In a move that says to the world, "no, of course we're not desperate and fearful, as our industry crumbles around us," music-licensing group ASCAP is now going after bars, clubs and restaurants that play any of the over 8 million songs by artists they represent without paying appropriate fees. ASCAP have apparently sued over two dozen venues recently who have failed to pay their royalties. Of course, legally, ASCAP is right: if I charge people $5 to come listen to the new U2 CD, it sure seems like that's money U2 should get. Since, you know, they need more money. But business owners often pay music services for chatter-free background tunes; is that different from just turning on the radio? Most amusing is this statement from Vincent Candilora, ASCAP senior vice president for licensing: "As long as it's [played] outside a direct circle of friends and family, it is considered a public performance." So, how many friends and family can I have before it's not considered a "direct circle?" We need friendship guidelines!
British band Hard-Fi have garnered some negativepublicity after the cover art for their upcoming sophomore release, Once Upon a Time in the West, was revealed: a yellow field with the words "NO COVER ART" in large type. The band gave a statement about "breaking the rules" or whatever to the NME, but in fact, cover art that's anti-cover art has been around for a while.
First of all, the cover that seems to have directly inspired Hard-Fi's art prank: San Francisco punk band Flipper's 1982 release, Album Generic Flipper. It's the same Generic Yellow, and features a similar font; somehow, though, I imagine Hard-Fi's new album won't be quite as ground breaking.
Flipper's generic cover concept was said to have influenced Public Image Limited's multiple covers for their 1986 release, alternately titled Album, Cassette, or Compact Disc, depending on the format. I even own 12" Single, featuring an extended mix of "Rise." Flipper returned the favor by later releasing a live album called Public Flipper Limited.
Of course, the blank concept art-cover basically began with The Beatles; the 1968 release was designed by Richard Hamilton, who had put together a Duchamp exhibit at the Tate the year before.
Wikipedia says The Damned was the first band to explicitly invert the concept with their Black Album in 1980, although there's actually quite a bit going on here. More literally black covers can be found on later releases by Prince and Metallica; for a list of albums featuring basically blank cover art, check out this list here.
Can we trace this trend back to Kazimir Malevich's 1915 Suprematist masterwork, "Black Square?" The painting was placed in the position on the wall traditionally reserved for a religious icon, usurping the image of Christ; are blank album covers similar denials of their creators? Not that rock stars consider themselves Christ-like or anything.
This weekend I was lucky enough to catch the aptly titled The Simpsons Movie at my local independent theater. With all the hype—7-11s transformed into Kwik-E-Marts complete with Squishees and Buzz Cola, annoying ads during other Fox shows—I was ready to be wowed. But what wowed me, I didn't expect—the movie took on the thorny issue of environmentalism ... well, sort of, if you count Homer fighting power-crazy environmentalists with motorcycles and dog sleds.
In the film, Lisa crusades door-to-door for the salvation of Springfield's lake and, predictably, gets many of them slammed in her face; Homer's her undoing, dumping a silo of "pig crap" into the lake that turns it into a seething, green, boiling pool of acidic sludge; and there's an interesting twist, wherein, the EPA actually cares about the environment. Humorously, the EPA puts a huge, glass dome over the city to keep the lake's toxins from spreading (they care more about the trees than the people of Springfield).
The Simpsons of course fight back and attempt to free Springfield from its doom in the dome and the EPA v Homer battle is surely amusing, but unfortunately, after 87 minutes of comedy, the sentiment that people should not drop "pig crap" into lakes is pretty much forgotten. Not that I was really expecting (okay, I kind of was) great pearls of wisdom from The Simpsons but I had hoped for more examples of criminal environmental degradation, especially since the mastermind behind everything Simpsons is from my home state of Oregon, a state with a long history of fighting the timber and fishing industries to preserve its unique natural beauty.
This week, the Top Ten celebrates music from around the world, mostly even outside of, like, California! Also, I manage to restrict myself to only one track that could qualify as French techno (More about Daft Punk's live show later). So come take a round-the-world trip on Riff Airlines, no carbon offset credits necessary.
