• R.E.M. are putting the finishing touches on their new album with producer Jacknife Lee, their first since 2004. "Working rehearsal" shows in Dublin pointed towards a more straightforward, guitar-based sound on the new material, which Mike Mills confirmed to Billboard magazine, saying the band is using fewer overdubs and keyboards. The as-yet-unnamed album is set for release in 2008.
  • U2 are totally copying them! Their new album, also their first since 2004, is being rehearsed, according to producer Daniel Lanois, and set for a 2008 release as well. Lanois said Brian Eno is also involved in both writing and producing the material; some of the band's best albums, including The Unforgettable Fire and Achtung Baby, were produced by this duo, although their most recent album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, was mainly produced by Steve Lillywhite.
  • Will Apple announce the arrival of the Beatles catalog to the iTunes music service on Wednesday, September 5th, at their "special event" in San Francisco? The ads say "The Beat Goes On," and Ringo's solo work was added to iTunes today.
  • The sad Amy Winehouse saga gets slightly sadder: Bookmaker Ladbrokes has lowered the singer's odds to win the UK Mercury Music Prize, for which she was the frontrunner. Bat For Lashes' Fur and Gold is now the favorite, with 9-4 odds, compared to Winehouse's 11-4.
  • Radiohead Kid A
    Bloggers are blogging that certain songs on Radiohead's 2000 album Kid A can be, er, enhanced by playing two copies of the CD together, one of them delayed by 17 seconds. Some fans are claiming Thom Yorke has said this mysterious phenomenon is "intentional." As someone who's gone on record as being amused by unlikely juxtapositions, I'm game for this: okay, internet, try me.

    The Modern Age has three sample tracks posted, and I gave them each a listen. "Everything in its Right Place (17 Second Delay Version)" comes out, um, muddy and ridiculous; "Kid A" actually does synch up on the beat, but still just sounds like two songs playing at once; "Morning Bell" not only syncs up, but, I'll admit, actually sounds kind of cool. Hmm. What could it mean?

    Despite my mashuppy history, I've never actually tried watching The Wizard of Oz with Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, although at a party this weekend, the hostess had Hitchcock's "Vertigo" on the TV and a mix CD on the stereo, and when Interpol's sparse, haunting "Pioneer to the Falls" came on, they seemed to go together pretty well. And no, there was nothing funny in the brownies. Anybody have any other secret musical juxtapositions they've enjoyed, either sober or not?

    50 and Hil

    In an interview with MTV News, 32-year-old Curtis James Jackson, otherwise known as rapper 50 Cent, revealed his views on our current president ("he has less compassion than a regular human being") and came out in favor of Hillary in '08, for reasons the candidate might call right and not-so-right:

    I'd like to see Hillary Clinton be president. It would be nice to see a woman be the actual president and ... this is a way for us to have Bill Clinton be president again, and he did a great job during his term.

    While his statement might seem a little self-contradictory, I'll go down on record as feeling a little bit the same way.

    So-called "backpack" rappers like Talib Kweli and Common have been giving shout-outs to Obama in their songs lately (Common's single, "The People," says "My raps ignite the people like Obama") but Hil may have a good strategy by going after the platinum-sellers. The big question is: who will get Lil Wayne on their side.


    We've been covering reunions a bit here on the Riff lately: actual reunions, ones that will never happen, and ones we're hoping for. Sonic Youth, to their great credit, have stayed a band (and a creative, relevant band at that) for almost 30 years, but even they realize that a breakup might have made things more exciting—and more lucrative. In an interview with Spin Magazine, Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore said their greatest career "faux pas" was not breaking up:

    The Pixies reunion was a real success, and Dinosaur Jr. seems like a big success, and both those bands play as good as they ever did. Mission of Burma blew my mind when they came back. But a band like us never did break up. Which was to our own [detriment]. What would have happened if we did break up after Daydream Nation -- or even after Dirty -- and had gotten back together two years ago? You wouldn't be interviewing me here. You'd be interviewing me at the Chateau Marmont as I'm waiting for my limousine. We probably would have made so much money. That was our biggest career faux pas: not breaking up.

    Well, I'm not sure der Yoof would have made Police money, but still, he's probably right—absence makes the heart (and wallet) grow fonder. But with the band continuing to make some of the best music of their career, one hopes they're not seriously considering it. I'll give you $20 to stay together!


    I was surprised by a few things at this past weekend's Beastie Boys performance at San Francisco's Warfield, where the veteran hip-hop/punk band played material from their latest album The Mix-Up. Mainly, I was thrown off by the gray hair and the good manners.

    Members of the Beastie Boys have hit their 40s, so it's no big surprise to see MC and bass player Adam Yauch rockin' the salt and pepper up top. But it wasn't just the gray hair that got me. The Beastie Boys were so damned nice and polite. There was no shit-talking or rabble-rousing, and barely any cursing. The atmosphere was one that made you want to sip tea and dance rather than drink beer and punch the guy next to you. I have to say it was jarring to think that not long ago, I was jumping around like a fool at one of their concerts in a sea of hyped-up break dancing and moshing 20-year-olds.

