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Friday, Feb. 23, 2024
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The Observer

R.E.O. Speedwagon Rolls Along

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Despite the facts that they have been playing together since 1967, that they were nearly overshadowed by the opening band and that their lead singer doesn't quite have the voice that he used to, one thing was clear from the opening song — R.E.O. Speedwagon, after all this time, can still rock. With his patented platinum blond hair and a white suit that could rival Elivs, Kevin Cronin, the long-time lead singer of R.E.O. Speedwagon, came onstage to a roar from the mostly 40-something crowd and moved right into R.E.O.'s most popular hits. Cronin struggled somewhat, especially in the beginning, to hit the notes that he used to, which became obvious as he changed some of them to better fit his voice. Particularly during their second song, "Take It On the Run," it was clear that Cronin didn't have the range that he used to, but it didn't take away too much from the performance on the whole. The other members of the band had clearly lost nothing of their past ability, though some were not original members of the band. The bassist, Bruce Hall, has been with the band since 1977, but he still looks as though he is part of the rock scene. Neil Daughty, whose keyboard playing is one of the things that separates R.E.O. from the average rock band, was an original band member, and he is still playing keyboard for the five-man band. Guitarist Dave Amato and drummer Bryan Hitt are newer members of the band, having joined the group in the early 90s, but both perform up to R.E.O.'s high standards. As the concert progressed, the band steadily improved, especially Cronin. His voice started to show signs of its original form, especially when the band performed ballads which didn't require him to sing over the electric guitar. Their performance of "Keep On Loving You" was a particularly well-done rendition of one of their two number one hits. But Cronin seemed to have saved his voice for their penultimate song, "Roll With the Changes," which he belted out to near perfection. Only twice did Cronin express his political views on stage, as members of the music industry are wont to do, and he did so tastefully (or as tastefully as one can). He did not mention anyone specifically, and he expressed his desire for a change that he thinks is coming in this country. One of these statements occurred during the performance of "Golden Country," a song written during the Vietnam War, and the other occurred just before the encore performance of "Riding the Storm Out," which brought down the house. The opening act of the night was another famous rock band from the 70s, the British rock group Foghat. It seemed that some members of the audience actually had come to see Foghat rather than R.E.O., and the band did not disappoint. Saving their three most famous songs for last, Foghat performed "I Just Want to Make Love to You," "Fool for the City" and finally "Slow Ride" to perfection. Though he is not the original singer, lead vocalist Charlie Huhn performed the songs almost exactly as they originally sounded. Guitarist Brian Bassett, originally from Molly Hatchet, and original Foghat drummer Roger Earl kept the band running smoothly. Both bands performed excellently considering their ages and the wear that the rock and roll lifestyle must have put on their bodies. And despite the average age of the crowd, R.E.O. Speedwagon delivered a performance that, because of the familiarity of the songs and the pure enjoyment they expressed on stage, could be enjoyed by rock lovers of all ages.


