The Riff - November 2008

Elton John, Tegan & Sara Weigh In on Prop 8

| Wed Nov. 12, 2008 6:30 PM EST

mojo-photo-tegansaraelton.jpgThe passage of California's Proposition 8, re-banning same-sex marriage, has inspired a variety of responses from music's out gays. While most have reacted with anger, some even threatening to withhold taxes, Sir Elton John is more practical. Gays and lesbians have often made peace with our lack of marriage rights by rejecting the institution itself, and John has taken this side, blaming Prop 8's win on "the word marriage" freaking people out:

"What is wrong with Proposition 8 is that they went for marriage… I don't want to be married. I'm very happy with a civil partnership. If gay people want to get married, or get together, they should have a civil partnership," said John. "The word marriage, I think, puts a lot of people off. You get the same equal rights that we do when we have a civil partnership. Heterosexual people get married. We can have civil partnerships."

Okay, Elton, let me introduce you to Tegan & Sara.

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Yes, You're Old: Nirvana Baby, Now 17, Reenacts Nevermind Cover

| Wed Nov. 12, 2008 5:52 PM EST

mojo-photo-nevermindguy.jpgI know your corns were giving you trouble and you just stepped on your bifocals, but here's another reminder of your rapidly advancing age: the wee tot whose wee-wee was displayed proudly on the cover of Nirvana's Nevermind album is now 17 years old, and he has recreated the famous photo, just to rub it in. Spencer Elden was just a baby when his parents were paid $200 to drop him in a pool for the up-and-coming Seattle band. The resulting image of the infant swimming hungrily after a dollar bill (coinciding with Nirvana's move to Geffen) has since become one of the most iconic in the history of recorded music. MTV News says it's "unclear" why Elden shot the new photo, although I think the subject of the photo itself might be a big hint. Elden's wearing dopey board shorts in the new photo, which EW's Popwatch blog says turns out to be "the difference between art and commerce," and they're right: naked, it would have been a kind of John-Lennon-In-Bed-With-Yoko statement, but instead it gives the impression some sleazy web site gave him 50 bucks, and he goes "okay, but I'm keeping the shorts on," and they go, "fine, just hurry up, we've got a Lohan story to cover." So the whole thing feels more sad and embarrassing than anything else. ...Or wait, maybe that's our gray hair that's sad and embarrassing.

Photo from splashnewsonline.com.

Still Rappin' For Obama

| Wed Nov. 12, 2008 4:44 PM EST

Seeing Party Ben's post on Jay Z's new victory rap, I thought I'd add a link to an NPR bit on how Obama energized (and cleaned up) some rappers. Apparently, some have moved from 'hos to po-li-ti-cos!

Get it?

See? I'm not a nerd.

TV on the Radio and Portishead Battle It Out for Album of the Year

| Tue Nov. 11, 2008 6:38 PM EST

Perhaps you aren't aware of it, but deep in the trenches of music criticism, there's a war being fought. With only a month and a half left in 2008, nerds around the world will soon be forced to choose an Album of the Year, and there are two major contenders: Portishead's Third, an utterly bleak comeback album that makes the band's earlier work look like High School Musical, and TV on the Radio's Dear Science, a step forward for a band of Gloomy Gusses who suddenly seem almost optimistic. In the interest of helping music critics and music-critic-wannabes, here's a helpful graph comparing different aspects of the two albums.

New Music: The Sea and Cake

| Mon Nov. 10, 2008 6:53 PM EST

seaandcake150.jpgI must admit that when I first heard that Chicago rockers The Sea and Cake had another new album out—just a year after their last one—I was suspicious. That kind of prolificacy is rare to say the least. I mean, who are these guys, Stephen King? I suspected they would have lost some stamina along the way.

But I need not have worried, since this album, Car Alarm, is every bit as energetic and enthralling as the band's 2007 effort. A bit of background: At the height of Chicago's mid-'90s scene, members of legendary groups Tortoise, Shrimp Boat, and Coctails came together to form the Sea and Cake, which, since then, has evolved into a jazzed-up post-rock band. The quartet's eighth album finds the boys up to their old tricks, buzzing effortlessly from buoyant pop songs ("Aerial," "Window Sills") to dreamy steel-drum jams ("The Staircase"). This time, though, the buzz is subtle—think Sunday morning coffee, not nightclub. "Well I want inspiration/I keep it locked up, I want more," singer Sam Prekop whispers in "Down in the City." It's that sense of holding back—the energy just beneath Prekop's imperturbable cool—that gives this album its delicious tension. Contrary to its name, Car Alarm is anything but monotonous.

Read Stereogum's interview with the Sea and Cake guys here.

New Jay-Z Track Celebrates Obama Win

| Mon Nov. 10, 2008 5:29 PM EST

mojo-photo-jayz.jpgVarious web sites seem to be in disagreement about whether this new Jay-Z track was "officially" released or just leaked, but either way, it's on the internet and you can hear it. It's called "We Made History" and apparently celebrates Barack Obama's win on Tuesday with lyrics like "Where are you, victory? I need you desperately/Not just for the moment, to make history." The track was produced by Kanye West (in his new, ultra-basic synth-y style) and features the vocals of singer Tony Williams. It's got an appropriate lighters-in-the-air tempo, but resembles nothing so much as a cross between The Cars' "Drive" and a Chinese love song, and I'm not sure I'm down with it. But then again I thought "Love Lockdown" was weird at first and now I think it's awesome, so maybe I should just trust Kanye.

