Posted inArts & Culture

Bettye LaVette

Like many other R & B vocalists of her era, Detroit’s Bettye LaVette never achieved the kind of stardom her enormous talent deserved. She hit the R & B charts a few times in the 60s and again in the early 80s, but until this decade her career was more often defined by missed opportunities, […]

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The Distance From Here

If Neil LaBute weren’t already Neil LaBute, I’d say this 2002 play shows potential. There’s some nicely structured dialogue, effective black humor, a novel variation on the baby-stoning bit from Edward Bond’s Saved–and most of all, a noble refusal to demonize even the most grotesque behavior. But the author/auteur of In the Company of Men […]

Posted inNews & Politics

Rock Critic Critique

Don’t go bashing trendy bands just for the sake of bashing trendy bands [“Nu Age,” November 11]. You [Jessica Hopper] write for the Reader, not the Wire. If you had read just the slightest bit of material from [Animal Collective]’s own mouths you would realize that they don’t even stand for the new “freak-folk” tag […]

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Walk the Line

Like last year’s Ray, this electrifying biopic of Johnny Cash reduces its complicated hero to a walking childhood trauma, attributing his 60s drug addiction to an older brother’s accidental death in a circular-saw accident. But here the pop mythology takes a backseat to an old-fashioned showbiz romance that traces the married singer’s 13-year infatuation with […]

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Dwarves

San Francisco shit-rock kings the Dwarves were originally the Suburban Nightmare, a psych-garage band formed in 1983 by four rambunctious lads from Highland Park High School. They retained their Seeds/Standells influence on their first album as the Dwarves, 1986’s Horror Stories, the back cover of which originally featured the band in fitted paisley finery, with […]

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Wilderness

If you’ve listened to Wilderness’s self-titled debut and realized that these guys must be very enamored of an album called Metal Box, give yourself a prize, smart guy. But this Baltimore quartet gets bonus points for borrowing the one element of Public Image Ltd.’s sound that hasn’t been aped by a billion neo-postpunk bands–John Lydon’s […]

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Detroit Cobras

In jazz, blues, and R & B some folks still appreciate the art of interpretation, but the notion persists that to be a great rock or pop artist you have to write your own material. Bah. Practically every song on the Detroit Cobras’ three LPs is a cover–most are shoulda-been-classic soul and R & B […]

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Manuscript Found in Saragossa

What was adapter-director Christine Mary Dunford thinking? Jan Potocki’s early-19th-century picaresque novel, which contains some 35 interlocking stories, is way too cumbersome to make a great play even when chopped down. True, it has some of the oriental themes of Lookingglass classics like Arabian Nights. But instead of taking flight into the supernatural, this adaptation […]

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Wintertime

Charles L. Mee’s thinking farce explores love’s twin tensions of freedom and faithfulness, the psychology of suicide, and our foolish search for security. The story involves yet another fractured family enduring a dysfunctional holiday, as a young couple spends Christmas with the guy’s parents, each of whom has a partner along. Chris Pomeroy’s staging–a Chicago […]

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The 5 & Dime Comedy Hour

Even weirder than an unfunny sketch ensemble is a comedy troupe that seems only faintly interested in being funny in the first place. This seriously offbeat effort from Molly Hale, Megan Bell, and John Pattavina lolls from scene to scene like a lithium case on a washed-out Sunday stroll. Occasionally a kind of flattened chaos […]

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Edith Frost

Romantic disappointment fuels It’s a Game (Drag City), Edith Frost’s first album in four years, but there’s no bitterness or anger–Frost embraces her sorrow like a surrogate for the lovers she can’t hold on to. On their own her lyrics are an endless downer, self-obsessed to the point of obliviousness: “You’ve got so much time […]