ARTS

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March 1, 2002

What Kind of Total Disregard For Humanity Do You Have?

• Warum ich so weise bin •

• Warum ich so klug bin •

• Warum ich so gute Bücher schreibe •

• Warum ich ein Schicksal bin •

First day in Sydney, sightseeing, my friends drag me to the Opera House. Actually, we were doing the whole coast from the gardens to the Opera House down to Darling Harbour where we could see the eight-year-olds washing away early summer heatstroke in a fountain. Not that we were looking. But it was happening. I was eating ice cream at the time. Damn, Sydney was hot. Anyway, there is a restaurant attached to the Opera House; it's the smaller of the parts of the Complex. The restaurant was empty, but we walked in for a drink (noon, and the two Victoria Bitters that started the day were already being digested), and I quickly changed my request from a Crown Lager to a gin and tonic once I heard, over the stereo system, the distinct Dimitri from Paris mix A Night at the Playboy Mansion. Here I am, in one of the biggest tourist attractions in Sydney, and the canned music is French Disco-House? Is Australia the greatest nation in the world?

Australia (specifically, Sydney, Melbourne (er, "Melbin"), and Dookie, Victoria) was our host for the Tenth World Lithuanian Youth Congress, and the congress clearly began well if Dimitri from Paris was involved. Then, that evening, after sightseeing, we learned while slumming around King's Cross that tipping was not necessary. This country, already about half as expensive as the States, kept getting better. Dimitri from Paris was to be a thematic element of the three-week trip, as I ran into Playboy Mansion again in Dookie (an ag school which prided itself on being the best ag school in the southern hemisphere), and then twice again in Melbin, once at a restaurant across the Yarra from Flinders Station, and once again at a house party near Flinders Park. The funny thing about the house party was that we took a tram past the Melbourne Cricket Ground to get there, just as a match was starting there, a one-day I'd been planning on attending.

In retrospect, maybe I should have gone to the cricket match, but it really would have broken my body. I hadn't slept, literally, since coming to Melbin three days earlier. I was barely eating, too. And I know how I get at sporting matches — it's a shame Paul O'Neill retired, as I'd developed a good four innings worth of material with which to heckle him the next time the Yankmees came into town. In short, it would have been dodgy. But, at the same time, I would have been able to see one of the best one-day squads ever assembled play in the Carlton Series against a hapless Zimbabwe side.

Cricket is another thing Australia is remarkably good at. That and liking Dimitri from Paris. And catering to young kids looking for booze at 10 a.m., like we were two weeks before the Melbin trip, on Manly Beach, sacking the beach for a pub and a few overs of a match against the Windies. Our tour bus left (with us) to take us to Bondi Beach (or, at least, the sake bar across the street) before a friend from Montreal started ordering us all 747s. Thank heavens. The night before, we were all (over two dozen people buying a lot of Korbel (?)) bounced from the Paragon in Sydney because one of us was passing out at the table. It was awful, and none of us (mostly dancing until 6 a.m.) were ready for on-the-fly cocktail inventions four hours later. Back to cricket

So the Australians have completely embarrassed the South Africans in the past few days. The South African side suffered their worst Test defeat in history when Australia beat them by an innings and 360 runs. They should show this stuff on television. I would watch all of it. Seriously — cricket lends itself very well to television. Like baseball, it has oodles of built-in timeouts for commercials, and matches move along at a pace that encourages a lot of analysis. And who hates analysis? I wouldn't say that it, cricket, is conducive to drinking, because it already sounds from the above like my three-weeks in Australia were all sopping wet, which was not the case. But, well, it is. Drinking and analysis. Both cornerstones of the well-rounded U of C education.