Listen or download "We Made History" here.

Also: this is the Riff's 1,000th post. Hooray! There's cake in my office! Not really! Either way, thanks for putting up with me, MoJo staff and readers. Now if we could just get more of the Jonesians to post stuff over here, we could almost have a real blog...

Photo by Flickr user Kim Erlandsen used under a Creative Commons license.

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Melissa Etheridge Says "You Can Forget My Taxes"

| Fri Nov. 7, 2008 6:40 PM EST

mojo-photo-melissaetheridge.jpgYou go. Singer/songwriter Melissa Etheridge has published a blog entry on Tina Brown's upstart web site "The Daily Beast" in which she responds to the recent passage of California's Proposition 8 by promising she won't pay state taxes any more:

Alright, I get it. 51% of you think that I am a second class citizen. Alright then. So my wife, uh I mean, roommate? Girlfriend? Special lady friend? You are gonna have to help me here because I am not sure what to call her now. Anyways, she and I are not allowed the same right under the state constitution as any other citizen. Okay, so I am taking that to mean I do not have to pay my state taxes because I am not a full citizen. I mean that would just be wrong, to make someone pay taxes and not give them the same rights, sounds sort of like that taxation without representation thing from the history books.

Hey, can we do that? Well, as much as I'm all about a creative class tax cut, my meager, scattershot, and often-cash income, plus the ability to write off just about everything I do (please don't audit me!) means the whole "not paying taxes" thing wouldn't be much of a protest in my house. Here's my suggestion: let's make Mormons' fears real, and try and destroy as many happy heterosexual marriages as we can. I'll meet you at the Pitt-Jolie mansion, Melissa. Wear something sexy, we've got work to do.

Bush Appoints Lee Greenwood to National Arts Council

| Fri Nov. 7, 2008 5:48 PM EST

mojo-photo-leegreenwood.jpgBoy, good old George W. Bush sure is going down fighting. It turns out that his efforts to screw things up as much as possible before he leaves office aren't just confined to the environment: Vulture catches that right before the election, Bush snuck "God Bless the USA" singer Lee Greenwood on to the National Council on the Arts, a 14-member commission that reviews and recommends grant applications to the NEA. Council members serve 6-year terms, and I'm pretty sure Bush can count that high--Greenwood will be the only Bush appointee to serve all four years of Obama's first term. My suggestion to Obama: Maybe appoint the surviving members of the Wu-Tang Clan as seats open up?

So, Have Things Gotten Less Funny Since Tuesday?

| Fri Nov. 7, 2008 5:20 PM EST

There hasn't been this much public existential dread from the comedy community since 9/11, although the reasons are, of course, very different. Seven years ago, our shock and horror made us wonder if we could ever laugh again. Now, the question is: without a bumbling, snickering doofus and his snarling evil sidekick/boss in the White House, where will our jokes come from? The New York Times asked various comedy professionals about the conundrum, and all of them, from Daily Show and Conan writers to Tracy Morgan and Joel McHale, expressed confidence in the future of chuckles. J. K. Havlan of the Daily Show assured us Jon Stewart has plenty of material:

We haven't sat around thinking, "What are we going to do, comedically, if Obama wins?" There's going to be plenty going on around him. Plus, Ted Stevens may have won in Alaska. Proposition 8 passed in California. We don't need a semiconscious president to put on a decent show.

Hmm, I still don't see anything there about how you're going to make fun of President Obama. Perhaps most symbolically, Saturday Night Live's usually-awesome Fred Armisen has Obama's gestures and speech patterns down pretty well, but hasn't yet managed to actually say anything funny, which is especially disappointing in comparison to Will Ferrell's twitchy W. and Darrell Hammond's lascivious Bubba. Thankfully, the first two nights of post-Obama-win TV comedy have shown a few glimmers of hope. Some clips after the jump.

The Hidden Cameras' Anti-Marriage Sentiments Way Ahead of Their Time

| Thu Nov. 6, 2008 7:07 PM EST

mojo-photo-hiddencameras.jpgLike Jonathan, I'm profoundly disappointed about the apparent passage of California's Proposition 8. While he managed to look to the future, reminding us that this is a battle we'll eventually win, I'm ticked off right now, sick of having nuptials dangled in our face only to be snatched away again, pissed off that people get to vote on this. My fellow angry queers and sympathetic straights are already proposing a radical solution: ban marriage entirely. That seems like a fine idea to me--plus, if the movement takes off, we'll have a theme song all ready to go! Back in 2003, Canadian combo The Hidden Cameras released a wildly underappreciated album called The Smell of Our Own. The music was a celebratory cross between the Polyphonic Spree, the Magnetic Fields, and Neutral Milk Hotel, but lyrically, they crossed even more boundaries, refusing to hide their sexuality behind coy double-entendres or bland generalities. The song "Ban Marriage" whips the musicians into an uptempo frenzy, but the lyrics are complex, with the protagonist's wedding to another man disrupted by cries "to let coupledom die." Is it an anti-assimilation tirade in defense of promiscuity, a dream of equality, or an expression of hopeless isolation? Whatever it really means, it's great, and its joyous three-chord pattern is helping calm my fury. But you breeders aren't getting any more wedding presents from me until we get this shit worked out, I'll tell you that right now.

Video of a live show after the jump.