Reviews

Pete Yorn

Christine Di Bella
Pete Yorn

Pete Yorn

City: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Venue: Michigan Theater
Date: 2002-05-31
S E T    L I S T
Black
Life on a Chain
Closet
Sense
For Nancy ('Cos It Already Is)
Lose You
Knew Enough to Know Nothing At All
On Your Side
Sleep Better
Just Another
Undercover
Strange Condition
Atlantic City
Simonize
China Girl Encore
Model American
Panic
Murray
Unless you've been closed off in a media isolation chamber lately, you've probably heard of Pete Yorn. The 27-year-old Yorn is, along with Ryan Adams, the American male singer-songwriter flavor of the week, widely acclaimed for last year's musicforthemorningafter, his first released album, and hailed in an endless series of write-ups as the next something, next Jeff Buckley, next Jackson Browne, next (fellow New Jersey native) Bruce Springsteen. Pete Yorn has a lot going for him musically: a knack for writing relationship-gone-wrong songs, multi-instrument prowess, a seductively world-weary singing voice, and an excellent choice of influences ranging from Pavement to Neil Young to The Cure. It's what Pete Yorn has going for him non-musically, however, that has been so instrumental in his success thus far: an inexhaustible hype machine commanded by his entertainment agent brother Rick, a long-time business associate of Hollywood mega-power broker Michael Ovitz. The promotional strategy for Yorn has so far been an all-out assault on all segments of the music consumer market. Already in his brief public career he has appeared on multiple movie and TV soundtracks including Bandits, Orange County, and Dawson's Creek. He's scored the Farrelly Brothers' Me, Myself and Irene. He's been romantically linked with Minnie Driver and serial groupie Winona Ryder. He's worked with Liz Phair and R.E.M.'s Peter Buck. He's toured with more well-known acts than you can shake a stick at -- Weezer, Matchbox 20, David Bowie, Blues Traveler, Elbow, Sloan, Sunny Day Real Estate, Train, to name just a few -- whether his style and potential fan base meshes with theirs or not. And, not to leave any stone unturned, the surfeit of glamour shots of the scruffy boy-next-door-faced Yorn in circulation suggest that he's been positioned as the logical next pinup idol for the set who've outgrown *NSYNC and find Eminem a little too scary and Rivers Cuomo not hunky enough. Your typical struggling rocker doesn't get this kind of exposure on the basis of one release, well-received or not (well, except maybe for the Winona bedpost notch), so it seems a perfectly reasonable to conclude that Yorn's early mainstream success has more than a little to do with reaping the benefits of being incredibly well-connected. Suspiciously, Yorn's publicity instead seeks to portray him as the protagonist in a "poor boy comes to the big city with nothing and makes good" story. Unfortunately, since, in this case, the story involves the "poor" boy getting tapped to score a Jim Carrey movie within months of his arrival in Los Angeles, landing a major label tryout without releasing even so much as a single on an indie, and having his first album produced by Don Fleming and his second by Brad Wood, the fairy tale doesn't really ring true. It's this kind of contempt for the intelligence of the music buying public that riles a lot of people up about Pete Yorn, even those who have never heard his music, and causes them to dismiss him as nothing more than the beneficiary of good old-fashioned nepotism. Sadly, if his performance in Ann Arbor, Michigan in late May was any indication, Yorn's ho hum live act does him little service in his quest to prove his "Pete Yawn" detractors wrong. In its current incarnation it's virtually indistinguishable from that of just about any other middle of the road male rock act, more suited to Bryan Adams than the next alternative rock idol. From the dull "let me introduce the band" and "you guys are really cool" patter to the endless plugging of album tracks, from the fog machine to the spotlight backlighting him from behind on the darkened stage a la U2 circa Rattle and Hum, right now there's nothing about Pete Yorn live that gives any indication that he knows how to engage a concert audience in any language other than that of rock and roll cliches. Ironically, the band that was originally supposed to open for him at the Ann Arbor show was idol rock idols Guided by Voices, whose manic frontman Robert Pollard takes those cliches and completely subverts them by imbuing them with an almost comic intensity. Guided by Voices pulled out of their opening slot when Pollard hurt his back (probably doing one of his trademark high kicks), which is a real shame since young Pete definitely stand to take a page from the old master. Just a sampling of the questions inspired by his frustrating live show: If, as he claims in interviews, he's been tirelessly working the club circuit for more than four years honing material and building up grassroots support, not to mention having another whole album in the can, why does he play songs from musicforthemorningafter and the same four or five covers almost exclusively during his current tour? Why does "the next Jeff Buckley" have so many Abercrombie and Fitch teen set fans (including a row of girls wearing pink tie-dyed shirts with their first names emblazoned on the back on the night I saw him) this early in his career? How can the same man who wrote such perceptive relationship songs as "Just Another" and "EZ" be so completely clueless and dull when it comes to interacting with a mostly female concert audience? And why does he still do such a truly awful version of the Smiths' "Panic" (Note to Pete: "There's panic on the streets of Ann Arbor, Michigan," audience-pleasing or not, is a thoroughly embarrassing embellishment on the original)? The easy answer to these questions is that Yorn really is a slickly packaged product, following someone else's prescription for success and given very little free rein to do anything other than what people expect. My more hopeful answer is that Yorn is still young, wasn't completely prepared for the level of success he's achieved over the last year, and is still struggling to develop the public persona to match his more mature songwriting skills. Here's hoping that he learns to gets out from behind his management team's publicity strategy soon and develops a live show that lives up to the promise of musicforthemorningafter. And that he uses his connections to get Morrissey and Johnny Marr on the horn and adequately apologize for that whole "Panic" fiasco.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.


20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta


Keep reading... Show less
Film

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

Rather than once again exploring the all-too-familiar territory of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, Samantha Silva's debut novel contextualizes the work's origins and gets inside the mind of its creator.


Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol has been told and retold so many times over the years that, by this point, one might be hard-pressed to find a single soul evenly glancingly familiar with western culture who isn't at least tangentially acquainted with the holiday classic. This is, of course, a bit of holiday-themed hyperbole, but the fact remains that the basic premise of A Christmas Carol has become so engrained in our culture that it would seem near impossible to imagine a time prior to its existence. It's universally-relatable themes of the power of kindness, redemption and forgiveness speaks to the heart of the Christmas season – at least as it has been presented in the 174 years since it was first published in 19 December 1843 -- just in time for Christmas.

Keep reading... Show less
6

Following his excellent debut record Communion, Rabit further explores the most devastating aspects of its sound in his sophomore opus Les Fleurs du Mal.

Back in 2015 Rabit was unleashing Communion in the experimental electronic scene. Combining extreme avant-garde motifs with an industrial perspective on top of the grime sharpness, Eric C. Burton released one of the most interesting records of that year. Blurring lines between genres, displaying an aptitude for taking things to the edge and the fact that Burton was not afraid to embrace the chaos of his music made Communion such an enticing listen, and in turn set Rabit to be a "not to be missed" artist.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image