Black teaches the ‘School of Rock’
It seems like we all know a strange man of strange proportions, living a strange life based upon a dream that will never be. Dewey’s dream is to be a Rock 'n' Roll icon of Zeppelinistic magnitude. What is wrong with having big dreams? Nothing. Who says those dreams will never be? The world is full of wackos who actually made it, such as Rupert Murdock, Tim Burton and of course, Jack Black. Dewey Finn (Black) has big dreams. Unfortunately, his band has grown a little weary of his over-the-top performances and decides to kick him out in order to win the Battle of the Bands. Heartbroken and penniless, Dewey decides to veg-out for a while, but when his roommate Ned Schneebly (Mike White) asks him for his rent while Ned’s girlfriend (Sarah Silverman) belittles Dewey in the background, Dewey decides he needs to do a little sumptin sumptin in order to gain some green. So Dewey did what any strange person of strange proportions would do: impersonates his roomie, who happens to be a substitute teacher, and takes a job teaching, substitute teaching that is, at the finest private elementary school in the state. Clean-shaven and dressed-up, Dewey arrives at the school asking principal Mullins (Joan Cusack) an array of silly questions, everyone laughs, a good time is had by all, and finally he gets into the classroom full of the widest mixture of children this side of a non-denominational Sunday school class. Thinking that the job will be an easy $650 a week, Dewey sits back and tells the kids that all they have to do is recess. That is until he hears the students in their music class. The sprockets and gears begin to creak in Dewey’s demented dominion of a skull and he gets a wild hair to grow in his nethers: START ANOTHER ROCK BAND WITH THE STUDENTS!!! That’s basically the gist of it without giving too much info away. I must say that director Richard Linklater(“Dazed and Confused,” “Waking Life”) did an incredible job with such an odd combination of played out movie concepts. It’s “The Mighty Ducks” meets “Dead Poets Society,” just a whole crapload better! This is a story with a lot of heart and a lot of wit, thrown together into a big pot of “happy, happy, joy, joy” and slow simmered to a golden... umm whatever. The movie had my head bobbin and a smile on my face all the way through, and thank God they didn’t stick to the overly sappy and tense moment for too long like movies of this style are apt to do. The performances were great. Jack Black, as annoying as he can be, did an excellent job as the STRANGE Dewey, being both a goofball and a great “OH CAPTAIN! MY CAPTAIN” role-model. The children hit their parts with magnificence. They all actually play their own instruments. And for those of you that don’t know so does Black. Cusack’s supporting role was right up there with her Oscar-worthy “Working Girl” performance. There is an immense sense of style to this film. The overall drab of the Harvard-like society full of blue-blooded children and uniforms mixed well with the Rock 'n' Roll atmosphere that beamed throughout the picture. The songs that were created were fun and hilarious. The existence of style is always important in a film, and though it is difficult these days for filmmakers to actually create a whole new style of their own, Linklater has done just that over and over again. “The School of Rock” has a style all its own and it is one that I actually would like to see copied. Needless to say, the film was almost too entertaining. From the inventive opening credits, all the way til the last line of the closing credits have finished their climb up the screen, this movie truly rocks. If you’re broke, dig through your couch cushions, go hang out on East Scott Street, start a band made up of highly talented fifth-graders and enter them into a contest, do whatever you can to come up with the funds required to go see “The School of Rock” as fast as you possibly can. This is possibly the best film of the year. “School of Rock” is rated PG-13 and it won’t offend your little brother.
