* * * 1/2
This isn't the nihilistic virtuoso that made seven. Fincher cares for most everyone involved in this police procedural, and the room for the audience, and the actors to breath, easily makes this his best film. The film doesn't feel it's length, and Downey Jr. and Mark Rufalo give possibly the best performances of their careers.
The Arcade Fire
* * *
Funeral was one of the best debuts in recent rock history, so a follow-up effort was almost certainly destined to be a little of a downgrade. But this is a rather significant letdown. The Arcade Fire sounds more like they did on their self-titled EP more than they did on Funeral, in fact one of the songs, No Cars Go, is taken from that EP with nothing really changed. The album is trying, and it does reach a lot of interesting points lyrically, but musically it isn’t what Funeral was, and it seems like the Fire was trying to be too safe. Probably because of this some of the music sounds a bit like other bands, there’s a portion of a song that goes into Springsteen-cover mode, and the album’s closing track sounds like too much like Spiritualized, who, I am waiting for a new album from, by the way. However frustrating the music may be, what does remain is the energy and urgency that the Arcade Fire has, that sets them apart from nearly every other band working today. Where Funeral was made as a search for salvation in the face of death, The Neon Bible (it's title from the peculiar little O'Toole Novel, which I remember sort of liking, but nowhere near the mastery of A Confederacy of Dunces) is a searching cry for spiritual connection, but not finding it anywhere.
The Velvet Underground and Nico
* * * * *
(Released 40 years ago this month)
Famed music historian Pierro Scaruffi (who puts the VU in the same league as Beethoven) writes: ARock music as it is today was born the day the Velvet Underground entered a recording studio. To say that this is the most important album in rock history is more fact than opinion, and stands with the works of Coltrane, Cage, Coleman, and Davis as the essential musical expressions of the 20th century. The pet project of Andy Warhol, this album was actually produced by Tom Wilson who is best known for his work with Dylan. While perhaps more people know the album for it's cover, the peelable banana, THE VU and Nico was decades ahead of its time in both form and content. In fact, the album reportedly took 10 years to make six figures, but was the cornerstone of every music offering that followed. This is the antithesis of the summer of love's psychedelia, a cathartic set of songs about the dark side of sex and drugs. A Listen to The VU, alongside their rightfully canonized contemporaries such as the Beatles, the Stones, and the Beach Boys, their sound is much more modern, mature, and visceral. It is not so much a product of the times, but is a timeless expression. The influence of the album is still being felt today, and we probably won't be able to see its full influence for years to come. This is not an impenetrable, pretentious art album either. Simply put these are some of the most gorgeous rock songs ever made.
Milestone from Feb.
Between the Buttons
* * * * *
(released Feb 1967)
1967 was an awkward year for the Stones. Their previous album, Aftermath, had moments of brilliance, but wasn’t a huge success, and left Jagger and Richards trying to figure out how to stay relevant in the wake of The Beatles’ Revolver, and to a greater extent The Beach Boy’s Pet Sounds, which the stones try to emulate in many of their arrangements. Here, the Stones are out of their comfort zone, leaving nearly all of their trademarked dirty R and B swagger for a more complex, and artsy approach. However, here this doesn’t result in the discomfort or self-indulgence of what would become His Majesity’s….which would be released later in the year. With a large amount of influence from the ever maligned Brian Jones, this is one of the best albums the Stones have released. Partially because of a level of, dare I say, vulnerability, evident in such masterworks as Ruby Tuesday, and She Smiled Sweetly. Also included are the classics Let’s Spend the Night Together, and Backstreet Girl.