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October 03, 2016 - Image 6

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The Michigan Daily

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6A — Monday, October 3, 2016
The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com


“Pull my fingers.”


The Killers were the
end of a golden era


was wearing dog ears made
out of paper and black eye
pencil on my nose when I

finally realized how powerful
“Mr. Brightside” could be.

It was Halloween of 2015. I

was dressed as Mr. Peanutbut-

ter from “BoJack Horseman,”
and I was in a Kerrytown
basement with a faulty stereo
system. The music was great,
but the songs would sometimes
cut out for minutes at a time —
people would trip over a cord or

knock against the speaker the
wrong way or something, and
we’d be stuck in awkward, dis-
appointed silence until it got

Anyway, “Mr. Brightside”

comes on, and if you’re a fan of



10 years since “When You Were Young,” their work still stands alone

Superheroes are good, and


black and white. Simple. Chil-
dren and adults
alike have read,

adored Marvel’s


through heroes



builds an almost

tion that, above

tice will come
out on top. But
“Marvel’s Luke
Cage” does something different
in its adaptation of the beloved
1972 comic. Set in a dynamic
and dangerous Harlem, “Luke
Cage” steps into reality, where
things aren’t quite as simple
as good and evil. In real life,
even the good guys have a little
streak of bad in them, and the
bad guys are just fighting from
a different perspective.

The third Marvel series on

Netflix, “Luke Cage” fits into
the Marvel universe timeline by
picking up a few months after
the explosive “Jessica Jones”
finale. This time, the story
turns over to Jessica Jones’s
love interest, Luke Cage (Mike
Colter, “Agent X”), a bulletproof
man who acquired his superhu-
man powers after a botched
prison experiment. Hiding out
in Harlem and living on cash
only jobs, Luke is keeping a
low profile, desperately trying
to run from his past and the
impending onset of his “gifted”
present. “Luke Cage” is a story
of embracing one’s identity –

– and living in a reality where
that identity might be ques-
tioned, torn down and taken
advantage of.

Writer, producer and show-

runner Cheo Hodari Coker
(“Southland”) told the Wash-

ington Post, “I will never get
tired of seeing a bulletproof
Black man. Like Dr. Martin
Luther King, like Malcolm X,
like Medgar Evers or even from
hip-hop in terms of Tupac and

the Notorious B.I.G.,
so many of our heroes
aren’t bulletproof, so
when you have a bul-
letproof hero, even if
you’re not telling a
political story, seeing
a bulletproof Black
man in the world, has
inherent politics.”

As the first Black

superhero to lead a
story in the Marvel
cinematic universe,

mance as Luke Cage
is undeniably inspir-

ing. Just as the series addresses
the issue of race, so does Col-
ter, embodying Harlem – and
everything that comes with
it – as an integral part of his

“Code of the Streets,” Luke
monologues about one of his
Black heroes, Crispus Attucks,
the first American to die in the
Revolutionary War. The series
allows Cage to express his con-
nection with Black history and
culture, as the script engages
with Harlem’s saturated and
complicated narrative. History,
music (each episode is named
after a Gang Starr song), sports
and Black culture are deeply
embedded in the narrative of
Luke Cage, weaving in and out
of the dialogue and constantly
being portrayed in visual sym-
bols and cinematic homages.
Without pushing a political
agenda, the series adds to the
current political conversation
on what it means to be Black in
America. “Luke Cage” succeeds
in bringing depth and adding
perspective to a discussion that
hits close to home for its audi-

But ultimately, it’s the villain

Cottonmouth (Mahershala Ali,
“House of Cards”), who steals
the show. In a dynamic and
near-perfect performance, Ali’s

portrayal of a power-hungry
bad guy is both gloriously dis-
turbing and enchanting. While
he operates far outside the law
and possesses the unethical
components that characterize
him as “evil,” Cottonmouth is
a villain who is allowed a com-
plex emotional narrative. At
the end of episode two, we see
him burst into tears after losing
someone from his past, and just
for a brief moment, the audi-
ence is able to forget his vil-
lainy. Despite his murders, his
selfishness and his corrupt rise
to power, he is not a “bad guy”
from his own perspective. He’s
just trying to succeed in a real-
ity painted in shades of grey,
making Cottonmouth one of
the most exciting characters to
watch on screen.

The narrative glides effort-

lessly and swiftly through its
13-episode arc, diversifying the
storytelling through unusual
and creative cinematic deci-
sions. The series doesn’t shy
away from extreme high and
low angles, breaks up time with
flashbacks and memories, and
is able to create high energy
action scenes by altering the
speed of their shots. Cinemato-
graphically, “Luke Cage” has a
great deal of texture, pulling in
the audience by breaking the
fourth wall and allowing them
to breathe as shots of a buzzing
Harlem gloss over the screen.

“Luke Cage” skillfully plays

on a wide range of human emo-
tions, eliciting laughs, sympathy
and surprise. It pulls inspira-
tion from history while root-
ing itself in today’s pop culture,
making it the perfect series for
an all-consuming binge watch.


