Mixed Media

Chinese Democracy Emerges, Pigs Stay Safely On Ground

| Thu Nov. 20, 2008 4:29 PM EST

mojo-photo-gnrchinesecd.jpgIt's here: early this morning, the entirety of Chinese Democracy, the new album from Guns N' Roses and their first in 17 years, was posted to their official MySpace page for your 96kbps listening pleasure. The physical CD will go on sale exclusively at Best Buy stores this Sunday, breaking with the odd tradition of Tuesday releases—speaking of democracy, could we do that with elections too? Anyway, Jon Pareles has a lot of fun with it in the Times today:

"Chinese Democracy" is the Titanic of rock albums: the ship, not the movie, although like the film it's a monumental studio production. It's outsize, lavish, obsessive, technologically advanced and, all too clearly, the end of an era. It's also a shipwreck, capsized by pretensions and top-heavy production. In its 14 songs there are glimpses of heartfelt ferocity and despair, along with bursts of remarkable musicianship. But they are overwhelmed by countless layers of studio diddling and a tone of curdled self-pity. The album concludes with five bombastic power ballads in a row.

Glimpses, indeed, and I might add "fleeting."

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These Men Are From Hell, not Mars

| Wed Nov. 19, 2008 2:06 PM EST

Man, I'm glad I'm divorced and definitely not looking.

Check out Love in the Time of Darwinism. That is, if you're a man—a "real" man—who wants to be reminded of why he behaves in the manly way that he does. Or if you're a "real" woman without a man and need reminding of why that is so.

New Music: Amadou & Mariam - Welcome to Mali

| Tue Nov. 18, 2008 5:12 PM EST

mojo-photo-amadoumariamwelcome.jpgIt's a shameful fact that I came across Malian duo Amadou & Mariam's entrancing 2005 album, Dimanche à Bamako, well into 2006, too late to include it in my "best albums" list. While the album was produced with a professional sheen by Manu Chao, it still maintained a direct line to traditional Malian sounds while expanding into more complex musical and lyrical territory. Sure, with Chao's help, Bamako achieved international acclaim, but one can hope that it was the album's emotional purity that resonated with listeners worldwide. The duo's new album is called Welcome to Mali, but oddly enough, it finds them moving even further afield.

Album opener and first single "Sabali" ("Wisdom") was produced by Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz fame, and it's superb, a strange mashup of Gorillaz' "Feel Good Inc." with the rising-and-falling computerized tones and melancholy feel of Grandaddy's "The Crystal Lake." It's a fascinating, retro-futuristic re-interpretation of chiming Afropop, with brief lo-fi transmissions from the past laid over the top.

Paul McCartney Announces Unreleased Beatles Track

| Mon Nov. 17, 2008 5:42 PM EST

mojo-photo-beatles-2.jpgPaul McCartney has confirmed to BBC Radio 4 the existence of a "mythical" 14-minute-long unreleased Beatles track, and says the song will see the light of day. The track, called "Carnival of Light," commissioned for an electronic music festival, was recorded during the Penny Lane sessions in 1967, and was apparently only played once, at the festival itself. McCartney told Radio 4 that at the time he asked the other Beatles to indulge him:

I said all I want you to do is just wander around all the stuff, bang it, shout, play it, it doesn't need to make any sense. Hit a drum then wander on to the piano, hit a few notes, just wander around. So that's what we did and then put a bit of an echo on it. It's very free.

He said the track was never released because it was too "adventurous," but that "the time has come for it to get its moment."

After the jump: Brits find a reason to complain!

SNL Gets Gay

| Mon Nov. 17, 2008 5:29 PM EST

mojo-photo-snagglepuss.jpgNot to be all-Prop-8-all-the-time over here on the Riff, but there was some surprising, funny, and surprisingly funny stuff on SNL Saturday night, and some of the best bits seemed to be inspired by the sudden re-emergence of gay rights as a newsy topic. In fact, homosexuality was pretty much the running theme of the whole episode, from the overly-kissy family opening sketch (which culminated in a jaw-dislocating open-mouth snog between Andy Samberg and Fred Armisen) to the baffling-but-hilarious digital short featuring Samberg and host Paul Rudd painting each other's naked portraits, Titanic-style. Justin Timberlake's lispy cameo as one of three terrible male dancers in leotards in a Beyonce video also might count. By the way, somebody give Justin Timberlake a variety show—his two-minute version of himself hosting the show was pretty mind-blowing.

After the jump: Heavens to Murgatroyd!

Jason Bentley to Replace Nic Harcourt as KCRW Morning Host

| Mon Nov. 17, 2008 3:52 PM EST

mojo-photo-jasonbentley.jpgSanta Monica-based public radio station KCRW has announced that longtime evening host Jason Bentley (right) will be taking over for Nic Harcourt as Music Director and host of the influential "Morning Becomes Eclectic" when Harcourt leaves on December 1. Harcourt's exit was just announced last week, and included a vague notion of "expanding on other activities" which to me seems code for "I didn't have anything else lined up," but what do I know.

Harcourt came to KCRW from Woodstock, New York's WDST in 1998, and over the past ten years used the morning show to introduce artists like Coldplay, Dido and Franz Ferdinand. Bentley's promotion will excite fans of groovy beats, as the DJ and producer has focused much of his career on electronic music, with his KCRW show "Metropolis" and a long-running Saturday night show on Los Angeles alternative juggernaut KROQ. We'll see how well his laid-back late-night DJ persona translates to 9am.

