2013 - %3, December

Reissues With Benefits: The Velvet Underground's "White Light/White Heat"

| Mon Dec. 9, 2013 7:00 AM EST

The Velvet Underground
White Light/White Heat 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition
UMe

White Light/White Heat is one legendary album that lives up to the hype. The Velvet Underground's second release, and the last to feature the founding lineup of Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and Mo Tucker (at least until the band's reunion in the '90s), it's a grimy, exhilarating blast of confrontational noise, credited with launching everything from punk to industrial rock to ambient music. This impressive three-disc set offers mono and stereo versions of the original release, plus a slew of pretty-enticing extras from the era. The highlights are the title song, "I Heard Her Call My Name" and the still mind-blowing 17-minute epic "Sister Ray," wherein Reed seems both offhand and sinister at once, like Bob Dylan transformed into a sneering New York City degenerate. Only "The Gift," a gruesome spoken-word tall tale recited by Cale in his entrancing Welsh lilt, has not aged well.

Among the additional songs, standouts include two versions of the eerie "Hey Mr. Rain," the atypically playful "Temptation Inside Your Heart" and the first official release of an oft-bootlegged live show from 1967, featuring the terrific and otherwise unavailable "I'm Not a Young Man Anymore." Lou Reed’s recent passing has inevitably renewed interest in his work, but White Light/White Heat would be essential listening in any case.

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A Brisk, Brash, Garage-y Debut From Ireland's Dott

| Mon Dec. 9, 2013 7:00 AM EST

Dott
Swoon
Graveface

Brisk, brash and endearing, the sparkling debut of this Irish quartet will renew your faith in tuneful garage rock. Frontwoman Anna McCarthy and company unleash a dozen fizzy, toe-tapping gems in rapid succession, recalling the Ramones at their sunniest. If Dott's tales of love found and lost stick to familiar turf, McCarthy’s charming verve makes Swoon hard to resist, creating the sense of hearing unguarded revelations from a heart not yet hardened by cynicism or disappointment. Highlights include "Day That I Found You," updating '60s girl-group grooves, and the rowdy, punkish footstomper "Love You Forever," which could have been a big hit back when New Wave was the hot style.

VIDEO: Elton John Denounces Russia's Anti-Gay Law at Moscow Concert

| Sat Dec. 7, 2013 5:06 PM EST

On Friday, singer-songwriter Elton John dedicated his concert in Moscow to Vladislav Tornovoi, a 23-year-old gay man tortured to death in southwest Russia in May. He also took a moment during the show to address Russia's new anti-gay law, which allows for fining and detaining gay and pro-gay individuals, and bans what is deemed homosexual propaganda to minors. Via Joe Jervis, here's the transcript:

You took me to your hearts all these years ago and you've always welcomed me with warmth and open arms every time I visited [Russia]. You have always embraced me and you have never judged me. So I am deeply saddened and shocked over the current legislation that is now in place against the LGBT community here in Russia. In my opinion, it is inhumane and it is isolating. Some people have demanded that because of this legislation, I must not come here to Russia. But many, many more people asked me to come and I listened to them. I love coming here.

I want to show them and the world that I care and that I don't believe in isolating people. Music is a very powerful thing. It brings people together irrespective of their age, their race, their sexuality, or their religion. It does not discriminate. Look around you tonight. You see men, women, young and old, gay and straight. Thousands of happy Russian people enjoying the music. We're all here together in harmony, and harmony is what makes a happy family and a strong society.

The spirit we share tonight is what builds a future of equality, love and compassion for my children and for your children. Please don't leave it behind when you leave tonight. Each and every one of you, please, keep this spirit in your life and in your heart. I wish you love and peace and health and happiness. And this show is dedicated to the memory of Vladislav Tornovoi.

Russian gigs by pop stars Madonna and Lady Gaga—who both expressed support for the LGBT community during their performances—were met with legal backlash and controversy. The artists' St. Petersburg shows in August and December 2012, respectively, resulted in court cases. A $10 million lawsuit against Madonna was thrown out; Russian concert promoters of Lady Gaga's show were fined a symbolic $614. It is not clear at this time what the legal consequences will be for John.

