Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tupac's Mom Seeks Injunction Against Death Row

Long live Tupac, screw Suge Knight. -AB

From Spin.com

*****

Afeni Shakur, the mother of late rapper Tupac Shakur, has filed an injuntion against Death Row Records in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California, in an effort to prevent the label, and notably its fear-inducing boss Suge Knight, from auctioning off unreleased recordings to pay a $100 million bankruptcy debt. According to AllHipHop.com, Shakur claims Knight and Death Row are planning to sell up to 152 unreleased songs in a forthcoming assets auction. Death Row, which filed for bankruptcy in April of 2006, reached a settlement with the Shakur estate in 1997 in which all Tupac recordings in the label's possession were to be forfeited, and is therefore in breach of contract.

"The Estate was under the assumption that it was in possession of all master recordings containing Tupac as a featured artist or side artist, as represented by Death Row," said Donald N. David, General Counsel for Amaru Entertainment, the media company set up to represent post-humus Tupac releases. "However, upon assessing the debtor's bankruptcy assets, it was revealed that an album's worth of unreleased Tupac material was being advertised to potential buyers as the jewel in the crown of the Death Row assets, which is in direct violation of the terms of the 1997 settlement with Death Row… Tupac Shakur is the highest selling rap artist in history and we are concerned that his inclusion in the sale falsely inflates the value of the property."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Rage, Franti, PE, the Stooges all at Vegoose

This is a killer lineup, no argument. -AB

From Spin.com

*****

The only sure bet in Vegas -- the Vegoose festival -- will return this October with a stellar headliner tandem and an excellent legacy spectacle: Rage Against the Machine and Daft Punk will hold the fest's two top spots, and Iggy and the Stooges will perform their 1970 album Fun House in its entirety. Also on the Oct. 27-28 bill: Muse, the Shins, Cypress Hill, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Queens of the Stone Age, Public Enemy, Blonde Redhead, Ghostface Killah, Umphrey's McGee, Ghostland Observatory, Thievery Corporation, Battles, and more acts to be announced later.

Two-day passes go onsale this Saturday at 10 A.M. PST at vegoose.com.

Also back in '07 is the festival's Vegoose at Night series, a set of shows featuring Vegoose bands on the stages of Vegas' casinos; the Shins and Thievery Corporation are among the confirmed acts for the night sessions, and Vegoose ticket holders will have first crack at these intimate shows when they go onsale in August.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Harry Potter Reveals His Favorite Band

I thought this was interesting... -AB

From the NME

*****

Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe has revealed that his favourite band is US blue collar-rockers The Hold Steady.

Speaking in an interview in Details magazine, Radcliffe said Craig Finn's band, who recently played a gig in the NME canteen, were, "The best band this year by far".

The actor is famously a fan of indie music - he reads NME every week and was featured in the mag in 2004 talking about his favourite bands.

He highlighted Bloc Party, Art Brut, The Others, The Strokes and The Cribs as his personal favourites at the time. He revealed that his lifetime ambition was for The Libertines to sing him happy birthday.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I'm A-Start Some Drama!

My friend showed this to me a couple days ago. It's from a blog called Defective Yeti. Hilarious, and proof that some songs just aren't meant for human consumption. -AB

*****

I walked into the kitchen this morning to find The Queen groggily gathering coffee-making accoutrements.

"Wha'cha gonna do wit all dat junk?" I asked her. "All dat junk inside yo trunk?"

She scowled at me as a reminder of the household's "no conversation before caffeine" rule, but then asked, "What are you saying?"

"No no, that was all wrong" I said, disappointed. "You are supposed to reply ..." -- I switched to falsetto -- "... I’m a-gi gi gi git you drunk, git you love drunk off my hump."

She looked confused. "I'm going to get you drunk?"

"Right," I confirmed. "Love drunk. You know, off your hump."

The Queen stared at me blearily.