The Observer

Feeling The Blues Since The Blue Album

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In the wake of Weezer's seventh studio album, "Raditude," it is essential to reflect on the L.A.-based alternative rock band's first major effort and success, 1994's "Weezer (The Blue Album)." Hailed among high school students and music critics alike, Weezer's debut LP was seen as relatable to its target audience, the average high school student.   With images of lead singer Rivers Cuomo's daydreaming adolescence doused throughout the album and a self-deprecating yet endearing humor to supplement them, the band won its audience over with its unexpected geekiness, which went against the grain of laid-back grunge rock at the time. According to All Music Guide, "What makes the band so enjoyable is their charming geekiness; instead of singing about despair, they sing about love, which is kind of refreshing in the gloom-drenched world of ‘90s guitar-pop." The album opens with "My Name is Jonas," ever-popular among "Guitar Hero III" fans, as it combines a waltz-like tempo with rapid acoustic and electric guitar riffs. According to John Luerssen's book, "River's Edge: The Weezer Story," Cuomo was inspired by his brother who was having a problem with his car insurance after getting seriously injured in an accident at Oberlin College. "No One Else" is an excellent example of Weezer's tendencies to sing about adolescent love and use appropriate grammar while they're at it. The song describes a jealous, obsessive and over-controlling boyfriend and is perhaps best exemplified by the chorus' lyrics: "I want a girl who will laugh for no one else. / When I'm away, she puts her makeup on the shelf. / When I'm away, she never leaves the house. / I want a girl who laughs for no one else." "The World Has Turned and Left Me Here" has a sweet acoustic melodic beat and convincingly passionate lead vocals and well-written, typically creative lyrics about an agonizing break up: "The world has turned and left me here / Just where I was before you appeared. / And in your place an empty space / Has filled the void behind my face."   "Buddy Holly" is the upbeat second single that brought Weezer critical and commercial success with its music video directed by Spike Jonze, portraying the band in Arnold's Drive-In Diner from ‘70s sitcom "Happy Days." Now a classic, the song epitomizes geek rock with its lyrics, "Woo-ee-oo, I look just like Buddy Holly. / Oh-oh, and you're Mary Tyler Moore. / I don't care what they say about us anyway. / I don't care ‘bout that." "Undone (The Sweater Song)," the debut single, contains a simple chord progression and a spoken introduction mumbled as a background conversation by bassist Matt Sharp to supplement Cuomo's uneasy vocals and nonsensical lyrics, "If you want to destroy my sweater, pull this thread as I walk away." "Surf Wax America" is a more fun and laid back song with messy guitar riffs and not much substance ("You take your car to work, I'll take my board. / And when you're out of fuel, I'm still afloat"), but it works for Weezer, as some of the surrounding songs in the album address serious issues. "Say It Ain't So," the third single, starts off with a soft, laid-back guitar and eventually grows into loud drums, guitar, and vocals on the chorus, "Say it ain't so. / Your drug is a heartbreaker. / Say it ain't so. / Your love is a life-taker." According to Luerssen, these darker lyrics were based on Cuomo's belief that his parents had split up when he was four because his dad was an alcoholic. The song is probably the best-executed song on the album as relates to the strained yet passionate lead vocals, guitar riffs and feedback, and soft-loud dynamics. Unfortunately, Weezer has never quite reached the same level of critical success since their "Buddy Holly" days. In fact, if you looked at Weezer's career backwards, starting with their most recent album and ending with their debut album, they would be a really impressive band. As it is, their critical acclaim has mysteriously and unfortunately deteriorated with each successive album, from "Pinkerton" to "Pork and Beans"-era "The Red Album." "The Blue Album" will always stand as their most seminal and well-executed LP.  



The Observer

Halloween Horrors

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As Halloween rolls around, movie buffs and scaredy cats alike have an occasion to curl up on the couch with a bowl of candy and pop in a scary movie. But there are so many to choose from. The nigh endless list of movies deemed appropriate for Halloween runs the gamut covering everything from B-list horror flicks to timeless classics. Here is a list of recommendations that offers a little taste of everything, none of which will leave you disappointed.

The Observer

Where the Wild Things Are Review

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Undertaking the formidable task of transforming Maurice Sendak's timeless gem of a child's tale, "Where the Wild Things Are," into a film, visionary director Spike Jonze has managed to pull off a faithful yet refreshingly original adaptation in wondrous fashion. It beautifully frames the dreamy youthful spirit that its source material so vividly captures thanks to Jonze's acute eye for the mindset of a child afraid of the world but eager to master it nonetheless. The result here is an imaginative take on an already wildly imaginative story that in the end is not a children's movie, but a movie that examines childhood, explores it with such glorious precision, and will tug at the youth and sense of wonder in all of us.  



