The Riff - September 2007

Led Zeppelin Announce Reunion Show, Crash Website

| Wed Sep. 12, 2007 3:35 PM EDT

Led Zeppelin
As we reported earlier in the rumor stage of things here on the Riff, seminal British rock band Led Zeppelin will reunite for one show only at the 22,000-capacity O2 Arena in London on November 26th. Jason Bonham, son of original drummer John Bonham, will join the three surviving members of the band for a two-hour set. The show will be part of a tribute to Ahment Ertegun, the co-founder of Atlantic Records, who died last year; other performers include The Who's Pete Townsend, Foreigner's Mick Jones and Paolo Nutini, as well as former Rolling Stone Bill Wyman and possibly current Rolling Stone Mick Jagger.

The chance to buy a pair of £125 ($254) tickets was to be awarded via lottery, but the event's website, Ahmettribute.com, crashed within minutes of its 4pm (UK time) opening, and appears to still be offline. In the meantime enjoy a couple Led Zeppelin mashups.

DJ Zebra - Icky Thump (Whole Lotta Thump Mix) (White Stripes vs. Led Zeppelin)
Me - Drop It Like It's a Whole Lotta Love (Led Zeppelin vs. Snoop Dogg)
DJ Moule - "Black Sabotage" (Led Zeppelin vs. Beastie Boys)

Advertise on MotherJones.com

A Brief History of the Corporate Anthem

| Tue Sep. 11, 2007 9:32 PM EDT

Perhaps the stress of putting out a new issue is getting to them, but everyone around the Mother Jones offices has been e-mailing each other cheesy corporate theme songs today. You're all kooks! Some of these are more well-known than others, but it seems a shame not to share them with you, dear Riff readers.

First up, the saga of Nixon Peabody. Once there was a law firm who thought celebrating some good press with a specially-commissioned tune was a great idea, and I guess you know the rest:

Style: '80s soul played by a wedding band
Great line: "There's no disputin'/The folks at Fortune Magazine agree!"

Next, feel the power of KPMG. Their theme song, "Vision of Global Strategy" got a blogger in trouble when he linked to it, back in 2001.
Listen here.
Style: Japanese ballad
Great line: "We'll be number one, with effort and fun!"

This isn't really a corporate theme song, but I remember it as one of the first "Internet memes," back in the early days of this awesomely entertaining series of tubes. Steve Ballmer of Microsoft was filmed at a developers conference, chanting, well, "developers," over and over, and after it was circulated, people began making their own remixes and mashups. Check out the techno mix:

Style: The Prodigy
Great line: when he says "developers" the 293rd time

Don't forget Price Waterhouse Coopers, who burst onto the corporate theme song scene back in 2001 with their hands-in-the-air anthem, "Your World, Our People."
Listen here
Style: What was that Kenny Rogers/Sheena Easton duet?
Great line: "We don't sell no dogma/All we've got is skill"

Finally, of course, late last year, a Bank of America employee was aiming for a raise and put together a little ditty about B of A's merger with MBNA, set to the tune of U2's "One." It's so excruciating, I've never actually sat through the entire thing; if you ever want me to stop being a criminal, clamp my eyes open Clockwork Orange-style and force me to watch this over and over, I'll be a real horrowshow chelovek.

Style: Bono gone bad
Great line: "We've got Bank One on the run/What's in your wallet, it's not Capital One"

Don't forget the level this came to: in November, comedian David Cross covered "One Bank," with Johnny Marr, formerly of the Smiths, before a Modest Mouse show in New York City.

Corporate anthem websites seem to come and go rather quickly as their hosts get hit with ceast-and-desist orders. Hopefully these fine companies have all found their sense of humor by now, ha-ha. Commenters, any other corporate themes out there make you want to abolish capitalism? Or any ideas for a Mother Jones theme song?

Sales of Kanye West's Gradution Appear to be Ahead of 50 Cent's CURTIS

| Tue Sep. 11, 2007 6:30 PM EDT

50 vs. KanyeMomentum seemed to be building in Kanye's favor over the last few weeks in this, the great hip-hop battle of the millenium, but now we have actual statistics to back it up (albeit a pretty small sample from a completely unknown source). HHNLive.com is reporting today's sales figures at all Best Buy stores in the US show Graduation selling 42,438 copies as of 4pm EST; CURTIS has sold 32,640. Not bad.

iTunes has reflected these numbers as well, with pre-orders for Graduation outselling CURTIS all week. Currently, Graduation is lodged at #1 and #4 (the latter being a deluxe edition) with CURTIS at #5; similarly, on iTunes' singles charts, West's "Stronger" is at #1, with 50 Cent's "AYO Technology" at #5.

