Rhythm & Views
FEBRUARY 16, 1998:
THE DEAD BOYS
Twistin' On The Devil's Fork
THE CRUMMY, ULTRA-low fidelity on this historic live document by one of Cleveland's greatest proto-punk band's has recently been unearthed by former bassist Jeff Magnum, and the deteriorating cassette copies were quickly turned over to Bacchus for posthumous restoration. The suspect sound quality of these 12 defiled tracks, recorded circa 1977 live at CBGB's in New York City, are raw and scratchy, to say the least. But the on-stage exploding beer bottles and in-your-face sonic annihilation encrusted in these moldy tapes prefigure the Dead Boys nihilistic approach. These embryonic recordings are essential only to die-hard Dead Boys fanatics, but unlike their "cleaned up" Sire albums, those inclined may care to pick up these storm-trooping exploits to experience all the primordial raunchiness of original pre-alternative punk rock. Check out "Sonic Reducer" and the Syndicate Of Sound's "Hey Little Girl" for a taste of all the Dead Boys' ugly, amateurish brilliance.
Good Will Hunting Soundtrack
FILMMAKER GUS VAN Sant was champing at the bit to use some of Elliot Smith's songs. It's not surprising that the compressed, self-referential but not disclosive Smith has spawned such ardor from fans. Within the sparest elements of guitar, voice and light accompaniment, he manages a palpable and impossibly alluring melancholy at once. They race through the mind like water through one's hands, always eluding grasp. If he weren't a storyteller of the heart--a text he captures with his faltering, reedy voice--he'd be little more than a stylist. As it is, he embodies a rainy Portland afternoon the way Tom Waits is a musical Cannery Row. The former member of Portland's ill-fated, supercharged band Heatmiser has imploded in the years since his band's demise, and the results have been nothing but delectably ethereal, intimate and informal. Here, songs have been remastered or re-recorded from the brilliant Either/Or (K Records), and his 1994 self-titled work (Cavity Search). The 15-song package has a new Smith song, the lovely "Miss Misery," as well as an orchestral revisitation of "Between the Bars," with help from Danny Elfman, that heightens the melodic and emotional potential always present. It's not a new record, but it's a taste. It's a fine introduction to a brilliant artist.
Other tracks thrown in for good measure are Luscious Jackson, Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street," an Al Green track, the Waterboys' ubiquitous "Fisherman's Blues," and the Dandy Warhols' "Boys Better." With songs like this, who cares what the movie looks like?
Kundun, Original Soundtrack
PHILIP GLASS' SCORE for the Martin Scorcese film Kundun, based on the life of the Dalai Lama, manages to be more interesting than most film music, yet still holds only marginal interest once separated from the work that gave it birth. Glass' style, repetitive symphonic movements based around lower-register instruments, lends itself well to sweeping vistas and the grand spectacle of epic stage and screen productions. Himself a Buddhist, Glass approaches the subject matter with appropriate, if heavy-handed reverence. The bulk of the score has an overriding somberness that begins to bog down near the halfway point. The 18 mostly brief tracks take on a sameness that might work well in context with recurring visual motif, but offer little that's challenging musically. Kundun is not without its beauty, however. Glass can create compelling rhythms based on repetition, and his fondness for low-end works well with the traditional Tibetan musicians and vocalists that appear on several selections. It is these sections that work best.
By marrying the ancient warmth of the Gyuto Monks' sound with his own somewhat chilly precision, Glass manages to create something with a life of its own outside of the theater. If only more of the Kundun soundtrack had been like this, it might have gotten a higher rating. As it is, Glass hasn't really expanded on or improved his excellent previous scores for Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi.
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