While in Australia, however, I was introduced to very little Australian music. And here I'm not including the awful-ass didgeridoo "playing" my souvenir-snapping friends attempted. Before setting foot in the nation, the extent of my knowledge of the scene was, well, let's be honest: Men at Work, AC/DC, INXS, and Midnight Oil. In second grade, I was a huge Men at Work mark, but, realistically, the only good band from this list is INXS. And even they're on thin ice. Midnight Oil I only liked since the cooler, older, political-types at Lithuanian camp liked them (one berated me once for liking They Might Be Giants, since they weren't "political." I was, like, 10, so I couldn't be all "all art is political, nuge"), but INXS's Kick is to this day a quality album. There was one more bit of Australian music I knew about, actually

As a pre-teen, I had planned a floor exercise presentation during the gymnastics show to Kylie Minogue's "Locomotion." It was a cute enough song, and I adored the name "Kylie." I had no idea who this woman was, or where she'd come from. Spotty stories would filter through the media about her soap opera past, and so on, but basically she existed just as the voice of "Locomotion." The track was, also, one of the first mp3s I ever downloaded. Still, it seems odd that she would then resurface, romantically involved with Michael Hutchence. Is the Australian music world so small that A-list musicians hook up with A-list musicians? Were Kylie and Michael the J-Lo and P-Diddy of Oz? In any case, Minogue remained below the American radar except in connection to Hutchence, who was also under the radar until, that is, he committed suicide.

So now Kylie is back, or, if not back to making music, at least back to some sort of American presence. Her "Can't Get You Out of My Head" took dance floors by storm (wrecking the chart presence of Posh Spice in the U.K.), and now the album, Fever, is poised to unleash its dance appeal on the States. Now, the typical American hipster, I suppose, would get a nostalgic kick out of this release (it's not like Minogue's gone anywhere — she's just been, well, under the radar, dig?), quoting "Locomotion" maybe before making a crack at Hutchence. But, of course, this column is not for the typical American hipster. It Is For The Sincere Punk. And the Sincere Punk would like Fever. The cover art is a bit of a distraction, though, at first, as all the photos attached to the liner notes are, well, kind of, um, really, um, um, suggestive. She's tied up in a microphone cord in one shot, and another features her singing into a microphone, but the microphone, well, um, I'm blushing. This is embarrassing. She's not wearing pants anywhere on the album. This seems a bit excessive. Who the hell is the target audience here? I already HAVE a girlfriend!

Still, the disc presents itself as remarkably approachable dance-pop — much better, yet still in a similar vein, than the sort of stuff that the young ones are letting the Swedes mix for them. The huge single is worth the accolades thrown on it by critics and fans alike, and "In Your Eyes" is deeply engrossing and deserves to knock pretenders from some sort of throne. Her voice is softened à la Nina Persson's on all of First Band on The Moon, and that sort of intimacy is backed up by a round house beat which draws dancing bodies closer and closer. Fantastic. "In Your Eyes" is allegedly a huge hit in Minogue's home nation, which makes sense. They like Dimitri from Paris, after all. The house/disco love continues on the infectious confections "Dancefloor," "Burning Up," and "More More More" (no, sadly, not a cover of the Andrea True Connection classic. I would, seriously, have exploded if she were covering that).

The rest of the album falls together decently, too, wearing its disco pedigree proudly on its sleeve. "Love Affair" represents the deep house world, and "Give it to Me" almost sounds like a Daft Punk track with the way the bass line is voiced. The track seems to drag a bit, though, for not even three minutes long, and it feels like it wants a bit of a big breakdown — or to exist in the middle of a song. Still, the amelodic choppiness brings to mind somehow both Daft Punk and, gulp, Britney. Remember how "I'm a Slave 4 U" is weirdly catchy? "Give it to Me" is the same way.

Minogue's "Boy" starts with a bass-heavy electro hook that trudges along like glistening molasses — it's totally engrossing, seriously, and hopefully it represents an onslaught on the American charts. Britney could have used more of this sensibility. I'm not certain who signed the "It's OK to make electro albums again" permission slip, but he or she deserves some sort of spot in my heart. Like, I'd send this person flowers or chocolate in gratitude. Back when Cassius released 1999, we thought this electro stuff was just a joke. Yet here it is, in mainstream releases. Whoever it was who signed this slip, though, was probably Australian.