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    Sunday, August 07, 2022

    Tipping Point: Our picks and pans (ABBA, 'Midnight Mass,' Porcupine Tree)

    TV TIP

    Midnight Mass


    If Stephen King had conjured "Midnight on the Coastal Island of Good and Evil," it might look like this very good supernatural series. As it is, "Midnight Mass" was written and directed by Mike Flanagan, an enthusiastic King acolyte whose film versions of "Doctor Sleep" and "Gerald's Game" did Big Steve proud. For "Mass," the Good vs. Evil lines are indelibly and compellingly drawn, and the battleground is not just the island but the small Catholic church that has long served as the spiritual center for the dwindling population of fishermen and their families. Among the characters are Riley, a former successful venture capitalist who has returned home from Chicago after serving time for a DUI incident in which a young woman was killed; Father Paul, the incredibly charismatic new priest at the church who is stepping in temporarily for a long-time monsignor whose whereabouts aren't certain; Erin, Riley's old girlfriend, who teaches in the island school and is pregnant; and Bev, the suspiciously pious church member whose influence over the town resulted in financial upheaval. The principal actors are all terrific, particularly Hamish Linklater as Father Paul, and the islanders' philosophical divides on religion are suddenly amplified by a serious of gruesome developments countered by miracles. Good versus Evil, indeed. Atmospheric, literate, and increasingly spooky.

    — Rick Koster




    Mamma mia, ABBA is back! The Swedish supergroup’s first album in 40 years is a lot of what you’d expect: harmony-drenched, major-chord music. It’s less bubbly and more introspective in its lyrics than in the group’s initial go-round, but that’s what the decades will do to you. More than a few lyrics speak wistfully of the past and broken relationships. I will admit that I miss the cheesy lyrics of earlier ABBA tunes. (We have a song here titled “Bumblebee”: promising! But it really is about climate change: ooo, too serious.) A few of the numbers are ones that just never made it onto the band’s 1970s releases, like the irresistibly bouncy “Just a Notion." Agnetha Faltskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad sound angelic, and the song craftsmanship by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus remains a marvel of Swedish lite pop.

    — Kristina Dorsey 



    Porcupine Tree

    Steven Wilson, the leader of futurist proggers Porcupine Tree, broke the band up in 2012 to go solo and explore musical textures beyond the confinements of the group's musical personality. He further upped the ante a few years back by suggesting he felt the guitar/bass/drums/keys format integral to rock 'n' roll since its creation had run its course. This pronouncement was underscored by his latest solo album, a collection of electronica-based tunes called "The Future Bites." Now, outta nowhere, P-Tree is back with a new single, "Harridan" — vaguely recalling the atmospheric funk/metal of earlier songs like "Bonnie the Cat" and "Halo" — and the promise of a new album next June called "Closer/Continuation." The inference is that the band had unfinished work that itched to be completed and, having done so, Wilson, keyboardist Richard Barbieri and drummer Gavin Harrison (no clue where bassist Colin Edwin is) enjoyed the "finishing-up" process so much they've kept going. I guess Wilson found a way to expand the old formula, after all.

    — Rick Koster   

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