The Riff - July 2008

CD Boxed Sets Headed for Extinction?

While current releases by notable artists can still move some units, the CD boxed set may turn out to be a kind of global warming polar bear, feeling the pain of slipping physical music sales before the rest of the world. Reuters reports that fewer and fewer collections are being released, and quotes a music purchaser as saying "boxed-set sales have fallen off the...

| Tue Jul. 8, 2008 3:53 PM EDT

mojo-photo-boxedset.jpgWhile current releases by notable artists can still move some units, the CD boxed set may turn out to be a kind of global warming polar bear, feeling the pain of slipping physical music sales before the rest of the world. Reuters reports that fewer and fewer collections are being released, and quotes a music purchaser as saying "boxed-set sales have fallen off the cliff." While SoundScan doesn't have data specific to boxed sets, the last collection to be a hit was Nirvana's With the Lights Out, which sold 504,000 copies. While a record exec quoted in the article downplays the sales slide with a Zen-like "everything is relative," I can actually see a couple possible reasons for the downturn right there in paragraph two:

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Song of the Summer: Dizzee Rascal "Dance Wiv Me"

While NY Magazine's Vulture blog has taken the reins on plowing through 2008's pop hits to find this summer's "Umbrella" (finally proclaiming, not without some justification, Brit singer Estelle's jaunty "American Boy" the winner), there's a new UK Number One this week that has more come-from-behind cred and propulsive, sweaty dancefloor grooviness. Like Estelle's hit, in which she joins forces with Kanye West...

| Mon Jul. 7, 2008 5:10 PM EDT

While NY Magazine's Vulture blog has taken the reins on plowing through 2008's pop hits to find this summer's "Umbrella" (finally proclaiming, not without some justification, Brit singer Estelle's jaunty "American Boy" the winner), there's a new UK Number One this week that has more come-from-behind cred and propulsive, sweaty dancefloor grooviness. Like Estelle's hit, in which she joins forces with Kanye West (whose tongue-twisting, Britishism-mocking rap may be the best part of "Boy"), "Dance Wiv Me" is also an intriguing collaboration. In one corner, Dizzee Rascal, the 23-year-old rapper who has already proven his mettle as the greatest talent to emerge from the East London grime scene; in the other, Calvin Harris, whose '80s-retro productions and winking, cocky vocal style have made him the new, tougher Mylo. Throw in UK soul singer Chrome for a couple lines and you've got a track that UK chart watcher James Masterson calls "three and a half minutes of three men having a whale of a time on a record that is fun, accessible and yet amazingly true to the musical roots of all three participants at the same time." Hear hear.

YouTube: Reality Show Contestants Aren't Here to Make Friends

Sometimes it's the simplest video cut-ups that are the most effective, and here's another one of those "wish I'd thought of it" clips. Via the blog FourFour, it's a montage of reality show competitors (see how many you can name, kids!) insisting they're not interested in attaining any level of chumminess with their fellow contestants. Sure, I knew I'd heard that statement a few...

| Mon Jul. 7, 2008 3:28 PM EDT

Sometimes it's the simplest video cut-ups that are the most effective, and here's another one of those "wish I'd thought of it" clips. Via the blog FourFour, it's a montage of reality show competitors (see how many you can name, kids!) insisting they're not interested in attaining any level of chumminess with their fellow contestants. Sure, I knew I'd heard that statement a few times on TV, but not this much:

After a while, the continual repetition starts to seem more like a desperate effort at convincing themselves than us. But they're right, "this is not America's Next Top… uh, Best Friend" (my favorite moment of that whole clip). Therefore, consider me inspired. I've decided to adopt this attitude from now on, and so to all you sassy commenters (and Mother Jones employees who find my presence on your hallowed web pages offensive): I didn't come to the Riff to make friends! I came here to, uh, write about French techno, I guess. And win the million dollars. I get a million dollars for this, right?

