Music

Matt Pond PA: Several Arrows Later

Peter Funk

A middle of the road batch of well-constructed pop songs that will disappear in a puff of musical notes seconds after they're played.


Matt Pond Pa

Several Arrows Later

Label: Altitude
US Release Date: 2005-10-11
UK Release Date: Available as import
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Clean. Crisp. Well produced. Sparkling sound. Immediately accessible. Formulaic. Courting no challenges. Introspective. Unambiguously pop. Hooks. Heartbreak. Matt Pond PA. Does pop music have to be easy listening? Definitely not. Is easy listening pop music a bad thing? Definitely not. It's all in perspective. Matt Pond PA gives us a platter of hooky pop songs that mimic to a degree some pretty fine moments in pop music: XTC, The Go Betweens, Big Star, to name a few. But where those bands sounded as if their brand of pop was resting on the edge of something risky, Matt Pond PA is more content to play from the safety of the middle.

Several Arrows Later actually buries their most recognizable trait as a band: the copious use of strings as accents and embellishments. Instead Matt Pond and company decide to push their songs into adult contemporary rock territory by emphasizing chiming Counting Crows-esque guitars. It's not an entirely unpleasant sound. In fact there's absolutely nothing unpleasant about Several Arrows Later, it's all perfectly engineered, charming, and would follow Train's "Drops of Jupiter" quite well, thus making it obvious fodder for programmers to drop into the car radios of a million dazed commuters. I can assure all AOR programmers out there that there are absolutely no songs on Several Arrows Later that would elicit a response as strong as actually turning to another station.

As with other Matt Pond PA releases Several Arrows Later is a set of songs played in the key of mope. While the music may be overproduced slices of sing-a-long melody, the heart of these songs is disappointment. The overriding sense of listless frustration that permeates this record bears a certain kinship to the jangly sad sack style of Joe Pernice. But where Pernice's literary lyrical style creates ambiguity and mood, Pond often feels heavy handed in a high school love note sort of way.

Several Arrows Later is one of those records that lands itself exactly in the middle of the critical landscape. I feel loathe giving it an out and out bad review because, frankly, it's not a bad record. It's more about the things it doesn't do that frustrates me. It doesn't grab you, it doesn't shake you; despite it's fine songwriting you won't be struggling to get these songs out of your head because, like a well mannered dinner guest that didn't take the party to the next level but didn't leave a bunch of spilled drinks in his wake either, they just kind of exit quietly.

Perhaps this slightly bland direction is one that Matt Pond PA was always headed making this record a totally expected arrival point. But somehow their earlier brand of chamber pop, full of lush strings, and Pond's cloying but touching lyrics seemed to promise something a little more than the pedestrian virtues of Several Arrows Later.

5

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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