The Riff - August 2007

Bruce Springsteen Announces Fall Tour, Free Download of New Single

| Tue Aug. 28, 2007 12:51 PM EDT

Bruce
The New Jersey rocker (who's seemingly a bigger influence than ever lately) has announced his first tour with the E Street Band in four years, set to kick off in October, in Hartford, Connecticut. Their new album, Magic, is out October 4th, but they're offering the first single free for a week from iTunes (and various other websites who've taken the initiative). "Radio Nowhere" is a driving, reverby, uptempo number, kind of like "Jenny (867-5309)" except about 100 times ballsier. The UK Guardian says it's like "Springsteen singing Interpol," and while I'm not sure I'd go that far, it's pretty good. Download it from iTunes or grab an mp3 from the Guardian.

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Top Ten Stuff 'n' Things - 8/27/07

| Mon Aug. 27, 2007 11:53 PM EDT

In this edition of the Top Ten: some French techno, as usual, plus French-Canadian hip-hop, as well as some hip-hop made by ladies, although they're not French or French-Canadian. Plus a mashup with a French band too! And, if you think about it, you can probably see the moon in France, although I have no proof of this either way. Actually, maybe I do.

I Heart Moon10. The Moon (from The Sky, available outside your house)
Well, I just took that picture there out my window, and you can't really tell since my camera's pretty cheap, but tonight's moon seems extra bulbous and psycho bright, perhaps in anticipation of being eclipsed in just a few hours. I was reminded of Laurie Anderson's "Sharkey's Day," although she was talking about the sun, "like a big bald head / rising up over the grocery store."

9. Parts & Labor - "The Gold We're Digging" (video)

Supposedly this clip took endless hours to shoot, considering each alteration of the background color blocks meant another take, really. The end product is a little like "Fell In Love With A Girl" divided by "Everybody Wang Chung Tonight," both hypnotic and spastic. Thankfully the song is also kind of like that, a noisy double-time stomper that's somewhat reminiscent of Joy Division.

Jay Deelicious8. The Pharcyde / J Dilla - "Runnin'" (from Jay Deelicious on Delicious Vinyl)
(iTunes link)
Originally on the LA hip-hop group's fantastic 1995 album Labcabincalifornia, this was one of my favorite tracks of that year, before I had any idea who Jay Dee / J Dilla was. Of course, now I know he produced it, and while Delicious Vinyl's altering the credits on these tracks to read "J Dilla and The Pharcyde" is a little silly, it's nice to see they're alerting people to the impact he had on hip-hop. Plus there's instrumental versions!

Vitalic7. Vitalic - "The 30,000 Feet Club" (from V Live, out 9/18 on Different/Pias)
(mp3 via Kids by Colette, or listen on his MySpace)
Before Justice stole the fire, Vitalic was France's great techno hope. 2005's brilliant OK Cowboy presaged the current crop of electronic CDs that actually cohere as full-length albums. Plus, live, he's actually pretty interesting, and he's beating Daft Punk to the punch by releasing a live recording of a performance in Belgium last year. This is one of the new tracks from that set, a propulsive, buzzing number that seems to fall out of tune now and then, only to resolve itself with greater energy.

Payroll6. Payroll - "Daft Prayer" (Daft Punk vs. Bon Jovi) (mp3 via his site)
I know, something Daft Punky has to be in every Top Ten it seems like, but this is really worth it. UK bootlegger Payroll basically leaves Bon Jovi's "Livin' On a Prayer" alone (since it's perfect as is, natch) and cheekily cuts up "Around the World" to fit, creating a combo that's both an awesome dance remix of Bon Jovi and a great way to enjoy both songs at once.

Kelly Clarkson Helps Teens Realize Pain of Adulthood

| Mon Aug. 27, 2007 3:13 PM EDT

Flipping channels last night, I headed for Fox in search of some rerun Family Guy, and was confronted with the Teen Choice Awards. Normally, nothing could make me hit a button—any button!—on the remote more quickly, but I'm not sure what happened. Maybe I had set the remote down to eat a snack before I realized what I was watching, or maybe I saw David Boreanaz smirking his way through an intro and got flustered, but I suddenly found myself watching a live performance by Kelly Clarkson. The American Idol winner has been in the news lately since her apparent rumbles with Clive Davis over her new album, My December; the singer wrote most of the album herself and Davis didn't like it, I guess. The single, "Never Again," has been floating around the Billboard charts for a while, but I'd never actaully heard it, and her performance of it last night illustrated the conundrum perfectly: as the camera cut to an audience of shrieking teens and pre-teens, Clarkson and her band performed a driving, passionate, minor-key rock song. Clarkson reached into the upper registers of her voice to deliver lyrics that laid bare the agony of heartbreak with uncomfortable autobiographical references: "Bet it sucks/To see my face everywhere." Erp! The chorus avoids an obvious hook and instead just ups the emotional level from "fiery" to "conflagration," and overall the song is reminiscent of, I dunno, Heart's "Barracuda" or something. It's not great, or even that good, really, but her voice was flawless, and the performance was intense and affecting. However, the kids in the audience had looks in their eyes like the Tooth Fairy had just picked up a chain saw. Davis is probably right about the material's accessibility, but Clarkson may be headed somewhere far more interesting.

