2007 - %3, June

Live Review: The National at Bimbo's, SF, 6/27/07

| Thu Jun. 28, 2007 4:51 PM PDT

mojo-photo-national.jpgI admit it, I'm lazy. I'm like a four-year-old, shiny things get my attention. So I like bands with style, gimmicks, "bits." We only wear red, black, and white! We have crazy fake wings and giant sunglasses! We sound like we're from the 80s! It grabs me, so I tune in. The National don't care. They are not those bands. And so: six middle-aged Brooklynites in Ross Dress For Less shirts shamble onto the Bimbo's stage and ease into "Start a War," an understated track from their new album Boxer, and I'm searching for a way in. Are lead singer Matt Berninger's half-sung half-spoken lyrics a reference to greats like Leonard Cohen, or is he just sleepy? Are the chiming, open guitar chords reminiscent of U2, or just simplistic? Suddenly, the singer steps back, and the guitars hit a strange, surprising note; the song jumps up a notch, to somewhere more haunting, more disconcerting. These are the moments the National seems to live for, and a key to understanding the band: "Stick with us," they seem to say, "and you'll be rewarded."

The show isn't perfect. Their second song, "Mistaken for Strangers," seems underwhelming, kind of like "Interpol Lite," and I wonder why the drums are so quiet. Right on cue, somebody shouts "more drums!" when they finish. But maybe that guy and me are wrong: the National don't want to be Interpol. They want their brooding, subtle songs to creep up on you, not bash you over the head, and if that means the drums are kept a bit down in the mix, so be it.

Who's that kooky guy with the violin? Padma Newsome, who isn't technically in the band, and you can tell: he jumps around the stage, plays his violin ukulele-style, and bangs a tambourine like his life depends on it. It's an interesting counterpoint to this most thoughtful of bands; almost like, well, something shiny to grab your attention. Either way, the National deserves it.

Upcoming US tour dates and some videos after the jump.

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Monaghan's Ave Maria Town Open for Piety

| Thu Jun. 28, 2007 9:20 AM PDT

So GQ nabbed an interview with the ever-elusive Tom Monaghan, the Domino's Pizza mogul turned Catholic-utopia builder. Monaghan wouldn't talk with MoJo when we covered the development of his $400 million university, Ave Maria, earlier this year. But GQ is different; he can tell them things like, "If I didn't have my faith, I'd make Hugh Hefner look like a piker."

Hef allusions aside, the GQ profile digs into Monaghan's motivations for building what will become a Catholic universe set amidst former panther habitat. Turns out he's always wanted to be an architect, and is now living his dream having built the anti-Las Vegas, complete with a towering cathedral and town square modeled after Siena, Italy, all tucked in the middle of the Florida Everglades.

The town, which the WSJ once compared to a "Catholic Jonestown," will be as pious as possible; if Monaghan had his way contraceptives and pornography would be outlawed. After all, his goals are big ones; he plans to "reinvent hometown living," one condo at a time.

Amy Winehouse Crying Out for Help to Spin

| Wed Jun. 27, 2007 11:27 PM PDT

mojo-photo-winehousefielder.jpgUK sensation Amy Winehouse has grabbed headlines worldwide with a self-mutilating incident during an interview with Spin magazine. The singer reportedly carved "I love Blake" (referring to new husband Blake Fielder-Civil) into her stomach with a leftover shard of broken mirror from the Spin photoshoot. Apparently Mr. Fielder-Civil was hanging around too, and caused his own controversy when he threatened to "slit the throat" of a bystander who said he looked like actor Ethan Embry. Winehouse brushed it all off during the interview, saying "I don't care about any of this... I write songs because I'm f***ed in the head."

Wikipedia explains self-injury as a dissociative mechanism, separating the mind from feelings that cause anguish, a phenomenon most often seen in women, although statistics are unreliable since self-injurers tend to conceal their injuries. Not this time.

Winehouse's current single, "Rehab," climbs from number 10 to number 9 on the Billboard Top 10 this week, with her album remaining at number 10; one can only wonder if her American success has proven too much for her to deal with. See my previous post for her upcoming tour dates.