"And then," I continued, "you emphasize this final point by saying: My hump, my hump. My hump, my hump, my hump. My hump, my hump, my hump. My --"

The Queen interrupted. "Is this that song you've been talking about on your blog?"

"Hang on," I said. "We've coming up on the best part."

"Okay," she said, resigned.

"Are you ready?"

"I'm ready."

I cleared my throat, took a deep breath, and began again. "My hump, my hump. My hump, my hump, my hump. My hump, my hump, my hump. My lovely lady lumps."

There was a long, stunned silence.

"Check it out," I added.

"That's awful," said The Queen in horror.

"Now you understand," I said, nodding somberly. "And it's knowledge that can never be unlearned."

"Why?" asked the Queen. "Why did you do that?"

I shrugged. "That song is like The Ring," I explained. "You have to pass it on, or you die."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The White Stripes Don't Fear the Rock

By Alexander Billet

Published in Dissident Voice

When “Fell In Love With a Girl” hit it big in 2001, mainstream rock had become something akin to a boring art gallery opening. For those of us who had been forced to attend and were sick of the pretentious and elitist jabberings of the Nickelbacks and Creeds of the time, Jack and Meg White were like a drunk couple determined to crash the party with their beautifully simple punk/blues guitar riffs and steady drums. All played on vintage instruments, their sound gave a backhand to the studio technology that seemed to suck the soul out of any artist. Finally, rock n’ roll became fun again.

But the Stripes’ last album, Get Behind Me Satan, seemed to leave the some fans, including this one, cold. “Blue Orchid” seemed to be more a composition than a rock song, and many wondered if the Stripes had backed down on their trailblazing gutsiness.

That’s why Icky Thump is such a breath of fresh air. Jack and Meg are back to their rocking selves again, complete with the red and black costumes and the licks to match. It’s an ambitious album, but it works like a satanic charm. The title track, which you most certainly have heard unless living in a bomb shelter some place, is a back-to-basics for a group that has always easily blown away our expectations.

But the song also provides a glimpse at a new side to the Stripes. Telling the story of a fun-seeking American south of the border, Jack sings briefly from the point of view of a Mexican prostitute:

“White Americans, what?
Nothing better to do?
Why don’t you kick yourself out,
You’re an immigrant too.
Who’s using who?
What should we do?
Well you can’t be a pimp
And a prostitute too.”

Take that Lou Dobbs.

Jack White has always insisted he doesn’t write political songs. And, interestingly, this song provides us with no reason to believe otherwise. “Icky Thump” is simply enough a raunchy trip into the underbelly, a utilization of rock n’ roll’s long forgotten ability to relate an issue in a thoroughly true and taboo way.

But as always, what makes the song work is the music. With typical bad-ass sexiness, “Icky Thump” mixes a visceral, pounding drum line underneath a guitar part that seems to sneer at the very notion that the story shouldn’t be told. In between this raw barrage Jack throws in wildcard solos that bob and weave in and out as if trying to escape the assault of his power hungry riffs. It’s a song unapologetic in its portrayal of an ugly and shameless experience.

The whole album keeps this up. “Bone Broke” throws back to the old chestnut of true poor boy/rich girl story, told with a crudeness that revels in its brash simplicity. The roadhouse blues-laden “Rag and Bone” relies on a delicious swagger while Jack and Meg riff back and forth their plans of charming rich folks out of their useless possessions. Both are, bottom line, gutsy, fun and rebellious in the most basic sense.

If there’s one thing this album shows off, it’s the White Stripes’ strong suit of making us want to embrace the inner rebel. And that the best way to rock is to be honest, bare-bones, and heart-stopping. When so many bands fear possibilities of rock n’ roll, Jack and Meg let it take them wherever. Their beats and riffs speak more power than any big shot producer can ever hope to.