My Bloody Valentine to Reunite?

| Mon Aug. 27, 2007 2:25 PM EDT

My Bloody Valentine
It's reunion mania! Remember in that post on the Smiths below where I said they're one of the last major defunct bands of the past 30 years who haven't gotten back together? Well, right there next to them stands My Bloody Valentine, a band whose fans erupt into seizures of glee at the mere mention of a possible reconciliation. Rumors are swirling that the band will come together at 2008's Coachella festival, reports Billboard magazine. While such rumors have popped up before previous Coachellas, it seems slightly more likely this time: first, the producers of the event have finalized a continuation of their contract with the polo fields in Indio, something that was apparently not guaranteed; second, there's basically nobody left who hasn't played; and third, the wild success off the Daft Punk tour proves an appearance at Coachella can re-launch a career. The booker for Coachella and a My Bloody Valentine representative both declined comment to Billboard.

Now legendary, the British-Irish combo (led by American-born Kevin Shields) had humble origins. They produced only two albums (1988's Isn't Anything and 1991's Loveless, above) and were part of a tangential British genre: "shoegaze," which, like most artistic movements, got its name from a mocking journalist, in this instance describing the bands' tendencies to stare at their effects pedals rather than engage the audience. However, the second of those two albums exploded across the music world like a fuzzy pink bomb. Marrying the thick, distorted sound of The Jesus & Mary Chain to the abstraction and delicate beauty of the Cocteau Twins, Loveless was a revelation, but critical and popular acceptance took a few years, by which time the band had fallen apart. Shields, in his own words, went "crazy" and isolated himself, while the other members drifted away, and the band's label, Creation records, was forced by financial problems into partnership with Sony, eventually dissolving.

In the meantime, Loveless has seemingly become all the more treasured as time goes by and a repeat performance seems less and less likely. Shields has emerged now and then, dropping hints about new material or a possible reunion. Whether the desert will swoon to the sounds of classic dream-pop next spring, we'll have to wait and see.

Some videos from Loveless after the jump.

Freaky Friday Music News

| Fri Aug. 24, 2007 3:58 PM EDT

The Nuge is On Fire

  • Ted Nugent confirms his insanity by going on an onstage rant in which he describes various acts certain Democrats could perform with the machine guns that he happened to be brandishing at the time. The profanity-filled clip (definitely NSFW) features the Nuge calling Barack Obama a "piece of s***... I told him to suck on my machine gun," and offering Hillary Clinton the opportunity to "ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless b****." More disturbingly, the crowd goes wild. Other politicians get a shout-out as well, and then he caps it off by hollering "Freedom!" Wow.
  • Jeez, more bad Amy Winehouse news? Do I have to write about it? You say it drives readership in key target demos? Fine. Well, she and her boyfriend apparently beat the crap out of each other, and then she said she did it to herself, despite the photographic evidence of them both looking utterly destroyed. The UK's Daily Mail published the photos. (Also possibly NSFW if you don't like bruises or blood or feeling really sad).
  • In less, um, tabloid-oriented news, MTV and MySpace will host "real-time, one-on-one presidential dialogues" where candidates will, I guess, text you abbreviated answers to questions like "WHR R U AT," or something. The first one, with John Edwards, is to be aired on MTV and webcast on MySpace on September 27th. (MTV News)
  • The tracklisting for Bob Dylan's elaborate box set, appropriately titled Dylan, has been determined, and published by Billboard. The compilation will be available in multiple versions including a cloth-covered box complete with lithograph prints and replica LP sleeves. The recent Mark Ronson remix of "Most Likely You'll Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)" will not be featured on any of the CDs but will be released on iTunes starting September 18. (Billboard)
  • Pras: Fugees Reunion Will Never Happen

    | Fri Aug. 24, 2007 3:14 AM EDT

    Ex-Fugees

    Rapper Pras, one-third of defunct hip-hop trio The Fugees, says a reunion of the acclaimed trio is off the table, due to the erratic behavior of singer Lauryn Hill. Pras, who along with Hill and Wyclef Jean rose to fame with the 1996 album The Score and its ubiquitous cover of "Killing Me Softly," told Allhiphop.com that there is "no way" a reunion will happen, and used an amusing political metaphor to illustrate his point:

    Before I work with Lauryn Hill again, you will have a better chance of seeing Osama Bin Laden and Bush in Starbucks having a latte, discussing foreign policies, before there will be a Fugees reunion. At this point I really think it will take an act of God to change her, because she is that far out there.