Albums Out Today and a Word From Critics

| Tue Sep. 11, 2007 5:31 PM EDT

I know that release dates don't mean much these days, what with you kids and your intertubes and bittorrents. But today's a big day for new albums, even if we ignore the 50 Cent/Kanye West/Kenny Chesney showcase showdown. Here's some of the CDs or MP3 collections you can now legally acquire in the United States (listed in order of my personal priorities) as well as representative excerpts from a couple reviews.

Simian Mobile DiscoSimian Mobile Disco - Attack Decay Sustain Release
"Mercifully brief" - Stylus
"Exciting" - Village Voice


Go! TeamThe Go! Team - Proof of Youth
"Brisk" - Billboard
"Brash" - BBC


Animal CollectiveAnimal Collective - Strawberry Jam
"Utopian" - Pitchfork
"Hallucinatory" - NY Times


WileyWiley - Playtime is Over
"Thrilling" - BBC
"Intricate" - Pitchfork


Film SchoolFilm School - Hideout
"Wonderfully off-kilter" - NME
"Moody" - Spin


Hot Hot HeatHot Hot Heat - Happiness Ltd
"Soaring" - Canadian Press
"Expansive" - Entertainment Weekly

Tuesday: Confusing Music News Day

| Tue Sep. 11, 2007 4:20 PM EDT

Coldplay

  • Coldplay have announced some song titles and a, uh, length limit on their upcoming fourth studio album. Yes, this is the "Hispanic" one. Songs being considered include "Lost!" and "Yes!," (shouldn't that be "¡Lost!" and "¡Yes!"?) as well as "Poppy Fields," "Leftrightleftrightleft," and "Cemeteries of London." The band, posting on their website, wrote that the album will last no longer than 42 minutes: "Expect a short, concise record with no fat and at least two top-division songs." No fat? But that's where the flavor is!
  • The White Stripes have canceled their appearance at Austin City Limits on Friday, citing a "nervous breakdown" on the part of drummer Meg White. Aren't publicists just supposed to call this "exhaustion"?
  • Rapper Ja Rule reacts to the upcoming congressional hearings on offensive lyrics in hip-hop by encouraging everyone to look at the real problem: gays on MTV. He tells Complex.com "let's talk about all these f***ing shows that they have on MTV that is promoting homosexuality, that my kids can't watch this s***. Dating shows that's showing two guys or two girls in mid afternoon. If that's not f***ing up America, I don't know what is."
  • Keyboardist Joe Zawinul, who played with Miles Davis and in his own band Weather Report, died today in his hometown of Vienna. Zawinul was voted "best keyboardist" 30 times by Down Beat magazine. He was 75.
  • Appeals Court Set to Hear "Wardrobe Malfunction" Case

    | Tue Sep. 11, 2007 3:07 PM EDT

    Wardrobe Malfunction
    Hey, did anyone hear about this thing? I don't remember it getting much coverage. Back in 2004, I guess one of Michael Jackson's sisters and a Mouseketeer were at the World Series and did a whole song and dance routine where their clothes exploded? It sounds awesome. Honestly, why doesn't the media report on this stuff? It's all "blah blah, indepth reporting on the war and our government's lies." Yawn. Well, apparently this "wardrobe malfunction" is still working its way through our nation's court system: today, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia will hear the case of the exposed bazonga.

    The FCC originally fined CBS $550,000 for the incident, which, if upheld, would be the largest fine ever against a television broadcaster. CBS appealed, saying that they "did not plan the sole part of the performance the FCC says made it indecent, the 'costume reveal'." Right. It seemed like an, er, open-and-shut case, but these days, the FCC's indecency standards are coming under increasing attack, reports Reuters: two courts in New York have rejected the government's policies on indecent speech, specifically, "fleeting expletives." Now there's a good name for a band.

    While the issues work through the courts, the FCC has sat on its hands, or maybe everybody's just watching their mouths: there have been no proposals of fines since March of 2006. You're telling me we could have been ripping each other's clothes off on TV for the last 18 months? Fleeting expletive!

    Advertise on MotherJones.com

    Top Ten Stuff 'n' Things - 9/10/07

    | Tue Sep. 11, 2007 2:00 AM EDT

    In this week's edition: very low bass noises, very high singing, very old school samples, and very weird music from the desert. I'm also very late putting it together, so I'm too tired to try and elucidate a theme from my random picks as usual; if anybody can see one (other than, er, 'pretension"), let me know.

    Gram Rabbit10. Gram Rabbit - "Something Fuzzy" (from RadioAngel and the RoboBeat, out 11/13 on Royal Order)
    (Listen at their MySpace)
    This Joshua Tree-based combo, led by the charismatic Jesika von Rabbit, are known for their quirkiness, but this track finds them a little calmer and more focused. The electro backing buzzes along under Ms. Rabbit's whispered vocals, and then new guitarist Ethan Allen comes in with a straightforward melody, and the song opens up, like driving over a hill into a desert valley.

