The Riff - August 2008

Outside Lands: Radiohead Makes History

| Sat Aug. 23, 2008 4:59 AM EDT

Thirteen sets and two Natalie Portman-sightings later, the first night of San Francisco's Outside Lands festival wrapped up by 10 p.m.

While acts ranged from Cold War Kids to Manu Chao to Beck, the night had one consistent theme: confusion. You couldn't find a sign leading you to an entrance, but we found a stash of unused signs, including the much needed "Restrooms this way," stored in the crew area. And in lieu of "branded stages" companies sponsored interactive exhibits such as exclusive lounges that required a specific Visa card for admittance.

Yet efforts toward greening the event, the unique food selection (think shrimp ceviche), and a spectacular location helped us forget the organizational troubles. Not to mention talented visual artists decorated each stage. Plus, as the first group to ever play in Golden Gate Park at night, Radiohead's show was as visually stunning as the music was enthralling.

Despite some organizational glitches, the Outside Lands festival is off to a solid start.

—Brittney Andres

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Murakami's Running Lags Behind

| Wed Aug. 20, 2008 8:51 PM EDT

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I can't tell you how excited I was to read Haruki Murakami's new memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. As a runner and admirer of Murakami's work, I raced to the bookstore in hopes of discovering thrilling personal connections between myself and the great novelist.

Unfortunately, what aspects I could relate to— the pain of training for a marathon; the feeling of running outside in the wet New England fall—were eclipsed by a parade of high-school-gym-class-style clichés ("Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional."). Even more disappointing was the pace and style of the book: The rambling trains of thought did not arrive at interesting destinations, and despite Murakami's claim to months of careful editing, the collection is about as organized and well thought out as your average LiveJournal entry.

And that's what this book seems to be—not a memoir or an essay collection so much as Murakami's personal blog, printed out and placed between two hard covers. And no matter who keeps them, personal blogs are ultimately records of the quotidian. Even giving Murakami the benefit of the doubt—perhaps his hackneyed phrases are much more beautiful in the original Japanese—the book cycles again and again through the kinds of small revelations that I have on every run. Running is hard. Running is like writing. These are not insignificant, but neither are they worth $21.

2008 Conventions: Who's Performing?

| Wed Aug. 20, 2008 6:30 PM EDT

almanns-300.jpgI'd love to attend the upcoming RNC and DNC, if nothing else just to watch the live music performances; and yes, this makes me a geek. Despite several lineup reports, when I called event planners today to confirm, my call to the DNC went straight to voice mail and folks at the RNC said to call back next week.

Until then, I'm going by a scattered reports from the interwebs:

New TV on the Radio Picks Up Where Beck Left Off

| Wed Aug. 20, 2008 5:28 PM EDT

mojo-photo-tvontheradio.jpgNew York combo TV on the Radio made my #2 album of 2006, so when I learned that a track from their upcoming album, Dear Science, was available to stream on their web site, I clicked over there as fast as my mouse could take me. First of all, what's the deal with indie rock bands and wedding announcement fonts? Are they trying to steal a little bit of Ellen DeGeneres' blog fire? Okay, just had to get that out of the way. The song, "Golden Age," is a little more accessible and straightforward than the angst-ridden material on Cookie Mountain; it's got a jaunty little beat and buzzy synths reminiscent of Beck's "Hell Yes," although unlike that song's focused, quirky minimalism, "Golden Age" builds and builds until the whole band is singing along with a crazy horn section. I'm having a bit of trouble making out the lyrics, although at one point Kyp appears to rhyme "natural disaster" with "ghetto blaster," which deserves an award in and of itself. Either way, this is at least my song of the month.

Dear Science is out September 23 on Interscope. After the jump, Beck's "Hell Yes" for comparison, and TV on the Radio's "Wolf Like Me" from 2006's Return to Cookie Mountain, just for fun.

Hooray: Rachel Maddow Gets Her Own MSNBC Show

| Tue Aug. 19, 2008 7:37 PM EDT

mojo-photo-maddow.jpgNothing against Dan Abrams. Air America host Rachel Maddow will be taking over Abrams' 9 p.m. slot on MSNBC effective, like, right away: Abrams will sign off Thursday and Maddow will kick off her show September 8. The move has long been rumored since everybody thought she was awesome, and Abrams will stick around in a general manager role. Everybody's happy!

After the jump: More praise for Maddow, and watch her take down Pat Buchanan.

Whut If Barack Wuz a Kitteh?

| Tue Aug. 19, 2008 3:05 PM EDT

drinksaway.jpgThe lead-up to the convention just got a little weirder. Adorable, but weird. Check out Slate's video of "Pol Cats: The Treadmill." It's a "satire" of Hillary and Barack's political aspirations, as illustrated by two felines running on a treadmill. Hillary is a fluffy calico, and Barack is a black cat with tiny white socks. If we wanted to get literal, the Barack cat should be half-white, but hey, they're running on a freakin' treadmill. The video's not hilarious, but it's probably more entertaining (and infinitely cuter) than the slew of post-convention political commercials that's in our future.

