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May 04, 2010 - Image 10

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2010-05-04

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

From Page 9
return to the painfully raw, authen-
tic delivery of that seminal record.
Instead, this new disc is an exercise
in alt-rock slickness, with skin-tight
harmonies dressed to the nines in
reverb and the drums and power-
chord riffing trotted like debutantes
to the extreme front of the mix.
In fairness, there are a few genu-
ine Hold Steady classics that manage
to survive the record's overabundant
flaws and keep it a worthwhile part
of the band's catalogue. "We Can Get
Together," the set's emotional cen-
terpiece, is a majestic drifter drip-
ping with melody, heartache and
rock'n'roll name-checking, while
understated opener "The Sweet Part
of the City" eases in with leisurely


I'd tap that.

Behind the Doors BOBB RAY

acoustic swagger that shoots straight
at back-porch nostalgics.
In that same quote about "Soph-
omore Slump," Finn rejects the
notion that talent is a fleeting gift
that an artist can wake up one day
having lost. Instead, Finn subscribes
to the belief that artists should cre-
ate for themselves rather than risk
boredom by pandering to their fans.
Considering how fan-friendly The
Hold Steady has consistently been
- "We were bored so we started
a band / We'd like to play for you,"
Finn reminds us on "The Sweet Part
of the City" - the band deserves the
space to make the album it wants,
fan pressures be damned. But while
eager Hold Steady devotees will
consume Heaven is Whenever like
a drug when it hits their speakers,
when the dust settles they'll still be
reaching for Separation Sunday and
Boys and Girls in America.
Tracks "Fame" and "Love-
lier Than You" take on well-worn
themes that can be guessed from
their titles, and B.o.B.'s lyrics don't
shed any new light. So what's left?
Well, the melodies on both are
damn catchy. It's hard not to chime
in with the brass-heavy "Hey hey
do you wanna be famous?" chorus
of "Fame," and the poetic cliches of
"Lovelier Than You" are delivered
with such an earnest sweetness
that it somehow works. And B.o.B.
can actually sing when he wants to,
always a treat in hip-hop music.
So does B.o.B. do "hip pop" or
"hipster hop?" Bobby Ray can't seem
to pick one path. But if its indecisive
tracklist proves one thing, it's this:
Maybe B.o.B. isn't the smartest or
most original artist out there. But
he doesn't take himself too seri-
ously, and he knows how to have
fun. Bobby Ray, despite its faults, is
a good time - and really, that's why
we're listening.

'When You're Strange'
is factual and pretty,
but it's nothing new
For the Daily
Sometime in the late 1960s, on an
acid trip amongst fellow liberated
youth, you gather to watch a raw,
rough rock act
unfold. Rather ***
than a concert,
though, this is the When You're
scene set by Tom Stra
DiCillo's docu- nge
mentary "When At the Michigan
You're Strange," Abramorama
about the Doors
and the genius
craze feeding lead singer Jim Mor-
rison. The film recounts the career of
the band behind hit songs like "Light
My Fire," "Touch Me" and "Riders on
the Storm," fromits precipitous rise to
fame with its self-titled 1967 debut to
Morrison's mysterious death in July
Gathering together unseen foot-
age of live performances with now-
legendary images of the rock group,
it serves as a fierce and honest pre-
sentation of the Doors's highest and
lowest days as a band, garnering the
label of "the true story of the Doors"
from keyboardist Ray Manzarek in a
2009 Billboard interview. In opposi-
tion to Oliver Stone's 1991 biopic "The
Doors," "When You're Strange" lays
claim to true events in the band's
history. It is a haunting exercise in
the stranger-than-fiction nature that
reality can have.

Tightly cut under narration by
Johnny Depp, the film uses as its
backbone a slow-paced, continuous
sequence of Morrison riding down a
highway underneath breakneck-pace
musical montage. It portrays the cul-
tural effect of the Doors's music as
arresting and overwhelming, carry-
ing the youthful spirit of the period
into a sharp, almost unbearable cre-
scendo before falling back to reality.
The concert and band footage is
revealing and almost surreal to watch
- it's both counterpoint to and evi-
dence of Morrison's legendary rebel
reputation. As the life force behind
the band's music, Morrison is depict-
ed as both the innocent, roman-
tic poet looking for enlightenment
through LSD use and the frenzied
ringleader of the band's circus-like
performances. A case in point is foot-
age of the infamous 1969 Miami per-
formance that landed Morrison with
six charges, including indecent expo-
sure and public intoxication.
Throughout the arc of the film,
Morrison's multiple personalities
slowly collapse into one indistin-
guishable identity. Against the for-
eign and domestic violence of '60s
America, as well as the abrupt deaths
of fellow musicians Jimi Hendrix
and Janis Joplin, Morrison turns to
drugs and alcohol and a feeling of
despondence as he brings the band
down with him. Confronted by a ris-
ing tide of conservatism in the U.S.,
the Doors persisted together for six
years, recording six albums before
Morrison's death.
While an amalgamation of strange
and fascinating images, the film
offers little in the way of a new nar-
rative for the Doors. Carried for 90

minutes at a rapid pace, the story of
the Doors's career feels unnaturally
compressed. tn pursuing factual
detail, DiCillo abbreviates moments
in the band's career that ought to be
explored. He differentiates his film
from Stone's "The Doors" - which
incurred criticism from bandmem-
bers for taking liberties in its portray-
al - by affirming the truth about the
band, but nonetheless fails to delve
into previously neglected moments
within its history.
Part of this is manifested through
the film's focus on Morrison. The
continuous insistence on Morrison's
prominence becomes repetitive and
frustrating as the other three members
are quickly pushed to the background.
Morrison's unique genius positions
him as protagonist of the Doors's
career, which seems to end with his
death in 1971. DiCillo ignores the two
forgotten years from 1971 to 1973, dur-
ing which the remaining members
recorded two additional albums.
While the film is only visually
revealing, it seems to appropriately
fulfill its purpose. Walking away
from "When You're Strange" is much
like walking away from an engrossing
rock concert, leaving each spectator
with the same yearning for the music.
The film is more musical than cine-
matic, and puts the viewer in the seat
of a participant rather than that of a
witness. Forty years after the Doors's
career, the poetry and intensity of its
live performances are still relevant,
and "When You're Strange" takes
viewers back to its heyday with new
vigor and an honest outlook. Even if
only for the fresh images of the band,
DiCillo's documentary is a worth-
while and spirited trip.

where that your iPod goes" is about
as creative as he gets on "Don't Let
Me Fall."
What's more, guest spots from
Rivers Cuomo on the track "Magic"
and Paramore's Hayley Williams on
"Airplanes" are dated and just plain
uncool, respectively. Cuomo brings
to his collaboration a too-frantic alt-
rock vibe that had the world tired
and bored by the turn of the mil-
lennium. And although Williams is
clearly doing her rock-chick darnd-
est to sound edgy on "Airplanes,"
she still comes off like an unreason-
ably angsty teen girl.
What saves Bobby Ray is actually
its Roth-like simplicity. If the album
isn't quite smart and timely enough
to be hip, at least it's almost catchy
enough to be pop.

at /MichiganDoily.com
> The New Pornographers
>> ABC's "Happy Town"
> Broken Social Scene
> Flying Lotus

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