Real Life Rock Top 10 (11/18/02)

1-2. 8 Mile, directed by Curtis Hanson (Universal), and Eminem, “Lose Yourself,” on Music From and Inspired by the Motion Picture ‘8 Mile’ (Sony/Interscope)
The picture is alive to Eminem’s presence, and he is alive to the picture, seeming to withdraw from the camera even as he pulls its eye toward him. Taking the viewer through a few days in the life of a white Detroit rapper in a black milieu–the adventures of a young man whose attempts to step out of oblivion are at best wary and at worst, and most believable, terrified–Eminem gives a performance that is all gravity. When the movie ends, there is a sense that it has, in fact, ended–that the movie has caught its own story. Then “Lose Yourself” begins to play under the closing credits, and in an instant it blows the film away. The music dissolves the movie, reveals it as a lie, a cheat, as if it were made not to reveal but to cover up the seemingly bottomless pit of resentment and desire that is the story’s true source. Again and again the piece all but blows up in the face of the man who’s chanting it, Eminem lost in his rhymes until suddenly people are shouting at him from every direction and the music jerks him into the chorus, which he escapes in turn. The piece builds into crescendos of power, climbing ladders of refusal and willfulness step by step, rushing nothing, never reaching the top because it is the music itself that has put the top so high.

It’s Eminem’s greatest single recording, but it’s more than that. As with Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You),” the Miracles’ “The Love I Saw in You Was Just a Mirage,” Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s “The Message,” the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” or Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” it’s one of those moments in pop music that throws off everything around it, setting a new standard, offering a new challenge, proving that, now, you, whoever you are, can say anything, and with a beauty no one can gainsay. That’s what’s happening here. The cutting contest at the end of 8 Mile is a small thing compared to the cutting contest “Lose Yourself” throws down on pop music as such.

3-5. Goyard, 233, rue St. Honoré, Paris (Oct. 27)
You hear postwar jazz in any even vaguely expensive place in Paris. An otherwise painfully quiet restaurant features an entire Johnny Hodges live album; a hotel on the site of the fabled Tabou nightclub, once the haunt of Boris Vian, Juliet Gréco and Miles Davis, now offers a live trio, or disembodied voices determined to simultaneously mine the legacy and smooth it away. But in a posh luggage shop, empty except for a customer and a salesman, someone had programmed jazz chart toppers–though, really, it was only Peggy Lee’s 1958 “Fever” that allowed you to hear Tennessee Ernie Ford’s 1956 version of the Merle Travis folk song “Sixteen Tons” as jazz.

With both recordings the orchestration was so spare it was almost spectral, something you imagined rather than heard. You could picture each performer lit by a single spot, otherwise in complete darkness on his or her nightclub stage, moving so minimally that the slightest gesture would communicate as a promise or a threat. Except for Ford’s big final chorus, nothing was even dramatized. The recordings were about bringing out a single, unique tale-teller, removing everything else from the world the song made, leaving nothing but the hipster smile in the first word and the orgasmic smear of the last of Lee’s “Daddy-0 don’t you dare,” nothing but the throwaway snap in Ford’s “A lotta men didn’t, a lotta men died.” The songs stayed in the air; after these one-of-a-kinds, Bobby Troup’s 1946 “Route 66″ was just sweeping up.

6. Bubblegum Babylon (VH-1, debuting Nov. 24)
From west of Philadelphia, Widmerpool reports on a “‘history’ of pop pop-music, which the show seems to think began with David Cassidy and culminated in Britney”: “At one point, Danny Bonaduce says that at the height of The Partridge Family’s popularity, on tour, ‘It was like Saddam Hussein–you had to keep moving from safe-house to safe-house.’ After this context was placed in my mind, I wondered what stopped the producers from spirit-gluing a beard onto the also-interviewed Monkee Peter Tork, so he could do his uncanny Osama bin Laden impersonation. The repulsively casual pop-group/Hussein comparison gave a new perspective to the Dick Van Dyke episode in which Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore provide a ‘safe-house’ for British invasion hitmakers Chad and Jeremy. Except C & J didn’t ask DVD or MTM to kiss their armpits in fealty; I bet Peter and Gordon would have.”

7. Varin Frères (Amédée and Eugène), “Reims, cathèdrale, gargouille et jeune homme en casquette, vers 1854,” in “Chefs d’Ouevres de la Collection Photographique de la Musée d’Orsay” (Paris, through Feb. 23)
In a passageway high in the cathedral, near a gargoyle, a man in a white shirt, dark pants, a scarf around his neck and a dark cap with a big bill slouches against a wall, right hand on his hip, left hand on his knee. It’s perhaps the earliest photograph ever made of ’50s cool–of Marlon “Wild One” Brando-James “Rebel Without a Cause” Dean-Elvis leaning-against-a-motorcycle Presley cool. Eighteen-fifties cool.

8. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), directed by Don Siegel (Ojai Playhouse, Ojai, Calif., Oct. 19)
Muzot (Genevieve Yue) writes: “Stars Dana Wynter and Kevin McCarthy were there for a brief Q&A session at the end. The screening itself was disappointing–a DVD instead of 35 mm, a false start in the Spanish language option and an uncomfortable shoebox theater preserved as a historical landmark–but I had the great experience of watching the movie with a group of junior high school students, a few rows in front of me, who were seeing it for the first time. No real fright, but plenty of giggling and cheering. When the actors stepped up, Dana Wynter looked blankly at the audience and declared herself a card-carrying pod. Kevin McCarthy scanned the theater suspiciously, everything about him gruff, and, speaking to no one in particular, said, ‘Are they all pods? No! We have to do it again.’ Not everyone knew how to react; it stung like an accusation, a familiar panic that wasn’t so easy to laugh at. I got the feeling this had become his line, worn not like the flat joke of an aged actor but a reminder of what made his warnings in the film so powerful to begin with, a sounding of the voice from the hills.”

9. Northern State, Dying in Stereo (Northern State)
I wouldn’t say a word against a Long Island hip-hop trio with an MC who calls herself Hesta Prynne–except that with that name she’s going to have to deliver stronger stuff than the charming “The country’s getting ugly, and there’s more in store/But don’t blame me, ’cause I voted for Gore.” Something like–

10. Election flyer, (Princeton University, Nov. 5)

Salon, November 18, 2002

One thought on “Real Life Rock Top 10 (11/18/02)

  1. Pingback: “If punk means anything in 2014, it’s in empowering the Ashley Monroes and Isaiah Rashads of the world” | Humanizing The Vacuum

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