The Riff - July 2007

Galifianakis Explains "Alternate" Kanye Video

| Thu Jul. 26, 2007 3:03 PM EDT

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This week Kanye West posted on his website an "alternate" video for his new song "Can't Tell Me Nothin'," featuring comedian Zach Galifianakis (right) and musician Will Oldham as a pair of rural yokels, carousing on tractors and accurately lip-synching to Kanye's lyrics.

Watch it here.

The world responded with a collective "WTF?!"

Today Galifinakis talked to MTV News about what inspired the clip, saying basically that he and Oldham were "drunk in my basement:"

"Kanye's trainer, Harley Pasternak, is a friend of mine, and he showed Kanye some of my videos. Then Kanye came to a stand-up show of mine and asked me afterwards if I would produce and perform a video for him," Galifianakis told MTV News. "I was flying to my farm in North Carolina the next morning [and] I told him that if I could shoot it there, then I would do it. There was no audition. I did whatever I wanted. He told me to just do what I thought would work. … [The song has] lots of words that are quite fast. Plus, my horrible dancing throws off the rhythm inside my head."

Question: Zach Galifianakis has a farm, with tractors just ready to go? Does that make him a comedian who farms, or a farmer who tells jokes?

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Harry Potter Brings Out the Crazy (Not a Spoiler!)

| Wed Jul. 25, 2007 7:40 PM EDT

I can't pretend to judge.

Last night, I sat on my bed, eyes red with the sleepless wonder of every word that got me closer to the long-awaited Harry Potter conclusion. I laughed out loud. I sobbed. I gasped. I took the occasional "emotion-break" from reading in order to collect myself.

Then it came: sweet closure. When I finished, I didn't know what was better — knowing what the ending was, or knowing that I didn't have to blast my iPod or cover my ears on sidewalks and public transportation to drown out potential spoilers.

Whether it's to amuse you, or to convince myself that I'm not that bad…why don't we take a look at some of the more notable HP fanatics?

  • Kathy Cook, 48. Third-grade teacher, famous for her HP bedroom. Waterloo, IA.
  • Miana Breed, 14. Wake Forest, NC. "My relationship with Harry started so long ago, when I was 8."
  • Kristin Devoe, 39. Delmar, NY. Harry blogger would do anything to avoid a spoiler: "It might sound silly to those who haven't put in the time, but this is the biggest event in the history of books!"
  • Lucy Bushell, 30. Hambelton, UK. Saw the last HP movie 111 times.

—Anna Weggel

Juego Frio: Coldplay Announces New Album to Have "Hispanic" Theme

| Wed Jul. 25, 2007 3:23 PM EDT

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Coldplay have revealed that their new album, currently being recorded by the band in Barcelona, has a "Hispanic theme"… "The sights, sounds and flavours of Latin America and Spain have definitely been infused on this album. The band visited Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Mexico earlier this year," the band explained on their blog. "Chris [Martin] then came up with the idea of recording in Spain. The music and lyrics have begun to reflect the strengthening Hispanic theme." (NME.com, 7/25/07)

"Who better than Coldplay," they continued, "with our spicy echoes of U2, Radiohead, and Travis, to explore these exotic flavours... like, you know, tomatoes." Singing about flavors has always been a focus of the English band, they say, describing early hit "Yellow" as being "inspired by a paticularly savory paella."

Rumored song titles on the new album include "Fix You (A Tasty Enchilada)," and "A Rush Of Blood To the Head After Eating This Spicy Hot Pepper." The album will come in multiple formats including a deluxe edition served with a side of guacamole and sour cream.

Industry experts question whether Coldplay's mostly white, middle-aged, mashed-potato-loving fan base is ready for such a stylistic sorpresa, but the band insists "the popularity of restaurants like Taco Bell, Chevy's and Outback Steakhouse proves the record-buying public already enjoys watered-down versions of south-of-the-border favorites."

"Si, si," echoed Martin, from under a yard-wide sombrero, "es muy… uh, how to express it… picante!"