Here's more footage from his Friday performance in Moscow:

The Weirdest Pearl Harbor Tribute You'll See All Weekend

| Sat Dec. 7, 2013 7:48 AM EST

Saturday is the 72nd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the surprise strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy, which left more than 2,400 Americans dead and forced the United States to enter World War II.

This is how the SpaghettiOs Twitter feed marked the occasion:

SpaghettiOs Pearl Harbor anniversary tweet
@SpaghettiOs/Twitter

Weird, right? For what it's worth, @SpaghettiOs celebrated Thanksgiving in a far more tasteful manner.

The Campbell Soup Company did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the backlash to this bizarre canned-spaghetti-product Pearl Harbor tweet.

UPDATE: On Saturday, a spokeswoman for Campbell's emailed Mother Jones the following statement:

We apologize for our recent Tweet as we meant no harm and felt it was best to remove it from Twitter.

@SpaghettiOs also tweeted this:

 

Just Released, a 1969 Thelonious Monk Recording Still Feels Fresh

| Wed Dec. 4, 2013 5:51 PM EST
Monk performs in Paris.

Thelonious Monk
Paris 1969
Blue Note

By 1969, the great jazz pianist Thelonious Monk was in many ways past his creative prime. Once a leader of the vanguard, he was now one of the music's elders, and his core repertoire had remained essentially the same for many years, with no new ground left to break.

None of this should deter Monk fanatics from digging the highly entertaining Paris 1969, previously unreleased recordings from a French TV show. However familiar, songs like the playful "Epistrophy" and the tender "Ruby My Dear" remain fresh and inviting. Monk and his longtime sidekick, tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, still find tantalizing wrinkles in time-tested melodies, while the much-younger, albeit less accomplished, rhythm section of bassist Nate Hygelund and drummer Paris Wright injects a welcome shot of energy. Along with the CD, there's a DVD of the performances, plus an interview, but the music itself—encompassing old-school stride and angular reinventions of classic melodies—is its own deeply satisfying reward, requiring no visual aids.

Wooden Shjips' "Ghouls" Takes You on a Psychedelic Journey

| Wed Dec. 4, 2013 7:00 AM EST

Track 3
"Ghouls," from Wooden Shjips' Back to Land
Thrill Jockey

Liner notes: Are you experienced? This echo-laden psychedelic rave-up simulates a thrilling journey into the great unknown.

Behind the music: Ripley Johnson launched this Bay Area band a decade ago, recruiting nonmusicians in an attempt to create new sounds. Featuring a more seasoned lineup, the band's last album, West, pondered American mythology.

Check out if you like: Space travelers new (Melody's Echo Chamber) and old (Syd Barrett).

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The Evan Rachel Wood Oral Sex Scene the MPAA Doesn't Want You to See

| Tue Dec. 3, 2013 4:30 PM EST

Last week, actress Evan Rachel Wood was royally pissed on Twitter. This time, it was over her edited and sanitized sex scene.

When Wood saw the R-rated theatrical version of Charlie Countryman, her new indie action-comedy, she noticed a conspicuous absence of cunnilingus. According to Wood, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) forced director Fredrik Bond to cut images of Shia LaBeouf's character performing oral sex on Wood's character in order to secure an R-rating for its November release (as opposed to an NC-17 rating, which can tank the commercial viability of a film). Over several tweets, Wood took aim at the ratings board's double standard on female sexuality and pleasure on-screen. Via the Los Angeles Times, here's what Wood said in her tweets:

After seeing the new cut of Charlie Countryman, I would like to share my disappointment with the MPAA, who thought it was necessary to censor a woman's sexuality once again. The scene where the two main characters make "love" was altered because someone felt that seeing a man give a woman oral sex made people "uncomfortable," but the scenes in which people are murdered by having their heads blown off remained intact and unaltered.

This is a symptom of a society that wants to shame women and put them down for enjoying sex, especially when (gasp) the man isn't getting off as well! It's hard for me to believe that had the roles been reversed it still would have been cut or had the female character been raped it would have been cut. It's time for people to grow up. Accept that women are sexual beings. Accept that some men like pleasuring women. Accept that women don't have to just be fucked and say thank you. We are allowed and entitled to enjoy ourselves. It's time we put our foot down. Thanks for listening.