    Kanye West9. Kanye West feat. Chris Martin - "Homecoming" (from Graduation, out tomorrow on Island Def Jam)
    (Grab an mp3 at Goodnight and Go)
    Okay, okay. Yes, we're all tired of Coldplay, but on this track, Chris Martin just seems to give up and become Phil Collins, and actually it kind of works. In fact, this is basically Genesis' "That's All" with a beat. Anyway, Kanye delivers some heartfelt lines in an ode to his hometown of Chicago, feeling guilty for leaving, and the track's strange mix of emotions proves why Kanye's such a compelling figure in contemporary music, tantrums and all.

    Mock & Toof8. Mock & Toof - "K Choppers" (from the Death From Abroad 12" on DFA)
    Songs on DFA records, whether they're hits from LCD Soundsystem or random 12" singles, share a common thread: an understanding that the depths of disco contain a limitless sonic pallette, and that even a simple track, crafted with care, can be revelatory. Case in point: "K Choppers;" it doesn't do much, except build a kind of spooky, spacey mood over 6 minutes, kind of like a more mellow "Night on Disco Mountain." And that's enough.

    Grit Boys7. Grit Boys feat. Trae & Tum Tum - "I'm Fresh" (single on Mo Betta Grooves) (Listen on their MySpace or iTunes)
    I don't care what they're saying, I don't care what they stand for, I don't care about anything. Alls I know is this song's got a single bass note that slides down a whole octave until resolving itself at a throbbing, speaker-killing frequency, somewhere between whale stomach rumble and earthquake. You don't really get the full effect from the poor-quality MySpace version, and you probably can't hear it on computer speakers, but the next time you're on iTunes and connected to a system with some bass, just give it a try. Boooooowwaaaaammmm.

    Thurston6. Thurston Moore - "Wonderful Witches" (from Trees Outside the Academy, out 9/18 on Ecstatic Peace)
    (grab an mp3 here)
    What separates a Thurston Moore song from a Sonic Youth song? Kim stays home? Is that it? Well, judging from this track, he's a little looser, which makes sense. "Witches" has a shambolic, and oddly quiet feel to it, although it manages to squeeze some great riffs, a feedback freakout, and a big guitar solo into its 2 minutes and 26 seconds.

    50 Cent vs. Kanye: The Oasis vs. Blur of Our Time?

    | Mon Sep. 10, 2007 8:27 PM EDT

    50 Cent & Kanye West
    It's being called the "hip-hop story of the year": both Kanye West and 50 Cent have albums coming out tomorrow, and which one of them ends up on the top spot will determine, I dunno, the future of mankind or something. The whole thing is starting to seem like a little bit of a setup, especially since the two rappers were willing to put aside their differences to pose for the cover of Rolling Stone. That photo kind of makes me want to see them make out, just a little, like the sweatier Hall & Oates cover Idolator pointed out as an apparent inspiration. Anyway, Fiddy is annoying as a personality but great as a rapper, of course, and as Sarah Silverman said in one of the few barely-funny lines in her opening monologue last night, it's "so cute he's still alive." But obviously, you've got to root for Kanye, the underdog: Daft Punk! Takashi Murakami! Three weeks ago, I would have said there was no chance Kanye would take the #1 spot, but with "Stronger" staying strong at iTunes, and the publicity from his MTV performances and antics, perhaps there's been a shift in the zeitgeist.

    It's all reminiscent of The Battle of Britpop, although nowhere near as culturally relevant: back in 1995, arch-rivals Oasis and Blur released singles on the same day, with Blur lead singer Damon Albarn moving the release date of "Country House" up a week to coincide with the release of Oasis' "Roll With It." Back then, Oasis were the Northern working class heroes to Blur's Southern art-school experimenters, and it seemed like the entirety of England (and Anglophiles everywhere) lined up on either side. Blur won the battle easily (outselling Oasis 274,000 to 216,000), but in retrospect, it sure seems like Oasis won the war: the next month, their album (What's the Story) Morning Glory went on to become the 3rd best selling UK album of all time, and the following year, the band played two history-making shows at Knebworth for over 250,000 people, while Blur petered out. Of course Damon Albarn is more succesful than ever with Gorillaz these days, so it all kind of works out.

