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June 05, 1996 - Image 11

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 1996-06-05

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A R S ednesay, Jtna-5, .996--The NMiphigp Daily -
Nancy Boy brings stylish, sartorial 'Welcome to the Dollhouse'
back to the Colonies may harden 'Pretty in Pink'
nLtpop fans, lacks '80s optimism


Heather Pharos
Daily Arts Writer
"I was raised on the Beatles, the
Stones and Pink Floyd, and then when I
got into my rock phase it was Led
leppelin and Deep Purple - it just
happens that every band I've ever
really liked was British," explained
Jason Nesmith, guitarist/songwriter of
Nancy Boy. His affection is under-
While most Americans avoid groups
with musical wit and sartorial elegance,
preferring flannel-wrapped "realness,'
the British have a soft spot in their
hearts (and charts) for a band with a
great look and sound. The Britpop phe-
Womenon continues this trend with
bands like Pulp, Blur, Gene,
Supergrass and Menswear. Even with
Americans' avoidance of this style of
music, it nonetheless is taking root in
America with American-British-
Canadian hybrid Nancy Boy.
Led by Donovan Leitch, singer/song-
writer, model and son of folk singer
Donovan, and Jason Nesmith, gui-
arist/songwriter and son of the
'WMonkees' Mike Nesmith, Nancy Boy
mixes masculine and feminine, and
British and American rock, in songs like
"Deep Sleep Motel," "Johnny Chrome
and Silver," "I Don't Mind" and "You
Deserve a Place." Short, sharp, sussed
pop songs with punchy guitars, fluid
keyboards and whimsical samples make
up the band's repertoire, for a sound
that's fun -.and, of course, stylish.
Even the band's name mixes heritage
and gender: "Nancy Boy is an old
English term for a mamma's boy, a
sissy type," said Nesmith, in an inter-
view with the Michigan Daily, during
the group's recent United States tour.
"Donovan and I created this character
named Nancy Boy who's androgynous,
the beautiful-boy type thing. We had
come up with this whole movie idea,
and partofthe idea was that Nancy Boy
was in a band - it was a musical, a
'Tommy' or 'Quadrophenia' for the
'90s kind of thing.
"We started writing the songs for it,
and the music started turning into these
three-minute pop-type things, so we
decided to try them out with a band. It
came together accidentally after that, as
an excuse for trying the songs out live.
When we got the right members togeth-
er, we realized that we had something
real and we put the movie idea aside for
awhile," he said.
Though Leitch and Nesmith plan to
return to the movie, Nesmith said he
believes the band is a necessary side-
track: "One of the things that needed to
happen for the movie idea to work was
for us to actually become a band and
create a lot of experiences that we can
draw from as inspiration, sort of a
.mockumentary' of our lives on the
road. Everything that happens can be
ittle anecdotes we can shape into story
ideas for the movie.
"I think one thing that is definitely
inspirational is all of the people we've
met on our travels and the different
p; a p eeocsfir: . baissswlygdit5 he,
bi3 jtaI '.',,w~s.,i J

By Prashant Tamaskar
Daily Arts Writer what would otherwise be an absurd
series of events. The connection
The winner of the Grand Jury Prize between each particular incident is
at the Sundance Film Festival, inconsequential; rather, what is sig-
"Welcome to the nificant is how
Dollhouse," proba- R EVIEAw each affects and
bly has John Welcome to the Doilouse shapes Dawn. The
Hughes and any of tirected by Todd Solondz daily turmoils"of
the filmmaker's Bra Seatara and her life are accen-
fans shaking their AtAnnArbor 1 and 2 tuated, without too
heads. Hughes much emphasis
("Pretty in Pink," being placed on
"The Breakfast Club," etc.), the king any one specific happening.
of the teen-age movie, left his mark Thus, her existence is presented as
on pop culture by writing and direct- a cycle that neither begins nor ends
ing stories of unpopular adolescents with the 100 minutes of footage on
who maintain their dignity under the the screen. Dawn's life six months
most adverse circumstances. But in later would most likely be no better or
the end, the viewer knows everything worse than it is during the film.
will turn out OK for the main charac- However, the true strength of the
ters, because of the maturity with film lies in the gripping manner in
which they handle their difficulties. which Dawn's despair, or the audi-
However, Hughes' time was the '80s, ence's perception of her despair, is
and his optimism has been replaced characterized. Slightly dishearten-
by a more apocalyptic vision of ado- ing, yet wickedly funny,
lescence, such as the one portrayed by "Dollhouse" doesn't try to fool us
director Todd Solondz in "Welcome into believing that everything will
to the Dollhouse." turn out fine in the end for Dawn.
The movie is a portrait of Dawn Unlike the typical adolescent movie
Wiener (Heather Matarazzo), a sev- hero/heroine, she is not exceptional-
enth-grade social leper with thick ly intelligent, talented or exuberant,
glasses, a tacky wardrobe and a very nor does she handle her setbacks
fitting last name. She faces the mis- with a certain level of dignity.
fortunes of having only one equally Played skillfully by Heather
maladjusted friend, a dorky older Matarazzo, there is nothing special
brother who is obsessed with his col- about Dawn, which makes us more
lege resume, an adorable, attention- sympathetic towards her plight.
seeking little sister, and parents who Solondz effectively creates a night-
barely acknowledge her presence. marish illustration of the junior-high
The focusless plot features Dawn's years that, despite its occasional
conflicts with classmates and teach- ridiculousness, is probably more
ers, her crush on the scuzzy lead realistic than the typical film on this
singer of her brother's band, the kid- subject. Given this, although most
napping of her sister, and her odd people didn't have quite as miserable
relationship with an insecure class of an experience as Dawn the
bully (Brendan Sexton Jr.), who fre- 'Wiener-dog," it's a good bet that
quently threatens to rape her. after seeing the movie, audience
The deliberate lack of organization members are glad they aren't in sev-
in the storyline serves to enhance enth grade again.

Nancy Boy
continued. "'Johnny Chrome and
Silver' is about a guy that we met in
England who really thinks that he's a
cyberpunk mod walking around in the
streets, and 'Mr. Euro' is about another
character we met who travels the bullet
train everywhere with his briefcase and
he's hooked up to a satellite. So far it's
been lots of little life-experience sto-
ries, with fantasy thrown in too for
good measure."
Speaking of fantasy, Nesmith talked
about the band's interest in science fiction
and reality: "We're into the whole cyber-

movement, life-in-space, technology kind
of thing. I'm totally fascinated by this space
station that they're building. They're gonna
be doing experiments and people are going
to be living in spacejust like in 'StarTrek.'
Isn't that wild?That would be cool, to go up
there and play a show. We could be the
house band!" he added with a laugh. No
matter where it ends up touring (look for
another round of gigs later this summer),
expect Nancy Boy to handle it with its cus-
tomary style.

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