The Riff - July 2007

Tuesday is Music News-Day

| Tue Jul. 31, 2007 9:14 PM EDT

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  • San Francisco singer/harpist/folk heroine Joanna Newsom to perform with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Walt Disney Concert Hall November 9th (NME)

  • 62-year-old Debbie Harry reveals her secret to eternal youth is, er, sheep embryos (Us Magazine)
  • Kanye West asks Swedish alt-popsters Peter Bjorn & John to be his backing band (Pitchfork)
  • Faith Hill decries fan crotch-grabbing of husband Tim McGraw (Yahoo! Music)
  • Ozzfest at Red Rocks erupts into cheap-seats-vs-reserved-seats class warfare (MyFox Colorado)
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    Hard-Fi's Cover Art Is No Cover Art

    | Tue Jul. 31, 2007 3:33 PM EDT

    mojo-cover-hardfi.JPGBritish band Hard-Fi have garnered some negative publicity 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.

    mojo-cover-flipper.JPGFirst 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.

    mojo-cover-pil.JPGFlipper'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.
    mojo-cover-beatles.JPGOf 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.

    mojo-cover-damned.JPGWikipedia 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.

    mojo-photo-malevich.JPGCan 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.

    Simpsons Movie Takes on Environment... Well, Kind Of.

    | Tue Jul. 31, 2007 2:32 PM EDT

    homer_mushing.jpg 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.

    Top Ten Stuff 'n' Things - 7/30/07 - International Flavor

    | Tue Jul. 31, 2007 1:53 AM EDT

    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.

    mojo-cover-mumiytroll.JPG9. 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.

    mojo-photo-optimo.jpg8. Various Artists - Optimo - Pitchfork Mix 01
    (download here)
    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.

    mojo-cover-mis.JPG7. 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.

    mojo-photo-typsy.JPG6. 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!


    Taking the Rage a Bit Far?

    | Mon Jul. 30, 2007 10:13 PM EDT

    I'm sure that all of the "aggressive, shirtless, white males" that saw Rage Against the Machine perform at the Rock the Bells hip hop concert in New York this weekend were stoked to see the Grammy-winning political metal-rap band back together after a seven-year hiatus.

    But were they expecting lead singer Zack de la Rocha to say that members of the Bush Administration should be hung and tried and shot for war crimes? Yikes!

    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.

    Monday Fun Links

    | Mon Jul. 30, 2007 4:01 PM EDT

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  • UK producer Mark Ronson is the first to officially remix Bob Dylan; check out a clip on his MySpace page.

  • Led Zeppelin will finally allow their music to be (legally) downloaded. Your move, Radiohead.
  • The Guardian gives us a brief history of Shoegaze, in which Creation Records founder Alan McGee calls My Bloody Valentine a "joke".
  • A fascinating look at Michel Gondry's slightly, erm, obsessive process creating the mind-blowing video for the Chemical Brothers 2002 single "Star Guitar." Watch 'til the end to see the prototype video made with oranges and shoes and stuff.

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    New Order Back-and-Forth Continues

    | Mon Jul. 30, 2007 2:53 PM EDT

    mojo-photo-neworderx.jpgThe, 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.

    First Listen: M.I.A. - Kala

    | Fri Jul. 27, 2007 7:02 PM EDT

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    Track # / Title Sounds Like Lyrical Excerpt Rating /10
    1. Bamboo Banga mojo-photo-miat1.jpg "M.I.A. comin' back with power power" 8
    2. Bird Flu mojo-photo-miat2.JPG "What's the point of knocking me down?" 6.5
    3. Boyz mojo-photo-miat3.JPG "How many no money boys are crazy?" 10
    4. Jimmy mojo-photo-miat4.JPG "Take me on a genocide tour" 7.5
    5. Hussel mojo-photo-miat5.jpg "I hate money cause it makes me numb" 8
    6. Mango Pickle Down River mojo-photo-miat6.jpg "I like fish and mango pickle" 7
    7. 20 Dollar mojo-photo-miat7.JPG "20 dollars ain't s*** to you" 10
    8. World Town mojo-photo-miat8.jpg "Hands up, guns out" 7.5
    9. The Trun mojo-photo-miat9.JPG "I'm trying to do my best" 6
    10. XR2 mojo-photo-miat10.JPG "Where were you in '92?" 9
    11. Paper Planes mojo-photo-miat11.JPG "All I wanna do is (bang bang) and take your money" 6.5
    12. Come Around mojo-photo-miat12.JPG "The beat goes on…" 7

    M.I.A.'s Kala is out 8/21 on Interscope.

    Video Artist Jeremy Blake Presumed Dead

    | Fri Jul. 27, 2007 4:55 PM EDT

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    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.

    Above: Detail from Winchester (2002)

    Beck – "Round the Bend"

    "Punch-Drunk Love" trailer

    Friday Music News Wrapup

    | Fri Jul. 27, 2007 4:17 PM EDT

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  • The Stooges are to perform their seminal 1970 album Fun House in its entirety for the first time in the US at a show in Las Vegas. (NME)
  • Kurt Cobain documentary "About a Son" to get a US release in October. (Yahoo! Music)
  • Rihanna's "Umbrella" tops the UK charts for a 10th week, becoming the longest-running UK #1 single in a decade. (BBC)
  • Former bassist Mark Ibold hints at Pavement reunion. (Idolator)
  • Group of sculptors conduct "Hello Experiment" to see if they, too, can sculpt Lionel Ritchie's head without the benefit of sight. (Rolling Stone)