Posts Tagged ‘The Beatles’

Review: “That Thing You Do! ”

April 19, 2010

So, I know I haven’t been focusing in solely on music lately, but hopefully you can recognize the musical value of some of the items I’ve been writing about, in particular my movie reviews, all of which feature music as a central theme.  With that said…

Released in 1996 and set during the 1960s, “That Thing You Do!  “   is Tom Hanks’ directorial debut, and a fine debut at that.  The story of a garage rock band who rises to stardom on the success of their one big hit song, “That Thing You Do!  “   this movie hits all the right notes, so to speak, and seamlessly pulls off a fun, playful atmosphere that echoes the carefree days of a bygone era.  After losing their drummer to a broken arm, a local Erie, Pennsylvania band suddenly finds themselves in need of a replacement, quickly turning to beatnik jazz drummer Guy Patterson (Tom Everett Scott) to fill in for a gig at a college talent show.  However, after Guy speeds up the tempo of the eponymous song, turning this slow ballad into an upbeat rocker, the group is soon presented with an unexpected wealth of fame, especially after being signed to Playtone Records by a suave A&R representative named Mr.  White (Tom Hanks) and settling on band name The Wonders.  Despite the usual lousy shows and technical on-stage problems any band goes through, they’re eventually added to a nationwide Playtone artist tour that takes them to a variety of state fairs, all the while enjoying the continued rise of, “That Thing You Do!  “   up the charts and the benefits this entails, such as appearances on TV and in a major motion picture.

As is the case with any film, this one features a fair amount of drama and relationship issues, including those between lead singer/guitarist Jimmy Mattingly (Johnathon Schaech) and his girlfriend Faye (Liv Tyler), for whom drummer Guy secretly longs.  We also see as Jimmy becomes consumed with his own visions for the band, and his desire to take the band in that direction, even if that means less a focus on performing live and a greater emphasis on recording.  Guitarist/vocalist Lenny Haise is portrayed as a silly, skirt-chasing buffoon, a role which Steve Zahn performs admirably.  And it’s great to see Guy’s starry-eyed reactions to all the amazing things that happen to him and the band, all the while harboring his continued love for jazz and, especially, the music of his favorite jazz musician Del Paxton, a love that pays off in a big way for Guy as the film nears its conclusion.

Any film that turns its focus towards music, bands, or anything along those lines is already a winner in my book, and this one is a perfect example of all those things.  As mentioned, Hanks does a wonderful job of bringing the audience into the halcyon days of the 60s, when Beatlemania was at its peak and a band not unlike the Fab Four attempted to make a name for themselves.  Comparisons to The Beatles can be found everywhere, from the uptempo snappiness (to quote Mr.  White) of the band’s music, to their nicknames eventually assigned to the band members, all the way down to the drummer swap, which recalls the substitution of original Beatles drummer Pete Best with Ringo Starr.  The cast does an excellent job, rounding out their roles to a, “T, “ and making us believe they’re an actual band (in reality, external musicians including Fountains Of Wayne’s Adam Schlesigner composed much of the movie’s music).

I tip my hat to, “That Thing You Do!  “  for again giving those musicians who’ve cut their teeth in bands at one point or another something to watch with fondness, and making us believe that, maybe, being a one-hit wonder is all you really need.

Artist Profile: Drew De Four

February 14, 2010

One of the many things I was looking forward to this past summer while vacationing in Ireland was the rich, diverse Irish music scene, something us Yanks have gotten a taste of through films like 2007’s Once.  Fortunately, during my second night in Dublin, my wife, cousin and myself had a chance to hit the pubs and see what we could find, eventually stumbling upon an artist named Drew De Four.

To say I’ve never seen someone play piano like Drew would be an understatement.  The energy and musicianship he displayed that night were unparalleled, with a voice that fit within the confines of the bar perfectly.  However, his music was able to transcend that live setting-after his set (of which I unfortunately only saw a few songs), I picked up the disc he had for sale that night, an interesting collection of demos, rarities and live tracks that showed off his songwriting and diverse musical tastes.  Although he hails from Michigan, his music is rich in Irish overtones, especially his piano on songs like, “Marie, ” along with his arsenal of pint-in-the-air anthems.  Songs like, “The Tower, ” almost seem to recall a bluesy, ’70s-vibe, while, “Keep A Light, ” turns up the emotion with touching lyrics and a gradual layering of instruments, including drums, guitars, and a fantastic female backing vocal.  “Damned, ” is a true masterpiece, a swinging tune that one can instantly picture echoing through the music halls of the ’20s and ’30s.  The blues makes a return on, “You Only Kiss Me When You’re Drunk, ” and, “In The End You Die, ” is just pure, unabashed fun.

But this is only a taste.  With three releases under his belt (including last year’s The Troubadour), influences ranging from Tom Waits to Joe Cocker to The Beatles and a busy touring schedule, one is bound to find something they like whether it be his music and/or his live performance-an absolute treat which shouldn’t be missed.  Check him out at http://www.myspace.com/drewd4, at his official site at http://www.drewdefour.com, at http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/DrewDeFour (for samples of his tunes and an opportunity to buy his music online), and do head over to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EkAkhgt4G5c for one of the most unbelievable solo renditions of, “Bohemian Rhapsody, ” you’ll ever hear.

What else can be said about this musical wunderkind?  Not only is he probably one of the few people I could look in the eye without having to crouch (at 6’7″), but he’s one of the few artists my wife and I can agree on, what with her country leanings and my rock ‘n roll love.  That alone should say something.  🙂

Very few people to me represent a living, breathing embodiment of music.  Drew De Four is, without question, one of them-the talent he possesses will surely continue to carry him down the road from venue to venue, from the mp3 player to your ear, from this lifetime well into the next.