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Indie Bands Sue Camel, Rolling Stone Over Ad

The messy saga we've lovingly dubbed Camelstonegate took a fairly expected turn this week as Xiu Xiu and Fucked Up filed a class action lawsuit against Camel cigarettes' parent company R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Rolling Stone, and the magazine's parent company, Wenner Media, according to a Daily Swarm report.

The suit-- filed December 17 on behalf of 186 artists whose names appeared in Rolling Stone's "Indie Rock Universe" feature, tucked conspicuously within a fold-out advertisement for Camel's indie-friendly "The Farm" campaign in the magazine's November 15 issue-- accuses the defending parties of "unauthorized use of artists' names; unauthorized use of artist names for commercial advantage (right of publicity); and unfair business practices."

Xiu Xiu and Fucked Up essentially claim that Rolling Stone created and presented their feature with full knowledge that it would appear part and parcel with the Camel ad. The plaintiffs ask that the magazine print a follow-up feature equal in size to the original clarifying that artists' names were used without consent. They're also seeking financial recompense for damages: Rolling Stone alone, the Daily Swarm suggests, could be forced to pony up as much as $195.3 billion if found guilty.

While this marks the first time Rolling Stone has found itself the subject of legal action following the ad scandal, nine states' Attorneys General have already filed lawsuits against Camel for using cartoons to sell tobacco products.

As previously reported, a number of indie labels are seeking an apology from Rolling Stone as well.

Photos: Wu-Tang Clan [Chicago, IL; 12/15/07]

Words by Paul Thompson. Photos by Matt Taplinger

No RZA! Nothing from 8 Diagrams! As Ghostface and Raekwon took the stage Saturday night at Chicago's Metro to the strains of "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthin Ta F' Wit", the leaders of the potential secession from the ranks of their ramshackle crew made two things pretty clear: the Wu-Tang Clan we'd all been fucking with for a decade and a half were in the building, and that weird new "hip-hop hippie" shit had no place on that stage.

You'd think an 8 Diagrams nut like myself would balk, but nah. With the emphasis on back catalog bangers and temporarily sans their (arguably) weakest lyrical link, the Wu completely destroyed the crowd who'd battled a snowstorm and sorta ridiculous ticket prices for a night with rhyming heroes. Once the initial disappointment from the lack of RZA wore off, it became clear that the Wu, however fragmented, was ready to do this.

Following the undeniable opener, the Wu swung their swords deftly through several dozen tracks, mixing classic posse cuts with gems from solo albums. Of the solo tracks, Method Man's ("Bring the Pain", "What the Blood Clot") went over the best, due largely to the fact that Meth was at least twice as live as everyone else onstage. A cool and unassuming GZA held down the back of the stage most of the time, eyeing the proceedings cautiously and exuding the same sage wisdom when blazing through "Duel of the Iron Mic" as he did hanging back and occasionally whispering in U-God's ear.

It was clear that everyone-- not just you and I-- reserve their greatest respect for GZA, Ghost and Raekwon out of the entire Clan, and every time one of them took the spotlight, the dozen-plus folks onstage were well-versed in every word. Inspectah Deck stalked the stage, looking for any spot to interject some of his trademark gangly weirdness. "We like the Isley Brothers, ya heard?," he added at one point. Sure.

Every song you'd imagine to be a highlight was, even in their oft-truncated live forms. In fact, there was almost too much music going on. I'd wager nearly 50 tracks were touched on in one form or another, and when U-God reminded us that there were "too many fly-ass rappers onstage," well, he might've had a point. Watching those guys storm a stage, climb on the hands of fans, drink cheap white wine straight from the bottle (in Cappadonna's case) , inspire weeded-up white dudes to yell silly things like "Shaolin's finest!" at you, and, oh yeah, spit some nasty shit for the better part of two hours is a lot to take in. I went to the john just before "Triumph", and when I returned halfway through Ghost's still-fierce verse, the whole crowd felt like they could use a break, too. As it is with 8 Diagrams, the Wu offered perhaps a bit too much to absorb in a single sitting, and when they announced to the ladies where they'd be staying for the night (the show was 21 and over, in case you, uh, think that's a skeezy gesture) , folks seemed almost relieved to file out into the sloppy Chicago snow. That is, once Meth slapped the hands of every single person in the first five rows, grinning from ear to ear as he had all night.

