Celebration: The Modern Tribe

The Baltimore Trio's sophomore effort is a triumph, and not just because TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek is on the production.


The Modern Tribe

Label: 4AD
US Release Date: 2007-10-09
UK Release Date: 2007-10-09

Nowadays, seems you can’t read the name of the up-and-coming Baltimore group Celebration without the appendix “produced by TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek”. OK, OK, we get it, that band provides one touchstone for the flagrant waffle describing the band’s sound (which I’ll get to, don’t worry). But though on their self-titled debut Celebration did share some of TV on the Radio’s momentary heft, their expanded palette on The Modern Tribe may actually be more TV on the Radio-esque. Not an explicit likeness, but informed by the same spirit of adventurous experimentation. And no, this record’s not great because Sitek’s sitting in the background pushing dials. Celebration has proven themselves a fascinating presence in their own right. By this measure, The Modern Tribe is a huge step up for the band.

You’d expect it from reading the player stats. Vocalist Katrina Ford has the kind of versatile and arresting voice that earned Shara Worden and Nina Nastasia their accolades (it can be quite conventional though, on one song, Ford sounds kind of like Linda Ronstadt). David Bergander uses his drums, like Battles’ John Stanier, both as an instrument of ferocity and of shifting, straining patterns. And anchoring the whole team, Sean Antanaitis showcases versatility, expanding the group’s sound while simultaneously demonstrating a remarkable restraint. Of course Sitek’s a part of this, his contribution may be the expert way in which atmosphere’s been incorporated into each of these songs, deepening their impact.

But The Modern Tribe is certain to draw Celebration further away from their TV on the Radio’s associations. Though members of the band, along with those of Antibalas and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner, contribute to some of the material here, it’s the way that the three core musicians in Celebration interact provides this album’s real magic. Take the melodic high point, “Heartbreak”; over staid organ chords and a tapping percussion that gradually shifts into polyrhythms, Ford and Antanaitis’ voices screech a glorious and entirely unpredictable verse. As the track loops upward into a tattle of cacophonous voices and a wall of brass, you might hear hints of Animal Collective and hints of Stars but the combined effect’s all Celebration. They stay true to the sense of their name, too, despite the words: “Cos you’re heartbreak, and I’m addicted to you”.

Don’t be fooled by “Evergreen” and “In This Land”. “Heartbreak” shows a band that has developed an intuitive understanding of the way texture can be used to develop ideas, to change the sense of a simple melody and underscore basic emotions. “Evergreen” opens things on a strong note; its chemical magic has been receiving some attention after the release of the video, check it out and you’ll see what I mean. “In This Land” is more relentless, a stomping orchestral rock song with saxophones (!) off chasing some demented dragonfly against the sense of the song and the combination with Ford’s strung-out, smoky voice momentarily recalling Blonde Redhead.

But the group also haven’t abandoned the more muscular rock underpinning that ran through Celebration. The elements of Battles-style math rock, complex drum rhythms and loops of overdriven guitar are combined with shouty vocals and the occasional break into straight-out dance rock. A few times, as on “Hands Off My Gold”, they go for a catchphrase that doesn’t fit with the musical accompaniment, here, the complex, tribal guitars deserve something more hard-hitting.

In fact, the range of sounds on The Modern Tribe is one of its obvious strengths. So much so that listening to the record becomes a delightful game of ‘What’s up next?’ And while there may be a connecting thematic thread through all the tracks, a glance at the song titles brings to mind a bizarre carnival of modern man’s motivations, all this is subsumed by the group’s exuberant musical curiosity. It may be true that “the world it’s just begun / To tame the savage heart of man”. But Celebration’s hearts seem far from tame and of course, we wouldn’t have it any other way.


From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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