Friday, December 1, 2023

The View On Pop Culture: The Pretenders, Supergrass, The Shield DVD (2003)

The Pretenders' Loose Screw

The Pretenders
have been kicking around the music biz for nearly a quarter-century now, the band’s two constants being extraordinary vocalist/songwriter Chrissie Hynde and vastly underrated drummer Martin Chambers. Hynde has seen her share of sorrow, as two original band members died tragically young, and her share of heartache, with two failed marriages and high-profile romances. As a result, she has become somewhat of an authority on the rock ‘n’ roll love song; few songwriters are capable of distilling bittersweet heartache and bitter heartbreak into a lyric with the fire and passion of Chrissie Hynde.

Loose Screw (Artemis Records), the Pretenders’ eighth studio album and the band’s first effort since 1999, shows that Hynde and company have held onto the form that has placed them in the Top Forty several times since 1980. Hynde’s voice is as warm and sultry as ever, capable of both the kitten’s purr and the tiger’s growl. Guitarist Adam Seymour has come into his own after almost ten years with the band, adding personal six-string flourishes to the Pretenders template created by original axeman James Honeyman-Scott while drummer Chambers has provided a consistent rhythmic backbone to Hynde’s vocals since day one.

There are several songs on Loose Screw that meat the standard the band set twenty-something years ago. “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart” is a soulful pop song with mild electronic rhythms and classic Smokey Robinson-styled lyrics and vocals. Hynde’s “Should Of” is a breathless tale of love lost, sad ruminations on what should have been rather than what was. It is the thinly-veiled autobiography of “Complex Person” that stands out on Loose Screw, though, the song providing a revealing glimpse at the artist’s psyche, a lyrical reflection of self image paired with an infectious beat and Hynde’s vocals. The song provides the perfect description of the defiantly individualistic Hynde, her aggressive personality and forceful femininity alienating some listeners and inuring her to others.

Supergrass's Life On Other Planets
One of England’s best-kept musical secrets, Supergrass continues to amaze critics and gain fans with its distinctly British pop/rock hybrid. As shown by the band’s fourth album, Life On Other Planets (Island Def Jam), Supergrass draw upon thirty years of pop, rock, punk, and psychedelic music, combining these disparate styles into a unique sound with the clarity of a diamond and the brightness of a supernova. Just picking out the influences in songs like “Seen the Light” or “Evening of the Day” will drive a listener crazy. Vocalist/guitarist Gaz Coombes, bassist Mickey Quinn and drummer Danny Goffey mix and match pieces and parts of T-Rex, David Bowie and early ‘70s glam rock with classic ‘60s Beatles/Kinks/Who British Invasion rock and ‘80s-influenced punk and new wave influences like Midge Ure and the Buzzcocks.

Life On Other Planets holds a half-dozen hit singles in its grooves if there was anybody in corporate radio these days that could hear them. “Grace” is a boisterous number with aggressive harmonies, a sing-song chorus and a dash of honky-tonk piano that will have you humming for days while “Za” is a Beatles-inspired romp with Lennonesque vocals and more hooks than a song should legally be allowed to have. The frantic riffing of “Rush Hour Soul” sends an electric current through the length of the song, Coombes’ chaotic vocals evolving into a fuzzbox frenzy in this radio-ready alt-rocker. The band shows its psychedelic proclivities with “Prophet 15,” a trippy, atmospheric song haunted by the ghost of Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett. Supergrass has proven itself to be a hot musical commodity across the pond – perhaps it’s time for stateside audiences to discover this talented and underrated band. The energetic and Life On Other Planets is as good a place to start as any…
There have been a lot of gritty cop shows on television over the last twenty years, each one pushing the proverbial envelope closer to brutal reality. Some, like Miami Vice, placed style over substance, while others – most notably NYPD Blue and Homicide: Life On The Streets – earned their stripes with memorable, well-written characters and storylines. It took an obscure cable network with little to lose to drag the basic police drama into the twenty-first century, however. Move over Sipowitz, there’s a new cop on the beat and his name is Mackey.

Released on DVD, The Shield The Complete First Season (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) revisits the award-winning drama’s inaugural season. Over the course of thirteen episodes on four discs, The Shield introduces viewers to the charismatic and violent Detective Vic Mackey, played by Michael Chiklis, head of an elite Strike Team deemed with the responsibility of cleaning up the crime-ridden streets of the Farmington District of Los Angeles. The series begins with the murder of a Strike Team member and quickly plunges into a chaotic maelstrom of drugs and corruption, violence and recriminations.

Although Chiklis’ brilliant portrayal of the conflicted Detective Mackey won him an Emmy award for excellence, The Shield is a carefully constructed drama with a true ensemble cast. Benito Martinez is solid as the police captain at odds with Mackey’s unconventional crime prevention methods and CCH Pounder and Jay Karnes are wonderful in their portrayal of a veteran detective and her eager, by-the-book partner. Controversial for its unrelenting violence, ethical conundrums and for its image of the city as an unforgiving chessboard of kings and pawns, The Shield is as gritty as a sandblaster’s kiss and uncompromising in its picture of reality on the street. (View From The Hill, February 2003)

No comments: