The Riff - July 2007

Karl Rove's Reefer Madness-Induced Memory Loss

| Mon Jul. 16, 2007 3:26 PM PDT
reefer_madness.gif

Karl Rove's game sure has improved since he was a young Republican on the make in the early 1970s. The New York Times recently found a letter written by Rove in the Nixon archives in which the 22-year-old Capitol Hill aide outlines his ideas to recruit kids for a sexy-sounding group called "New Federalism Advocates." His big idea: midnight showings of John Wayne movies and Reefer Madness. Like many a former fan of the cult antidrug flick, Rove now pleads memory loss. "God, this is 1973!" he told the Times. "You work the math. I don't remember it all."

Rove also said he's not surprised his old letter was found, explaining, "When you send something to a White House person, it tends to be collected and remain." Yeah, unless that White House person happens to be "Dude, Where's My Email?" Rove.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Live Earth Germany Loses Big Euros

| Mon Jul. 16, 2007 2:07 PM PDT

mojo-photo-liveearthlogo.JPGI promise I'm not jumping on the Drudge-led Live Earth-bashing "there's no global warming" bandwagon, but this is the story: Billboard.biz reports the German edition of Live Earth on July 7th lost 1.3 million buckaroos. Ticket sales and merchandise added up to about $1.7 million, but costs added up to $2 million, not including the $1 million they paid to the Live Earth organization, for what exactly it's not clear. Access to the Al Gore holographic projection data stream? Anyway, perhaps it was the lineup that kept ticket buyers away (only 29,000 of 45,000 were sold): the big names were Chris Cornell, Snoop Dogg, and DJ Sasha. Weird! Buried at the end of the Billboard story: news that the City of Hamburg is now stuck with the bill. Sorry, Hamburgers: that money we were going to spend on energy-efficient light bulbs, it's, ah, being redirected.

Sick of "Umbrella" Yet? Don't Be

| Mon Jul. 16, 2007 1:50 PM PDT

mojo-photo-rihanna.jpg Barbadian teen superstar Rihanna could be heading for the record books: her summer anthem "Umbrella" just extended its reign at the top of the UK charts to eight weeks. Will it go another week? The last single to spend nine weeks at #1 was, in fact, Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" (see previous post), which was famously "deleted" (i.e., removed from distribution and chart eligibility) in order to prevent Gnarls overload. So, is "Umbrella" in danger of, er, gouging everyone's ears out? Not yet, says The Guardian's Dorian Lynskey, who gives nine reasons why he's still enjoying the "ella, ella, ay, ay, ay:"

1. It's such an improbable R&B summer smash. Neither laidback and fuzzy nor upbeat and exuberant, it's more like a rock power ballad stripped down to drums, voice, and thundercloud synths. Plus - and more on this later - it's about rain, for crying out loud. Who writes a summer song about rain?

He goes on to cite the track's detailed production, Rihanna's voice (and good looks), and even maintains the much-maligned intro rap from Jay-Z is actually a positive, throwing the rest of the track's brilliance into sharper relief, I guess. The track's current seven-week reign in the US means we should also be inching towards "Umbrella" saturation soon, but one of Lynskey's reasons to hold out is peculiarly British: the endless rain that has apparently been pouring down on the UK all summer makes the song seem oddly relevant. Interestingly enough, the rain has been so bad that an Ireland radio station that's been playing my Snow Police mash-up got in touch with me to do a mash-up commission (in an apparent attempt to break the curse of the summer storms): a combo of "Umbrella" with any song about sun, or warmth, or drought, or dryness of any sort. I gave it a try with "Walkin' on Sunshine," but it didn't really work. Sorry, waterlogged Irish kids…

Gnarls Barkley Talks New Album, Barely

| Mon Jul. 16, 2007 1:03 PM PDT

mojo-photo-gnarls2.JPG

Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton) gave an interview to Billboard recently to discuss the upcoming sophomore effort from Gnarls Barkley, but didn't say, or offer, very much. He apparently went back on a promise to play multiple songs from the new album, instead offering to play only one, from his personal iPod, and don't look at it or ask any questions:

"I can play the song now or after the interview," he says. "I'm not going to talk about the song, so it doesn't matter when I play it. And I can't tell you the name of the song, either."

Urp. He also refuses to give a name or possible release date for the new album (the follow-up to last year's surprise hit, the 1.3-million-selling St. Elsewhere). Idolator muses that perhaps he's "cracking a little under the pressure," but this kind of secrecy worked for "Crazy:" mp3s of the track began circulating in late 2005 without a title attached, an acapella of Cee-Lo's vocal was never released or distributed (despite voracious demand from bootleggers eager to pull a Grey Album on Danger Mouse), and it took months for bloggers to track down the original sample. While "Crazy" was a once-in-a-lifetime slice of brilliance, perhaps Burton's tactic of resisting the internet age's mantra of "everything you wanted to know (and even things you didn't want to know) all the time" is an astute strategy for hit-making. We'll see whenever the new album comes out.


Neato Viddys on the Intertubes

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 5:32 PM PDT

In this edition: Prog rockers! Cartoon ladies! Hot rappers! And, um, Courtney Love!

