The Riff - March 2007

Party Ben's Top 10 Stuff & Things, 3/30/07 - NYC Special!

| Fri Mar. 30, 2007 5:59 PM EDT

Hello from New York! I'm here for a DJ gig, and so I figure why not make this Party Ben Top 10 a special New York edition. Unfortunately I've been here just 18 hours at this point, so it'll be only slightly New York-y; plus due to limited computer time, I got no pictures and few links. But you'll get the idea. Start spreading the news:

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Bush Coming Out of Your Closet?

| Thu Mar. 29, 2007 4:36 PM EDT

cheneyad.JPGWhat's scarier: your overstuffed closet or Bush's agenda? Manhattan Mini Storage poses that question in a series of political ads posted on Upper West Side phone booths and subway cars.

The ads, one of which features an suitcase-toting elephant, aren't as racy as they might seem, given the demographic they're targeting: the UWS was the largest NYC Democratic contributor in 2004.

There must be at least a few GOPers living there, though, judging by the outraged bloggers who apparently don't like Bush being associated with anyone's closet.

—Jen Phillips

Timbaland Previews Shock Value on MySpace

| Wed Mar. 28, 2007 4:59 PM EDT

mojo-cover-timbaland.jpg"Producer's producer" Timbaland has posted the entirety of his upcoming album Shock Value on his MySpace page, so we can listen to all 17 tracks in lovely 96kbps hi-fi sound a whole week early. Cool! But unfortunately, a first listen is somewhat disappointing. The already-leaked (and already five-starred) "Give It To Me" is a highlight, as is "Scream," a dramatic 4-chord number featuring a Pussycat Doll on lead vocals, as well as "Board Meeting," a party-starter bringing longtime collaborator Magoo back on board. I'm a fan of "The Way I Are;" with its trance-y keyboard line, it's clearly a musical sequel to "My Love." But other tracks veer a little too close to self-parody, like the Justin Timberlake-featuring "Release," which is so close to "SexyBack" it just makes you want to listen to that (far superior) song instead. The much-hyped rock collaborations are a mixed bag: "Time" brings in Joy Division ripoffs She Wants Revenge for a middling freestyle/goth mashup that's slightly redeemed by a lovely instrumental section, and on the Fall Out Boy track "One and Only," listening to Timbo try to imitate the rapid-fire vocal style of pop-punk's greatest irritants is pretty painful, although the oddly "Promiscuous"-reminscent chord structure of the chorus is kind of intriguing. I'd like to listen to track 13, featuring the long-lost Hives, but they seem to have uploaded "Time" to its slot. An accident, or is it not ready for prime time?

What's most disappointing is the news that apparently the track featuring M.I.A. is, uh, MIA, only appearing on the import version of the album. Thanks to the intertubes, though, we can hear it now (mp3 link via Idolator and Discobelle). With its odd chants, psychedelic echoes, gargantuan retro synth bleeps, and the usual effortlessly sexy/political vocal from M.I.A., it's both avant-garde and instantly accessible, and why anybody thinks the US can't handle it is beyond me. Too bad.

U2 Can Give to Charity

| Mon Mar. 26, 2007 8:36 PM EDT

guitar.gif OK, so Bono's "Red" campaign tanked, but you have to give it to those U2 boys for their commitment to charity. Guitarist the Edge has donated one of his favorite guitars to be auctioned for charity. An April 21 auction in New York City will take bids on more than 200 items to benefit Music Rising, a charity the Edge founded to benefit New Orleans musicians. You can ogle the items here.

Return of the Single?

| Mon Mar. 26, 2007 7:59 PM EDT

mojo-photo-45s.jpgToday's Times explores an interesting change in the record industry brought on by the digital revolution: the resurgence of the single. Long overdue, I say. Even those as youthful (ahem!) as myself will remember buying 7" singles well into the 80s; it was a cheap, fun and easy way to grab your favorite new Eurythmics song. But with the advent of the CD, the whole point of a single seemed to go away -- there's 70 minutes of room on the dagburn things no matter what you do, so why not fill it full of fluff, call it an album, and charge $12 for it?

This is, of course, not to predict the demise of the album (like one of the music consultants the Times quotes), nor whitewash the digital world. 128-kbps mp3 files, for instance, have always seemed to me like medium-quality "trial copies," requiring any serious audiophile to pick up the CD or vinyl after buying something on iTunes. But, again, the ability to do this at all should be welcomed by the industry (faced with ever-shrinking venues to promote its product) and by artists, since both edgy and mainstream bands could benefit from a more flexible approach from labels. Whether we'll see more singles released without accompanying albums remains to be seen, but in the meantime, wish Apple luck at keeping the price at 99 cents.

Top Ten Stuff 'n' Things, 3/23/07

| Fri Mar. 23, 2007 10:10 PM EDT

Let me be clear: liking this stuff (and these things) in no way causes anyone to be hip. I don't know how to be hip and never have. I know some of the hip people, but when we hang out it's always kind of awkward, because I'm clearly not one of them. My T-shirts are like, at least two steps behind the times, and I make mashups for Pete's sake. So not hip! But don't worry about me! It's fine!