The MPAA, which serves as the de facto censorship board for American cinema, has a well-documented double standard when it comes to things like gay sex and certain aspects of female carnality (when comparable scenes of a heterosexual or male-centered nature will usually slide by with an R-rating without a hassle). For instance, the 2010 drama Blue Valentine was slapped with an NC-17 rating due to a scene in which Ryan Gosling's character performs oral sex on Michelle Williams' (the ruling, however, was overturned). And, yes, Wood was right to point out the MPAA's peculiar views on sex vs. extreme violence. The MPAA did not respond to Mother Jones' request for comment regarding Wood's criticism.

So what could possibly have been in that scene that troubled the MPAA so much? I'm still trying to track down the nixed shots—perhaps those of us who didn't see an early cut of the film at a festival screening will have to wait until the DVD to see what the fuss was about. For now, here's how the supposedly obscene moment played out on the page. The following portion of the script was sent to Mother Jones by Charlie Countryman screenwriter Matt Drake, who also co-wrote the raunchy 2012 comedy Project X. (Scroll to the bottom of this post to read the whole scene.) Here's the relevant section:

Charlie Countryman sex scene
Courtesy of Matt Drake

"I didn't choreograph specific sex acts as much as I tried to convey a certain mood and tone," Drake said in an email. "I'm not aware of how it all went down with the MPAA. As to how the scene was staged, that would have been done on the day among [Fredrik], Shia and Evan in a closed setting."

Check out the scene below:

 

The Big Irony in Charging Bob Dylan With Inciting Racial Hatred in France

| Tue Dec. 3, 2013 11:43 AM EST

In case you haven't heard, France is going after Bob Dylan.

French authorities have filed preliminary charges of "public insult and inciting hate" against the legendary singer-songwriter. Dylan was reportedly questioned and charged in November; the charge stems from a complaint filed by the Council of Croats in France (CRICCF), which flagged comments made by Dylan in a Rolling Stone interview published in September 2012.

The comments (which were also carried in the French edition of the magazine) were in response to the question, "Do you see any parallels between the 1860s and present-day America?" (Emphasis mine.)

[T]he United States burned and destroyed itself for the sake of slavery. The USA wouldn't give it up. It had to be grinded out. The whole system had to be ripped out with force. A lot of killing. What, like, 500,000 people? A lot of destruction to end slavery. And that's what it really was all about.

This country is just too fucked up about color. It's a distraction. People at each other's throats just because they are of a different color. It's the height of insanity, and it will hold any nation back—or any neighborhood back... Blacks know that some whites didn't want to give up slavery—that if they had their way, they would still be under the yoke, and they can't pretend they don't know that. If you got a slave master or Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. That stuff lingers to this day. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood.

Dylan was referring to the slaughter and persecution of Serbs at the hands of Croatian fascists during World War II. "We have nothing against Rolling Stone magazine or Bob Dylan as a singer," Vlatko Maric, the organization's secretary general, said. "[But] you cannot equate Croatian [war] criminals with all Croats."

CRICCF members allege that the "Croatian blood" comment violates France's strict racial hatred and hate speech laws. Under French law, such complaints automatically trigger formal investigations. If found guilty, Dylan could face probation and a fine, even though he is not a French citizen. It is unclear if he will appear in court.

So, yeah, this is dumb, and it highlights the problems with Europe's hate speech laws. But the epic irony here lies in what Dylan was doing in France when he was questioned and charged. He was in Paris to play some concerts—and to accept the Legion of Honour, the country's highest civil and military decoration. (Other non-French recipients include American WWII veterans.) Earlier this year, Dylan's honor was temporarily blocked after the Grand Chancellor of the Legion objected to the artist's anti-war sentiments and recreational drug use. But things went ahead anyway.

"A journalist who attended the ceremony said Dylan, 72, had looked distinctly uncomfortable," the BBC reported.

During the ceremony, culture minister Aurélie Filippetti praised Dylan's ability to inspire young people with his words and music, and pointed out his influence on the May 1968 Paris student protests. "More than anyone, in the eyes of France, you demonstrate the subversive power of culture that can change people and the world," Filippetti said.

France was giving Bob Dylan a major award for exercising free speech, while they were investigating him for exercising free speech.