Friday, April 12, 2002

Today's listening: Jay-Z Vol. 2....Hard Knock Life; six hours of WFMU (including a great A Certain Ratio retrospective/interview); a local drive-time blues show; the first disc of the ELO Flashback box set, half of Husker Du's Zen Arcade, Flatt & Scruggs' Nashville Airplane and Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai: The Album.


Is Reverend Lovejoy the only Simpsons character that wears a wristwatch? Is this some oblique joke or just a characterization bit? Come to think of it maybe Barney wears one but in his case it would definitely be a joke since he has nowhere to go and little reason to watch the time. (I just checked and Barney is not watch-equipped.)


The Authority: Under New Management (Wildstorm/DC), which collects issues 9 to 16, finally starts to live up to the series' reputation. Well not the first story which is a routine superheroes vs. tough monster thing. But it's written by Warren Ellis (with clumsy art by Bryan Hitch who's now much better on The Ultimates) so there are some feints towards something, y'know, better. The tough monster, for instance, is quickly labelled "god" by the various characters who congratulate themselves on heading off to kill God. Gosh how shocking. Don't know if this is exactly new (Galactus after all is pretty much God) but it's quite clear that this monster is not even a god let alone God. It's merely an enormous (almost planet-sized) animal who displays no supernatural powers and not many natural ones. In fact it shows no sentience at all even though there's a brain. Though that still offers enough potential for superheroic conflict Ellis isn't content with that. He has The Doctor's past selves function as a Department of Exposition and churn out all the backstory. Oh feel the tension build and the superhero genre crumble. No really, wake up and feel the tension....

The second story brings in the new creative team of Mark Millar and Frank Quitely. Here's where The Authority moves beyond the routine stuff, dealing in real moral ambiguity. Now The Authority decide to use their powers to stop political corruption and make the world a better place by overthrowing repressive regimes, housing refugees and trying to feed the masses, all the while enjoying the publicity, loot and groupies. Naturally there's some resistance which comes in the form of President Clinton (shown but not named) and his mysterious super-secretive higher-ups sending a superpowered hit squad to stop The Authority. Adding another level to the story, the hit squad is basically The Avengers with different names and evil-twin attitude. When the two teams face off in Singapore this isn't the usual WWF-type showdown but full-scale combat that leaves the streets strewn with superhero body parts and the city filled with 5000 dead civilians. (I read somewhere that Ellis claims he always thought of The Authority as the bad guys which you can't really tell from his stories where they sound more like high school principals, but this Millar story heads in that direction, only with the distinction that their opponents are clearly even worse.) No more issues have been collected in tpb yet but the series lasted another ten or so issues before DC pulled the plug.


Prodigy Music for the Jilted Generation - I'm pretty sure I reviewed this for Option when it first came out though am not absolutely certain (1995 seems a bit late). I did review some early Prodigy album and remember giving it what I thought was a scathing put-down though it was probably pretty tepid. However, a couple of months ago I noticed Christgau gave this album a full "A" claiming it's "stupid in the very best way" and promising much sound effects. This sounded right up my alley so when I had a chance to get the CD for $3 I picked it up. Who was right? Neither exactly: the album is decent enough but certainly not gripping. I'll give it another listen or two and if there's no improvement, it goes onto the to-sell pile.