CDs Out Today and a Word from Critics

| Tue Jul. 24, 2007 4:32 PM EDT

mojo-cover-unkle.JPGUNKLE – War Stories (Surrender All)
Billboard: 4/5; "Soulful"
NME: 5/10; "Solid"
Blender: 4/10: "Turgid"

mojo-cover-prince.jpgPrince – Planet Earth (Sony)
Entertainment Weekly: B+; "Thrilling"
Slant: 3/5; "Anesthetized"
Pitchfork: 4.8/10; "Diminishing"

mojo-cover-tegan.JPGTegan & Sara – The Con (Vapor/Sanctuary)
AV Club: A-; "Ecstatic"
Entertainment Weekly: B+; "Catchy"
Chicago Tribune: 4/5; "Epic"

mojo-cover-yyys.JPGYeah Yeah Yeahs – Is Is EP (Dressup/Fiction)
Pitchfork: 8.2/10; "Affecting"
Contactmusic.com: 8/10; "Genius"

Top Ten Stuff 'n' Things: 7/23/07

| Mon Jul. 23, 2007 9:45 PM EDT

Oh, life. It's bigger. It's bigger than you! And you are not me! Too true, Michael Stipe; you know, your hometown of Athens, GA, having produced both the warbly melancholy of your very own REM and the cheeky beehives of your buddies The B-52s, seems to embody the yin and yang of this week's Top Ten: the tragedy, the comedy. Sure, life is awful and you really just wonder what the point of it all is, but also, dude, check out this video of the Muppets with a disco song!!! So, hurry up and bring your jukebox money:

10. Plastic Little – "Dopeness" (video; song from the forthcoming She's Mature)
Okay. I debated about posting this here—Mother Jones is a serious magazine, and this is a serious web site, and this video from the Philadelphia rap crew is pretty much Not Safe For Work, with its, um, kind of freakish opening-scene take on childbirth, and the song's slangy references to, er, genitalia, and "makin' babies," and the shaking of baby-makers. But before you fire me, Mother Jones, please hear me out: it's all done in such a spirit of surreal and silly fun, it's hard to be offended, and if it was a French short film and not a rap video you'd be putting it in a museum. Maybe. But, anyway, that one fake-childbirth moment might be hard to explain to your boss if they catch you watching it, so beware.

9. Blonde Redhead – "The Dress" (video; song from 23 on 4ad)
We've already established that 23 is one of the, well, at least top 23 albums of the year; apparently video director Mike Mills agrees, since he's in the middle of creating clips for five tracks off the album. Four are featured on the 4ad website, and they're all simple ideas, executed with a kind of zen focus: a text-only outline, a series of poses, an emerging rainbow, and this: a series of people doing something that's almost unbearable to watch. (Yes, it's safe for work.) (Watch a higher-quality quicktime stream here.)

8. Flight of the Conchords – "The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room" (from "Flight of the Conchords" on HBO)
Yes, okay, silly parody songs full of non-sequiters are kind of SNL Digital Short territory, and Beck has already done the geeky-white-boy's-ironic-Prince thing pretty well. But still, this entry into the genre from the new HBO series has its own charms, not least of which is the line, "Let's get in a cab / I'll buy you a kebab."

7. This video of Philipino prisoners re-enacting the video to Michael Jackson's "Thriller"
Um, help?

6. Against Me! – "White People for Peace" (from New Wave on Sire)
While the video's colorful East-vs-West war-as-football metaphor isn't exactly ground-breaking, the track itself is oddly moving: a protest song about the futility of protest songs. The Florida punk-ish combo squeezes the line "Protest songs in response to military aggression" into the chorus, a line whose banality, in its repetition, takes on a kind of despair.

Buju Banton Signs Gay Rights Group's Pledge

| Mon Jul. 23, 2007 2:46 PM EDT

mojo-photo-bujubanton.jpgMy recent posts on reggae have neglected to mention the current controversy over Jamaican stars and anti-gay lyrics. In an attempt to curb the flow of homophobic and often violent lyrics in reggae music, the UK-based OutRage! group organized the "Reggae Compassionate Act," a pledge for artists to sign in which they agree to "respect and uphold the rights of all individuals to live without violence due to their religion, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity or gender." Today the group announced that Buju Banton (right) had signed the agreement. Banton was considered a focus for OutRage! due to his notorious 1992 hit "Boom Boom Bye," which called for "batty boys" (Jamaican slang for gay men) to be murdered in a variety of gruesome ways. The UK Guardian quoted a Jamaican gay rights leader as saying he hoped the singer's actions were "genuine."