The Observer

Paranormal Activity Falls Short of "Blair Witch Project's" Shock Value

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Writer-director Oren Peli's "Blair Witch"-inspired cult classic in the making, "Paranormal Activity," is the closest thing to actually being worthy of being called a "horror film" since its near identical twin forever made camping in the woods terrifying nearly 10 years ago. It takes cues from everything from its predecessor's viral marketing campaign, to its medium, making it seem a near replica of "Blair Witch," thus signaling a departure from everything that has plagued the recent "Saw"-inspired horror genre that has been horrifying, but for all the wrong reasons. The film is filled with rawness and a sense of believability, and thankfully lacks any sort of post-production touch-ups, over-the-top scares, pop-outs that are just there for kicks and any semblance of unnecessary gore. Instead, the film builds off of mental suggestion manifested in a keen eye for tension-ridden suspense that is so masterfully built up through the use of a static video camera. "Paranormal Activity" follows a young couple, Micah and Katie. Katie claims to be haunted by some unknown presence in their new house. Her history with such hauntings is persistent and therefore alarming, but not to her immature, more-curious-than-anything-else, testosterone-driven boyfriend, Micah, who gets the bright idea to film the couple during the wee hours of the night to see what's really going on, if anything. What ensues is a whole lot more than either of them is ready to handle, and as the couple loses their grip on the situation, and on each other, the problem becomes increasingly more horrifying, with the camera there to document it all. Micah is the real diamond of a character here because of his believability and his ultimate progression through the film. His curiosity is real and understandable, and the fun-turned-concern-turned-terror that he goes through evolves in such a way that he acts as a microcosm for the audience itself, and how someone in his shoes would in fact deal with the eerie happenings in his home that plague his girlfriend. We live his terror, not necessarily hers, and that makes the journey all the more enjoyable. All of the suspense, all of the build up — and all of the hoopla behind the film, really — pays off in the last 30 seconds of the film. Or maybe it doesn't. Like "The Blair Witch Project," everything is thrust onto the screen during the all-or-nothing closing scene, culminating in what will either be interpreted as a mightily satisfying scare of all scares that'll leave you disturbed long after the film ends, or a predictable gag that's ultimately uneven and too "by the book." It happens so quickly that not even a breath is spared before its over, and in the end, it doesn't have the same force, nor shock value, nor lingering affect that it tries to have. The film straddles the line of believability but never quite settles deep enough under the skin that it loses the vibe of being just a film, and one that despite its producers exhaustive efforts, is, in the end, fictional. It's a shame too, because there are a couple of instances in the film when even the most horror-resistant viewer can't help but be in an "okay-I'm-kind-of-freaked-out-right-now-let's-see-what-happens-next" state. It's in these moments that the audience is swept under a cover of eeriness that tugs at the nerves and sends shivers down the spine, but the tragedy here is that it's in the successive moments that the feeling is lost. Horror is a only breath away—real horror the likes of which hasn't been seen in theaters for quite some time—but it never quite manifests itself. Instead, the film is rather choppy in the weirdest sort of way. For you see, suspense is built up masterfully and the scares are separated by enough story that believability isn't sacrificed, but when the audience is really pulled in and the opportunity to become a truly great horror film presents itself, the film loosens its vice grip. If only it capitalized on the opportunity, this would be a truly scary film. Instead, it looms much larger than most of the other garbage that passes as "horror" these days, but falls quite short of the "Blair Witch" plateau.


