The Riff - October 2007

Tuesday Spews Music News Day

| Tue Oct. 16, 2007 7:05 PM EDT

Newsy News

  • U2 are planning Ireland's first skyscraper, which they will call "The U2 Tower." The nearly 400-foot structure will be designed by Norman Foster; the band's new studios will occupy the building's peak. Doesn't this sound like a cartoon? Will they have superpowers? Presumably to help fund this venture, the band are releasing special 20th-anniversary editions of The Joshua Tree next month. That was 20 years ago? Ugh.

  • J Dilla fans are being asked to support Lupus research by joining the Alliance for Lupus Research's walkathons. The events, set to take place later this month in cities around the U.S., will feature "J Dilla Project teams." The ground-breaking hip-hop producer died from the disease in 2006.
  • Relive the magic that was Live Earth with a CD/DVD package out November 20th from Warner Brothers, and a digital version hitting the intertubes two weeks earlier. Free Nobel Prize with purchase.
  • Rapper Nas has caused a bit of a stir by announcing he will call his next album, ahem, Nigga. The LP is set for a December release. The New York artist told MTV he'd planned to use the title for his last album, but instead decided on Hip-Hop Is Dead.
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    Top Ten Stuff 'n' Things - 10/15/07

    | Mon Oct. 15, 2007 11:45 PM EDT

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    This week, French techno duos get silly, Joy Division gets the dub treatment, Beirut gets, uh, weird, and who likes Radiohead? Everybody likes Radiohead!

    10. Daft Punk & Various Artists – 10-Minute Louis Vuitton Fashion Show Score (Video below, audio at Discobelle)
    Where do they get the time for all this stuff? This stripped-down mix features rearranged Daft Punk hits as well as sly references to Kanye, Justice and Ratatat; it almost makes me kind of care about the silly fashions. What's next, Daft Punk score the Chili Cookoff?

    9. Justice – "D.A.N.C.E." (Live on Jimmy Kimmel, 10/9/07)
    In the biggest electro-prank since the KLF had a metal group perform for them at the BRIT awards in 1992, Justice thumb their nose at pseudo-live performances, standing off to the side of the stage as a variety of Hollywood Boulevard celebrity impersonators mime along to the song. Look, it's Stevie Wonder on drums!

    Jah Division8. Jah Division – "Heart and Soul" (mp3 at The Social Registry or listen at Jah Division's MySpace)
    Okay here's what a nerd I am: hearing this buzzy, dubby cover instantly reminded me that New Order and reggae have come together at least once before: on the phenomenal "silver" Peel Sessions EP, where they do an extended cover of Keith Hudson's "Turn the Heater On." Man, so good! I'll have to get an mp3 up of that next week. Anyway this is good too.

    Underworld7. Underworld – "Crocodile" (from Oblivion With Bells on Different Records)
    (mp3 from Are You Light Green)
    What a long strange trip it's been for the British electronic combo. After lineup (and life) changes, it's surprising to realize this is only their fifth studio album in their "Mark 2" incarnation. They used to excel at a kind of ecstatic, hands-in-the-air release, but times have changed, and now they're more thoughtful. "Crocodile" has their standard driving beat, but Karl Hyde's filtered vocals are melancholy: "All these things/In me," he sings, unable to name them.

    Cut Copy6. Cut Copy – "So Haunted" (from In Ghost Colours out in March, 2008 on Modular)
    (Stream at The Fader)
    Australia's Cut Copy made a great, underappreciated album in 2004, Bright Like Neon Love, whose fashionable cover helped it get lumped in with all the other minimal electro/rock of that heady year, but the surprisingly solid songwriting made it something special. Now they're back, and, jeez, kind of different. "Haunted," for its first 2/3, is a full-on rock song, making the sweeping electronic breakdown all the more exciting. Plus, major bonus points for use of the tinkling xylophone we heard on LCD Soundsystem's "Someone Great."

    Monday Music Blog Roundup

    | Mon Oct. 15, 2007 4:37 PM EDT

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  • My Old Kentucky Blog rounds up all the "Umbrella" covers. Tegan & Sara, Mandy Moore, Plain White Ts, Dresden Dolls? Check, check, check, check.
  • Diplo is "journaling" his DJ tour, and his adventures include drunken stage-falls in Baltimore, Russian bootleg CDs, and, apparently, hanging out in the Amazon with his dad.
  • Idolator finds a strong candidate for the "Worst Village Voice Media Music Writer" award. Ooh, it's so hard to choose!
  • Abba to Zappa ranks the Top Ten Right-Wing Rockers. Elvis, Ted Nugent, we knew about, but Tony Hadley of Spandau Ballet?! I did not know this much is true-hoo-hoo.
  • Led Zeppelin to Be Available Digitally; Bulge Now Available in the Times

    | Mon Oct. 15, 2007 3:26 PM EDT

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    One of the last digital holdouts are finally giving up and joining Soulja Boy, Feist and Britney Spears in the exciting new world of online music sales, reports the New York Times. Led Zeppelin resisted digital sales for years, but a new set of contractual agreements with their label, Warner/Chappell, now includes downloads. Their catalog will be available on iTunes starting November 13th, but Verizon Wireless gets first dibs, somehow, with what the Times calls "mobile features" available starting this week. One can only hope those mobile features will include phone screen savers featuring the crotch bulge of Jimmy Page, which the Times apparently wanted to get in its hallowed pages so desperately they used a shot that the photographer couldn't even remember the date for.

