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ESG

ESG first emerged in the late 70s and excels at the kind of joyous, polyrhythmic pop confections that are perfect for dancing and sampling. But as the title of one postreunion 1992 EP says, Sample Credits Don’t Pay the Bills. While a whole generation of hip-hop and indie-dance artists has amassed piles of cash on […]

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Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors

Adapted from a novel by Ukrainian writer M. Kotsyubinsky, Sergei Paradjanov’s extraordinary merging of myth, history, poetry, ethnography, dance, and ritual (1964) remains one of the supreme works of the Soviet sound cinema, and even subsequent Paradjanov features have failed to dim its intoxicating splendors. Set in the harsh and beautiful Carpathian Mountains, the movie […]

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True Diplomacy

Artist Jimmy Baker and his wife, architect Jil Baker, reflect on Iraq in “True Diplomacy,” now at Western Exhibitions, relying for many of their images and objects on the proposed immense U.S. Embassy complex in Baghdad. Jimmy Baker strikes an ominous note in his statement, writing that the fortress symbolizes the developed world: “a sterile […]

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TURBONEGRO

Turbonegro are the scariest-looking bunch of faux homos this side of the Baltic Sea. Plenty of people consider these Norwegian glam-punk deviants nothing but a novelty act, and I’m sure the Clockwork Orange makeup doesn’t help–neither do singer Hank Von Helvete’s “assrockets,” the Roman candles he stuffs in his can and lights onstage. (In a […]

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Common

At one point on his new album, Finding Forever (Geffen), Common tries to smooth-talk a potential paramour who doesn’t date rappers: “I’ve got my SAG card, baby,” he tells her. “I’m an actor.” It’s true he’s been turning up on the silver screen, but he also switches roles like a chameleon on disc, covering the […]

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Eastern Promises

David Cronenberg’s follow-up to A History of Violence–starring the same lead, Viggo Mortensen, in a very different part–lacks the theoretical dimension of its predecessor, but it’s no less masterful in its fluid storytelling and shocking choreography of violence. A Russian mafia tale with a London setting, scripted by Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things), it confirms […]

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In the Valley of Elah

Paul Haggis follows up his Oscar-winning Crash with this searing drama that uses the police procedural to explore the moral and psychological devastation of the Iraq war for U.S. soldiers (and, incidentally, for Iraqi citizens). Inspired by real events, it focuses on a grief-stricken father (Tommy Lee Jones, at his best) who, assisted by a […]

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OFFICE

In a Critic’s Choice in late 2005, I called Office’s self-released Q & A the best local album of the year, so naturally I’m pretty excited that word’s gotten out about this excellent pop band since then. Office signed to Scratchie/New Line for A Night at the Ritz (due September 25), which they’re treating as […]

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Jorma Kaukonen

As he’s gotten older, former Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen has returned to the traditional blues and gospel that first inspired him, but he still takes risks. His latest, Stars in My Crown (Red House), includes plenty of the stuff you’d expect from him these days–original takes on time-honored blues and gospel themes, plus rootsy […]

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Daniel Brook

The choice between being a sell-out or a saint is the crux of Daniel Brook’s The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America (Times Books). Brook, a progressive journalist, tells the stories of young idealists struggling to get by as rising health care, housing, and college tuition costs make a middle-class lifestyle elusive. […]

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Circle in the Square

Choreographer Winifred Haun says she told dancer Erika Gilfether years ago that she was dying to give her a certain role: Cathy from John Steinbeck’s novel East of Eden. “She’s evil!” Haun explained. Petite, fragile-looking Gilfether was a little surprised but embraces the part in the aerial duet Haun created. She nails Cathy’s attack on […]

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Chicago Symphony Orchestra

The last time Riccardo Muti conducted the CSO, the Bears had just drafted Walter Payton. His return–a two-week stay at Symphony Center, followed by a seven-city European tour with the orchestra–could be an audition for music director. Muti opens with Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony (Pathetique). The composer declared that he’d put his whole soul into this […]

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SIMIAN MOBILE DISCO

Back when they were touring as the rhythm section of Simian, a decent but now largely forgotten British electro-pop band, dance-music wunderkinder James Ford and James Shaw used to book postshow DJ gigs as Simian Mobile Disco. These days that name is the one they release all their music under, which so far adds up […]