The Observer

Meat Puppets are Grade A

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When most people think of ‘80s music, the sound they usually conjure up is a kind of glossy, sexy, synth-laden pop somewhere between David Bowie and Duran Duran. Yet there were a lot of things happening in music during that decade besides electronic beats and crazy clothes. One of those things was the Meat Puppets. The Meat Puppets are best known for their contribution to Nirvana's final album, "MTV Unplugged in New York." Kurt Cobain, the famously suicidal lead singer of Nirvana, became a fan of the Meat Puppets after he saw them open for a Black Flag concert. In late 1993, he invited two members of the Meat Puppets, brothers Cris and Curt Kirkwood, to join him on "MTV Unplugged." On the show, they played three of the Meat Puppets' songs: "Plateau," "Lake of Fire" and "Oh, Me." These three songs were some of the strongest in the set, and "Lake of Fire" particularly became a staple of alternative rock radio thanks to a particularly haunting vocal performance by Cobain. Tragically, Cobain died only 138 days after the concert, but his death assured the high sales of Nirvana's final recording and cemented a place in rock history for the Meat Puppets. But the Meat Puppets do not deserve to be relegated to a minor footnote in the career of Nirvana. Even before Nirvana, the Meat Puppets had created a unique sound of their own, blending hardcore punk, country and psychedelic rock. Their eponymous first album, which was heavily punk-influenced, contained only the seeds of this sound. But by their second album, released in 1984, the band members "were so sick of the hardcore thing," according to drummer Derrick Bostrom. "We were really into pissing off the crowd." "Meat Puppets II," perhaps the quintessential Meat Puppets album, is much more experimental than their first. It pinpoints a delicate ratio of punk, country western and acid rock, so that somehow, all these elements manage to hang together in a sound that is weird yet appealing. Think the Pixies, Johnny Cash and Jerry Garcia in one band. All three of the songs performed on Nirvana's "MTV Unplugged" are from this album. Not only is the music bizarrely enjoyable, but the surrealist lyrics also run the gamut from simply quirky ("Oh Mary Lou, won't you tell me what to do / I got a dollar on the corner and a razor in my shoe") to downright indecipherable ("It's a poor living room / Just above the dock / Wish those wild hens there / Feathers drip from every corner"). Curt sings the words in a distinct, warbling voice not unlike that of a different Kurt. "Up on the Sun," the 1985 follow-up to "Meat Puppets II," delves even further into the country western vein. Distancing themselves from punk, the band members mostly ditched the distortion in favor of twanging acoustic guitars and a rambling bass. As a result, this album has a much lighter feel than "Meat Puppets II," though it still retains the surreal, acid-washed atmosphere. With about half of the songs being purely instrumental, the Meat Puppets here show a knack for creating lovely, intricate little acoustic webs. With every album, the Meat Puppets continued to expand and evolve their sound. After their major exposure from "MTV Unplugged," the Meat Puppets put out their best-selling record, "Too High to Die," on which we finally do hear the influence of the eighties creeping in with a synthesizer and perfectly metronomic drumbeats. They also began to sound more like some of their Seattle grunge contemporaries such as Pearl Jam. The Meat Puppets went through two breakups in the ‘90s and early ‘00s, but after each they revived themselves with a new lineup. The band is still active and consists of two of the three original members, Curt and Cris Kirkwood, plus Ted Marcus on the drums. They have released two albums with this new line-up, the latest being 2009's "Sewn Together."


The Observer

Weekend Events Calendar

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Thursday: Interview with the Vampire @ DPAC, 10 p.m. With an all-star cast including Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Christian Slater and Kirsten Dunst, "Interview with the Vampire" is the perfect fix for everyone's current vampire addiction. It centers upon a man named Louis who loses his wife and child. He meets Lestat, a vampire, and makes the decision to become a vampire himself. This decision turns out to torment Louis as he learns to live with the new beast he has become. The SUB movie for this week, "Interview with the Vampire" is showing Thursday night at 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.



The Observer

Start off gameday with breakfast staples at The Original Pancake House

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The Original Pancake House, formerly known as Bibler's Original Panckake House, is a South Bend staple, and particularly a Notre Dame home football Saturday staple which serves solid breakfast dishes in a nondescript but enjoyable family atmosphere. With its close proximity to campus, The Original Pancake House is a great choice for students looking for a weekend breakfast spot outside the dining hall. Even on home football weekends, The Original Pancake House is busy, but can accommodate a large amount of customers, which makes it an excellent way to start out the game day.