(Image courtesy of lolcats4obama.com)

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Your New Favorite Band: Glasvegas

| Mon Aug. 18, 2008 8:46 PM EDT

mojo-photo-glasvegas.jpgLike with most things, I'm a little late to the party on this one. This Scottish quartet came in 4th in the BBC's "Sound of 2008" poll, and NME ranked the first version of their single "Daddy's Gone" as their #2 song of 2007. Well, Alan McGee was way ahead of everybody: the Creation Records svengali who discovered Oasis spotted them in 2006. But there's still time to get on board before the backlash!

If you're wondering, here's what they sound like to me: imagine the Jesus & Mary Chain got off the drugs (mostly) and did some songs with Billy Bragg. There's a homey, folksy, eternal quality to their music, but the fuzzy almost-rockabilly sound lines them right up with hipsters like The Raveonettes. But while those two live out their '50s cinematic fantasies in their lyrics, Glasvegas sing about what they know, with a brutal plainness that Hemingway might have admired. "Daddy's Gone" offers no resolution, just emotion: "To see your son on Saturdays/What way is that to live your life?" New single "Geraldine" floats in on a Brian Eno-style whisper of guitar noise, and the stadium-size chords are definitely reminiscent of U2. But lead singer James Allan has a thick Scottish brogue that seems to double the syllables: "My name is Geraldine, I-eem yee-er sow-cial woer-er-kerrr!" Now that, my friends, is an accent.

The band are planning a quick tour of the East Coast in September and October, and while they just signed to Columbia, apparently the debut album won't be out until 2009. Oh well. Watch some videos after the jump.

New AC/DC, G N' R Albums To Be Wal-Mart Exclusives?

| Mon Aug. 18, 2008 7:27 PM EDT

mojo-photo-walmart.jpgLet me get this straight. The music industry is in crisis, as sales plummet and stores consider eliminating CD sections entirely. Artists with name recognition are exploring new avenues of distribution, bypassing the retail store entirely. So, say you're a beloved rock band with a highly-anticipated new album coming out. What do you do? How about you force your fans to jump through ridiculous hoops and go on a freakin' retail scavenger hunt just to track it down? Brilliant! And thus, AC/DC is requiring that anyone interested in their first new album in eight years, Black Ice, to get in the SUV and head out to Wal-Mart or Sam's Club to pick it up (starting October 20th, for $11.88). Not to be outdone, Guns n' Roses are in the midst of negotiations with either Wal-Mart or Best Buy for exclusive retail rights for the mythical Chinese Democracy. Ah, the music industry: answering complaints that its business model is inconvenient by making things more inconvenient. Well, just you wait; when I release my album, it will only be available on a ledge halfway up the side of K2.

New U2 Recorded By Some Guy Walking Past Bono's House?

| Mon Aug. 18, 2008 5:00 PM EDT

mojo-photo-bono2.jpgThis is silly. Yes, U2 is supposedly working on a new album, No Line on the Horizon, with a tentative release date later this fall. But check out this ridiculous story: apparently a "cheeky holidaymaker" was strolling past Bono's pad in the South of France and heard what sounded like new U2 songs blasting from the windows. Said pedestrian just happened to be carrying some sort of easily-accessible recording equipment with him, with which he taped the tracks, then raced home to post the recordings on YouTube. The fact that this has happened before makes it even less believable. I mean, how close can you even get to Bono's house before the laser robots get you?

However, the recordings themselves (listen at Vulture) are oddly compelling, as lo-fi as you can get, featuring the buzzing of insects, passing cars (or possibly waves on a beach) and far-off conversations. While Vulture hopes the noises won't make it to the actual album, there's something kind of compelling about them, muffled far-off tunes on what sounds like a lovely summer night. It kind of reminds me of the KLF's hypnotic Chill Out, a concept album meant to evoke a drive through Texas and Louisiana. Come to think of it, playing a bit of an artsy prank on the media by having your music "taped" from outside your house is kind of KLF's style, too. Has Bono been taken hostage by sheep-wielding million-pound-burning art terrorists? Enjoy a bit of Chill Out after the jump.

New (Leaked) Music: The Verve - Forth

| Fri Aug. 15, 2008 8:11 PM EDT

mojo-photo-verveforth.jpgPeople think I'm an arrogant jerk, but I really do try to be nice. Honestly. My friends go crazy for Coldplay, and I try to focus on Brian Eno's epic production; buddies want to watch Roger Waters for three hours, and I'm a good sport and hang around. But The Verve has caused perhaps insurmountable rifts between me and my hipster pals. They love The Verve, and I think that other than the inspired sampling on "Bitter Sweet Symphony," Richard Ashcroft and co are dull as doorknobs, whiny, plodding, a fine example of Britishness covering up lack of ingenuity. Like Sigur Ros, they're lumped in with a genre populated by good and great bands, but they just don't measure up. The Verve split in 1999 after Urban Hymns brought them worldwide fame, but recently have come back together for a few live shows. Forth is their first album together in ten years, which leaked onto the intertubes this week.