cool cocktail experience
On their fourth CD, “Wherever I am, I am What’s Missing,” jazzy English electronica group Laika delivers a worthwhile collection of smart and tasteful four-minute jams. Composed of smooth vocalist and guitar player Margaret Fiedler (a longtime guitarist for PJ Harvey), bassist John Frennett and producer and multi-instrumentalist Guy Fixen, Laika’s CDs are somewhere between a distilled ’70s Miles Davis and ’80s Slowdive, minus the trumpet and the distorted swirling guitars. The band’s sounds develop from a little bit of funk, late ’60s Miles, smart electronica and grooved up electronic dance including hip-hop and dub. The end results are an addictive concoction that might remind listeners of a smooth Bombay Sapphire martini, extra dry, and its divine effect on the senses. Laika’s signature trip-hop features drumming and percussion in unusual time signatures, rhythmic bass, smoothly flowing keyboards and the occasional electronic glitch. Over which, guitarist Fiedler sings assuredly and cool with a just a touch of irony and hurt. Her voice has the purity of a folk singer, the desire of smart trip-hop and the sweet ache of cool modern jazz. Part of Laika’s magic is their unusual multi-tempo time signatures. The music develops a marvelous tension between hyper-played drums and percussion, steady bass lines and layers of slow and layered saturated keys, Fender Rhodes electronic piano and funky clavinet. It’s a music for late night, cocktail listening, without being pure lounge. And Fiedler’s voice brings Laika’s seemingly disparate layered melodies and sounds together similar to what vocalist Beth Gibbons once did for Portishead. What’s also striking about Laika is how the bass guitar lines root the sound, to which drums, keys and guitars provide lattice-like melodies. There is nothing finite or constricted about the rhythms. The music smoothly flows like dance, with Fiedler’s voice serving as a fourth or fifth instrument to characterize the melodies. Laika’s new CD is a treat for listeners who enjoy good alt music that sweeps into dance and smart jazzy funk.
legend Joe Ely hits ‘Streets of Sin’
Joe Ely, Lubbock, Texas native, is the dust devil of the Texas Music scene. He began kicking up the red dirt of West Texas in the early 70s with the Flatlanders, and continues to be a major part of the electricity that drives the whirlwind of Texas Music. His latest release “Streets of Sin” has been a six-year hiatus from solo studio work, and has been well worth the wait. With “Streets of Sin” Ely steps away from the Tex-Mex muse which influenced a few of his past projects. He brings back the swaggering, raucous, hard driving rocker, and the tried-and-true West Texas honky-tonker I remember two-stepping to at dancehalls all around Lubbock back in the late 70s. The new CD, from Rounder, does not reject his past but embodies the different stages in his sound over the years. Always the storytelling troubadour “Streets of Sin” has a theme of men down on their luck, families in hard times and the hope that keeps each of them from giving in. However, do not let that description give you the idea that the CD is a collection of depressing songs and dirges, it is still Joe Ely and you can expect it to keep toes tapping and fingers doing the fandango on whatever surface is near. Of the 12 tracks, Ely writes 10, with the other two written by Butch Hancock. If it seems as though Hancock had Ely in mind when he wrote the two cuts, it is probably not to far from the truth. Ely and Hancock, along with Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Terry Allen were, and still are, the Flatlanders. They have remained friends, writing partners, and still tour together. The first cut, “Fightin’ for My Life”, is one of Hancock’s and a bona fide way to kick off a CD. It is traditional Joe Ely with driving guitar and that perfect touch of twang. Hancock’s other song is “Wind’s Gonna Blow You Away”. The second cut, “I’m on the Run Again”, takes it down just a notch but is all Joe. “Flood on Our Hands” has a family escaping a flood and headed to Gruene’s Gristmill Store for safety. The title cut, “Streets of Sin”, shows off Ely’s writing ability. Simple yet stirring lyrics beckon you to open your doors. “Would you open your screen / Let a poor boy in / If I come back home / Off the Streets of Sin.” One of my favorites is “Carnival Bum” which has a carnival worker leaving the closed carnival for the winter. “All my belonging in a camper truck / In front of some Hell Hole Motel”, lines that make you are in college and have a future to look forward. Ely narrates the verses and sings about the bum “Whose life goes round and round”. “Streets of Sin” runs the gambit of emotions, each a shadow of another. The songs gently ramble through love, kinship, romance, tenacity, and just pure fun. These are not your standard beer drinking songs, yet Joe Ely is a party. The best part of Ely is Ely live, but since he is not coming to Wichita Falls soon, his new CD is a good start. He has also recently released a “Live at Antone’s” which gives you a sampling of Joe live. While you are picking up CDs you might check his “Musta Gotta Notta Lotta” CD from the early 80s. Time Magazine claimed that it was the country’s best, if unheard, of the year. I think the any of these CDs are a good start to all that is Joe Ely. Because once you experience Joe, you are hooked. For more information on Joe Ely you can go to his web site at joeely.com, or go to http://publicity.rounder.com/artistpages/jely.html. If you can’t find his CDs locally I recommend these two sights for the best collections of Texas Music around, LoneStarMusic.com and TexasMusicExpress.com.