Season One, Episode Four — “The Racket”
By Brandy Dykhuizen. Vinyl may stick to a Seventies’ aesthetic, but it feels more like an Eighties’ mix tape. You know, the ones you made while listening to the radio before bed, before CDs. You’d be a full measure or two into your favorite Rush song before quickly jamming the “record” button, ultimately producing a reel of staggering, herky-jerky hits that came together via an of-the-moment inspiration and a fickle DJ’s whim. Ninety minutes of your favorite music, curated just by you – you couldn’t wait to give it to your new BFF. Except who wants to listen to your personal playlist when each song is a moment too late and everything is spliced together by fadeouts into Wolfman Jack’s scorched cackle? Sure, the sentiment is there, but the execution is erratic, ill-timed and punctuated with strange, nonsensical musings.
By Episode Four it has become obvious that the thing that truly sets Vinyl apart — its occasional foray into live musical performances — is a gimmick that probably won’t get polished. I want to force it into some greater symbol, to say that the chaos is more deeply indicative of Richie’s unreliable narration or Devon’s increasingly apparent mental break. Or that the show is stylistically all over the damn place because, Hey! Cocaine! But I’m just not getting that. While I could phone in a request to my favorite radio station and giddily wait, my finger poised over the “record” button making sure not to miss the first jangly strum of a Sundays’ song, I can’t keep Vinyl from falling as flat as Robert Goulet’s pitch.
WHAT WORKED: Lester, Lester, Lester. He is one of the best parts of the show, and here we see him give Richie a metaphoric middle finger when he convinced the Nasty Bitz to take him on as their manager. He hasn’t even heard them play before. He has no idea what their music sounds like. He just wants to make Richie’s life difficult, and rightly so. All cursing in the board room and lighting things on fire aside, we do sort of leave with the impression that these two fellas need each other, and can’t stay out of each other’s lives for too long.
WHAT DIDN’T: The Buck Rogers murder plot has become the most reliably formulaic aspect of the show. In each episode, Richie has an intense flashback early on. This provides a catalyst/excuse for him to do something selfish, usually involving nose candy or shouting. (Usually both.) About halfway through the episode, a detective inquires after Richie. This provides a catalyst/excuse for him to do something selfish, etc. Three quarters of the way in, Richie gets cornered by said detectives and is forced into a conversation. In the last moments of the show, we have a cliffhanger** in which somebody has Richie by the balls regarding the Buck Rogers murder. End Scene.
**Though, how can it be a cliffhanger when these scenes are never properly addressed in the next episode?
Richie: (to Hannibal) “How’s Star treating you?” Hannibal: “Star wants me dead. That’s why I can’t go nowhere without her. Can’t give her no time to plan.”
“I’m a relationship person.” – Zak. Aw, we know, buddy. This whole business is coming down the hardest on you.
“I’d offer you a drink, but you’re an asshole.” – Richie, to Lester, regarding his Nasty Bitz coup.
BEST MOMENT: The look on Richie’s face when Baby Jagger announced Lester Grimes as the manager of the Nasty Bitz. That was a beautiful visual standoff of animosity with an undercurrent of “Oh, hey, buddy.”
Essandoh and Cannavale are great actors, and are both especially talented at conveying many conflicting emotions with a single look.
EPISODE’S MVP: I really enjoyed Daniel J. Watts as Hannibal. With so many of the musician “cameos” not living up to snuff (please let’s all just forget about that Robert Plant debacle entirely), Watts had the attitude, the moves and the behind-the-shades sexiness to pull off some awesome ass shaking.
BETWEEN THE LINES:
– The Synagogue in which Buck’s funeral was held looked like something out of Space Odyssey or the like. The multi-colored honeycombed stained glass was fantastic.
– In other eye candy, the footage of the vinyl being pressed into records was lovely to see.
– I love funk and I love soul, and watching Hannibal & Co. belt out that Charlie Wilson song made me wish I hadn’t missed that era entirely. However…”Alright Lady (Let’s Make a Baby)” has to contain some of my least favorite lyrics of all time.
– Will Ferrell as Robet Goulet will go down in history as the best. From now on, I won’t be able to watch anyone sing Goulet (including Goulet), without wishing I was watching Will Ferrell.
5 out of 10
Next: “He in Racist Fire”, soon.
Before: “Whispered Secrets”, here.