These are down and out stories that used to abound in rock n’ roll’s glory days of loud screams and hip-swinging guitars. That swagger, that rudeness, that all-important ability to play from your heart; until recently it seemed all but extinct. Elvis and Jerry Lee, the MC5 and even the Stones had it. The White Stripes have it. And God bless ‘em for it.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

John Lennon's Spectacles Up For Auction

This is just plain surreal. -AB

*****

From the NME

A pair of spectacles owned by John Lennon have gone up for auction.

The gold rimmed glasses, which the late Beatle wore during the band's Japanese tour in 1966, is attracting bids of up to £750,000 at auction site 991.com.

The spectacles are being auctioned off by the band's translator at the time Junishi Yore.

During their tour, The Beatles were forced to remain virtual prisoners in their Tokyo hotel after they received death threats from religious groups angry at the band's decision to play at the sacred Budokan site.

The only people with them were their photographer Bob Whitaker and Yore who Lennon got to know during their time in Japan.

When The Beatles left Tokyo, Lennon gave him his prized glasses as a thank you for looking after the band.

The spectacles, which come with a note from Yore, remained with him until the Beatle's death in 1980 when in accordance with Japanese folklore he pushed out the lenses as a lament to Lennon.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Rock Against Racism: Beating Time, Beating the Nazis

By Roger Huddle, one of the main forces behind RAR in the 70s. An anniversary concert is being held in London in a few days, and another being scheduled for April in Victoria Park, where the legendary anti-Nazi festival was held in '78.

And we still want rebel music. -AB

From Socialist Worker (UK)

*****

The 1970s moved from intense struggle between workers and bosses to bitter disillusionment with Labour, mass unemployment and defensive fights to protect services.

The year 1976 was the turning point with huge cuts in welfare spending by a Labour government under pressure from the International Monetary Fund.

As usual the crisis was being turned into an attack on working people, through unemployment, a wage freeze and racism.

The Nazi National Front (NF) saw an opportunity to grow on the back of this bitterness.

Aided by former Tory MP Enoch Powell’s racist diatribes about overcrowding and immigration, the NF, dressed in the suit of respectability, went out to capture local councils through the ballot box.

But the Nazis also set about building through the terror of racist attacks and marching through multi-racial areas. As the crisis deepened the NF made substantial gains in local councils.

The mid-1970s was a pretty dire time for popular music. The excitement and innovations of the 1960s and early 1970s had been pushed aside by the corporate music machine. Glam rock and soft disco dominated the radio.

But, underneath this gloss, young musicians who were affected by the crisis started making music that expressed their anger and desperation.

Young black musicians – encouraged by the revolutionary music and lyrics of Bob Marley – were developing a strand of ska and reggae that reflected their experience in Britain.

Meanwhile, the rigour and roots of 1960s music shifted with the growth of bands playing live in pubs. Loud and raucous, they merged rock, blues and country music along with lyrics that dealt with living in Britain not the US.

An alternative theatre and radical arts movement, aligned to the cultural experiments thrown up in the May 1968 struggles in France and in the US anti Vietnam war movement, existed outside of the mainstream and still performed and exhibited up and down the country.

Inspiration

It was the coming together of all these strands that made Rock Against Racism (RAR) possible. All of the original RAR crew were veterans from the struggles of the 1960s.

They took inspiration from soul, jazz and rock, as well as the graphic design and agitprop theatre developed by artists of the 1917 Russian Revolution and in Germany during the 1920s.

RAR was a clear attempt to fight the growing racism and the electoral gains of the Nazis. It began out of the imagination of Red Saunders and my involvement with the Socialist Workers Party. We were all involved in socialist politics and wanted to find ways to fight with cultural forms, images, sound, and spectacle.

In 1976 blues guitarist Eric Clapton shouted racist abuse from the stage during a gig in Birmingham, saying how Powell was right. It was this completely irresponsible act that drove Red to compose a letter of outrage to the New Musical Express.

He phoned a group of us asking if we would also sign. The last paragraph of the letter said that we were forming a group called Rock Against Racism open to everyone. And so the movement was born.

