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  CONSUMABLES: THE SUMMER INDIE ROCK THROWDOWN.  
   
   
   
 

CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS, DIRECTED BY ANDREW JARECKI
A film about pedophilia and family, to be sure, but that's not what you're arguing about when you leave the theater. Is the mother really as awful as her kids make her out to be? Was Jesse's lawyer lying -- or was Jesse? Heartbreakingly fair, Andrew Jarecki leads you down the path of preconceived notions, only to twist your expectations again and again. What starts out as a simplistic tale of naughtiness in the heart of tranquil affluence becomes something deeper and more knotty. Without the Friedmans' home movies, this film couldn't have existed. But, then again, without them, we probably wouldn't come to understand this family so well. Even if we still don't know who to believe. A-

SWIMMING POOL, DIRECTED BY FRANCOIS OZON
Remember Robert Altman's 3 Women? Late '70s? Artsy, ambiguous -- it all came to him in a dream? This one's kinda like that -- slow, deliberate, elegant. Your brain will have a fun time unraveling it. And unlike the ending to Adaptation, Ozon's film has something useful to say about identity, creation, working out life's problems through your word processor. Charlotte Rampling is terrific, of course -- she doesn't just do repressed, she does used-to-be-wild-but-now-repressed. (And watch how she dances.) And even her poster-bait co-star can act a little. Artsy and ambiguous, I was expecting. A movie more fun to fight about and decode than the new Matrix is just an added bonus. B+

EELS "SHOOTENANNY!"
Mostly eschewing quirk, he risks being conventional. But with that said, E has never recorded such a series of sane tunes. "Agony" and "Numbered Days" are as mature and unironic as he's ever allowed himself, and yet their anguish and hope are as finely wrought as when he used to rant and rave. Do you miss the samples and pranks? Tough. This record's streamlining feels appropriate and honest. To debate whether or not it's his best is beside the point. Dudes like him never quite peak -- they just write what's on their mind at the time and move on. After album upon album of bold new directions, this might seem like a compromise. But if you want proof that he doesn't need gimmicks or concepts to make his work fly, here you go. A-

DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS "DECORATION DAY"
Not only are they capable of writing a great song, they also go out of their way to include a few terrific lines and an engaging narrative. On their last album, "Southern Rock Opera," they stretched out over two discs, setting the record straight on Lynyrd Skynyrd and the South as a whole. This time, they say more with less -- and in the bargain concoct an even more stirring, rounded view of the rednecks they know as neighbors, friends, and lovers. Plus, their handcrafted storylines refuse to play out the way your prejudices expect. The oaf of a husband of "Loaded Gun in the Closet" doesn't beat his wife -- he loves her dearly, and how dare you think otherwise. Violence and bloodshed come not from glory or bravado -- just simple human frailty. And these good old boys even subvert the sappy father's-advice-to-his-son genre by having the song come from the grateful son's perspective. A-

THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS "ELECTRIC VERSION"
No idea what any of these songs are about. But every one of them sounds great coming out of my car speakers. Especially the ones with the girl who sings like Liz Phair. B+

SONDRE LERCHE "FACES DOWN"
A fall 2002 release, it keeps popping up on NPR, your local coffeehouse, in the ears of sensitive boys everywhere and their lovely gal friends who won't date them. Lerche's a nice guy. Young. From Norway. When his gifts for sweetness and melody combine on "You Know So Well," you'll be begging for an album full of more of the same. And that's what you'll get -- some songs swing, some mope, some pine. This makes him one of about four dozen tunesmiths trying to win your heart in his own unassuming way. A little life experience will toughen him up and bring out his eccentricities. I hope. B+

THE JEALOUS SOUND "KILL THEM WITH KINDNESS"
Lauded by Spin, but they sound too much like the Foo Fighters. Not old good Foo Fighters. More like new lukewarm Foo Fighters. This foursome delivers clean, earnest emo with the guitars turned up slightly louder and the singing slightly more charismatic. "Hope for Us" has a certain amount of urgency -- verse chorus verse, remember that? Mostly, though, this is just more proof of how much higher my tolerance for mediocre rock albums is than my tolerance for mediocre anything else. B

VIC CHESNUTT "SILVER LAKE"
Explain it to me. Michael Stipe loves him, popular and distinctive groups have covered his work. He's one of those guys smart people pride themselves on discussing. And it's not like I don't enjoy some of the compositions on his umpteenth album of singer-songwriterly essentials. But I have a tough time working up much enthusiasm for 'em, either. His songs about love are so adorable with their precise detail that you want him to give up music and just write short stories you won't bother reading. His metaphors will impress grad students everywhere. Melancholy, he does pretty well -- his whisper of a voice carries them home. And "2nd Floor" does work up an impressive burst of steam. But that was his guitarist's idea. B

 

 
 

GOOD THINGS.

28 DAYS LATER, DIRECTED BY DANNY BOYLE
No mercy. When it's not scaring the hell out of you, it's sadistically allowing you a few moments of rest before another attack occurs. As with most experiments, this movie requires an act of faith on everyone's part -- the sense of a shared vision. The reward is one horrifying night though the wringer. Humanity may be winding down, this film argues, but thank god creativity and guts are still in massive supply. Plus, Christopher Eccleston in a great supporting role. Days later, I'm still a little too twitchy to stand next to windows. A

 

BAD THINGS.

UNCLE KRACKER FEATURING DOBIE GRAY "DRIFT AWAY"
It won't go away. Fourteen weeks on the Billboard chart and this single's still climbing. The type of good-time, know-nothing ode that cheers us common folks into realizing that, hey, life ain't so bad. Just a simple tune with some banal lyrics about, you know, how tough the world is when you're a novelty act trying to stay relevant. Let the breezy melody take you away. But last time I checked, the economy is still down and soldiers are getting killed in Iraq. I'm not saying any of that is Kracker's fault. But I'm also not saying I'm gonna enjoy his manipulative little ode to brain death when I've got bigger things on my mind. D+

 
 

 

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CONSUMABLES FOR JUNE 24: THE NEW RADIOHEAD RECORD, CLAY AIKEN, TATU AND GRANDADDY.

CONSUMABLES FOR JUNE 10: FINDING NEMO, THE KILLS, 100 HEROES & VILLAINS AND THE THORNS.

CONSUMABLES FOR MAY 27: RELOADED, 50 CENT, DOWN WITH LOVE, AND AFI'S GLOOMSTER ROCK.

CONSUMABLES FOR MAY 13: X2, RADIOHEAD, ZWAN AND WOODY ALLEN'S WORST MOVIE.

CONSUMABLES FOR APRIL 29: SONIC YOUTH, ICE CUBE, YO LA TENGO, A MIGHTY WIND & MORE.

CONSUMABLES FOR APRIL 22: CABARET, WHITE STRIPES, FUTURAMA, SPOON AND MORE.

 

*BT*

Tim Grierson is an editor of The Simon, a weekly online publication of culture, politics, and humor.