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Side Benefit of Prop 8's Passage: Celebrities Busting Out of Closet

| Sun Nov. 16, 2008 4:39 PM EST

mojo-photo-wandasykes.jpg…or at least one celebrity, so far. Comedian and actress Wanda Sykes surprised an audience at a Las Vegas protest against on Saturday with the announcement that she's gay. The event was one of many held around the country as part of a coordinated protest against Proposition 8 and other anti-gay measures. Sykes told the crowd that Prop 8 inspired her to be more outspoken:

"You know, I don't really talk about my sexual orientation. I didn't feel like I had to. I was just living my life, not necessarily in the closet, but I was living my life," Sykes told a crowd at a gay rights rally in Las Vegas on Saturday. "Everybody that knows me personally they know I'm gay. But that's the way people should be able to live their lives. Now, I gotta get in their face. I'm proud to be a woman. I'm proud to be a black woman, and I'm proud to be gay."

The Emmy award-winning actress has roles on The New Adventures of Old Christine and Curb Your Enthusiasm. While Sykes hadn't publicly discussed her sexuality before this, she has been a long-time supporter of gay rights causes, performing as part of this year's Cyndi Lauper's True Colors Tour which benefited the Human Rights Campaign. Her Wikipedia page says, "She is now officially a homosexual," which makes me wonder if there's some sort of certificate I'm supposed to get? A passport stamp or something? I've been practicing without a license!

Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user Bobster1985.

Party Ben's Current Musical Guilty Pleasures

| Fri Nov. 14, 2008 7:36 PM EST

mojo-photo-guiltypleasures.jpg

As readers of the Riff should know by now, your terribly-named DJ and contributing writer is a pretentious, nerdy weirdo, zoning out to noodly downtempo space-hop, jamming to 20-minute neo-metal sludge-fests, and bouncing along to Malian wedding music. Of course, part of my job here on the Riff is to, er, bring good things to light, hopefully exposing one or two (of our five or six) readers to obscure but worthwhile music. But there's some cheesy stuff out there that deserves a little critical praise, and I'm willing to be the man to do it.

Shepard Fairey Designs Gay Rights Poster (I Think)

| Fri Nov. 14, 2008 6:08 PM EST

mojo-photo-faireylove-sm.jpgVia Gawker, who rightly categorized this under "Things We Like" but couldn't help themselves from a subtle "fists up" joke, it's a poster in support of marriage equality designed by Shepard Fairey, whose red-and-blue Obama poster became such an iconic image in the presidential campaign that it inspired legions of imitators and parodies. I can't find any mention of it on Fairey's Obey Giant site, so I hope this isn't just a really well-done homage to his neo-propaganda style, but either way, it's pretty cool—as Gawker puts it, it's "butch," for once avoiding the same old triangles and rainbows we see on every gay thing ever. On the other hand, it's a bit, well, vague. Now, I recently complained to the esteemed MoJo editors about gay rights stories being ghettoized under the "Arts and Culture" section, so I'll try not to get too far into the politics of this here on the Riff, but some gay rights activists have said part of the problem with the (unforgivably disastrous and disorganized) No on 8 campaign was that their ads skirted around depicting actual gays and lesbians. The Obama "Hope" poster had, you know, an actual picture of Obama on it, but this one only reads "gay" if you, like most people I know, are already really pissed off about Prop 8. Maybe there could have been two hands, clasped? Also, maybe people could have done some of this before the election? Grumble. Deep breath. Anyway, nice work as always from Mr. Fairey. Click the "Continues" button to see it embiggened.

Update: Fairey has posted the graphic to his website, saying that "anyone who believes in equality and human dignity should be appalled that Prop. 8 passed." Right on, although Dave Gilson caught that the fist image was just recycled from an earlier "Obey" poster, with, er, its orientation changed.

Crank-Call Scandal Turns BBC Upside Down

| Thu Nov. 13, 2008 6:35 PM EST

mojo-photo-brandross.jpgAnglophiles out there may have already been watching this saga unfold with amusement (as we sip our tea), but it's finally reached the hallowed pages of the New York Times, so here's the story for the uninitiated. British comedian Russell Brand (far right), known to US audiences as a recent host of the MTV Video Music Awards, has a weekly show on BBC Radio 2 every Saturday night. On the October 18th episode, Brand and guest Jonathan Ross (near right) left multiple "lewd" messages on the answering machine of Andrew Sachs, the actor who played Manuel on Fawlty Towers, after being unable to reach Sachs for a pre-scheduled interview. Part of the messages' gist was that Brand had had an affair with Sachs' granddaughter, Georgina Baillie. While only a few complaints were received after the initial broadcast, The Mail on Sunday took notice eight days later, writing an article and a commentary piece calling the show "verbal sewage." Complaints skyrocketed, reaching nearly 40,000 within a week, and even Prime Minister Gordon Brown jumped in the fray, saying the episode was "unacceptable." The fallout was severe: Brand was suspended and then quit, Ross was suspended from his popular Friday night television show for three months, and two BBC executives resigned. So, what the heck did they say?