2008 - %3, August

Poor McCain, Even Jackson Browne and Mike Myers Are Against Him

| Fri Aug. 15, 2008 6:33 PM EDT

mojo-photo-mccainwaynebrowne.jpgCan't somebody throw the guy a bone? John Mellencamp said "uh-uh," Chuck Berry said "sorry," even fellow politician John Hall (he wrote "Still the One") said "no dice." Only the Rich part of Big and Rich seems to care. Well, it turns out that the McCain campaign is just shooting the moon now, culturally speaking, throwing copyrighted material into their ads willy-nilly like a demented mash-up hooligan. I guess the Republican presidential nominee should take it as a compliment that people are still paying any attention, since a couple more artists have sued to make him stop. First up, Jackson Browne is none too happy about "Running on Empty" being used in ads for the senator, apparently without a license, filing suit against McCain and the Republican Party. A McCain campaign spokesman denied they had anything to do with it.

But they've got a bad track record: just a few days before, Mike Myers demanded the McCain campaign remove the "Wayne's World" clip from their "celebrity" anti-Obama ad. The campaign's Michael Goldfarb tried to make a joke out of it, blogging that "apparently, we are not, in fact, worthy." Ha, but overlooked is the fact that they put one of the most recognizable moments in Saturday Night Live history in a TV spot, and didn't think to call anybody? Could they possibly just be playing a cynical political game, breaking the rules intentionally just to get some coverage? Nah, they wouldn't do that. Well, hey, John, you kooky culture jammer, if you want to use some of my mashups in your commercials, you go right ahead. I'm sure the original artists whose rights I never bothered to get wouldn't mind…

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World, Shut Your Mouth: The Horror of Public Radio Call-In Shows

| Fri Aug. 15, 2008 3:12 PM EDT

mojo-photo-calleryells.jpgMuch of the time, public radio is a calm, thoughtful oasis in the fart-joke maelstrom of commercial FM broadcasts. But at a certain point in the daily schedule, most public radio stations suddenly turn from interesting to irritating, filling time with that most lazy and obnoxious of programs: the call-in show. It's a high-minded ideal, letting the actual public on to "our" radio stations, but unfortunately, in every case, the public that presents itself is yammering and paranoid, either astonishingly bigoted or pathetically whiny, and the shows are unlistenable embarrassments. Why do public stations waste 1/6 of their day on them?

The other day, NPR's long-running Talk of the Nation attempted to address the issue of gays in the military. One caller drawled that "those people" knew the rules when they joined, so they deserve what they get, while another sobbed through an endless, baffling story about breaking up with her girlfriend or something, and I never figured out if she was actually in the military or not. All these shows are like this: hosts seem frazzled and nervous, dreading each call, stammering interruptions when the monologues get too crazy. And why hasn't anyone figured out how to signal a caller that they're now on the air without 60 seconds of am-I-on-yes-you're-on-do-you-mean-me-yes-go-ahead back-and-forth?

On the Charts: Mamma Mia, M.I.A., Conor Oberst, The Verve

| Thu Aug. 14, 2008 4:40 PM EDT

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Various combinations of the letters "m," "i" and "a" did pretty well on the Billboard US charts this week, plus we can all celebrate the fall from #1 of the eardrum-rupturing "I Kissed a Girl." Hooray! First, on the album chart, the Mamma Mia soundtrack jumped to #1, which is a little weird since the movie is currently a weak #6 at the box office, just behind the Traveling Pants sequel. Well, as we all know, people like ABBA. The rest of the Top Ten consists of standard fare like Miley Cyrus, Kid Rock and Coldplay, although Omaha's got reason to celebrate this week, as favorite son Conor Oberst's self-titled album debuts at #15, while The Faint's Fasciination sneaks into the Top 50 at #46. Take that, Boise!

On the singles chart, Rihanna dominates, as her terrible adventure-in-autotune robo-electro number "Disturbia" climbs to #1, while the marginally better "Take a Bow" sticks around at #4. Lesson: America likes Rihanna. But holy Clash samples, ladies and gentlemen: M.I.A. is now officially a Top 5 Artist in the U. S. of A., as "Paper Planes" jumps 11 spots to #5 on the strength of online sales inspired by Pineapple Express commercials. It's like I've woken up in some strange bizarro world; what next, a #1 hit for Portishead? The track is down a bit on iTunes today, from #2 to #5, so this may be its chart peak, but hey, we'll take it.

