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September 27, 1995 - Image 5

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1995-09-27

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-a-rn------ ~ ~z. - - -

Art Videos at Noon
The name says it all. This time, ArtVideos at Noon profiles the Baroque
style, including such artists as Bernini, Caravaggio, Velasquez and
Rembrandt. With an all-star bill like that, it's more than worth dragging
yourself to the University's Museum of Art at 12:10 p.m. today. Not
only is it culturally enlightening fun, it's as free as a bird. Call 764-0395
for more information.

Page 5
Wednesday,
September 27, 1995

Turturro
is super in
'Unstrung
Heroes'

Sonic Youth hit the laundromat to get their underoos clean before hitting the road again.

Sonic Youth
Washing Machine
DGC
Hot on the heels oftheir Lollapalooza
stint comes Sonic Youth's latest album
"Washing Machine."
Even though the band played most of
these songs on the tour, hearing them on
disc just confirms what Sonic Youth
fans found out this summer: The group
is experiencing a creative rebirth. In
fact, "Washing Machine" is probably
their best album since 1988's pioneer-
ing classic "Daydream Nation."
The album bears little resemblance
to the holding pattern of 1990's "Goo,"
1992's "Dirty" - the band's nod to
grunge - or the abortion of an album
that was last year's "Experimental Jet
Set, Trash and No Star."
Instead, "Washing Machine" com-
bines the arty dissonance and feedback
jams that defined earlier works like
"Evol" and "Daydream," the pop lean-
ings of their most recent work and a
developing maturity in their
songwriting. Yes, this band has been
around for over 15 years, but fortu-
nately they're getting both older and
better.
Part ofthis maturity may have some-
thing to do with the fact that Sonic
Youth recorded "Washing Machine" in
Memphis andproduced the album them-
selves (along with John Siket). Getting
away from New York City and long-
time producer Butch Vig appears to
have done the band some good: "Wash-
ing Machine" is easily one of their
warmest-sounding records, not to men-
tion one of their most comprehensive.
For while each song has Sonic
Youth's trademark detuned guitars,
multiple harmonics and waves of feed-
back, each of the 11 tracks on the album
has a distinct identity. From the prickly,
intense opener"Becuz" to the celestial
closer "The Diamond Sea," "Washing
Machine" runs the gamut of opinions
and emotions.
The band even makes room for the
blues (done their own way, of course)
on "Junkie's Promise" and the startling
"No Queen Blues," which melds a
snake-charming guitar line with some
nastyput-down lyrics andharsh, shouted
vocals courtesy of Thurston Moore.
Indeed, each songwriting member of
the band gets his or her moment to shine
on "Washing Machine." Lee Ranaldo's
songwriting, sorely missed on "Experi-
mental Jet Set," makes a welcome re-
turn with the poignant, half-sung, half-
spoken "Saucer-Like" which alternates
between sleepy droning and chaotic
noise-bursts. "Skip Tracer," another
Ranaldo song, follows along the same
lines, although more in a more exuber-
ant fashion.
Kim Gordon makes a pair of feminist
statements with "Little Trouble Girl"

and "Panty Lies." "Trouble Girl" fea-
tures none other than Kim Deal on
vocals as well, a pairing that many
Sonic Youth and Pixies/Breeders fans
have hoped for. A creepy song about a
daughter's breaking free from her
mother's expectations, Kims Gordon
and Deal sound terrific together in a
postmodern girl-group way. "Panty
Lies" sounds anguished and militant, a
battle cry in the war of the sexes.
But it's Thurston Moore's songs that
make "Washing Machine" the treasure
that it is. "Unwind" is serene, and one of
the most melodic songs in an album that
is full of catchy melodies. "The Dia-
mond Sea" is alternately sad and com-
forting, with a gentle melody line and
wave after wave of feedback. Over 20
minutes long, the song ranks among the
group's most thoughtful. "Time takes
its crazy toll," Moore sighs. Maybe so,
but when the results are as breathtaking
as "Washing Machine," the ends more
than justify the means.
- Heather Phares
Alfonzo Blackwell
Let's Imagine ...
Scotti Bros. Records
Produced by the likes of Freddie Jack-
son, George Clinton and Najee, 24-year
old saxophonist Alfonzo Blackwell is
about to take contemporary jazz by
storm with his debut album "Let's Imag-
ine ..." Much of his music is like
MoJazz's Norman Brown. "Let's Imag-
ine ..." gives Blackwell's elegantly
jazzy interpretation of Sade's "Cherish
the Day," Whitney Houston's "I Have
Nothing" and Mary J. Blige's "Love
No Limit," just as Brown has done for
various R&B and ballad hits.
In terms of the rest of this album,
however, it is a strict case of the student
surpassing the teacher. While follow-
ing in Brown's tradition, Alfonzo
Blackwell infuses a massive quantity of
his own youthful life and vigor into his
work. It doesn't hurt that he's also ex-
cellent with the soprano sax, my favor-

