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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Culture Corner

The Art Desk’s weekly picks for music, movies and more


By CHARLIE MCBRIAN — arts@theaggie.org 


Album: “#1 Record / Radio City” by Big Star (1974)

This double album from 1978 combines 1972’s “#1 Record” and 1974’s “Radio City” which, due to poor distribution, had gone unnoticed up to that point. This re-release, however, introduced a more receptive punk rock generation to Big Star’s music and became massively influential as a result. Acolytes include Teenage Fanclub, The Lemonheads, The Replacements, Elliott Smith and R.E.M. Big Star serves as the bridge between 60s pop rock and 90s alt-rock. Unlike other alt-rock forefathers, there’s nothing too revolutionary about their approach at first glance. Contextually, however, Big Star’s contemporaries — Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Slayer — eschewed the fey and “feminine” songcraft of 60s soft-pop for heavier riffs to reflect the development of a more sexually aggressive and thoroughly cynical rock-n-roll mythos for “serious adults.” 

Big Star, on the other hand, fused the latent melancholy of 60s Beatles-inspired soft-pop with blasting rock riffs to effortlessly convey a complex swirl of emotions. The bright jangle-y guitars, the melodic efficiency and the wounded yelps courtesy of Alex Chilton all laid the groundwork for alternative styles like power pop, college rock, jangle pop, indie pop and paisley pop. But beyond its importance, “#1 Record / Radio City” is just a solid record, featuring standouts such as “O, My Soul” with its punchy groove. “Back of a Car” introduces riffs that make desire feel cosmically large, and the heartbreakingly tender “Thirteen,” famously covered by Elliott Smith. I would recommend this for fans of the sweeter, hookier side of rock and pop. 


TV Show: “Community” (2009-2015)

While only moderately successful in its time, one can still see reverberations of “Community” today. Showrunner Dan Harmon, who went on to co-create “Rick and Morty,” Ludwig Goransson, composer of the Oppenheimer score, and Donald Glover are just a few significant figures who got their start on “Community.” Although inconsistent — yes, even during its good seasons — at its best, “Community” combines the jumbled anarchy of shows like “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and the pop culture cutaway humor of “Family Guy.” The show refines these elements to make for intra-episode webs of effective setups and payoffs. “Community” constantly toys with the fourth wall, simultaneously critiquing and celebrating the limitations of the sitcom format while remaining playful and digestible. With a new movie on the horizon, it’s clear that “Community” continues to captivate audiences nearly a decade after its original run ended. I would recommend this for fans of sitcoms who want a fresh take on the format.


Movie: “The Holdovers” dir. by Alexander Payne (2023)

Sometimes, less is more. In a content-first media landscape, films are constantly upping audiovisual noise to drive up engagement. “The Holdovers” consciously counters this, focusing largely on the relationship between its two leads: Paul Hunhan played by Paul Giamatti and Angus Tully played by newcomer Dominic Sessa. Set in a 1970s New England boarding school, a series of misfortunes make it so that the antisocial teenager Angus and an abrasive curmudgeonly teacher, Paul, are the only two left at the boarding school over the break. Despite its limited nature — or perhaps because of it — “The Holdovers” is able to remain consistently engaging through a convincing script and characters that naturally unfold throughout the film. Its visuals are similarly refined, having a grainy look reminiscent of films from the period in which this movie takes place. “The Holdovers” has all of this and more and serves as a great reprieve for anyone looking to escape the overexposure present within modern media.


Written by: Charlie McBrian—arts@theaggie.org


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