Sunday, March 8, 2009

Random Reviews

It's time to spew random opinions about random things. (My ratings system is based on a scale from 0-11, just to be annoyingly and self-consciously original.)

"No Line on the Horizon": U2 : 9

The sign of a truly good album is one that you don't like the first time you hear it. Such was "No Line." The first song they put on the radio ("Get on Your Boots") sounded like "Vertigo 2.0," and the first chord of the title track just hit my ear wrong. But after a few listens, something magical happens with this album. You get used to the tone, and you start hearing all those U2 trademark sounds. Edge's classic delay. Larry Mullins' 16th-note high-hat rhythm. Adam Clayton's bulky bass. And Bono singing as well as he has in years. But here's the thing. Unlike "Atomic Bomb," which was hailed early (and erroneously) as the band's best album, this one doesn't try to be liked. "Atomic Bomb" is filled with great songs, but it tries to reach epic proportions on every track. There's no relief, and that gets exhausting. "All That You Can't Leave Behind" was a great album, but it didn't seem cohesive. "No Line" is mature and developed without being dispassionate or overly produced. It's really the best "best of" U2 collection, because it somehow combines best sounds of "October," "Unforgettable Fire," "Joshua Tree" and "Achtung Baby" while still coming across as its own thing. My advice for the Dublin lads: Keeping working with Brian Eno, and keep choosing new locations for recording (this one was recorded largely in Morocco).

"The Sound and the Fury": William Faulkner: 10

A brilliantly written novel. I have no idea what happened.

The Coffee I'm Drinking Right Now: Starbucks: 7

I might be a victim of their marketing, but the Pike Place roast that Starbucks has been barista'ing out for about a year now does seem to be smooth and well-balanced. Nothing compared to a Sumatra at Kopplin's, however.

"I'm Not There": Todd Haynes: 4

This might be one of the only movies on DVD that I don't finish. I'm a big Dylan fan. I'm fluent in his life story. After hearing an interview with writer/director Todd Haynes months ago, I liked him and was eager to see this project. But it just goes to prove how fascinating it is to watch an ambitious experiment that doesn't work. Individual performances are good. I winced the first time Cate Blanchett opened her mouth, but after that, she sold me completely. The problem is that the film doesn't know what it wants to be. Some parts are serious. Others seem satirical, especially with Julianne Moore's obvious Joan Baez character. And other parts are trippy for being trippy's sake (an animated whale sequence comes to mind), which is incredibly annoying. The idea of splitting Dylan's character is inspired. But why pretend that each character--and so many other people--have different names? The Beatles are "The Beatles," but Joan Baez is "Alice Fabian." Why? I'm sure there's a reason in Todd Haynes' mind, but it doesn't matter. Mixing reality, magical realism and trippy trippyism is a little like making peanut butter soup.

"Froggy Style": Salut: 9

Salut on Grand was a pleasant surprise. Don't confuse it for a French restaurant. This is Minnesota. But in a way, that comes as a relief. If you go, order the sweet potato wantons as an appetizer. And if you don't hate gin, order a "froggy style:" Hendrick's gin, mint, sugar and cucumber--as girly as a drink can be and still be manly.

My Son's Newest Drawings: James Kelley Conklin: 10

On Friday, he drew a serious of pictures in marker accompanied by just one word: "Famous." One shows a small muscle man holding up a huge trunkless elephant in a cage. The colors and the web-like pattern of the cage remind you instantly of Spider-Man. But there's something about the image accompanied by the word "Famous"... it's oddly fashionable. I'd put it on a T-shirt try to start a trend if I were capable of starting a trend.

"Mad Men": Matthew Weiner: 11

If I continue this "RR" series, I'm simply going to end every segment with this review. Because "Mad Men" will go down as one of the greatest shows in the history of television, and I won't rest until everybody gets hooked on it. Get Season One on DVD. Trust me.

4 comments:

Vegas Gopher said...

Nigel Tufnel would approve of your rating system.

Anonymous said...

I agree re: "I'm Not There"; I couldn't finish it, as much as I really wanted to. However, I have actually made spicy peanut butter soup, and it's quite good. So I don't think that's a fair comparison (to the soup). (It's A-M, by the way; I'm too lazy to login with an identity...)

Marc Conklin said...

Good point. Let me amend that to say "jelly soup."

Surprise said...

U2-
Good point on your review - I am with you on how I really did not like it the first complete listen. But then I went back and listen to Boy and War and I was amazed of the roots of where this album is coming from. It is different in many areas from their last 2 albums but I really enjoy The Edge hot guitar licks and bringing in more in depth sounds of of both Larry and Adam. Bottom line - U2 is never afraid to test themselves and us with their creativity - so just keep bringing it!!!