10. Manu Chao - "Rainin in Paradize" (from La Radiolina, out 9/4 on Virgin)
A perfect track to kick off an internationally-themed top ten, the uptempo beat of "Paradize" contrasts with its darker lyrical themes. Polyglot Chao here gives voice to various "calamities" and "atrocities" from Baghdad to Zaire, with repetitive lyrics that take on the aura of a kind of chant, or a prayer.
9. Mumiy Troll - "Ru.Da" (from Amba on Real) (mp3 via their site)
Vladivostok combo Mumiy Troll (Мумий Тролль) are saddled with greatness: ten years ago, they made Morskaya, a near-masterpiece of an album that perfectly captured the excitement of post-Communist Russia. While their latest effort isn't quite as inspired, single "Ru.Da" leaps from Pixies-reminiscent verses to an epic chorus.
8. Various Artists - Optimo - Pitchfork Mix 01
This set from the Glasgow DJs redefines "eclectic," effortlessly mixing from Brazil to Germany to Norway to, er, Sonic Youth. While the duo are known for favoring "psych-rock," the hour-long set is, at its core, utterly groovy, in the best possible sense.
7. Mexican Institute of Sound - "El Microfono" (from Piñata on Nacional) (listen on his MySpace page)
MIS is basically a one-man band (Mexico City's Camilo Lara); he brings together hip-hop and electronic sounds as well as more traditional Mexican influences on his new album. "Microfono" has a quirky, loping sample and mellow feel, over which Lara delivers a laid-back freestyle rap.
6. Various Artists - Typsy Gypsy Mixes
(mp3s via 'T Nieuwe Werck, more info at Boing Boing)
Belgian DJ Typsy Gypsy (of the Balkan Hot Step Soundsystem) has put together two mixes featuring a fusion of Klezmer and Balkan sounds with electronic beats (which, the blog brags, all come in over 150bpm). Hopa!
I mean, I'm all for mixing politics with music, but really? After seven years off, you'd think the band would have prepared a better statement.
This is the same band that, 10 years ago, took on social justice issues by making an album cover from a picture of a Vietnamese Buddhist monk protesting the murder of fellow monks by self-immolation in Saigon in 1963. This is also the same band that has spoken out against the death penalty in front of the United Nations, donated concert earnings to social justice organizations, and performed benefit shows for American political prisoners like Leonard Peltier.
I'm not sure what the band was hoping to accomplish, but de la Rocha's comment got author Ann Coulter and rocker Ted Nugent to agree that there's a limit to freedom of speech rights.
The, ahem, bizarre love triangle (sorry) that British synth-pop band New Order has become got even more bizarre over the weekend, as (former?) bassist Peter Hook threatened to sue the remaining members if they continue under the New Order name, reports NME.com.
Hook had previously announced that the band (a three-piece after Gillian Gilbert left in 2005) had split up for good; this prompted remaining members Stephen Morris and Bernard Sumner to issue a statement saying that, in fact, they had every intention of continuing under the New Order name, with or without Hooky.
Hook then posted an angry rant on his MySpace blog, saying, "This group has SPLIT UP! you are no more new order than i am! you may have two thirds but dont assume you have the rights to do anything NEW ordery cos you dont ive still got a third!" He then adds, somewhat cryptically, "But am open to negotiation."
Can people please learn to spell? I know it's just a blog, but still.
The LA Times is reporting a body found in the ocean off of New Jersey is presumed to be that of video artist Jeremy Blake. Blake had left his wallet and a suicide note behind in his East Village apartment where his girlfriend had also committed suicide just a month ago, and was reportedly seen walking into the ocean off New York's Rockaway Beach on July 17th.
Blake, who was until recently based in Los Angeles, created hypnotic, abstract video pieces often consisting of slowly-changing washes of bright colors. He was best known for his work on Beck's "Sea Change" video, as well as interlude sequences in the 2002 Adam Sandler-starring film "Punch-Drunk Love." He was 35 years old.