ite instrument.
Much of Blackwell's LP is reminis-
cent of nature. While he plays "Cherish
the Day" soft, distant sounds of howl-
ing wolves and rushing winds create an
aura of mystique and fearful fascina-
tion. In "Lovesick" Blackwell's play-
ing is like a mountain of fresh spring
water flowing into a lush-filled canyon.
Blackwell's ability to suppress the craze
that lies just beneath the surface of his
music will keep you on your toes beg-
ging for the musical madness that
Blackwell keeps just out of reach. This
fact also becomes apparent in the title
track where the notes he plays roll up
and down, slowly and smoothly, like
the Great Plains of Central America
and in "Alfonzo's Love Theme" which
can mesmerize you like birds flying
loving together in the sky.
Adding some unnecessary "umph"
to the album is "Can't Stop the Funk."
It is very out of place in this album, and
it sounds like Blackwell threw it in just
to make George Clinton happy. He
should have just left Clinton pissed.
But, I for one will not allow this minor
inconvenience to turn off my revelry in
the utter purity and beauty of
Blackwell's work. This is "Let's Imag-
ine ...": Pureness and beauty incarnate.
- Eugene Bowen
See RECORDS, page 8

nstrung Heroes
Directed by Diane
Keaton; with Andie
MacDowell and John
Turturro
At Ann Arbor l & 2 and Showcase
By Dean Bakopoulos
Daily Arts Writer
Few films this year have reached
the distinction of sure-bet Oscar nomi-
nees. Unlike last year when block-
busters like "Pulp Fiction" and
"Forrest Gump" were virtual locks
for Oscar nominations, few movies
have stood up above the rest. Diane
Keaton's latest effort, "Unstrung He-
roes" may change all that.
Keaton's skilled direction and a
wonderfully understated screenplay
by Richard LaGravanese ("The
Bridges of Madison County") blend
together a vivid and engrossing cast
of characters. The mix of humor,
warmth and lunacy that the film's
protagonists reflect is the crucial
element in this film's success. In
fact, this may be one of the best
written, directed and acted films in
recent years.
The most surprising performance
comes from Hollywood newcomer
Nathan Watt who plays the film's
protagonist, 12-year-old Steven
Lidz. Young Steven, facing mount-
ing pressures when his quiet life
turns chaotic, escapes to the bizarre
but innocent world of his two ec-
centric uncles (played by Maury
Chaykin and "Seinfeld"'s Michael
Richards). Watt's instinctive per-
formance makes it hard to believe
that this is his first major role. He
breathes life into Steven, giving an
endearing portrayal of a young Jew-
ish boy struggling to make sense of
his world.
Steven's relatively tranquil world

John Turturro is the best thing about 'Unstrung Heroes'

is thrown out of balance when his
mother, Selma (Andie MacDowell),
is diagnosed with cancer.
MacDowell also shows noteworthy
promise despite playing the appar-
ently miscast role of a young Jew-
ish mother. She gives a tender por-
trayal of a mother who knows she is
facing possibility of dying and leav-
ing her children behind. MacDowell
pulls of the intensely emotional role
without ever slipping into melo-
drama.
Perhaps the best performance of
the film belongs to John Turturro
("Quiz Show") who plays Steven's
father, Sid. This is a great achieve-
ment considering that all the lead ac-
tors give first rate performances. Play-
ing a loving father, a failed inventor
and a misunderstood genius, Turturro
subtly captures the anguish and fear
that envelopes a man who realizes he
can no longer protect his family from
the sometimes brutal realities of life.
He tries his best to help his children
through the trying time, but is too
overcome by his own emotions to
help his children.
That's when Steven turns to his
uncles Arthur (Richards) and Danny
(Chaykin). These two open Steven's
young mind to a world of skewed
genius and innocent magic. Through
the influence of his interesting if not
mentally unstable uncles, Steven

makes the rocky trek from boyhood to
maturity. His parents are soon
troubled, however, by the uncles' in-
fluence on their son. esnecially after
Steven begins a series of bizarre bet-
havior patterned after his uncles.
When Steven convinces his parents
to allow him to live with his uncles for-
the summer, one of the film's subtly
crafted themes begins to emerge -,
the conflict between madness and rea,
son, emotion and thought.
The heavy and diverse influence
that Steven receives is essential to the
poignancy of the film. Facing trag-
edy, Steven is forced to look through
those influences and decide for him.
self what is most important to'him. It
is this maturing process that is excel-
lently developed, adding to the film's
charm.
Taking the antics and anguish of all
these wonderfully crafted and skill-
fully portrayed characters and turn-
ing them into a compelling film is a
testament to Keaton's directorial tal-
ent. The film seems to be shot almost
tenderly, with angles and transitions
expertly crafted to convey emotion
without melodrama.
Coupled with a script that keeps a
tight balance between humor and sor-
row in a way that continuously tugs at
ones heart strings, "Unstrung Heroes"
is a winner. At least it should be,
come Oscar time.

--- - - - - -- -r

TONIGHT!!
Wednesday, September 27th
7:00PM
Parker Room in the Union
Hear State Senator Alma Smith
and State Rep. Liz Brater

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