Archive for the ‘number twenty-two’ Category

The Good, The Bad and the Queen — The Good, The Bad and the Queen (2007)

April 11, 2007
Good art can’t be assembled from exemplary pieces like a fantasy baseball team. The Good, The Bad, & The Queen, the first album from the band formed by Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz, falls prey to the usual supergroup problem: it sounds too good, too slick and too professional to be very interesting. Produced by Danger Mouse, and featuring Paul Simonon of the Clash, Simon Tong of the Verve, and Tony Allen from Fela Kuti’s backing band (Afrika 70), the album is lushly arranged but ultimately uninspiring. The lyrics, intended to be a portrayal of modern life in London, are somewhat evocative but rather vague and obscure; they’re far more interesting as poems in the album liner than paired with the music.

The album does have a few high points: “Nature Springs” shows the band melding their diverse styles with much more success than the rest of the album, and hints at promising results if this group can ever move past being a project and meld into a band. This album, however, is still fairly immature.

–ap
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Reign Over Me (2007)

April 11, 2007
There have been plenty of movies made that tell stories of trauma; in fact, one might argue that almost all films are about traumatic experiences and how this changes and moves people through a narrative, toward either greater meaning or nihilistic chaos. These films need to find resolution in redemption or some level of healing in the afflicted person, or they ultimately settle for despair. When dealing with true tragedy, good films need to find an honest way to allow the audience to imagine the possibilities of hope and love.

Reign Over Me is this sort of film. It never sinks to the level of despair, but is accurate in not providing false hope. Charlie (Adam Sandler) has been a recluse since the loss of his wife and three daughters on 9/11. He has stopped visiting friends and family, and spends his time playing video games, listening to music and collecting records. Alan (Don Cheadle), Charlie’s former roommate, sees him scooting around town and tries to reconnect after a long absence. Alan soon realizes that he needs to try to help Charlie, but finds that the institutions in place for dealing with grief and loss are not adequate to the task. He realizes that it will require time and a slow reconnecting with a small group of new friends that might help Charlie to learn to live with the loss, and make sense of his own life. The film is really good at developing the characters, and as weird and random as the group seems, it works. The film doesn’t try to make grand statements about death and loss. Rather, it simply shows that a little reflection on life can show us who we are and what it is that we love most.

–gpv

Bright Eyes — The Four Winds EP (2007)

April 11, 2007
According to current polls, two out of every three people think that President Bush is doing a bad job running the country right now. This number must be higher among people with recording contracts. But with the recent crop of blatant musical statements of political dissatisfaction, Bright Eyes’ latest work, the Four Winds EP, stands out.

Although his political commentary isn’t hidden beneath layers of complex literary constructions, Conor Oberst did have the grace to craft his songs into clever and compelling metaphors, avoiding the descent into blatant and puerile name-calling that has plagued the work of other folks forwarding similar messages.

And while his lyrics do become heavy-handed in places (“the Bible’s blind, the Torah’s deaf, the Koran’s mute/If you burn them all together you get close to the truth”), the album is not a tirade. The Four Winds is certainly tinged with sorrow and despair, but Bright Eyes keeps things listenable with his skillful folk rock arrangements. This collection of songs is one of the most palatable statements of frustration to come out of the cottage industry of dissident voices that have sprung up since Bush’s re-election.

–nc

Casino Royale (2006)

April 11, 2007
Let’s be honest: James Bond will always be James Bond. There will be explosions, there will be a ridiculous villain, and there will be a fairly offensive and chauvinistic approach to all the female characters. Casino Royale is no exception to the Bond formula. In addition to the sex and violence, however, the latest installment in the series takes an opportunity to slow down and do something very interesting.

In the slower moments of the film, the writers take time to deal with the origins and consequences of the callous mindset that defines James Bond. They take a sensitive look at the casual sex-hound and remorseless murderer, which–while still admiring–shows a certain hollowness to his being.

Over all, Casino Royale is little more than a fun popcorn flick, but its moments of introspection lend it a gravity and sense of dignity seldom found in the blow-’em-up super-spy genre.

–nc

Aqualung — Memory Man (2007)

April 11, 2007
This is car-commercial music. This is music that only feels meaningful when you’re at the bar and you’ve been drinking alone. This is a dull, dull, overproduced album. The lyrics are formulaic and uninspiring, and bear the distinctive shape of Nashville cookie cutter pieces (see, for example, such gems as “Had enough of wondering / what became of all the dreams she had / oh, they’re out there somewhere”). The standard piano-rock pieces are mostly split between tracks that sound either like a mix of Coldplay and U2 run through a fruit juicer, or like absolutely generic CCM-ish cuts.

A large part of the problem with this album is the production; “Rolls So Deep,” for example, would be an enjoyable, if unremarkable, Blur-esque number but for the effects on Matt Hales’ voice; as it is, the vocals sound as if they were ground up and pressed through cheesecloth. This album shows some promise, but isn’t actually good in its own right; it’s worth a second listen, but definitely not a third.

–ap

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