Monday, April 14, 2008

Ear on TV: The Week of April 14

I had to admit I was initially skeptical at the prospect of seventy and eighty-year old senior citizens singing rock songs from the likes of Sonic Youth, The Clash and the Ramones. But in the hands of The Young@Heart Chorus -- and the arrangement of 54-year old director Bob Cilman -- the songs take on new meaning given the age and circumstance of their interpreters, and it's hard to hear the song the same way again. This week, the nearly two dozen retirees from Northampton, Mass. appear on both Leno (Wednesday,) and Ellen (Thursday,) out doing their part to help promote the documentary they're featured in, Young@Heart out this Friday, April 18.

The film is billed by it's director Stephen Walker as a rock musical for getting old, but that shortchanges the subject manner a bit, I'd say, a problem that's also apparent in his over use of narration -- the only issue I have with an other wise perfect documentary. (Why couldn't he just shut up and let the film tell the story?) At the center of the film is our own mortality, which isn't just some elephant in a room full of folks near the end of their life. Over the years, the chorus has lost over 70 of it's members to the inevitability of time, even losing a couple in the making of the film. One of those deaths leads to the incredible touching moment of a duet that's forced into a solo, as the remaining singing partner Fred lends some gravity to Coldplay's "Fix You" (video.)

The film challenges not only our perceptions of age and getting old, but also our initial perceptions of the songs themselves. When the chorus takes on Sonic Youth's "Schizophrenia" (video) or David Bowie's "Golden Years" (video,) both the lyrics and the music are lifted to a place you wouldn't think it would go. What it brings to mind is the outsider music of The Langley Schools Music Project, a recording of Canadian elementary school children singing rock songs of the time (1976-1977.) Where the octogenarians take Bowie is not that different from nine year old voices in the suburbs of Vancouver with "Space Oddity." They're just at different ends of their life.

Playlist: Picks for the week
Monday, April 14
CBS: Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson: Daniel Lanois
FUSE: The Sauce: Gnarls Barkley
NBC: Late Night With Conan O'Brien: Spoon (REPEAT)
NBC: Last Call With Carson Daly: Morrissey (REPEAT)
Tuesday, April 15
CBS: Late Show With David Letterman: Rogue Wave
FUEL: The Daily Habit: Perry Farrell
FUSE: The Sauce: G. Love
NBC: The Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Ingrid Michaelson
NBC: Late Night With Conan O'Brien: Brother Ali (REPEAT)
NBC: Last Call With Carson Daly: Tristan Prettyman (REPEAT)
Wednesday, April 16
CBS: Late Show With David Letterman: The Gossip
CBS: Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson: Bell X1
NBC: The Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Young@Heart Chorus
Thursday, April 17
CBS: Late Show With David Letterman: The Black Keys
OVATION: Afro-Cuban All Stars: At the Salon of Dreams: Afro-Cuban All Stars
PBS: Tavis Smiley: Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige
SYNDICATION: The Ellen Degeneres Show: Young@Heart Chorus
Friday, April 18
ABC: Jimmy Kimmel Live: Lyrics Born
CBS: Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson: Liam Finn
NBC: The Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Flogging Molly
NBC: Late Night With Conan O'Brien: The Kooks (REPEAT)
RAVEHD: Later with Jools Holland: Reverend and the Makers, Stephanie Dosen, Josh Ritter, Larry Harlow's Latin Legends of Fania, Bela Fleck, The Who
Saturday, April 19
NBC: Saturday Night Live: Vampire Weekend (REPEAT)
OVATION: Beat Route - Seville: Vicente Amigo (REPEAT)
PBS: Austin City Limits: Ray Davies (REPEAT)


drake leLane said...

Picks for the Week

1. Where Will I Be - Daniel Lanois
2. Run [I'm A Natural Disaster] - Gnarls Barkley
3. Don't You Evah - Spoon
4. You Have Killed Me - Morrissey
5. Lake Michigan - Rogue Wave
6. Song Yet To Be Sung - Perry Farrell
7. Ain't That Right - G. Love and Special Sauce
8. The Way I Am - Ingrid Michaelson
9. Truth Is - Brother Ali
10. Madly - Tristan Prettyman
11. Standing In The Way Of Control - The Gossip
12. Rocky Took A Lover - Bell X1
13. Strange Times - Black Keys
14. Amor Verdadero - Afro-Cuban All Stars
15. I Know - Jay-Z
16. Work That - Mary J. Blige
17. I Like It, I Love It - Lyrics Born
18. Second Chance - Liam Finn
19. You Won't Make A Fool Out Of Me - Flogging Molly
20. Naive - The Kooks
21. Manuel, My Friend - Vicente Amigo
22. To the Dogs or Whoever - Josh Ritter
23. we have been lost - stephanie dosen
24. Azquita Pa Ti - Larry Harlow
25. Rococo - Bela Fleck
26. In The Ether - The Who
27. A-Punk - Vampire Weekend
28. Vietnam Cowboys - Ray Davies

J Shifty said...

Thanks, Drake. It's good for me to see a response to the Young@Heart movie from an informed but more objective voice. I partially playlisted up the hometown premiere last week. Some of the elements of its first life as a BBC documentary, like the excess narration you mention, do take away a bit as a feature film. I think some of the music video bits are a little incongruous and a wee bit cheesy, too.

drake leLane said...

I agree on the music videos point... they do serve as fun promos for the film, though... it might've worked better to just show a 'behind the scenes' look at making the videos and a few snippet highlights from them.

Looking at your playlist, I see you blocked those cheesy and incongruous music videos from your memory -- "Golden Years" (David Bowie) and "I Wanna Be Sedated" (The Ramones).