Mixed Media

Six Degrees of Jello Biafra

| Tue Jun. 17, 2008 8:16 PM EDT

jello-biafra-250x200.jpgJello Biafra, the green latex glove-wearing front man for arguably one of the 80s' most prolific punk/hardcore bands, is celebrating his 50th birthday this week by performing two shows in San Francisco alongside the Melvins and Jello's latest band, the Axis of Merry Evildoers, which includes members of Victims Family, Faith No More and Sharkbait. I'm told that a sweaty, shirtless Jello did his share of jumping into the crowd at Monday's show, which was reportedly a mix of "old punk dudes" and younger folks who were born well after Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables dropped in 1980.

After the jump: Ministry, who got their start that same year, gave an amusing shout-out to Jello this week:

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Russian Bureaucrats Smother the World's Best Alt-Weekly

| Tue Jun. 17, 2008 4:20 PM EDT

a26c.jpgSad news out of Russia this week. The AP reports that The eXile, the English-language biweekly for Moscow's expatriate community, is going out of business following an unannounced inspection by officials from Russia's media bureau that scared off the paper's financial backers.

The temptation in eulogizing The eXile is to string together lengthy excerpts of the paper's best work. But I'll keep it to a few quick hits: It's where Matt Taibbi got his start; it published a military affairs column by "War Nerd" Gary Brecher, a data enterer who, according to his Wikipedia entry, describes "himself as a fat slob who spends approximately 8 hours a day on the internet searching for war news"; in 2001 the editors famously "stormed into the Moscow bureau of The New York Times and threw a pie filled with equine sperm into the face of the bureau chief after accusing him of soft coverage of Russia's political elite." And even with their Larry Flynt-like standards of taste and decency—even while describing their most malicious pranks in vile detail—the editors managed to come off as the good guys.

Really, it's a measure of the paper's brilliance that it managed to be consistently interesting and readable while covering a country that plenty of readers, like me, had never even laid eyes on.

Over at Radar, Mark Ames, who founded The eXile 11 years ago, has been providing some hilarious coverage of the slow death of the paper. Here's a sample passage, in which officials from the Federal Service for Mass Media, Telecommunications, and the Protection of Cultural Heritage quiz Ames on eccentric opposition leader/eXile columnist Eduard Limonov (slightly censored because The Riff is a family blog):

New Music: Tilly and the Wall

| Mon Jun. 16, 2008 8:24 PM EDT

mojo-photo-tillyandwall.jpgOkay, dumb DJ with the stupid name, if you're so mad at Coldplay and were kind of underwhelmed by the Lil Wayne album, what do you like? Anything? Or are you just sitting there on your laptop, copy-and-pasting "this sucks" over and over? Alright, inner voice, you shut up, I like stuff, lots of stuff. Here's something: Tilly and the Wall are a 5-piece from Omaha, reason enough to like them, but their claim to fame is that instead of a drummer, they have a tap dancer. Take that, inner voice. Their new album, O, comes out tomorrow, and we've got an mp3 of the first single, a spunky number called "Pot Kettle Black." Yeah, there's a drum set in use here, but the rhythm is still mostly about the tap-dancing stomp, as well as the gleeful punk intensity.

MP3: Tilly and the Wall – "Pot Kettle Black"

Official video, complete with various lovely Omaha scenes, after the jump.

Mixed Reviews for New Coldplay Album

| Mon Jun. 16, 2008 5:41 PM EDT

mojo-photo-coldplayviva.jpgWell, we've mocked and dissed, and also grudgingly acknowledged their success, but time keeps on slipping into the future, and now the new Coldplay album, Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, is finally set for release tomorrow in the US (after going platinum in the UK in just three days). So, how is the thing itself? Well, reviews are decidedly mixed: Aidin Vaziri over at the San Francisco Chronicle can barely contain himself, calling it "amazing," an "avalanche of brilliant, life-affirming music." Golly. On the other hand, Pitchfork, unsurprisingly, is slightly more sober, giving the album 6.5 awesome hipster points out of 10, acknowledging the band's attempt at an "'experimental' mid-career maneuver" but calling it "diluted," adding lead singer Chris Martin "is still a hopeless sap." Awww. The LA Times gives it three stars, but tries to make excuses:

Have you ever picked up a self-help book from the display table in a big-box bookstore and opened it to find a phrase that exactly applied to your life? The most pedestrian insight can sometimes hit surprisingly hard. Banality might not elevate the intellect, but it helps in a tired, over-wired culture. We're all so distracted that we need to be reminded of the obvious, again and again.

We do? Okay, sure, I'm the first to admit I'm bumbling through life making the same mistakes over and over again like a cartoon coyote hitting himself on the head with a bat, but does that mean I need Chris Martin proclaiming he'll try to fix me?

After the jump: Martin walks out of a BBC interview!

Get Your Earplugs Ready for the My Bloody Valentine Reunion

| Mon Jun. 16, 2008 4:06 PM EDT

mojo-photo-mbvsetlist.jpgThey were some of the most anticipated gigs of the year: on Friday and Saturday nights, the original My Bloody Valentine lineup played two shows at a small venue in London, concerts that were billed as "warm ups" for an upcoming tour, but reports say the band were already turning the volume knobs up to "11." NME.com reported that the "shoegazing kings delighted their fans" who greeted them with "delirious" cheers, and that the set focused entirely on music released between 1987 and 1991 (when the band was signed to Creation Records), including a 20-minute version of "You Made Me Realise" to close the show. That'll separate the men from the boys, or at least those willing to indulge endless white-noise freakouts from those who aren't.