Yeah, so this rumored intra-Wu rift has got to go. (Hey, Ghost and Rae, if you don't like RZA's new beats, maybe you should stop being so awesome over them?) The only real acknowledgement of 8 Diagrams' existence was them asking a dozen or so times whether we'd copped it-- a disservice to a truly beautiful and bizarre piece of work. And, sure, "Life Changes" from the new record still seems like it would be a better eulogy for their fallen brother Ol' Dirty Bastard than that song of his about liking it raw. But most of the Wu was there Saturday night with murdering game on their minds, and, squabbles aside, we in attendance were sufficiently slayed.



Photos: Thrill Jockey 15th Anniversary [Chicago, IL; 12/14-12/15/07]

Photos by Sanchez and Kitahara
Pictured above: Trans Am

Some bands you fall in love with. You catch every single show, memorize the lyrics, decorate your personal items with their buttons, patches, and stickers, and-- more often than not-- break up with them as your tastes evolve or something new comes along.

Other bands are best kept as friends. Your heart may not skip a beat at the mention of their names, a missed show here and there won't make you cry, and perhaps you haven't quite gotten around to hearing that latest album, but that's okay, because you can commit to bands like this for life. They're consistent, reliable, and, as with any true friend, they have nothing to prove; the respect and admiration you and these bands share for one another is implicit. They've sorta always been there, too, and you get the feeling they always will be. These are the kind of bands, by and large, that populate the Thrill Jockey roster.

So you won't find many MySpace profiles gushing OMG I <3 SEA+CAKE x 1000000!!!!!11, but you can, it seems, always count on a sea of serene faces at any Sea and Cake show. It was just this vibe-- communal, comfortable, and decidedly low-key-- that marked the 15th anniversary celebration for Bettina Richards' Thrill Jockey Records, held this past weekend at the Logan Square Auditorium in Chicago, the city in which the label has operated for most of its decade-and-a-half.

The Sea and Cake were there, of course, as were label stalwarts Trans Am and Eleventh Dream Day, both of whom provided most of the reserved evenings' showiest moments. Tortoise served as the not-so-surprising surprise guest, kicking off Saturday's festivities. Califone went surround sound, briefly positioning their horn section up in the balcony behind the audience.

The Fred Anderson Trio and Frequency flew Thrill Jockey's jazz flag high, and ADULT. stood in for the label's strong electronic contingent, doing what they could to rattle us out of our state of comfort. Thalia Zedek covered Freakwater's "Flat Hand", while an un-billed Sue Garner appeared to help Eleventh Dream Day through a cover of her own "I Like the Name Alice". (Both covers appear on the recent Plum box set). The band returned the favor by backing Garner on a few tunes.

Recent Thrill Jockey signings were on display the first night: Arbouretum capped off a fine set with "Pale Rider Blues", one of the finest songs heard all weekend, while the Fiery Furnaces plowed through much of their latest album Widow City. Amid the Windy City-centric proceedings, School of Language's David Brewis came all the way from Sunderland, England to make his U.S. live debut. How appropriate that he was joined for the occasion by drummer Ryan Rapsys (Euphone, Ambulette) and Zincs bassist Nick Macri, two Chicago music scene regulars whom Brewis claimed to have met barely a day prior. This is a label community that embraces its own, in a city that has always embraced kindred spirits.

As with any gathering of friends, these nights were as much about the chummy moments between songs as they were about the music: Tortoise's Dan Bitney asking audience members how they traveled to the show and marveling at how many folks had walked; Sam Prekop and Doug McCombs playfully heckling Archer Prewitt from the balcony during his set ("Look! It's the two old men from the 'Muppet Show'!" cracked Prewitt's keyboardist); Califone's Tim Rutili ad libbing a silly conversation with his horn section, who responded the way the off-screen adults do in Charlie Brown cartoons.

Later, when Rutili noted the unceasing snow outside and suggested we all might have to have a sleepover, no one really laughed. Given this friendly, like-minded company, that wasn't such a ridiculous idea at all.

Here's to 15 more years and then some, guys. [MORE...]


Kim Deal Talks New Breeders Album, Pixies, German
"I would rather have one song that people actually like than 15 songs that they can barely stand. But that's just me."

Most of the attention focused on Kim Deal in the last few years has come from her participation in the über-successful Pixies reunion. But she recently turned the spotlight to her other well-regarded, super successful indie rock band, the Breeders. After a recording hiatus of over five years, the Breeders will return with Mountain Battles, the follow-up to 2002's Title TK, on April 7/8 (in the UK/U.S., respectively) via 4AD.