After the jump: Richard Ashcroft explains sightlessness.

Top 5: Pavement

| Wed Aug. 13, 2008 7:30 PM EDT

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At the moment, I'm working on a bit of a secret mixtape project, and the set suddenly seemed to require some classic indie-rock. But what, exactly? Over to my vinyl shelves I went, and suddenly, Slanted and Enchanted popped out at me like an ace from a magic deck. What an album; a cassette with that on one side and My Bloody Valentine's Loveless on the other basically didn't leave my Walkman the entire summer of 1993, and when I moved to the Bay Area a few years later, I took a drive to Stockton just to see where they'd come from. Nerd.

All five of Pavement's studio albums (released between 1992 and 1999) are pretty great for different reasons, so the task of whittling down my five favorite songs could be futile, but let's give it a try. To make it easier on me, I'll restrict the list to one song per album, why not.

What's Up With That Tropic Thunder Controversy?

| Wed Aug. 13, 2008 5:00 PM EDT

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I have to admit a slightly wary interest in the upcoming Ben Stiller war/Hollywood/Tom Cruise spoof Tropic Thunder. I still get giggly over Zoolander, and Stiller's deadpan exaggeration of Tinseltown egomania on Extras was pretty hilarious. Moreover, the buzz about Robert Downey Jr.'s edgy portrayal of an over-eager actor putting on blackface for his part has me intrigued: how will he walk that high-wire? But the biggest controversy to emerge before the film's release turned out to be something else: its use of the term "retard." A little context: Ben Stiller plays a bumbling action star, and part of the film's viral marketing is a whole history for his character, including fake trailers for (hilariously terrible) earlier films. One of those was "Simple Jack," a clear jab at Forrest Gump (and Hollywood's other mentally challenged characters). Simple Jack's tagline, "Once upon a time… there was a retard," caused an uproar among disability rights groups, and DreamWorks pulled the viral web site last week. Tropic Thunder includes clips and references to "Jack," which caused more trouble: A representative of the National Down Syndrome Congress emerged from Thunder's Monday premier saying, "I came out feeling like I had been assaulted," and the chairman of the Special Olympics has appeared on various media outlets assailing the "humiliation" of "good and decent human beings."

Rolling Stone Shrinks to Normal Magazine Size

| Tue Aug. 12, 2008 6:25 PM EDT

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Rolling Stone magazine unveiled plans on Monday for a major design overhaul, scaling down its signature large-format pages to a standard magazine size in a bid to bolster advertising and sagging newsstand sales. The U.S. pop culture magazine will end the oversized look that for more than 30 years has distinguished it from rival publications starting with an issue set to hit newsstands on October 17.
Reuters

TrackMasterz, an 8-track tape distributor, has unveiled plans for miniature 8-tracks, only 1 1/2 by 2 inches wide, which the company "thinks probably" will work on iPods. "You should be able to just, like, stick it in there somewhere, right?" asked a spokesman, clad in a burlap sack and pointing a small REO Speedwagon cartridge at an iPod Touch. He added, "Spare some change?"

DRK Music, the leading manufacturer of player piano rolls, has announced a new, double-speed roll, in a bid to compete with rival player piano roll manufacturers. "Think of all the notes," screamed a spokesman over the horrific clatter of hundreds of upright pianos seemingly playing themselves at twice normal speed. "'Michigan Rag' will no longer sound so turgid and morose!"

Tablets-R-Us, the premier producer of engraved stone tablets, has revealed a design overhaul of its rock slabs, featuring a revolutionary new "Thin-sonite" material which allows tablets of less than 200 pounds each for the first time. "Advertisers and religious leaders will flock to this new, convenient format," claimed a spokesman from the bottom of a giant strip mine. "Imagine a day when reading Zac Efron features or reminding yourself of tricky commandments will only require the assistance of 10 Egyptian slaves, instead of 20!" Competitor Rolling Stones, whose new circular format caused thousands of accidental crushing deaths last year, was unavailable for comment.