The Observer

From "date challenged" to creating blockbusters: "Batman" movie producer to speak on campus tonight

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Michael Uslan, the originator of the "Batman" movie series, which started in 1989, and the executive producer of "The Dark Knight," is speaking about his career and the power of following dreams tonight in the Hesburgh Center auditorium at 8 p.m. Uslan talked to The Observer about his work with comic book movies and his advice for today's college students. What inspired you to pursue your dream of bringing Batman to the big screen? I think it's all about having a passion in life and taking your passion and incorporating it into your work. My passion has always been about comics and movies and taking those two things and making it work. I take my favorite comic book superheroes and make those into movies. It's a sweet job. You created the first comic book course at Indiana University in the 1970s. How do you feel comic books have influenced pop culture? In a huge way. When I was growing up, we were commonly referred to as comic book geeks. We showed up at comic book stores every Wednesday for new comics, and attended the very first comic book convention with only 200 people. When I was 16 or 17, and girls found out I was still reading comic books, I became "date challenged." Years later, comic books are now the biggest basis for blockbuster movies, videogames and TV shows. They are influencing pop culture on a worldwide basis. To fellow comic book geeks, I say, "We win." "The Dark Knight" was the fourth-highest grossing film worldwide. How do you feel about the success of these movies, and what do you think it means for movies today and what audiences want from a film? I first bought rights to "Batman" in 1979 and set out to make the first dark and serious comic book film and was turned down by every studio in Hollywood. They said I was crazy, and it was the worst idea they ever heard. Now, studios are looking for brand names that can be built into franchises. Comic books do that. They are great stories that are character driven by colorful characters. What's wonderful is that multiple generations have grown up with these characters. They appeal to parents and kids. For the older generation, they are nostalgic, and for young people, they are exciting and new. Comic books transcend cultures, geographic borders, demographics and have worldwide appeal. Where do you see the "Batman" series going in the future? Are you planning another movie? I'm actually not allowed to talk about that. But, there's a brand new animated direct-to-DVD movie, "Superman/Batman: Public Enemies." Batman is one of the great iconic characters. His origin story is so primal. Everyone can relate because he has no superpowers. His greatest power is humanity. He also has the greatest gallery of villains. You just wrote the storyline in the Archie Comics that Archie got engaged. What made you have one of the world's oldest bachelors get hitched? Archie marries Veronica. This created a firestorm of international media attention. Sales compared to three years ago are up almost 2000 percent. It's a worldwide soap opera, and everyone seems to care. According to my mom, I learned to read from Archie comics, so the fact that I'm now writing this historic storyline is a real kick. Is there any advice you would like to pass on to college students today? I would say, first, figure out your passion in life and try to make it your work. Have high threshold for frustration. There were 10 years of studios passing on Batman. Next, take calculated risks sometimes and roll the dice. Have a plan B and plan C. Life twists and turns all the time. This is actually what I'm going to be talking about tonight. I'm going to tell the story about my journey as a kid in Indiana with no money or contacts or relatives in Hollywood, and how I was able to make it.


The Observer

Brand New experiments with grunge and alt rock for stellar "Daisy"

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"Daisy," Brand New's fourth album, and second for Interscope, both kicks off and finishes with a sample of the Gospel hymn "On Life's Highway." Clearly, this is not the same band who once upon a time recorded "Jude Law and a Semester Abroad" or "The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows."


The Observer

New Zealand Rocks with Flight of the Conchords

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"I Told You I Was Freaky" is the latest project of Flight of the Conchords, New Zealand's fourth most popular folk-pop (and comedy, of course) group, following their 2008 self titled debut, as well as their 2007 Grammy winning "Distant Future" EP.


The Observer

A.F.I. Not Hot Enough

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Three years after the Billboard No. 1 hit album "Decemberunderground," A.F.I. is back with their latest effort, "Crash Love." The California gothic punk band's name is an acronym for "A Fire Inside." Their new album, however, might have fans wondering whether the fire has sputtered out.