    If Kanye is Blur (artsy, pretentious) and 50 is Oasis (street-level, boastful), it's possible the outcome might be similar: Kanye wins this battle, via a random alignment of his stars, but looking back, 50 Cent will still be seen as defining his generation of hip-hop. Alternately, a Kanye win might signal the downfall of violent, controversial, cash-obsessed party rap, and the return of the progressive hip-hop sound of the 80s and early 90s. Or maybe they'll both get beaten by Animal Collective, who will ride the success of today's 9.3-rated Pitchfork review to a nation-conquering #1 debut. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to ride my unicorn to Narnia where Dennis Kucinich is president.

    MTV VMAs: Actually About the Music

    | Mon Sep. 10, 2007 4:46 AM EDT

    VMAs

    MTV's Video Music Awards show tonight was, of course, pretty silly. The Las Vegas hotel venue made the event seem more like a corporate convention than a musical event, and the "performances," such as they were, didn't even try to appear live, with many singers forgoing even a fake headset microphone. Britney Spears, as the New York Times said, was "awful":

    Visibly nervous, she tottered around the stage, dancing tentatively and doing nothing that sounded or looked like real live singing. It's too bad, because the song itself, "Gimme More," is a pleasant surprise: brash and sleek and unapologetic.

    And there, the Times finds the point—there was something to enjoy, and perhaps even to love, about this year's VMAs: the music. Fans of progressive electronic sounds and mashuppy remix action must feel disoriented, since all of a sudden, popular music is aimed right at them. Yes, Britney Spears is an embarrassment to humankind, but production-wise, her new song, "Gimme More," is a fascinating, groovy concoction of Timbaland-style dance beats and acid-house bleeps, with what seems like a glance back at my first favorite song ever, Hot Butter's "Popcorn." There's not much of a song there, but the sounds themselves are fantastic, something that was a theme throughout the night. The multi-song "tribute" medley to Timbaland himself (pictured above) proved the producer's sonic brilliance, with his hits mixing into each other like a fast-paced DJ set, although he should probably lay off the 'roids. Between songs, producer of the moment Mark Ronson and a small band performed funky remixes of hit songs by Coldplay, Amy Winehouse, and the Smiths; and of course Kanye West's "Stronger" uses a sample of Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger," although it might have been nice to seem him perform the track in front of an audience instead of squeezed into a hotel suite. Alicia Keys mashed up Stevie Wonder and George Michael, and while 18-year-old Chris Brown's performance was all about copycat Michael Jackson dance moves, the brief interjection of the still-awe-inspiring bassline from Jackson's own "Billie Jean" was pumped up by extra vocals, completing the sense that just about everything we were hearing was being remixed in one way or another. While French duo Justice were nowhere to be found, their music was all over the show, with crunchy techno tracks from their new album covering transitions and walk-ons. On the rock side, there was less to love, except the Foo Fighters and Serge Tankian of System of a Down covering "Holiday In Cambodia," which MTV showed for about 10 seconds.

    Bloggers are saying "Worst VMAs ever," and yes, from a showmanship or entertainment perspective, it was a terrible, sad wreck of a show. Behind the scenes, apparently Kid Rock hit Tommy Lee, and Kanye threw a tantrum over not winning again. Whatever. For those of us who are fans of sound for sound's sake, hearing so many current hits all in one place was oddly inspiring: American popular music may be stranger, engaged in more cross-pollination, and, well, Kraftwerkier than ever. During an acceptance speech, Justin Timberlake dared to bite the hand that feeds with an exhortation to MTV to "play more videos"; if his contemporaries keep making such interesting noise, it's hard not to agree.

    Neato Viddys on the Intertubes: Bugs

    | Fri Sep. 7, 2007 7:11 PM EDT

    From what I understand, the weight of all insects on Earth is more than the weight of everything else in the universe combined, or something. Well, I for one welcome our new insect overlords, and in an attempt to rectify their absence from the music video scene, I've collected some clips starring bugs, about bugs, or featuring a band named after bugs.

    ZZT - "Lower State of Consciousness"
    In which the latest bonkers techno club banger is set to close-up footage of, well, ants; the blipping, buzzing effects end up sounding like communications from the alien-seeming creatures.

    Menomena - "Evil Bee"
    In which the secret of how bees make honey is revealed: they get drunk on flower juice and then barf it up in large factories. Is that right?

    The Bees (Band of Bees) - "Who Cares What the Question Is?"
    In which the UK combo's sunny, Beatles-esque jam accompanies them on a claymation trip around the world

    Osaka Popstar - "Insects"
    In which the indie band's novelty hit is given a cute lo-fi animated treatment, with the band played by puppies pursued by scary bugs. Better watch out.

    Gnarls Barkley - "Gone Daddy Gone"
    And this semi-oldie but goodie, in which the band, as wee tiny buggies, proves life can be tough even for the chitinous.

    Any more I missed, commenters?