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Liam Gallagher Thinks Liking Radiohead Makes Me Ugly

| Tue Aug. 12, 2008 4:25 PM EDT

mojo-photo-liamgallagherblue.jpgWrong, Liam: I was ugly way before I'd even heard of Radiohead. The notoriously blabbermouthed Oasis frontman gave a freewheeling interview to the Times over the weekend in which he went after not only the "mellow" music of Coldplay and Radiohead, but also the physical attractiveness of the fans who love it:

"I've mellowed, but not in the sense of liking Radiohead or Coldplay. I don't hate them. I don't wish they had accidents. I think their fans are boring and ugly and they don't look like they're having a good time." Liam doesn't like any contemporary bands. "Not interested. I play the Beatles, the Stones, the Kinks, Neil Young, the Pistols. Maybe a bit of the Roses. Don't like modern bands."

He doesn't wish they had accidents? Boy, he has mellowed! Although I will say that someone with a mug like that one (above right) shouldn't, you know, throw stones.

New Music From Around the Blogs: Franz Ferdinand, Joanna Newsom, Saul Williams, DJ Excel

| Tue Aug. 12, 2008 4:04 PM EDT

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Franz Ferdinand finally have a complete song for us to listen to at their website, although they want your e-mail address for the privelige. "Lucid Dreams" hums along pleasantly enough, at the tempo of "Take Me Out" but without the brain-seizing hooks. Hey, I think I can embed their player, so you don't have to go here. (For fans of: Gang of Four, Buzzcocks, songs that mention Ithaca)

Via No Words comes good news for everyone into harps and stuff: a new Joanna Newsom song! Granted, in this working version of "Heart to Task," the recording is terrible and I think you can actually hear someone sneeze. Unfortunately, proving the rabid intensity of Newsom fandom, the bandwidth limit has already been reached for the mp3, but you can still stream it here. (For fans of: Björk, CocoRosie, Narnia)

After the jump: Niggy Tardust puts feathers in his hair, and DJ Excel makes Baltimore mellow out.

Video: Proposed Quantum of Solace Theme Song

| Mon Aug. 11, 2008 9:21 PM EDT

Bruce Falconer has already noted the head-slapping meaninglessness of the new Bond film title, and it looks like somebody took his idea and ran with it. Via Cinematical, it's UK comedian Joe Cornish, who has put together a theme song he's offering to the producers of the upcoming Quantum of Solace, although they may be put off by the opening line's reference to star Daniel Craig's "great big man tits." Is that hyphenated? Best of all, it's in the style of David Bowie. Hilarious, although Cinematical points out the real QoS theme will be handled by Jack White and Alicia Keys, which could end up being even funnier.

R.I.P. Isaac Hayes

| Mon Aug. 11, 2008 6:02 PM EDT

mojo-photo-hayes.jpgSome commentators are saying it's a shame that young people know Isaac Hayes only as the voice of South Park's "Chef," but I don't know, at the very least it might be a way for Comedy Central-watching tweens to discover the soul legend. Hayes, who passed away yesterday in Memphis at the age of 65, was able to dabble in self-parody on South Park only because he had such a profound influence on music, almost single-handedly creating an entire genre of sexy, edgy funk. Entertainment Weekly's piece on Hayes rightly calls the theme from Shaft the "hippest track ever to win the Academy Award for best song," and NME points out the album was the first by a solo black artist to top both the R&B and pop charts. To date, it's estimated his music has been sampled in over 200 songs, by artists from Snoop Dogg to Portishead; blog Hip 2 Da Game has a partial listing. [Edit: The Fader's blog has a link to a mix from DJ Wonder including original Hayes material and tracks that sampled his work, check that out here]. I've included a few videos from artists who sampled Hayes and the source tracks after the jump.

Honestly, looking around for these YouTube links, I've had Hayes' music on all day, and I'm wondering why I haven't been listening to it all the time: the extended instrumental jams are groovy and hypnotic, incredibly forward-looking. "Look of Love," after its long central instrumental section, breaks down to a beautiful flute solo, and finally features Hayes singing "don't go" under a majestic echo, his voice seeming to move off to a great distance, until it finally disappears.