After the jump: So, uh, how much ear damage should attendees expect?

How Do You Explain a Savings and Loan Scandal to an Eight-Year-Old?

| Fri Jun. 13, 2008 5:40 PM EDT

Meghan McCain, who has made a career of sorts out of following her father's campaign, has a book deal. According to Meghan's blog, the recent Columbia grad will soon be writing an illustrated campaign biography of her father. Meghan's book will join the ranks of other literary endeavors by the daughters of Republican politicians, offering children "the unique opportunity to see the character building events that happened over his lifetime" that have prepared John McCain to lead the nation.

One wonders which of many character-building events this book will actually highlight. Seminal experiences in the Senior Senator from Arizona's life include his oft-mentioned torture in Vietnam. Then there was that highly damaging Keating savings and loan scandal that almost destroyed his career in the 1980s. More recently, there was Mrs. McCain's addiction to painkillers. Are these things really so easy to explain to children?

All in all, decidedly interesting reading for America's Republican tykes.

—Daniel Luzer

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U2 Would Like to Name Their Own Price, Thanks

| Thu Jun. 12, 2008 5:15 PM EDT

mojo-photo-u2live.jpgU2's manager Paul McGuinness has denied that the Irish combo will utilize a Radiohead-style pay-what-you-want setup for their upcoming release, saying that the online scheme "to some extent backfired." In Rainbows was released last year via a website that allowed fans to enter their own price, or pay nothing at all, in a ground-breaking attempt to work around illegal file-sharing. However, McGuinness says, people went to illegal file-sharing sites for the album anyway. "60 to 70% of the people who downloaded the record stole it anyway, even though it was available for free," he claimed. His figures may be about right: even in the early days of In Rainbows' release, illegal downloads rivaled official downloads.

Golf Is the Justice Department's Solution to Gangs?

| Thu Jun. 12, 2008 4:28 PM EDT

In another embarrassing moment for the DOJ, ABC News reported that Justice recently awarded a competitive half-million dollar grant for prevention of juvenile delinquency to the World Golf Foundation's First Tee program.

"We need something really attractive to engage the gangs and the street kids. Golf is the hook," said J. Robert Flores of the Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Yes, golf is famous for that.

What Flores neglected to mention, however, was that the Justice Department—implementing the Bush administration's state mandate to support "scientifically" based programs—already gave First Tees a middling rating; Justice ranked First Tee 47th on its list of 104 applicants.

Flores, who was appointed by President Bush in 2002 and has distributed about $1.5 billion dollars in federal money in his current position, said that he selects the programs for grants based on the "overall" need, not necessarily on the rating his own department gives the applications. Many other programs that the Justice Department rated highly were denied grants.

So why on earth was the golf program given this fancy grant? It's possible the program's honorary spokesman had something to do with it. —Daniel Luzer

Video: Cusack's McCain Baiting

| Wed Jun. 11, 2008 9:12 PM EDT

First, John Cusack made War, Inc., a film satirizing post-9/11 America, about which he bantered with our lovely co-editor here.

Now, Cusack's officially become pundit bait with a MoveOn.org ad in which he equates John McCain with President Bush:

I think it's safe to tally that as another celebrity endorsement for Obama.—Steve Aquino

Music: Is Flying Lotus the New J Dilla?

| Wed Jun. 11, 2008 5:51 PM EDT

mojo-photo-flyinglotusla.jpgOkay, for those of you not attuned to underground instrumental hip-hop, perhaps that headline didn't make much sense. Quick background: J Dilla was a groundbreaking producer, real name James Dewitt Yancey, who worked with artists from Common and the Pharcyde to Kanye West and Busta Rhymes. He suffered from lupus, dying in February, 2006, at the heartbreakingly young age of 32. I've already blathered endlessly about his genius and the brilliance of his final album, Donuts, a mostly-instrumental work of re-imagined soul and melancholy notes. Dilla's wonky, spacey style has definitely been influential, but yet it always felt like there were few (if any) hip-hop producers in his realm, creating a sound that's definitely experimental, but still warm, organic, and full, with an off-kilter, syrupy feel to the rhythm.

Flying Lotus' origins in Winnetka, California, couldn't be more removed from J Dilla's Detroit upbringing, but the 24-year-old producer (aka Steve Ellison) may have established himself as the heir to Yancey with his new album, Los Angeles. Sure, there are the basic similarities: this is crunchy, organic-sounding instrumental hip-hop, with an unashamed love of drums: tracks like "Melt" focus almost entirely on exotic-sounding percussion, similarly to the brief tom-tom-driven "People" from Dilla's Donuts. But Flying Lotus is no copycat. On last year's Reset EP, he struck out on a slightly darker, more electronic direction, with mechanical, buzzing tones accompanying quirky samples, and that trend is in evidence on Los Angeles as well: "Riot" features a vibrato electronic bass line, and interludes like the 45-second "Orbit 405" are a cacophony of electronic static and bleeps, like a compilation of all cell phones dialing on the eponymous freeway.

After the jump: Who's your famous auntie?