The Michigan Daily - Thursday, December 1, 1995 - 9
Mercury Rev's other side
WT fI)ther name for the area that frames hog jowls? Piglace is correct. That's also
r to the question "What's the rootinest tootinest aleitar glutinous band to be In
I vicinity tomorrow?" Plgface is Martin Atkins' always.changing group of
damage. With a remix album called "Feels Uke Heaven, Sounds Uke Shit,"
~thbilm~ational touring party Is once again In gear. With remixes by everyone from
Atkins hilnself to the Skatenigs and Psychic TV, "Feels Uke Heaven ..." is a different
taste of Igface. That's proper considering the constant alterations In the lineup. This
go-round Mary Byker (Gay Bykers on Acid), Ogre (Skinny Puppy), Charles Levi (Thrill
Kill Kult)and Andrew Weiss (Butthole Surfers) appear, amongst others. There's even
been a umor that Jim ThIrwell (Foetus) will be at the Detroit show, but don't bet your
peanututter on it. It'll be at St. Andrew's Hall, doors at 9 p.m. Tickets are $11 in
advance, and it's 18 and over only. Go and squeal like a piggy.
A play of poker and paranoia
By Paul Spiteri
Maybe once every Republican-run
Congress or so someone brings to art a
style socompelling and new that it
makesjiJmagining the world before al-
most impossible. To theater, David
,Mamet is such a person.
Marnet's prolific career, which in-
cludes 'House of Games" and "Sexual
Perverity in Chicago," had its start
with .American Buffalo," being pro-
duced this weekend by Basement Arts.
This play won its author an Obie Award
in its off-Broadway stint in 1976 and
his first Drama Critics Circle Award in
1977.' Mire importantly, however, the
play'brought the world of drama a dra-
maticatlU new talent. It hasn't been the
Senior Adam Eisenstein makes
"American Buffalo" his directorial de-
but. He looks forward to the challenge of
the often difficult and multi-layered con-
versational flow of the play.
'Irad this play ayear ago," Eisenstein
said. "This is the first Mamet-styled play.
thas all'he things I liked within 'Sexual
.Perversity in Chicago.' It reminds me of
poker.The edge ofevery line falls into the
power relationships between the charac-
ters. A topic that appears a page or two
before can suddenly reappear, making
the flot 'of the play exciting and fun."
Thre.shady characters take the stage
in thistwo-act play. The action is set
around, th dealings of ajunk shop owner,
Don Dubrow, played by Robert
Macadaeg. In the urbanjungle setting, his
owneship of even a questionably legiti-
mate business makes him the most re-
fpectd person in the play.
WalterCole, or Teach, playedby sopho-
mpre ernardo de Paula, is both a friend
and business associate of Dubrow. Teach
is the most charismatic but also perhaps
the most egotistical character in the play.
This makes Teach an easy person to sym-
pathize with but also makes it nearly
impossible to doubt his actions as being
anythingmore than completely self-serv-
By Heather Phares
Daily Arts Editor
"I had this nightmare where a lot of the
people in my dream became reality. I have a
living nightmare that's called my band,"
said David Baker, the Stephen Wright-esque
co-singer and songwriter ofMercury Rev in
1993. "Some of the most important people
in your life can also mess you up in the head.
And because they mess you up they're even
more important and they become your best
friends. When you feel that these are people
you love to hate, or because you hate the rest
of the world so much, you have to be with
them. It's a love-hate kind of relationship;
we're at each other like siblings." Appar-
ently the siblings he was referring to were
Cain and Abel ratherthan the Brady Bunch;
in the spring of '94 Baker left his group,
acrimoniously as reports had it.
But like a worm that becomes two
worms when cut, both Mercury Rev and
Baker weathered, and even thrived on the
split. Baker formed his own weird-noise
combo Shady later that year, while the
rest of Mercury Rev (Jonathan Donahue,
Grasshopper, Suzanne Thorpe, Dave
Fridmann and Jimy Chambers) laid low,
creating the musical cocoon that became
the butterfly (er, album) "See You on the
Other Side" that was released this year.