    The Times has a couple choice quotes about the band; first, David Dorn, the senior vice president of Rhino Entertainment, gushes a bit optimistically about them, saying:

    "The great thing about this band, unlike almost any other band that you could think of, is that every single day there is a new 13-year-old kid who's just starting to get into music" and will discover the group.

    Call me crazy, but aren't 13-year-olds listening to High School Musical these days? Later in the article, the music supervisor for School of Rock boasts of licensing the band's music for the film, calling them "the holy sound of the temple of rock." Jeez, he's been spending a little too much time around Jack Black.

    Anyway, as we've covered here before, the surviving members of Led Zeppelin will reunite November 26 for a show in London; Jimmy Page promises two extra socks will be stuffed down his pants for the occasion.

    Friday? Have Some Pie and Music News Day

    | Fri Oct. 12, 2007 1:16 PM EDT

    Music News

  • Snoop Dogg will be picking up trash and cleaning toilets in an Orange County park as part of his sentence for weapons possession after trying to board a plane with a collapsible baton in his luggage. While Snoop was able to choose his community service option, he was restricted from any choices where he would be "glorified in the eyes of children," according to the district attorney.
  • Madonna is set to close a ginormous deal with concert promoter Live Nation, in what is being called the first agreement of its kind. The new contract, reportedly worth $120 million, includes payments for three albums as well as tours, and all of this is after she finishes out her contract at Warner, whom she still owes a new album and greatest-hits package. That's a lotta Madonna.
  • Portishead's irascible Geoff Barrow apparently disagrees with Radiohead's recent decision to allow flexible-priced downloads of their new album. He wrote on Portishead's website, "If you can get our album for nothing or very little, does that mean I can get my boiler fixed for free?" You're in Portishead, don't you get everything for free? He also revealed that the band are in the mixing stage of their long-awaited third album, and you'll get free plumbing with every copy.
  • Kanye West has announced he's been working on music with Michael Jackson, saying (somewhat defensively) to the London Sun that "If I like…what a person brings to the table then I'll speak to them," and then, one can assume, adding, "even if they're a creepy alleged child molester." Jackson recently sent a letter to his European fan club telling them to anticipate "exciting and surprising news." Like anything could surprise us at this point. You can bend spoons with your mind?
  • Best Music Videos Ever?

    | Thu Oct. 11, 2007 10:49 PM EDT

    Best Videos Ever?
    The UK Guardian responds to a poll naming Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" the best music video ever with their own, "alternate" Top Ten; but honestly, both of them miss the mark. "Rhapsody" is a great song and the video was, indeed, one of the first videos, but best? It was followed in the poll by Michael Jackson's "Thriller," and again, I got excited about it when I was 11, but in retrospect it seems pretty ridiculous. The Guardian's list, on the other hand, includes REM's "Losing My Religion," which was apparently inspired by some highbrow art, but always seemed pretty boring to me, and Daft Punk's "Da Funk," whose man-with-dog-head concept gets old after about 15 seconds. So, DJ with the silly name, what are the best videos ever? Off the top of my head, here's a few ideas, in various categories.

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    Fox Pulls Plug on Buffy Sing-along

    | Thu Oct. 11, 2007 9:13 PM EDT

    mojo-photo-buffy.jpgThe most underappreciated TV series ever just got, uh, less appreciated? New York reports that Fox has shut down a theatrical "sing-along" tour of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's musical episode, "Once More, With Feeling." Tour creator Clinton McClung apparently had the legal clearances for the events, which had been taking place over the past year (including a recent San Francisco stint), and also had the tacit support of show creator Joss Whedon. However, apparently Fox had some issue with, you know, TV shows in movie theaters or something. McClung speculates that despite his securing permission for the shows, "someone who is supposed to get paid when these things get screened wasn't."

    The episode, for the uninitiated, featured a demon of some sort whose arrival in Sunnydale causes the locals to burst into song-and-dance routines, and then burst into flame. Not only were the songs actually pretty catchy, but since the spell also caused people to sing out their innermost feelings, the plot got moved along quite a bit as well. Like: turns out Willow cast a spell to make Tara forget their argument! And Buffy was in heaven! If you don't know what I'm talking about, buy all the DVDs right now and take a week off from work to watch them.