Bruno Strikes Again: Baron Cohen Tricks Former Mossad Agent

Sacha Baron Cohen is stepping things up in preparation for Brüno, the actor and comedian's followup to the $260 million-grossing Borat. As we've covered here before, the Brüno character's gay antics were hilarious on Da Ali G Show and apparently deeply disturbing to Wichita airport patrons more recently. But his latest prank has made headlines: former Mossad agent and political analyst Yossi Alpher has...

| Mon Jul. 7, 2008 2:28 PM EDT

mojo-photo-bruno2.jpgSacha Baron Cohen is stepping things up in preparation for Brüno, the actor and comedian's followup to the $260 million-grossing Borat. As we've covered here before, the Brüno character's gay antics were hilarious on Da Ali G Show and apparently deeply disturbing to Wichita airport patrons more recently. But his latest prank has made headlines: former Mossad agent and political analyst Yossi Alpher has revealed that he and a Palestinian were duped by Brüno during an interview in Jerusalem two weeks ago. Highlights include a question confusing Hamas with hummus, a comparison of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the, er, Jennifer-Angelina conflict, and a good-hearted attempt to help unite "Jews and Hindus." Those first two are kind of iffy, chuckle-wise, but that last one totally kills me for some reason. Alpher wrote about the experience in a column for The Forward, and he insists that he knew something didn't smell right (the Jerusalem post actually said, "something wasn't kosher," but I just couldn't repeat that) throughout the interview, but stuck with it, clinging to the belief that Cohen's character was the "German rock star" producers had claimed him to be.

One can't help but wonder what one would do in such a situation. Of course we'd like to think we'd see right through it, but as Stanley Milgram's social psychology experiments back in the '60s proved, we do what we're told. Or, perhaps more optimistically, we try to be nice, even when faced with a lunatic with a crazy hairstyle who thinks our political conflicts are about chickpea paste. Either way, the Brüno movie is due out next spring.

Video: Fox News Altered Photos

If you haven't already seen it, check out this Media Matters video of Fox News trying hard to uglify some NYT staffers: Not that dark circles, coffee teeth, and weird hair are particularly rare among flocks of journalists, but c'mon, even Bill Murray's fake factcheckers are truthier than those photos. Really makes you trust Fox's coverage of the war, right?...

| Thu Jul. 3, 2008 7:44 PM EDT

If you haven't already seen it, check out this Media Matters video of Fox News trying hard to uglify some NYT staffers:

Not that dark circles, coffee teeth, and weird hair are particularly rare among flocks of journalists, but c'mon, even Bill Murray's fake factcheckers are truthier than those photos.

Really makes you trust Fox's coverage of the war, right?

Yearning for Polygamist Fashion

Rejoice, ye Laura Ingalls Wilder wannabes. People have called the Yearning for Zion ranch members a lot of names since their compound was raided in April, but "fashionable" has never been one of them. Until now. The New York Times reports that members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (FLDS) have begun peddling their prairie-chic children's couture online....

| Thu Jul. 3, 2008 2:56 PM EDT

dress150.jpgRejoice, ye Laura Ingalls Wilder wannabes.

People have called the Yearning for Zion ranch members a lot of names since their compound was raided in April, but "fashionable" has never been one of them. Until now.

The New York Times reports that members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (FLDS) have begun peddling their prairie-chic children's couture online.

Modesty, it turns out, is totally affordable. The Jr. Teens girls' underwear, which, with long sleeves and pants, is the ultimate anti-thong, costs between $25 and $32, depending on size. The Teen Princess Dress will set you and your flesh-concealing daughter back $60 to $73.

The bummer is that so far, the FLDSdress.com only sells clothes in kids' sizes. Which leads us to the real question: Where does Chloe Sevigny's character on Big Love get her weird duds?

Photo courtesy of fldsdress.com.

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New (Leaked) Music: Beck - Modern Guilt

You'd think, in this exciting Age of the Intertubes, that the music album, freed from physical constraints, would have expanded like American waistlines. No longer tied to the 56-minute-ish limit of the vinyl LP or the 80-minute cutoff of the CD, you'd expect our self-indulgent, uncontrollably nutty musicians to start putting out 3- or 4-hour albums, with, say, 60 or 70 of their newest...

| Wed Jul. 2, 2008 9:04 PM EDT

mojo-photo-beckmodernguilt.jpgYou'd think, in this exciting Age of the Intertubes, that the music album, freed from physical constraints, would have expanded like American waistlines. No longer tied to the 56-minute-ish limit of the vinyl LP or the 80-minute cutoff of the CD, you'd expect our self-indulgent, uncontrollably nutty musicians to start putting out 3- or 4-hour albums, with, say, 60 or 70 of their newest compositions. But no, just the opposite seems to be happening: albums are getting shorter. Take this Beck thing that just leaked out onto the aforementioned internet: it's 32 minutes long. That's ten quick songs. I thought I'd give it a spin today while I was working on other stuff; I'd barely sat down when it was already over, and the next thing up in my alphabetical iTunes library, a Bee Gees remix by the Teddybears, thundered out incongruously. I had this experience all day, starting Modern Guilt from the beginning, only to have it slip by without me really noticing it, and then, blam: Bee Gees. There it goes again. This album has probably run through at least six times by now here at Party Ben HQ, and I keep trying to pay attention, but it keeps melting into the background, and I'm starting to think it's not me that's the problem.