His skepticism is understandable. In June it was reported that dancehall artists Beenie Man, Capleton and Sizzla had all signed the agreement, but on Sunday the Jamaica Observer published an interview with Beenie Man in which he denied signing the pledge. He did, however, offer the caveat of renouncing murderous violence against gays, quoted thusly: "We don't need to kill dem. We just need fi tell the people dem the right ting because I not supporting a gay lifestyle because it's not wholesome to me." The Observer reported it was unable to contact Capleton and Sizzla for confirmation of their signing the agreement.

Jamaica has been the scene of multiple incidents of violence against men perceived to be gay recently, including a mob attack on three men in Montego Bay in April, and a near-riot in Kingston in February in which three men were chased into a pharmacy by a crowd of nearly 2,000. The World Policy Institute issued a report (pdf) in 2003 stating that "Jamaica is by far the most dangerous place for sexual minorities, with frequent and often fatal attacks against gay men fostered by a popular culture that idolises reggae and dancehall singers whose lyrics call for burning and killing gay men."

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Guerilla Art

| Sat Jul. 21, 2007 2:13 AM EDT

Banksy.

Friday Music News Wrapup

| Fri Jul. 20, 2007 6:43 PM EDT

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  • James Hetfield of Metallica says the whole airport-security beard fiasco never happened. The blogosphere responds: "Oops." (Rolling Stone)

  • UK singer MIA has received her US entry visa on the eve of a New York performance. She had been forced to cancel US appearances after being denied entry; many suspected her outspoken lyrics were to blame, but she says no. (NME)
  • Where's your head at, indeed: Basement Jaxx are teaming up with Yoko Ono for their new album. (Yahoo! Music)
  • mojo-photo-neworder.jpgNew Order will continue without Peter Hook. Bassist Hook announced the band was splitting up last month, but fellow members Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris released a statement this week saying, basically, "er, guess that means you're not coming to practice." (NME)
  • Annie Lennox has recruited basically every single female singer in the universe for an AIDS charity single: Fergie? Check. Maddy? Check. Dido? Check. Bonnie, Celine, Melissa, Gladys? Check, check, check, check. (Billboard)
  • Get to Know an Emmy Nominee

    | Fri Jul. 20, 2007 2:23 PM EDT

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    Emmy nominees were announced on Thursday, and in addition to the usual "Sopranos" worship, someone I know is actually listed on the official Emmys website! Granted, the category is "Exceptional Merit in Nonfiction Filmmaking," but still, that counts, right? She's Lois Vossen, series producer for ITVS's Independent Lens, which got the nod for "A Lion in the House." I e-mailed her to see if it really was an honor just being nominated.

    So did someone call and wake you up with the news? That's what happens with all the big stars. And you have to go "It was such a surprise!!"

    Yes, the filmmakers Julia Reichert and Steve Bognar called my office at 7AM local time to tell me we were nominated. I was at the gym doing my Thursday morning spin class so they left a very funny message.

    Being a TV star, how do you stay so down-to-earth?

    I am not a TV star. I am a farm girl from Minnesota who loves independent filmmakers. I love bringing their work to public television.

    mojo-photo-lion.jpgWhat's your show called again?

    Ah, Independent Lens. You know...seeing life through your own "independent" "lens." Nick Frazier from the BBC hates the title of our series ("It's so expected") but we tease him that since his series is called "Storyville," in America that means it's about a young Superman.

    Right. Anyway, oh my God, what are you going to wear?!!

    At first I thought we were part of the September 16 Emmy ceremony (there are actually three different ceremonies. Two in L.A. a week apart and one in NYC a week later). And I wasn't going to be able to attend because I'm getting married on September 15th. But it turns out we're on the September 8th Emmy ceremony so I can attend. I'm going to wear something.

    ---

    She's so coy. Showtimes for "Independent Lens" vary on PBS stations, because, you know, God forbid they actually make it easy. Check your local listings or their website for schedules.

    Review/Infographic: Sonic Youth, Berkeley, 7/19/07

    | Fri Jul. 20, 2007 4:56 AM EDT

    New York combo Sonic Youth are a third of the way through their Daydream Nation tour, where they're performing the legendary 1988 album in its entirety. For simplicity's sake, here's an infographic describing my experience at the show. Enjoy.

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