    About 10 minutes of "Once More, With Feeling" is on YouTube:

    These audience-participation showings have become more and more popular lately, but usually with movies, making clearances a non-issue. Either way, your chance to raise your voice along with the second-greatest episode of one of the greatest TV shows ever is gone, although hopefully just temporarily: you can sign a petition online to support the tour.

    First Listen (Finally!): Radiohead - In Rainbows

    | Thu Oct. 11, 2007 3:56 PM EDT

    mojo-photo-inrainbowscover.jpgOkay, after much ado, your intrepid reporter with the silly DJ name was able to download the new Radiohead album In Rainbows (for which I paid £5), and my first reaction is it's worth the trouble. The title at first put me off a little; its girlish cutesiness (will the next CD be called With Unicorns?) seemed to combine with the whole "almost-free mp3" thing to give the album an air of disposability. Was it all going to sound like homemade blog-house?

    Perhaps this image was intended as contrast, since the music itself is more organic and, well, rock than the band has been in a while, a 180-degree turn from Kid A, the band's most electronic release. Even "All I Need," which nods to downtempo experimenters Boards of Canada in its synth-y bassline, turns out to be almost a traditional love song, with live-sounding drums and piano as well as a soulful side to Thom Yorke's vocals we haven't really heard before. "Soulful" is, in fact, the operative word here; there's the Motown-style reverb and falsetto crooning on "Reckoner," and the Beck-like acoustic number "Faust Arp."

    Not that it's anything but Radiohead. I've always said the band sounds like they're making music to be sent into space as an artifact of a dying-off human race, and the usual bleak majesty and immense mournfulness haven't gone anywhere. But when the three-chord pattern from Paul McCartney & Wings' "Silly Love Songs" pops up, you know this isn't "Idioteque." It may even grab some new fans who found the band's screaming intensity rattling: play your anti-Radiohead friends "House of Cards," a sweet, quiet ballad, with Yorke singing, plainly: "I don't wanna be your friend/I just wanna be your lover." Fine, let's put on In Rainbows and make out.

    Acting Up

    | Thu Oct. 11, 2007 3:15 PM EDT

    Back in the early heyday of American cinema, when desire for news and entertainment was often sated by regular visits to the theater, films aimed at social reform enjoyed distribution that would make Michael Moore's mouth water. The National Film Preservation Foundation has assembled a new anthology, Treasures III: Social Issues in American Film 1900-1934, that highlights the boldness of early 20th century cartoons, serial episodes, newsreel stories, advocacy films, and features designed to inform. These films addressed many of the same issues as our latter-day blockbusters, but often with a lucidity that modern movies lack:

    • Fans of Gus Van Sant may now add yet another component to their ongoing dissection of My Own Private Idaho. From the Submerged (1912) is the first known drama about homelessness that featured "slumming parties," minus the Shakespearean overtones.
    • Jungle Fever, Do the Right Thing, and the rest of Spike Lee's immortal oeuvre owe a debt to Ramona (1910), D.W. Griffith's sympathetic portrait of a romance between a Native American man and a Spanish woman played by Mary Pickford. (That's right, the same D.W. Griffith who later gave us the cinematic landmark of bigotry, The Birth of a Nation.)
    • In the sternly reproachful Where Are My Children? (1916), District Attorney Richard Walton discovers that he never became a father because his wife had a slew of abortions behind his back. No doubt do-gooder Alison Scott, the lead character in last summer's hit comedy Knocked Up, represents the inverse of Mrs. Walton's ways.
    • In Cecil B. DeMille's masterful silent feature, The Godless Girl (1928), the Christians take on the Atheists and get themselves booked into juvenile prison. There are hints of Grease, mingling with Saved! and Girl, Interrupted, but only in DeMille's version do the opposing camps go home with crucifixes burned into the palms of their hands.

    —Cassie McGettigan

    Anybody Else Having Trouble Downloading In Rainbows?

    | Wed Oct. 10, 2007 8:42 PM EDT

    RadioheadPerhaps it's my own fault. I didn't try and pre-order the album, I just thought I'd head over to inrainbows.com this morning and spend, I dunno, £5 on the thing. That's like 70 bucks at this point, right? However (and I'm assuming it's because of high demand and not a "denial of service" attack) the site was so desperately slow I wasn't ever able to get through. And now, heading over there gets you a request for a username and password, which, when you don't enter them, because what the hell, you get this lovely, personalized message from the band: SSI error: recursion exceeded. Beep! Well, people have been telling me my recursion is looking a little excessive lately. I don't appear to be the only one having this trouble, either. Hmm. Perhaps reports of the music industry's death have been greatly exaggerated?