We caught up with Deal to talk about the album, and she was a blast: friendly, funny, and full of anecdotes and ideas. In our conversation, she discussed her recent appearance at the "The Second City That Never Sleeps: Letters to Santa" benefit, her adventures in speaking German for a Battles song, a technological explanation for the rarity of quality songwriting in the ProTools era, and why a new Pixies album just isn't going to happen.

Pitchfork: It's been five years since Title TK was released. What took Mountain Battles so long to come together?

KD: Well, sometimes we weren't at the studio, we were just at the house in Ohio working on stuff. It's weird, because ProTools has done this-- like, I'm a singer/songwriter, so I could do this in my bedroom by myself, and I would have to just get the...I don't know, web designer, to come over to put the measures up, to pull the ProTools up. It really doesn't matter if anyone else is involved, so that can be quite freeing, and things can be turned around quite quickly like that, if all I'm thinking about is, "What time do I want the spacebar-pusher to come over today?"

But if there's an actual band, and I own actual instruments, and actual tubes have to be replaced, and people actually have to fly in, and they have lives, and you have to go over the song-- because remember, this is tape. It's not like, "'s the idea of the chorus. We're going to use the Pretenders drums from the first record, 'cause they sound so good," you know? That's not how we do it. Jose [Medeles], the drummer, has to fly in, and we actually have to write a song from beginning to end that sounds cool. And if it doesn't sound cool at this part, it's not like we can just go, "Yeah, let's rearrange that in ProTools," you know? It's just a totally different way of thinking.

I'm not the quickest, most prolific writer either. I would never pretend to be. I don't think prolific-ness is equal to quality at all. I would rather have one song that people actually like than 15 songs that they can barely stand. But that's just me.

Another thing is, I think it's kind of ballsy to sit there and think that [people want to listen] if it wasn't special and we weren't trying to do something we would want to listen to. Why is this song actually here? Why is this song taking up two-and-a-half minutes of my life? Is it just because somebody doesn't have tape anymore and so the amount of recording space is unlimited? That's why I'm sitting here listening to this, because nothing stopped you from doing it, but there's not really a reason to do it? I don't know. If that was me, and I was listening to me, I would get mad, like, "Why are you fucking doing this?" It doesn't have to be great, but it seems like at least there should be kind of a reason. And it's hard to come up with a fucking good reason to write something, I think.

Pitchfork: You keep hinting at one of the issues that would be at the center of making a new Pixies record, namely whether or not it's necessary. In recent interviews, you say it's not, that touring is fun but that a new record might tarnish some of the old memories.

KD: [When] this whole thing started out, we were going to do a couple of shows. Joe [Santiago] said he had one kid and one was on the way, and he said, "Do you wanna do it?" And I said, "Oh God, no, Joe!" And I told everybody this, but nobody believes me. And he said, "Kim, this is really important to me. It will change my school district, where I can put my daughter into school." And I said, "Okay, of course. Of course, I will do this."

I thought it was going to be a couple of shows, and it turned out really good. I had a really good time doing it. People were just so happy we were doing it. It was just so nice, like [an] "it's over, thank you, bye," kind of thing. And so there was never any-- I don't know, I think it gets talked about whenever Charles [Thompson, aka Frank Black] has any release, which is often. I have a feeling that's when he talks about it more than anything. Because him and Joe haven't gotten together to write any songs, so I think it's kind of something to bring up whenever he needs press. That's the only time I hear about it. I have no idea, dude. [MORE...]


Country Singer J.D. "Cast" King R.I.P.

Just yesterday, December 13, Pitchfork ran a story about the efforts to raise money for J.D. "Cast" King, an 81-year-old country singer and songwriter diagnosed with terminal cancer. The same day, King lost his battle with the disease and passed away at home in Old Sand Mountain, Alabama, according to King's label, Locust Music.

King started playing guitar by teaching himself at the age of 10, and in 1955, he and his band the Country Drifters recorded a few tracks at Memphis' legendary Sun Studio. (The list of people who cut their recording teeth there also includes Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and many others.)

After that time, King seemingly disappeared from any sort of public eye until re-emerging in 2005 with his debut album, Saw Mill Man, which came out on Locust Music.

Even though King has passed, money is still needed to help his family cover medical and funeral expenses. Through its website, the Chicago label is hosting an MP3 of "Saved", a song that would have appeared on a Saw Mill Man follow-up. Just below the MP3 is a link to donate to a PayPal account, 100% of the proceeds from which will go to help King's family.