    Mmm, latte. Hill made news recently with bizarre shows in Oakland and Brooklyn, where she arrived hours late and performed unrecognizable arrangements of her classic material. Both Wyclef and Pras had expressed interest in bringing the trio back together, but apparently it's not working out. The Smiths, The Fugees... why can't everybody just get along?

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    Morrissey Says "No" Again to Smiths Reunion

    | Thu Aug. 23, 2007 8:38 PM EDT

    Oh, Mozzer...
    In more Morrissey-related news, sit down. Think of the person you hate most in the world, and then think how much money it would take for you to hang around with him or her for, I dunno, a few weeks. What do you say, 50 grand? A million? Howabout $75 million? Well, Morrissey is made out of stronger stuff than you and I, as Billboard is reporting the Mozzer has turned down £40 million to tour as The Smiths, the only requirement being the inclusion of guitarist Johnny Marr. That's right, drummer Mike Joyce, who was awarded £1 million in a 1998 lawsuit against Marr and Morrissey for unfair distribution of royalties, doesn't even have to be included, and Morrissey still said no. What's the deal?

    Well, maybe he's holding out for more cash. With bands from The Police to The Pixies reaping huge profits from reunion tours, The Smiths are one of the only major bands of the last 30 years (whose members are all still alive) who refuse to put their differences aside. The price can only go up, really. Hold out for $200 mil, Moz!

    Worth the Wait? Harper Lee Breaks Decades of Silence

    | Thu Aug. 23, 2007 7:45 PM EDT

    After forty years of fame, Harper Lee, author of the beloved American classic To Kill a Mockingbird, uttered her first words in public. At the Alabama Academy of Honor induction ceremony Monday, the 81-year-old writer said, "Well it's better to be silent than to be a fool."

    Lee has spoken with only a handful of reporters since the 1960 publication of her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. She briefly emerged earlier this year to present awards to winners of the To Kill a Mockingbird essay contest. In recent years, she has been portrayed on screen by Catherine Keener in Capote (2005) and Sandra Bullock in Infamous (2006).

    Lee's years of silence have maintained an aura of mystery around her. After selling 10,000,000 copies of a book denouncing racism, she declined to offer up any political opinions. The audience of fellow Alabamans that heard Lee speak that one droll sentence yesterday did not fail to grasp the significance of the moment: they met her witticism with laughter and a standing ovation.

    — Ellen Charles

    Will Too Much Joy Division Love Tear You Apart?

    | Thu Aug. 23, 2007 2:14 PM EDT

    Joy Division
    Will it make your new dawn fade? Will it cause you to lose control? I can keep going! No? Alright, fine. Legendary post-punk Manchester four-piece Joy Division had an all-to-brief run, playing their first gig (as Warsaw) in 1977, and releasing only two full-length albums, 1979's Unknown Pleasures and 1980's Closer, before lead singer Ian Curtis committed suicide in May, 1980. While the remaining members continued (continue?) as New Order, Joy Division gained far more attention after Curtis' death, with at least four major collections of their work gaining wide release. But now, the Joy Division publicity machine is about to kick into an even higher gear.

    Not one, but two Joy Division-themed films are set for release in the upcoming months. First up, Pitchfork reports that a documentary, helpfully titled Joy Division, will premiere at the Toronto Film Festival next month. Then there's Control, the Anton Corbijn-directed profile of Curtis, currently playing festivals and set for limited release in the US in October. NME says that the band's most well-known single, "Love Will Tear Us Apart," will get a re-release in the UK ahead of Control's premiere (this whole recycling-singles phenomenon being a distinctly British phenomenon), and that the band's two studio albums, as well as Still, the live/rarities collection, will get remastered and repackaged for re-release on September 10th.

    So here's the question: how much attention to a defunct band is too much? Nobody loves Joy Division more than me, but even I feel a little strange about "Love Will Tear Us Apart" being tossed in with Mika and Plain White T's to see where it'll land in the Top 40. On the other hand, anything that helps introduce the band to a new generation is worth it, right? Give us your comments: has your favorite musician been glorified or diminished by extensive posthumous publicity?

    Neato Viddys on the Intertubes

    | Wed Aug. 22, 2007 7:41 PM EDT

    Hey, it's a Movie Trailers Edition, specifically, Trailers for Upcoming Movies that Have Something to Do With Music!

    I'm Not There (out October 21st)
    The Todd Haynes-directed Bob Dylan biopic in which Bob is played by (deep breath) Marcus Carl Franklin, Ben Whishaw, Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, Richard Gere, and Cate Blanchette. Also, David Cross as Alan Ginsburg. For real.

    Walk Hard (out in December)
    The Judd Apatow-produced biopic parody starring John C. Reilly as musician Dewey Cox. "I do believe in you… I just know you're gonna fail!"