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Tip to Thieves: Rolexes Engraved "Paris Hilton" Are Not a Good Idea

| Fri Mar. 23, 2007 6:19 PM EDT

It's Friday afternoon and this blogger is going to indulge in a brief moment of "I'm smarter than you." (It's a blogger thing.) Not that I'm such a genius, but I think if I were an LAX airport employee and were going to steal some stuff from passenger luggage, I would avoid luggage belonging to celebrities. Chances are, they'll have one of their people report the theft, and chances are city officials will investigate since Los Angeles' very existence depends on its being celebrity-friendly. So, you see, I am smarter than the 8 luggage screeners and 3 others being charged with stealing jewelry, expensive watches, and cigarettes from Paris Hilton and the singer Keyshia Cole.

What an amazing Friday! I'm veritably high on myself right now.

More Neato Viddys on the Intertubes

| Thu Mar. 22, 2007 10:25 PM EDT

That's right, stop working, it's okay. Just put down the phone/spreadsheet/spatula, put off that meeting/budget/drive-through order for five minutes, and watch some teeny-tiny new music videos. Your boss/client/hungry children in SUV can wait.

Banner year for reunion tours

| Thu Mar. 22, 2007 7:45 PM EDT

Reunion tours by popular rock bands are equal parts excitement and gloom. And 2007 is stacking up to be a riveting year rife with disappointment.

The gravitational pull of the chance to see one of your favorite bands -- or one of an era's most popular bands -- one last time is powerful. You want to be a part of something big, privy to an historical moment that you can talk about for years. "I was there," you'll say. Or if you're lucky, "And they rocked."

But the mere premise of reuniting for one last hoorah is inherently nostalgic, and that makes the whole thing feel potentially sad and outdated, with a hint of camp. It brings into question the true meaning of rock music: is it here to inspire, destroy and give the middle finger to all things bland, or is it here simply to entertain and encapsulate past moments in our lives?

2007 could provide answers. This year's list of bands reported to be reuniting for strings of live performances is substantial, and diverse. It includes The Police, Van Halen (recently canceled), Genesis, Sebadoh, Rage Against the Machine, Iggy and the Stooges, Smashing Pumpkins, Crowded House, and the UK band Squeeze.

Bloggers are keeping a running tally of who's performing and who's not, and trying to determine whether certain bands have sold out or not. Mojo's Party Ben is all over Sonic Youth's recently announced reunion tour, and another blogger is buzzing about the Meat Puppets plans to reunite.

Sell-outs or not, big-show ticket prices upwards of $200 will surely guarantee fat paychecks for many of the artists, who will soon leave their respective tours and go back to what they were doing before: Disney Tarzan soundtracks, 16th Century lute songs and primetime television for some; punk and indy music side projects, film soundtrack scores and political activism for others.

While band reunion season is in full swing, the opportunity is there to pick a favorite piece of music history and go rock out for a night. And chances are, you will get exactly what you're looking for.

--Gary Moskowitz

Sonic Youth Brings Back Daydream Nation

| Thu Mar. 22, 2007 6:39 PM EDT

mojo-cover-sonic.jpgSonic Youth (the legendary New York band Motorbooty magazine once called "definitely sonic, if no longer youthful") is planning to perform special shows in seven cities this summer, at which they'll play their 1988 album Daydream Nation in its entirety, reports Pitchfork. Besides the fact it's kind of like The Beatles saying they're reuniting and playing all of Revolver, there are at least three more reasons this is cool:

1. Bringin' it back. This album came out 19 years ago! I (thank God) and most people I know were barely out of our New Wave diapers at that point. Could we have been expected to cut English class and go to New York to see Sonic Youth perform these songs? No we could not. So, now we get our chance.

2. Slow on the uptake. More than almost any band, Sonic Youth makes music that rewards repeated listenings over time. My first exposure to der Yoof was seeing "Shadow of a Doubt," an uncharateristically pretty song, on MTV's "120 Minutes" back in 1986. I bought the album (EVOL), but my poor 15-year-old ears weren't really ready for the rest of it. It was only a couple years later (after some stoned viewings of the full-length video to 1990's Goo) that I went back and realized how great the other albums were. As life goes by and, ahem, "takes its crazy toll" (I'm quoting them), Daydream Nation means different things to me.

3. Well-adjusted. While Sonic Youth has, in the past few years, delved into obscure, avant-garde experimentalism, their latest album, Rather Ripped, proved they don't mind sounding like the band they were 15 years ago, either. Unlike, say, Radiohead, whose neurotic relationship with their own musical past means you won't ever see them perform "Creep," Thurston, Kim & crew seem to like their old songs. At the "Ain't No Picnic" festival outside of LA in 1999, all the band's gear was stolen, including their uniquely tuned guitars. But instead of cancelling, they borrowed Sleater-Kinney's gear and performed a set of "classics," which turned out to be one of the highlights of my concert-going life (snif). You know that these performances will be anything but perfunctory.

Hooray, Sonic Youth. Tour dates are here.