Please Describe To the Jury What Happened..."Sounds Like..."

| Wed Jun. 27, 2007 6:11 PM PDT

Tory Bowen of Nebraska says that she was raped, but testifying in court is a little difficult because the judge, Jeffre Cheuvront, has instructed her that neither she nor the prosecutors can use the following words: "rape," "sexual assault," "victim," assailant," "sexual assault kit." The words were banned at the request of defense attorneys, who also wanted the words "sex" and "intercourse" banned, but the judge did not go that far, presumably because the trial would then have been reduced to a game of charades. The jury will not be informed that the words have been banned.

This is the second time around for the accused, Pamir Safi. His first trial resulted in a hung jury when jurors deadlocked, 7-5. The banned words were in place at that trial, too.

Apparently, rape defense lawyers throughout the country are asking that the word "rape" not be used by the alleged victim and the prosecutor. This made me wonder whether anyone had asked an alleged armed robbery victim not to use the words "steal," "rob," and "gun." Or whether a witness to a murder has been barred from saying "murder," "kill," or "dead." I'm guessing the answer is no. Indeed, law professor Wendy Murphy of the New England School of Law says that "that is a profoundly unfair thing for a judge to do. I have a problem with the idea that you can compel a witness to contrive their testimony. I have a problem (with a judge) directing a witness, not the government, to say certain words. It impugns their candor, their credibility."

And, Murphy added, Bowen won't be able to explain to jurors why she's using clinical words--or, worse, words that imply consent--when she describes the encounter with Safi.

Glass Houses

| Wed Jun. 27, 2007 4:10 PM PDT

The Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the president and the v. president of the Senate today for information related to the warrantless wiretapping program. The subpoena is a result of the ever-expanding examination of what the hell is wrong with Alberto Gonzales' Justice Department. I'm all but certain it won't unearth anything of value, but there's a lesson in it, nonetheless: If you're going to stretch the boundaries of the law, you have be competent enough not to beg for an investigation. In other words, the Bush administration might have gotten away with its attempt to stretch the law so aggressively that a handful of officials threatened to resign if there hadn't been a sh-t show so big that everybody and his dad got a chance to air their grievances before the Senate and the American public. On the other hand, the word impeachment remains strangely absent from Democratic discourse, so maybe you can have your cake and eat it, messily, while also throwing stones from your glass house. See what I'm sayin'?

Chris Rock(s) 2008

| Wed Jun. 27, 2007 3:22 PM PDT

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Mother Jones Makes Chicago Tribune's Annual 50 Favorite Magazines List

| Wed Jun. 27, 2007 2:37 PM PDT

Hot(tish) off the Chicago Tribune presses, their list of the magazines they consider to be the best in the country.

"Every year we ask each other what periodicals we've been reading, and then we ask you. Every year we argue about what makes a good magazine and why we rush to pick up certain titles or swipe them from a neighbor's desk. We urge each other to try something new, and we smack our foreheads when a title bubbles up that we'd completely missed."

"...Mother Jones. As well-written, at its best, as anything out there (check out the story on the guy who gets 60 miles per gallon in a plain old Honda Accord), Mother Jones is a lot better than we remembered. Unabashedly liberal but more entertaining than the Nation and journalistically oriented but more passionate than the news weeklies, it fills a need we didn't know we had."

They like us, they really, really like us! We're one of only six mags given a shout-out in the news/business/point of view category. And if you're into who got dissed—and there are some most notable exceptions—I've pasted the whole list in after the jump.

Coming Soon: Beck Beer, TV on the Radio "Staring at the Sun" Brand Tequila, M.I.A.'s Super Premium Hard Lemonade?

| Wed Jun. 27, 2007 2:37 PM PDT

mojo-photo-afiabsinthe.jpgAnybody thirsty? Billboard.biz reports that Interscope Records has just entered an agreement with Drinks Americas to "develop various drink products" with Interscope artists. The oddly-named Drinks Americas (I guess they're including Central and South?) currently produces tasty beverages like Donald Trump's Super Premium Vodka and Willie Nelson's Old Whiskey River Bourbon, and I can't imagine buying either of them. Okay maybe Willie's whiskey.