The Observer

Lollapalooza: Sunday

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Lollapalooza literally held its own on Sunday, the final day of a relaxing weekend of good music at Chicago's Grant Park. The laid-back summer music festival became more crowded than ever on Sunday, bringing in a total of more than 75,000 people. Many of them were there to see Perry Farrell's band Jane's Addiction, whose farewell tour back in 1991 became the first Lollapalooza festival. In spite of the annoying bottlenecks formed throughout the park because of the large crowds, Sunday went smoothly in terms of the musical quality of the performances and the responses of the audiences. One of the first acts of the day, Airborne Toxic Event, played at the Chicago 2016 stage to a surprisingly large audience, most of whom were likely there to stake out spots for the well-anticipated, New York-based band Vampire Weekend. The Los Angeles- based Airborne Toxic Event certainly drew in the crowds, and for good reason. A harmonic distorted violin and slow drumbeat accompanied by entrancing lead vocals seemed to translate well to the dehydrated and sweaty yet enthusiastic audience, especially during the band's angsty hit single "Sometime Around Midnight." The alt rock band certainly seemed well rehearsed and precise during their show, but they inexplicably decided to end the set 10 minutes early. Vampire Weekend performed an hour later on the same stage. The preppy indie band certainly got the audience dancing to familiar favorites from their debut LP, heard in college dorm rooms throughout the nation last year. An unexpected yet welcomed mosh pit formed in broad daylight within the hyper-excited crowd when the band members, decked out in bright sunglasses, polos, and shorts, began playing the ever-popular "A-Punk." A few new tunes from the band's upcoming sophomore album were sprinkled throughout the set for everyone's enjoyment as well. Neko Case was simultaneously playing her rocking set on the Budweiser stage. Her strong lead vocals, backed by the oddly fitting instrumentation of banjo, steel guitar and tenor guitar, soared throughout the park. Case, all dolled up in a black cocktail dress, performed singles from her new album "Middle Cyclone," including the breezy and beautiful new favorite, "This Tornado Loves You." Back on the south side of the park, happy-go-lucky Passion Pit played an upbeat set on the Citi Stage. The synth-pop indie band from Cambridge, Mass., drew in the gleeful crowd, who backed lead singer Michael Angelakos' signature falsetto vocals on the "higher and higher" chorus of "Little Secrets," a new single from their debut LP, "Manners." The audience also received "The Reeling" well, dancing exuberantly and again singing along with the chorus. Los Angeles-based alt-rock band Silversun Pickups, whose spacey, distorted sound has often been compared to that of the Smashing Pumpkins, performed at the Vitamin Water stage. The crowd was small because many were just leaving the Snoop Dogg dance party, which received a very large, enthusiastic audience and excellent reviews on behalf of the polished party jams and covers of club favorites. In spite of the small crowd, Silversun Pickups lived up to expectations, with catchy driving tunes like the new hit single "Panic Switch" and the ever-popular "Lazy Eye." Lead Singer Brian Aubert's vocals were not quite up to par as he seemed to blow out his voice with his loud, raspy, high-pitched singing. Nonetheless, the fuzzy, distorted guitar riffs and Aubert's outspoken thankfulness for the audience's support certainly charmed the crowd. It's tough to headline opposite the band whose farewell tour started it all. Nevertheless, the Killers' headlining show Sunday night at the Chicago 2016 stage not only was a wild success, but also proved to their loyal fans and many others that the band is not "losing touch." The Las Vegas-based alternative rock band opened the set with "Human," the first single off their new album "Day & Age." The show was entirely over-the-top, including a Las Vegas-themed stage setup complete with neons, sequins and plenty of palm trees, but each and every song brought enthusiasm from the audience, who danced to the point of exhaustion by the end of the hour and a half show. Altogether, Lollapalooza came to an end Sunday with a lineup of talented musicians and enthusiastic crowds.