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July 14, 2008 - Image 9

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2008-07-14

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Hell of a seauel

Monday, July 14, 2008
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.comIART
A vivid triumph

DailyArts Writer
The first time I ever saw the
Hold Steady perform live, I
watched them play on a cramped
stage across the river from Brook-
teenage drunks. At the end of the
band's set, a timid fan approached
the stage and
handed sing- ****
Craig Finn a The Hold
fat binder. "I Steady
wrote my the-
sis," the young Stay Positive
man explained, Vagrant
"about how
your band is
the voice of our generation, and I
would love for you to read it." That
es the life and ethos of this Brook-
lyn-based quintet. Describedon at
least one occasion as "the best bar
band in America," Craig Finn and
Co. have been critically acclaimed
for both their epically jam-packed
storytelling and their unique mix-
ture of classic rock elements with
more contemporary alternative
rock. A Twin Cities native, Finn
has not forgotten his Midwest-
ern roots and the majority of his
band's past 3 full-length albums
have been crafted around a series
of stories taking place across the
entire continental U.S. However,
nomatterhowfarhis fictionalized
lyrical characters Charlemagne
and "Holly" (short for "Hallelu-
jah") may travel, they are always
happy to find a
makeshift home in
the upper Mid-

Finding their niche drafting
songs about drug experimenta-
tion, latent alcoholism and reli-
gious disillusionment, the Hold
Steady quickly found a base of
believers andtheirlasttwoalbums
-- "Separation Sunday" (2005)
and "Boys and Girls in America"
(2006) -- found unanimous criti-
cal acclaim. With their fourth
full-length release, titled "Stay
Positive," the band continues its
trajectory, infusing their classic
bar-jam tracks with an array of
novel instruments and intriguing
song arrangements. Recorded in
the Tri-State area with the help of
producer John Agnello, this new-
est release is a creative step for-
ward for a band that is no stranger
to experimentation. Never fearful
of splurging on neat new gear, the
band collected an assortment of
new effects pedals for its newest
release and it doesn't shy away
from employing more traditional
instruments, including a harp-
sichord. Possibly one of the most
noticeable additions to- the Hold
Steady discography are more
finely-tuned vocals from singer
Finn, who ditched his notoriously.
coarse voice - an acquired taste
for newlisteners to the band's last
three albums - in favor of profes-
sionalvoice training.Finn puts his
newly-trained voice to good use
on "Stay Positive," brushing aside
the bar-table choruses that were
featured prominently through-
out "Boys and Girls in Ameri-
ca" in favor of showcasing his
own vocals front-and-center.
The album's opener "Construc-
tive Summer" is a classic Hold
Steady introduction, complete
with fast-paced guitar riffs and
voracious keyboard notes from
band member Franz Nicolay. The
song "raise(s) a toast to Saint Joe
See HOLD STEADY, Page 10

"Now where's that big green fella callin' himself 'The Hulk'?"

"Hellboy returns in
vibrant, humorous,
action-packed sequel
After his exquisite, critically-
acclaimed arthouse hit "Pan's Lab-
yrinth" (2006), Mexican filmmaker
Guillermo del Toro has returned
to the garish world of Hollywood
blockbusters. In any other case,
this would
be a cause for
mourning; but
delToro, forbet-
ter or for worse, Hellboy II: The
is one of the Golden Army
few directors
who can make At Quality16,
such a transi- Showcase and the
tion and not be State Theatre
branded a sell- Universal
out. "Hellboy
II: The Golden
Army," his sequel to the 2004 origi-
nal, is no stalled propeller in the
filmmaker's soaring career, and as
a sequel to a relatively good - if not
extraordinary - comic book adap-
tation, it's a stunner. But as the fol-

low-up to "Labyrinth," one of the
finest films in the past few years,
it's a considerable and undeniable
The title character, played by
Ron Perlman ("The Last Winter"),
is essentially Clifford the Big Red
Dog with horns: a huge, inadver-
tently destructive - but loveable
- demon who was saved from the
Nazis during the war. Now an agent
in a New Jersey-based paranormal
research facility, Hellboy and his
team - which also includes girl-
friend Liz (Selma Blair, "Legally
Blonde") and fish-like Abe Sapien
(Doug Jones, "Men in Black II")
- must prevent a renegade, blood-
thirsty prince (Luke Goss, "The
Man") from obtaining the key to
the infamous Golden Army, a force
which will bring aboutthe destruc-
tion of the human race.
It's a typical storyline for a fanta-
sy-action film, and del Toro does it
justice. But what really sets "Hell-
boy II" apart from, say, a mopey,
derivative film like "The Incredible
Hulk" is its number of sheer specta-
cles. Like a particularly impressive
Disney World ride, "Hellboy II"
invites you to gape in amazement
at every new turn and every uncov-
ered detail. The film is laboriously

and richly textured: Every frame
is a showcase for its stunning sets;
every scene is a catwalk for its col-
orful and vibrant characters.
The film's costumed creations
are easily its prime component.
Throughout its two-hour running
time, we're greeted by a host of
incredible-looking monsters, all of
whom seem far more human than
the "normal" characters. Among
the most memorable are the afore-
mentioned Prince Nuada, his twin
sister (Anna Walton, "Vampire
Diary"), who takes up arms with the
good guys to prevent her brother
from fulfilling his ascension to the
throne and, my personal favorite,
the German commander Johann
Krauss (voiced by Seth McFarlane,
TV's "Family Guy"), essentially a
ghost trapped in a deep-sea diving
Still, as well-made and vibrant
as it is, the film is ultimately little
more than just that: a spectacle.
Some would argue all films are, to
an extent, but the best transcend
their meager existence to be taken
as something more akin to good
literature. Even comic book adap-
tations, whose sources are becom-
ing more and more respected in the
See HELLBOY, Page 11

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