The "other side" of Mercury Rev, sans
Baker, is "a pretty different direction,"
said the group's drummer/pianist Jimy
Chambers in a recent interview. Much of
the surface weirdness such has been
stripped from the group, starting with the
album artwork for "See You on the Other
Side": A small, glittering fairy hovers in
a window in outer space -a far cry from
the pontoon-breasted wooden doll that
graces the cover of the group's second
album "Boces" and the busty bathing
beauty on their debut "Yerself is Steam."
But the biggest difference in the group
nowadays, accordingto Chambers, istheir
live show: "Sometimes (Baker) wouldn't
play on the first song even though we
were already on-stage. The atmosphere is
quite a bit different. It used to be quite
tense both on-stage and off. On-stage it
was sort of interesting, because there was
this constant tension and it allowed ev-
erybody to play a bit further out," he said
Currently in the midst of a six-week
tour of the country, Chambers and com-
pany have had mixed responses from the
audiences: "Some ofthe shows have been
pretty bad. You get a lot ofcrowds staring
at you like you're from outer space or
Which is not an inaccurate description
of how alien Mercury Rev's sound and
style are in a pop world that's filled with
grunge, alternadivas and punk-pop; com-
pared to these, Mercury Rev are certainly
out of this world. Their unique mix of
jazz, funk, techno, rock, classical and
virtually every other genre defies easy
Live, however, some of the delicacy of
thismix issacrificedto ignitetheirperfor-
mance. Chambers explained, "It's pretty
different than what's on the records. In
the past, it used to be very different be-
cause there was a lot more spontaneous
stuff going on. Now it's different because
of the tempo -it's more of a rock show
than anything else. In the summer we
were over in Europe and we used the
saxophone player that playedon the record
and then we had much more of a jazz
approach to things. I think a lot of the
people who come to our shows and stare
open-mouthed expect to hear what's on
the record, and they get something totally
Though Mercury Rev creates brilliant,
genre-less music, their very individuality
makes them the targets of lots of cliches.
"I'm starting to get sick of the space-
rock' thing, myself," Chambers sighed.
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"While we've been touring we've had
local bands opening for us, and there's
been space references all over the place,
bands with names like Space Toothbrush,
Space Comb, Space Deodorant - it's
pretty ridiculous. I guess if you create an
image of yourself then you have to live
with it, but it's pretty far from the truth.
People get the idea that we're this slow-
edged, acid rock kind of thing."
He added with a laugh, "They go ex-
pecting to see people throwing up on-
stage, looking like death, and what they
get is like a buzzsaw. After this tour I
think people will see what we're about
and the misconceptions will blow away."
Another misconception about the group
isthat Mercury Revereates completely spon-
taneous, formless, rambling music. Cham-
bers is eager to clarify: "With most of our
songs, there's some kind of underlying am-
bient thing going on through it, and that's
being thought of from the start. It usually
takes a while to decide what exactly that
sound is going to be. It could take days,
weeks, months before we finally say 'Oh,
yeah, that's the sound we want."'
Warming to his topic, Chambers added,
"If you're Pink Floyd or John Cage or
whoever, from the start of the tape to the
end of the tape, you're going to have a
structure. We couldjust ramble on, but by
the time it's done there would be a struc-
ture where people could say, 'This is this
part, and that's that part.' So we always do
start with a structure in place. It's kind of
like building a house, I guess. You put the
frame up and then add the decorations."
Ifthat's true, then Mercury Rev's house
certainly has eclectic foundations. About
his musical tastes, Chambers said, "I've
been listening to lots of late'60s and early
'70s orchestrated music like Richard
Harris and Burt Bacharach. There are a
few contemporary things out there that I
like, such as Spiritualized. Grasshopper's
really big into jazz, and has a very exten-
sive knowledge about it, and Jonathan
listens to delta blues and'70s classic rock.
Suzanne listens to a lot of jazz and classi-
cal music, and likes her classic rock too."
All of those styles of music (as well as
a few others) can be heard in Mercury
Rev's sonic blender, pureed, chopped
and diced into compositions like the funky-
punky noisefest "Young Man's Stride,"
the effervescent, giddy "A Kiss From an
Old Flame" and the elegiac "Everlasting
Arm."The blend ofold and new, tradition
and experimentation makes their newest
both more conventional and more inno-
vative than previous works.