As previously reported, there will be a benefit concert for King on December 29 at JJ's Bohemia in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The show will feature sets from Citico Stringband, the Bohannons, and Saw Mill Man producer Matt Downer.

Finally, King's music will live on next year, as it provides the backdrop to the closing credits of the forthcoming Gus Van Sant movie Paranoid Park.

Minor Threat Turns Condiment, But Ian Doesn't Mind
Ad: "We may never fully understand Minor Threat's ability to take sandwiches, grilled meats, corn chips or eggs to the next level without annihilating your esophagus in the process."

Next time you get the urge to reach for the Tabasco, consider reaching for the Minor Threat instead. Yep, the seminal, Ian MacKaye-fronted straight edge hardcore legends-- who, on stage and record alike, were anything but mild-- have been immortalized as a hot sauce that is, well, something less than hot.

"Made from a rare, mild breed of habanero [pepper] grown specifically for us, Minor Threat...mysteriously privileges the pepper's fruitiness over its notoriously overwhelming heat," reads the product description from Brooklyn-based sauciers (and picklers) Wheelhouse Pickles.

While "fruitiness" and Minor Threat should probably never be uttered in the same sentence, the sauce was indeed inspired by the DC giants, according to a recent Gothamist post (via The Daily Swarm). Wheelhouse chief pickler Jon Orren picked the name because of his affinity for the band, and also because it made sense (a mild pepper is, after all, less threatening than, say, a medium or hot one).

And MacKaye is into it, having asked only that an original label design parodying the famous "Bottled Violence" image be nixed. "I don't have an occasion to eat a lot of hot sauce," he's quoted in the Gothamist story as saying, "but I also thought the Minor Threat stuff was nice."

And really, who can grumble when the odd branding choice leads to descriptive gems like this one? "We may never fully understand Minor Threat's ability to take sandwiches, grilled meats, corn chips or eggs to the next level without annihilating your esophagus in the process."

Please, someone name a food product after Merzbow next.

Pollard Records 7" With Decemberists, Quasi Members
"The influence of alcohol" also contributed to the music

Shocker in Gloomtown: Reluctant songwriter Robert Pollard has whipped up a brand new 7". This one falls under the Takeovers umbrella, and features Pollard's Takeovers partner Chris Slusarenko, Decemberists drummer John Moen, Quasi's Sam Coomes, and Brian Berg of 44 Long backing the Fading Captain on four tracks. They're calling it the "Little Green Onion Man" EP, and indeed, the title track falls off the Malkmus-assisted Bad Football LP from earlier this year.

This "Little Green Onion Man" EP makes its way to stores February 12 on Off Records, on 950 CDs and 950 7"s. 500 of the 7"s will be hand-numbered and available exclusively via the Off website, so if you enjoy the feeling of knowing definitively that you're the 279th person to own something, that's probably your best bet.

As for Bobby, well, gosh, he high-kicked out the jams at a rare pair of gigs a couple weeks ago, and he'll do the same on a duo of releases due in January and February. He's also taking part in Merge Records' charity poster auction. And, as always, recording 7,000 songs a day for a Who tribute album that doesn't exist, some of which show up on the current Pollard singles series. [MORE...]

Los Campesinos! Reveal Album Tracklist, Release Date

Hold On Now, Youngster..., the ravenously anticipated debut LP from the Welsh wunderkinds in Los Campesinos!, now has itself a release date and a tracklist. The disc can be yours in the UK February 25 on Wichita, the same day a digital release hits North America from Arts & Crafts. The latter label will get the album onto North American shelves April 1, no foolin'.

From the recently-Forkcasted "Death to Los Campesinos!"-- out in UK-only single form February 18 from Wichita-- through the cheeky "Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks", the band will likely touch on all the glorious vagaries of being young and alive and in a really cracking band.

Old favorites "You! Me! Dancing" and "Don't Tell Me to Do the Math(s)" appear, as does the seasonally-appropriate (well, now, anyway) "The Year in Lists" and the extremely lengthy but nevertheless hilarious "This Is How You Spell. 'HAHAHA, We Destroyed the Hopes and Dreams of a Generation of Faux-Romantics'". Ya'll got longer titles than Fall Out Boy, yo!