The explosion of Punk and the development of roots reggae music gave RAR the environment in which to battle.

From the beginning we wanted a DIY organisation. We wanted local bands and anti-Nazis to come together and make it impossible for Nazi ideas to get a grip. RAR slogans appeared on walls and over stages everywhere.

We put together a fanzine called Temporary Hoarding that linked the fight against the NF to what was happening in Ireland, women’s rights and young people’s sexuality.

In the first issue David Widgery proclaimed, “We want rebel music, street music, music that breaks down people’s fear of one another. Create music that knows who the real enemy is. Love music, hate racism.”

In 1977 the NF attempted to march through the London borough of Lewisham in an attempt to “reclaim the area from immigrants and blacks”. Tens of thousands of anti-Nazi activists joined locals to block the route. It was a turning point.

After the battle of Lewisham it was clear that there was a widespread desire for a united front against the Nazi threat and the Anti Nazi League was launched to focus the fight in every workplace, school, college and community.

RAR immediately become its cultural partner. The RAR star was worn alongside the red arrow of the Anti Nazi League.

RAR, along with the ANL, made it impossible for the Nazis to get a foothold anywhere. By the end of the 1970s the NF were in tatters. They were broken by the united anti-Nazi movement, the bands, the audiences at the four carnivals, the Asian youth groups and by the music.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Tune of the Week: The Dears' "Ticket to Immortality"

It appears that poor ol' Dubya hasn't had a good week in quite some time. The man's approval ratings are lower than the attendance at a concert of Micheal Richards' rendition of "Fight the Power," and yet he still has the brass to flaunt his "decider" status. His fellow Republicans are jumping ship on him, bringing his support to the Iraq war closer and closer to just him and Cheney. And his decisions to completely bypass any semblance of law by letting Scooter Libby off the hook and refuse access to White House aides are beyond contempt.

It makes you wonder: is he actually TRYING to piss off the American people? Or is he so hopelessly detatched from them that any and all attempts to do his job will simply result in the reverse Midas touch?

So, in honor of "our" president's ever approaching title of "worst world leader ever," here is a great little gem from Canadian indie-rockers the Dears.

"Ticket to Immortality," off 2006's GANG OF LOSERS, has an emotional complexity rarely seen in the all-too-ironic world of modern rock music. The song's guitars seem to effortlessly carry an air of both melancholy desperation and swaggering confidence. Appropriate for the tongue in cheek lyrics sung from the point of view of a social climber being knocked off his ivory perch. When Murray Lightburn ends the song on "the world loves you," we somehow get the idea that it doesn't quite end all peaches and cream.

This one's for you Georgie!

*****

Fists up in our faces
How did we end up here?
Standing in police lines
Don't you know who I am?

Chorus:
I hang out with all the pariahs
Everyone is almost done with me

This will be our name
Yeah, this will be our name
So listen the buck stops here
I'm gonna lose it now

Chorus:
I hang out with all the pariahs
Everyone is almost done with me
Oh, I hang out with all the pariahs
Everyone is having fun with me

But the world is really gonna love you
(repeat)

I promise you
Just look and see

Well the world is really gonna love you
(repeat)

The world loves you

*****

Find out more about the Dears at their website

Monday, July 9, 2007

Apologies...

My apologies for the long time since updating this blog. Due to the death of a friend and comrade, I decided to take a short break from writing and publishing. After a couple weeks of stepping back and reassessing, it seems more obvious than ever that there is a need for a radical voice in music criticism.

Much is to be expected in the upcoming months, such as reviews of the new White Stripes and Bad Brains albums, interviews with legendary rock photographer Glen Friedman on his new book about Fugazi and Garett Reppenhagen of Iraq Veterans Against the War about his love for music, and features to be published in Z Magazine, Loud Fast Rules and the International Socialist Review.

Please continue checking in for some of the best and most honest music journalism... EVER!

Stay free,
Alex