening, it is impossible to stop.
In many ways, the tortured con-
viction that Cale embodies is best
conveyed live where the war-like in-
tensity of his music andwgritty sin-
cerity of his vocals meld into a new
form of poetic fury unfettered by
studio tampering. A chance to wit-
ness this fury first-hand will present
itself thistMonday when Caleap-
pears with The Shirts at Second
Chance.
-Mark Dighton

Loney's LP
frivolous fun
Roy Looney and the Phantom Movers
- 'Contents Under Pressure' (War
Bride) - Somehow I just can't take
Roy Looney and the Phantom Movers
seriously, but then I'm not certain that
seriousness is their motive.
Although virtually unknown the band
has released three albums, the latest of
which, Contents Under Pressure, is
packed with adrenalin-based rock that
is permeated by a magnetic rhythm
guaranteed to set your toes tapping.
Contents Under Pressure is as
curious as it is enjoyable. Imagine
bouncy, whimsical material, similar to
that of The Shoes, performed at a semi-
staccato pace with vocals that at times
bear a striking resemblance to Devo.
However, the thing that makes Roy
Loney so attractive is the light-hearted
style of his music. High-points on Con-
tents Under Pressure include
"Swinging Single," a bright calypso
number complete with a sax interlude,
and the title track, done with intriguing
Buddy Holly-like crooning.
THE CLIMAX of the album occurs
with the cut "Too Funky Too Live"
which contains comical-yet-true lyrics
typical of most of the songs.
Loney's dominant theme seems to be
the bewilderment of the common per-
son who really doesn't understand what
is going on with the world. Loney puts
these situations into a humorous light,
complements them with catchy
musical arrangements and comes up
with clean, spirited fun.
One thing is for sure, if you're looking
for meaningfully serious lyrics, you can
skip Contents Under Pressure. But if
you have a sense for the curious and a
keen sense of humor, Roy Loney and
the Phantom Movers are for you.
-Tammy Reiss

ns woru s,12 vuiu , 211u5t.

Cimino' s revised epic - not so bad after all

Continuedfrom Page12
view. Why do directors who want us to
revel in beauty always feel they have to
cover their tracks with ugliness and
violence? (The contrast is even more
jarring in John Boorman's gaudily
beeyoodeefull Excaliber.) It's just
another harsh lesson half-learned,
another log tossed on the fire. Some of
Heaven's Gate's images do twist the
knife of anxiety, guilt and pain a little
for us: there are a few too many insuf-
ferably noble immigrants, but sequen-
ces like an attempted gang rape have a
rawly unprettified aura of horror. Still,
the movie's narrative conception is
finally too shallow to make us really
question human nature as seriously as
is asks us to.
THE SCENES - perhaps they should
only be called "set pieces," since
they're all elephantine - that stay in
the mind most and best are, as a result,
the sunniest ones. Cimino's roman-
ticism is in hazy soft-focus, like his
visuals - a little too creamy, naive,
childish. But like me, you may be a
sucker for such stuff anyway. Averill
and beautiful local madame Ella
(Isabelle Huppert) nuzzle like puppies,
so cute and harmless and posed that
their artificiality is more than halfway
enchanting. In this sort of picture-post-
card epic, the leads are (and perhaps
should be) chosen for their looks, and
Kris Kristofferson's great craggy face
has been waiting forever to be made in-

to as much of an icon as it is here. He
still can't act-that toneless vocal
delivery gives it away-and he appears
remorely baffled, as if certain that he's
in way over his head. He has a char-
ming naturalness that was more than
enough in Blume in Love, etc., but when
he's had to act a part, you could see the
doubt behind those suddenly blank
eyes. He seems to be waiting anxiously
for an explanation from behind the
camera to put him at ease, scared that
his limits might be exposed by working
with a patented maestro (the way Ryan
O'Neal in Barry Lyndon and Shelley
Duvall in The Shining seemed to-strain
for some sign from Kubrick). But
Kristofferson makes a marvelous
image.
Huppert just has to be fresh, fresh,
freshs flower child of the Golden West
- flouncing around in the buff, sexually
generous, a bit shallow. Averall and
Champion both fall for this 1960's earth
mother/virgin/whore abstraction of
womanhood; we get tired of her
fickleness in choosing between two
two of them, but the character finally
works through default - she's a mud-
dle of overawed wishful thinking on the
writer's part, but Huppert and Kristof-
ferson look so right together that we
have to root for them.
THERE'S NO telling what exactly
happened to Heaven's Gate in the
process of losing nearly an hour's
screen time, but this does seem to be

the rare occasion when a studio's
panicked editing might have done some
good. The incoherency complained
about isn't much apparent in this shor-
tened version; everything fits well
enough. The film's extravagance is of-
ten as self-conscious as it is striking,
but the big set pieces don't drag on
eternally as one fears. The visual vir-
tuosity seems better integrated into the
general framework, less hollow, than it
is in that other full-color-spread
Americana epic Days of Heaven.
Heaven's Gate is a big, muddy movie.
It throws its weight around, im-
pressively wwle you're watching it, but
only fragments of movement and faces
stay in the mind clearly. You can't
dismiss it, though. The Deer Hunter
and Heaven's Gate are both disturbing,
problematical movies, at times
devestating in the ruthless obscenity of
their violence, thick in surface detail,
with obscure layers of mythos and sim-
plification underneath. Heaven's Gate
doesn't have other movie's over-
whelming immediacy (perhaps just
because of the period distancing)1 yet
it's probably an easier film to like.
It shares most of The Deer Hunter's
strengths and weaknesses, on a less
rabid but no smaller level - it's
gorgeous and underconceived, alter-
nately poetic and pseudopoetic, lofty
and juvenile, seductive and rather
sexless. The cumulative effect is blun-
ted, but-presumably pulled through by

the clarifying reediting - it eventually
works as a simple if sprawling
melodrama.
One hesitates to proclaim undeserved
martyrdom for Cimino, but Heaven's
Gate may, once the snarls of derision
have cooled down in a few years, turn
out to be one of the most widely un-
derrated films of the decade.
Begin your day
with
764-0558

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