This balance is something that Cham-
bers is aware of: "By today's standards,
(the music is) getting more experimental.
Even ifwe put out a Boston record for our
next release, we would still be more ex-
perimental than most of what's going on
today. With 'Yerself is Steam,' most
people won't be able to get past the sec-
ond song without saying 'This sucks.'
('See You On the Other Side') is a record
that almost anybody can listen to because
there's not a five-foot layer of weirdness
separating you andthe CD player. Instead
of calling it bad, people will call it weird,"
he said with a laugh.
As for the band's future plans, they're
more on the traditional side than the ex-
perimental: Mercury Rev tours until the
middle of this month, and next year sees
them continuing to tour and possibly
record. "There's been talk ofgetting back
in the studio so that there aren't always
two-year gaps between our records,"
Chambers said. He feels that "success is
the ability to communicate with your
audience, by playing each song the way
it's supposed to be played, first of all, and
having the audience know and appreciate
it." Mercury Rev succeeds on all sides.
Four points of the Mercury Rev pentagram.
Freshman Matthew Cliffordcompletes
the cast with the character Bob. The young-
est and least respectable of all the charac-
ters in the play, Bob is Dubrow's gopher
boy and general lackey. His presence on
the stage is the closest thing to innocence
the play even glimpses. Bob's involve-
ment in the main scheme of the plot
reminds those watching that no one stays
innocent for long.
The plot centers on the robbery of a
man who never takes the stage. The main
emphasis of the play, however, is the
question of each character's fear of being
somehow jilted by his accomplices.
"Truth, friendship and loyalty, these
are the key issues in the play and for
Mamet," said Eisenstein. "There is al-
ways the question of who they should
trust and not to trust.
"You can take these three guys as a
microcosm about what goes on all over
the world. Even in minor things, there is
always apowerstructure (between people)
being challenged on every level."
The paranoia that exists within this
play reminded Eisenstein of poker and
the distrust of those a player faces across
"Poker is a metaphor of this play as
much as this play is a metaphor of life."
Using poker as an analogy for
Mamet's writing aptly describes its chal-
lenging style. Not a word or a pause can
be taken for granted. So come and see
this week's production of "American
Buffalo." You'll enjoy an important
show in modern theater and learn how
to beat those dealers out in Windsor
1~ _ _ _ _ _ _
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If you think you're pregnant...
call us-we listen, we care.
PROBLEM PREGNANCY HELP
Any time, any day, 24 hours.
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The University of Michigan
School of Music
Sunday, December 3
Faculty and Guest Recital
Erling Blondal Bengtsson, cello
Nina Kavtaradze, piano
Brahms: Sonatas no.I and 2
Shostakovich: Sonata in D minor
Recital Hall, 3 p.m.
Michael Udow, director
Anthony DiSanza, associate director
Xenakis: Plei Movements: Metal & Skin
Udow: Music for Cross-Cultures
Zappa: The Black Page
McIntosh Theatre, 4 p.m.
Creative Arts Orchestra
Edward Sarath, director
Rehearsal Hall, 8 p.m.
Monday, December 4
Dennis Glocke, conductor
John Neville-Andrews, narrator
Music for the Motion Pictures:
Shostakovich, Copland and Walton
Hill Auditorium, 8p.m.
Tuesday, December 5
Faculty Recital by Donald Sinta, saxophone
Recital Hall, 8 p.m.
Chamber Choir & University Choir
Jerry Blackstone and Theodore Morrison, conductors
Music by Rachmaninoff, Britten, Part and Janacek
Hill Auditorium, 8 p.m.
Cabaret Class Recital
Rackham Assembly Hall, 9:30 p.m.
Wednesday, December 6
University Symphony and Philharmonia Orchestras
Kenneth Kiesler and Pier Calabria, conductors
Mark Timmerman, soloist
Weber: Bassoon Concerto, op.75
Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis
Respighi: Pines of Rome
Hill Auditorium, 8 p.m.
Thursday-Saturday, December 7-9
Dance and Related Arts
Betty Pease Studio Theatre, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $5 (763-5460)
Friday, December 8
H. Robert Reynolds, Peter Witte, Stephen Rush, conductors
Music of Vaughan Williams, Maslanka and Roger Nixon,
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