The Dust Off (sort of): Zach de la Rocha

Here at the Riff, we're not above dusting off obsolete items with a high awesomeness/cheesiness quotient. I wouldn't call Zach de le Rocha, politically outspoken front man for Rage Against the Machine old and dusty (his awesomeness/cheesiness is debatable), but he has been mostly off the radar since Rage's heyday (and some more recent reunion performances). Until now. Together with drummer Jon Theodore (formerly...

| Wed Jul. 2, 2008 8:49 PM EDT

one-day-lion-200.jpgHere at the Riff, we're not above dusting off obsolete items with a high awesomeness/cheesiness quotient. I wouldn't call Zach de le Rocha, politically outspoken front man for Rage Against the Machine old and dusty (his awesomeness/cheesiness is debatable), but he has been mostly off the radar since Rage's heyday (and some more recent reunion performances). Until now.

Together with drummer Jon Theodore (formerly of the Mars Volta), de la Rocha's got new music coming out under the moniker One Day As A Lion on July 22 (Anti- is releasing). Their press statement about the music is a mouthful:

Indecency Complaints to FCC Plummet

America: We're Cleaning Up our Act! Or maybe just dangling shiny trinkets in front of the complainers? The FCC reports (pdf link) that indecency complaints against broadcasters to the agency have fallen dramatically, from 4,368 in the second quarter of 2007 to only 368 in the third quarter, the most recent time period for which data is available. The agency recorded an even more...

| Wed Jul. 2, 2008 6:21 PM EDT

mojo-photo-fccgraph.gifAmerica: We're Cleaning Up our Act! Or maybe just dangling shiny trinkets in front of the complainers? The FCC reports (pdf link) that indecency complaints against broadcasters to the agency have fallen dramatically, from 4,368 in the second quarter of 2007 to only 368 in the third quarter, the most recent time period for which data is available. The agency recorded an even more ridiculous drop from the first quarter of 2007, when 149,457 complaints were received. Wait, nearly 150,000 to 4,000 to 300? What gives? It turns out this kind of roller coaster of complaints isn't new at the FCC: as Mother Jones has covered before, the numbers jump around a lot. In 2003, complaints went from 351 in the second quarter to over 272,000 in the third. Ars Technica posits that activists like the Parents Television Council (whose campaigns may be responsible for a majority of complaints) have been distracted by Grand Theft Auto, but I'd say they're probably out there forwarding e-mails about Barack Obama being a secret gay Muslim terrorist. Isn't Q3 2007 about when that got started? I've included a handy graph (above right) to help us see if there's any connection.

Ian Curtis' Gravestone Stolen

News of the Weird: The gravestone marking the final resting place of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis has been stolen, reports the BBC. The singer committed suicide in 1980. Officials say that the memorial, inscribed with the words "Ian Curtis 18-5-80 Love Will Tear Us Apart," was taken from Macclessfield Cemetery in Cheshire, England sometime late Tuesday or early Wednesday. A police spokesman told...

| Wed Jul. 2, 2008 4:56 PM EDT

mojo-photo-iancurtisgrave.jpgNews of the Weird: The gravestone marking the final resting place of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis has been stolen, reports the BBC. The singer committed suicide in 1980. Officials say that the memorial, inscribed with the words "Ian Curtis 18-5-80 Love Will Tear Us Apart," was taken from Macclessfield Cemetery in Cheshire, England sometime late Tuesday or early Wednesday. A police spokesman told the BBC that the lack of area security cameras means they have "no apparent leads." Okay, stop just a minute. This is a singer whose stature just keeps rising, with two movies about him in the last couple years, and whose short, troubled life and self-inflicted death means he's one of the great cult figures of our time; his gravestone features the title of his band's biggest hit, and nobody was watching it? Plus, doesn't England have CCTV cameras trained on everybody at all times? Where are they when you need them? Boy, this is making me depressed. I need to watch a Joy Division video. Join me in despair, won't you, after the jump.