Battles - "Atlas" (from Mirrored on Warp)
In which the quartet perform their neo-post-electro-prog-punk track (that sounds something like Helmet being remixed live by Aphex Twin over a Gary Glitter beat) in what appears to be a glass box floating through space

Mark Ronson - "Oh My God" (from Version on Columbia)
In which a young man develops an interest in a sexy young... cartoon. She's not bad, she's just drawn that way

Lil' Wayne - Rap City Freestyle (performed live on BET's Rap City, 4/20/07)
In which the Miami-via-New Orleans rapper takes a breather from guesting on every single track in the whole world to prove why he's in demand, with an awe-inspiring off-the-cuff live performance over a syrupy reggae-inflected beat

Courtney Love - "Pacific Coast Highway" (live at Bush Hall, London, 7/9/07; from the forthcoming Nobody's Daughter on Universal)
In which the often-troubled singer, currently on a "low-key" tour to familiarize her band with new songs, gives a London audience a glimmer of what was so compelling about her music ten years ago

Deadline Looming for Webcasters... Or Not

| Fri Jul. 13, 2007 4:13 PM PDT

mojo-photo-radiosilence.jpgAs the Sunday (July 15) due date for internet broadcasters to pay new royalty rates approaches, it's still not clear who will be left on the web on Monday. The new rates, as we've discussed here before, follow a Copyright Royalty Board ruling earlier this year specifying higher per-listener-per-song rates paid to artists and labels retroactive to January, 2006, potentially putting webcasters large and small out of business. There are some last-minute developments; first, on Wednesday a federal appeals court denied a petition from webcasters hoping to delay the rate increase. Then, late on Thursday night, two U.S. representatives introduced a bill that would at least postpone the Copyright Board ruling, although Billboard quotes sources as saying "it's unlikely this bill could or would be passed quickly."

The unlikely coalition of companies like Yahoo, AOL, and Viacom (who say 47 percent their 2006 revenue would go to the new royalties) with independent webcasters like BAGeL Radio and noncommercial stations like KCRW makes parsing the situation a bit difficult; are big corporations just trying to get out of paying artists what their music is worth by raising the flag of "musical diversity?" On the other hand, KCRW's own Celia Hirschmann reports (pdf link) that SoundExchange, the RIAA offshoot that advised the Copyright Board on the new rules, has engaged in some shady tactics of its own, like proposing a "compromise" proposal that required webcasters to abandon support for new rules in the meantime.

In any event, Billboard again quotes their super-secret sources as saying there is "no present intention" to enforce the new rules: the new rates are apparently a "right" the artists and labels will hold, but whether to exercise it or not will be up to them. Unless they do so, webcasters large and small will still be on your computers on Monday.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

The Webpage at the End of the Internet

| Thu Jul. 12, 2007 11:45 AM PDT

I recently discovered the life-changing invention that is Google Reader and its "Next" bookmark. (Google Reader is a feed reader that allows you to aggregate blogs and news feeds using Really Simple Syndication (RSS). (Including this blog, by the way). But the real revolution is the "Next" bookmark, which you slide onto your bookmarks toolbar and use to jump around the internet from blog to blog, reading every unread item on the blogs whose feeds you subscribe to. That means I can jump from reading the newest post on the Blue Marble to reading the newest MoJo Blog post with unprecedented ease.

There's only one problem, as far as I can see. If you run out of new items on the blogs you've subscribed to, you get to the end of the internet. Then what are you going to do? I guess when that happens, it's time to pick up your print copy of the magazine and start reading the old-fashioned way.

—Nick Baumann

Look At Madonna's Eyes, Not At Her Guitar

| Tue Jul. 10, 2007 6:28 PM PDT

mojo-photo-madonnalive.JPGOkay, one last Live Earth post. Two mini-scandals are emerging from Madonna's appearance at the London show: First, as the Telegraph puts it, debate is "raging" on the internet about whether Madge was actually playing the guitar during "Ray of Light," or, rather, whether her guitar was plugged in. A quick viewing of the video on YouTube seems to debunk that rumor—or else somebody's backstage playing two chords really sloppily. Second, and possibly weirder, are reports that Madonna insisted interviewers maintain eye contact with her at all times, and that they "never look down to check notes – all questions must be memorized or the interview will be terminated." Ulp! Don't the high-and-mighty usually demand no eye contact? I'm so confused.

Blog Gives Away Free Radiohead Covers

| Tue Jul. 10, 2007 5:49 PM PDT

mojo-cover-okx.JPG
…that don't suck! Stereogum, the venerable Sufjan-loving (and, in the interest of full disclosure, me-tolerating) music blog, has put together a song-by-song covers album of Radiohead's 1997 masterpiece OK Computer, and made all the tracks available for free. Even rival site Pitchfork seems to like the new versions, performed by artists like Doveman, Cold War Kids, and The Twilight Sad. Head over to the "OKX: A Tribute to OK Computer" page to grab the mp3s and see what the artists had to say about them. My recommendations? SF favorite John Vanderslice's synthy update of "Karma Police" (mp3), and Marissa Nadler & Black Hole Symphony's breathy take on "No Surprises" (mp3).

Wait, I Thought You Invited Oasis

| Tue Jul. 10, 2007 12:20 PM PDT

mojo-photo-blairgallagher.JPG In the wake of Labour's triumph in the 1997 UK general election, few images seemed as symbolic of the shift in regimes as this photograph of Tony Blair with Oasis guitarist and vocalist Noel Gallagher at a music industry reception at 10 Downing Street. Oasis were at the peak of their popularity, and their narrative as a "real band" who hit the big time seemed to match up perfectly with Blair's image as a new kind of politician. But, whoops: it turns out it was all an accident.

British music newspaper NME reports that the just-published diaries of Blair spokesman Alistair Campbell reveal Blair had "no idea" how Gallagher had been invited, and was worried he might "do something crazy," in that way rock 'n' roll stars do. Desperate calls were made to Alan McGee, manager of Oasis' label Creation Records, for assurances Gallagher would behave; McGee promised, but said it was a good thing they hadn't invited lead singer Liam instead.

The Guardian has already reported how "Cool Britannia's" union of Britpop and Labour was a marriage of convenience; this kind of seals that deal, although it does make Oasis seem a bit cooler in retrospect: Noel crashed Tony Blair's party!

Hey, let's watch some Oasis videos after the jump.