Now, we've already seen a hot Bay Area hip-hop style get its own energy beverage, but the mind reels at the co-branding opportunities that could emerge from this deal. The label's roster includes mainstream hitmakers like Fergie, Enrique Iglesias and 50 Cent, as well as critical favorites like Feist, Wolfmother, and even Simian Mobile Disco. You can find their complete list of artists here; post your own ideas for artist-themed beverages in the comments, and if you're lucky, maybe you'll see them soon at your neighborhood 7-11.

American Film Institue Releases their Top 100 Films of All Time

| Wed Jun. 27, 2007 2:10 PM PDT

Last week, the American Film Institute released their latest top 100 American films of all time. While it is arguable that the list is a marketing ploy since it is accompanied by promotions from AOL, Best Buy and Moviefone, it at least brings attention to some great films that younger generations have yet to see.

All my favorite critics weighed in with their takes on the list with Jim Emerson celebrating the arrival of Nashville on the list, Keith Phillips over at the A.V. Club pointing out that the list "kinda sucked," and Roger Ebert stating "lists like these cry out to be disagreed with." So, in the spirit of dissent, let me jump into the fray of film geeks with opinions.

What bothers me most about this list is that the ballot of 400 movies from which to select is predetermined, and although I have combed AFI's website, I still can't figure out who gets to decide which movies make it onto the ballot. But, despite making it onto the ballot, even great movies like Fargo and The Third Man were bumped as lesser movies (as far as this film geek is concerned) such as The Sixth Sense arrived on the list.

Notably absent from the list were any movies by David Lynch, The Coen Brothers, Jim Jarmusch, or Terrence Malick, all directors who have made films essential to gaining a complete picture of American cinema. But the list isn't all bad. This year, the list includes more silent films, which were mostly ignored in the first list AFI put out in 1998. All critique aside, the AFI's top 100 serves a purpose — it makes me want to go home and watch a movie, but if you are looking for a must-see list to get your cinefile on, I recommend this one. It is far more wide-ranging and (gasp) even has foreign films in the mix which the AFI list lacks as it limits itself to American films. Unlike every other comparable national film institution, the American Film Institute restricts its focus to films of its own nationality.

Go here to check out both the 1998 and 2007 lists and let your inner film geek out and tell us what you think about them!

—Martha Pettit

Neato Viddys on the Intertubes

| Wed Jun. 27, 2007 1:57 PM PDT

No Top Ten this week since I was back home in Nebraska for the weekend (I'll have a posting on a snazzy new Omaha music venue later this week), but in the meantime enjoy some new music video clips, and one that's not so new but still very good.

Kanye West – "Stronger"
In which Kanye West invites Daft Punk (whose "Harder Better Faster Stronger" is sampled prominently) to watch him emerge from a weird EKG-looking machine in bulge-enhancing briefs, and then dance around in a denim vest and louvered sunglasses while Japanese subtitles explain it all

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – "Rockers to Swallow"
In which a leotard-sporting Karen O performs the band's new song (from Is Is, out July 23rd) in front of funhouse mirrors to an appreciative crowd, filmed by what appears to be surveillance cameras
Watch on Yahoo! Music here

Ali Love – "Secret Sunday Lover"
In which the young British singer (featured on the new Chemical Brothers single, "Do It Again") imagines himself in a kind of campy spy-slash-disco movie. He even gets the girl at the end

Interpol – "The Heinrich Maneuver"
In which director E. Elias Merhige portrays a surreal, slowed-down (and possibly reversed) Los Angeles street scene (apparently referencing the song's bitterness towards a West Coast ex-lover) complete with eye-rolling "surprise" ending which almost ruins it

Sonic Youth – "Teenage Riot"
The original video, in which the band perform the "hit" from their just-rereleased masterpiece Daydream Nation. Also featuring, um, everyone from Pee Wee Herman to Sun Ra