Daily Arts Writer

“Luke Cage” is a modern superhero
series with morally complex stories

The new Netflix Marvel show is both emotional and energetic


“Marvel’s Luke


Episodes 1 & 2


All Episodes
Available to



The Killers, you know there’s
no greater rush of excitement
than those opening guitar
notes. You hear them come out
of nowhere and it’s just deliri-
ous ecstasy, with
the entire room
suddenly united in
a sweaty mess of
jumps and shouts.

And that was

the reaction at this
Halloween party
— until the speak-
ers gave way again.
Except, the thing
is, the lack of music
didn’t stop the song.
People kept singing the words,
clapping along to the beat and
turning the basement into a
spontaneous a cappella party
that lasted until the real “Mr.
Brightside” came back with all
its synth-pop spectacle.

There was a run in the mid-

2000s where everything The
Killers made was a pure light
of golden energy. Hot Fuss,
their debut, remains one of
the most beloved albums of its
generation, “Mr. Brightside” is
untouchable and anthems like
“All These Things That I’ve
Done,” “Somebody Told Me”
and “When You Were Young”
come closer than any other
band’s attempts. I think in the
right place, they could all pass
the broken-speaker test.

And I’ve been thinking about

“When You Were Young” in
particular lately, because it just
turned 10 years old, but I don’t
think any rock song since has
had anywhere near the cultural
impact that it did. The Killers
seem to be this special band
that hit it big with anachronis-
tic, earnest rock ‘n’ roll, and no
other artist has been able to use
that formula to recapture the
level of success they had.

The album that features

“When You Were Young,” Sam’s
Town, seems hard to imagine
in 2016. After taking their cues
from new wave British dance
groups like Duran Duran and
New Order for Hot Fuss, Bran-

don Flowers and his Las Vegas
quartet rediscovered America,
falling in love with Springsteen,
cowboys and beards.

The result was a record that,

despite being an over-
blown mess that too
often confused loud-
ness and overstuffed
arrangements with
epic power, was still
very easy to love. It
had heart-on-sleeve,
unselfconscious song
writing, skyscraper-
huge choruses and a
whirlwind of excite-
ment on every song.

Critics at the time hated it (Rob
Sheffield infamously gave it
two stars in Rolling Stone), but
it has remained a favorite with
the general rock public, espe-
cially as it feels more and more
unique as time goes on.

There’s a small canon of

recent rock songs that continue
to be beloved by everybody, but
that canon seems to end around
2006. There’s “All the Small
Things” (1999), “Stacy’s Mom”
(2003), “Sugar, We’re Goin’
Down” (2005) and perhaps
“I Bet You Look Good on the
Dancefloor” (2006), to name
most of them.

And then there’s The Killers,

and then after that we seem to
stop. Of course, I’m not saying
that The Killers are anywhere
near the last great rock band,
but they scored at least 5 or 6
major hits, most of which still
light up a party today. Bands in
this era are extremely lucky to
get even one song in that tail-
gate playlist.

And I’m sorry, but honestly,

I don’t have a definitive answer
for why this happened. There
are definitely fewer people who
listen exclusively to rock, which
means an average band like
Grand Funk Railroad in the ’70s
or Live in the ’90s can’t score
some radio play when no one else
is making good music and get
famous by default.

Major labels, too, aren’t invest-

ing in album production like they

used to — I don’t know what the
budget for Sam’s Town was, but
it sounds expensive, and I really
doubt it could have recouped its
losses if it were released today.

And finally, perhaps, I think

we’re seeing the effects of a
backlash to the overwhelm-
ing straight white male-ness of
mainstream rock, and a turn to
traditionally more inclusive, yet
critically scorned, sounds of R&B
and dance music.

But I still have hope for the

future. Rock music isn’t dying
— if anything, with artists still
on the upswing of their young
careers like Modern Baseball,
Hop Along, Mitski, Car Seat
Headrest, Parquet Courts,
Whitney and PWR BTTM, just
to name a few, it might be more
vital and varied than ever.

Beyond that, The Struts are

starting to make a name for
themselves with the kind of
dumb, fun, beer commercial rock
that still has a lot of fans, Walk
the Moon scored a hit last year
with the Hot Fuss-esque “Shut
Up and Dance” and The 1975
quietly became Tumblr teen idols
and released I Like It When You
Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful
yet So Unaware of It, the kind of
overblown, ambitious, aspiring-
to-legend-status record that The
Killers were going for with Sam’s

As fractured as the music

world has gotten in the past few
years, there are still some artists
who unite us. The Killers remain
one of them, standing alone as
a rock band even a decade after
their peak, and proving that we
still love booming anthems and
guitar solos. But while, right
now, none of the up-and-coming
young guitar bands have the
special, ecstatic kind of song that
pass the broken-speaker test, it
would be crazy to count them
out. I know we’ll be waiting with
open ears when they deliver.

Theisen expects to hear

“Mr. Brightside” at your Hal-

loween party. For dog costume

tips, email ajtheis@umich.edu

The narrative

glides effortlessly

and swiftly

through its arc.

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