    That said, I'm not complaining. I dig it. The musicianship of the band is impressive and the songs are loungy and heavy with organ, percussion, wah-wah guitar licks, and lots of echo, reverb, and sci-fi sounds. It's similar to their earlier instrumentals from Check Your Head and The In Sound From Way Out!, but without any semblance of punk rock.

    And the Beasties have traded in their signature Adidas track suits and beanies for old-man suits with pork-pie hats and skinny ties. It's not hip hop, it's mod, all the way. And I'm liking it.

    Towleroad reminds us of a hilarious clip from the brilliant UK TV series "Little Britain" (a US version coming to HBO soon!) that Senator Craig maybe should have watched before formulating his denial. "Little Britain" is edgy but this clip is basically safe for work, unless your boss knows what a "Split Rose" "Spit Roast" is. (That one makes more sense, come to think of it).

    Compare and contrast:

    Chart Beat: Albums

    M.I.A.: KalaTwo weeks ago, I predicted M.I.A.'s Kala would debut at #39 on the Billboard albums chart. How did I do? Well, her sophomore effort spent most of the week in the iTunes Top Ten so it's not surprising I was a little low: Kala landed at #18, ladies and gentlemen, with 29,000 sold the first week. Go, M.I.A.!

    Of course, to put it in perspective, Disney's High School Musical 2 stayed at #1 for a second week, selling, uh, 367,000 copies. Yeah. Moving on, Talib Kweli's Ear Drum sold 60,000 copies, which is good for #2 this week, and Swizz Beatz' debut album as a solo artist lands at #7. Unintentionally (?) hilarious San Diego Christian metalcore outfit As I Lay Dying hits #8 with their fourth album, An Ocean Between Us. Well, at least it's something different.

    Rilo Kiley sold out on Under the Blacklight, and that's good for a #22 debut with 28,000, while New Pornographers stuck to their guns on Challengers and entered the charts at #34, selling 20,000 copies.


    I got my fill of hip hop this year at Rock the Bells, a nationwide hip hop event that graced San Francisco with its presence August 18. I heard so much hip hop that day, that I couldn't listen to any beats and rhymes for days afterward.

    With 19 hip hop groups in the lineup—split between two stages—performing from 11 a.m. past 10 p.m., Rock the Bells was a music marathon.

    The lineup was phenomenal. The Coup rocked harder than any straight-ahead rock band, and Sage Francis turned a rant about portable toilets into poetry. EPMD live was much better than that beat-up cassette tape of theirs I used to listen to in junior high. Mos Def danced with the crowd, The Roots knocked it completely out of the ballpark with a full band and horn section, and Public Enemy, Cypress Hill, Wu-Tang Clan, and Rage Against the Machine were as good now as they were 10 years ago. Three decades of hip hop were all in one place for a day in front of more than 40,000 people, and it was a damn good time.

    But would I go again? Probably not. I think next time, I'll just bring a folding chair and set up right outside the fence. The stage was maybe 50 feet away from the perimeter, and there were three huge television screens mounted on the stage. Yeah, if money's tight, I'll just camp out and watch it all on TV.

    Instant Karma

  • Is Amnesty International's support for abortion rights a problem for Christina Aguilera or Avril Lavigne, both of whom contributed tracks to AI's Instant Karma album, and may or may not be pro-life? The London Sunday Times says "maybe," the Guardian says "balderdash," and then takes it up a notch, skewering the very idea of a resurgence in right-wing rockers. Take that.
  • 78-year-old singer-guitarist Bo Diddley is reportedly stable after suffering a heart attack in Florida. The legendary blues-rock musician also suffered a stroke in May.
  • Lou Reed has recorded a brand new track with Vegas alterna-rock stars The Killers. The song is called "Tranquilize" and will appear on the upcoming compilation of Killers rarities later this year.
  • Okay, fine, everyone else is reporting on this: Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins assured a topless female audience member at the UK's Reading festival on Sunday that "American girls are sluts too."
  • Buju Banton

    Dancehall superstar Buju Banton continued walking a confusing line on the topic of anti-gay lyrics this week, after protests against his appearance at the Reggae Carifest in New York. It has been both confirmed and denied that Banton signed the Reggae Compassionate Act, and this week the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation lodged a protest against Carifest for inclusion of Banton and Bounty Killer for the violently anti-gay lyrics in some of their songs. NY1 talked to Banton about the protest, and he either denied promoting hatred or continued to promote it:

    Banton said has a message for people who say he's promoting hatred. "I would say to them they are ignorant, they are stupid, even though they proclaim to be intelligent," said Banton.

    The New York Times reported Banton did not perform his infamous hit, "Boom Boom Bye" (which contains the lyrics that most upset protestors) at the sparsely-attended festival. NY1 talked to attendees who seemed nonplussed by the affair: "It's just music, so I feel when people make their music they have freedom of speech… I go to gay parade, I come to reggae music, but they don't push us to go out there and bash gay people."