Shucks, there's even a tune on the album called "Knee Deep at ATP", which helps me right along to my next point. Before they themselves are knee deep at this May's ATP vs. Pitchfork festival, Los Campesinos! are touring! They've added a few UK dates around our previous rundown of their European trek, which kicks off in late January in Denmark. Until then, I guess you and me will have to do our dancing elsewhere. [MORE...]


Swell Return With New Album, Rarities Collection

As Pitchfork's Dave Maher aptly pointed out last time we addressed a resurgent college rock fave of yesteryear, lots of bands from the late 80s and early 90s have opted to hop back in the saddle here in the aughts. You might even call it a trend.

My Bloody Valentine, the Verve, and Swervedriver are leading the shoegaze charge, while largely unsung heroes of the underground like Big Dipper, Chavez, Polvo, and Versus have poked their heads into this century to say "Hi" and help remind us why we missed them.

And then we have San Francisco's Swell, led by David Freel, who never really went anywhere but whose two new/"new" releases still feel like a reemergence of sorts. The act formed in 1989 and has treated folks to eight full-length albums of brooding balladry that should sit well with fans of fellow monosyllabic faves and contemporaries like Slint, Low, Come, Spent, Seam, and Drunk.

Album number eight arrived just this week. Collecting ten new Swell songs, South of the Rain and Snow is a self-released affair, available only on the Swell website. South marks Freel and co.'s first disc since 2003's Whenever You're Ready on Beggars Banquet. Also out now is The Lost Album, which bundles nine "tracks that got left behind" from Swell's recording sessions for 1997 LP Too Many Days Without Thinking.

Thanks to reader Ethel Chauvin for the tip. Oh, and while we're on the subject: Dear Rodan, please reunite. Love, Matthew. [MORE...]

Mission of Burma Have a Burmese Mission

Photo by William Kirk

The urge to pun is strong with this one, but it's for a good cause, so I'll be brief: Boston post-punkers Mission of Burma will take the stage at Allston, MA's Great Scott January 20 to benefit the politically and economically troubled Southeast Asian nation of Burma (aka Myanmar).

The veteran band has teamed up with the U.S. Campaign for Burma for the event, and will be joined at the show by pals the Neighborhoods and the In Out. In addition to the music, show-goers will have the opportunity to take in an audiovisual presentation about the current state of Burma, along with speakers discussing the manifold problems the nation faces.

When they're not getting political for a good cause, Mission of Burma are getting political just cuz they don't know any other way. The night before the Burma benefit, they'll make their way to Brooklyn's Music Hall of Williamsburg, which, presently, stands as the band's only other live plan.

No word yet on the status of those Mission of Burma reissues we mentioned late in the summer, but hey, these dudes have been relevant for nearly three decades now, so a few more months' wait isn't gonna hurt anything. [MORE...]

Oldham, Faun Fables Release Letting Go Demos

Will Oldham is a busy guy all of a sudden. Right on the heels of releasing the Bonnie "Prince" Billy covers EP Ask Forgiveness (and contributing to some stunning duets on the new Scout Niblett album), he has revisited last year's The Letting Go with Wai Notes, out this week via Drag City imprint Sea Note.

Credited to "Dawn McCarthy & Bonny Billy," the 10-song set is a collection of demos for The Letting Go from Oldham and Faun Fables' Dawn McCarthy, who sang on the album. To add to the sudden nature of the affair, Wai Notes is limited to an edition of 10,000 copies worldwide, so if you want a copy, get thee to a record store now! [MORE...]


Photos: GZA Performs Liquid Swords [New York, NY; 12/13/07]

Photos and text by Drew Katchen

Wu-Tang Clan have been all over the place in late 2007, with Raekwon performing at the J.A.M. Awards last month, Ghostface doing Hip Hop Live!, RZA on the road, and Wu about to set off-- not to mention the arrival of Ghostface's Big Doe Rehab and the first Wu record in six years, 8 Diagrams.

And then of course, we have GZA's pair of performances at the Knitting Factory, the first of which went down last night and saw his 1995 classic Liquid Swords cut up, reworked, enhanced by enthusiastic crowd participation, and temporarily abandoned in favor of Wu-Tang or Ol' Dirty Bastard songs. Pitchfork Music Festival attendees this past summer will recall GZA swinging through Swords in between Slint and Sonic Youth.

Here, GZA-- backed by an on-stage entourage at least 10 deep-- didn't make mention of the canceled McCarren Park Pool Liquid Swords show that would have closed out the park's series of summer live concerts. But just before "Gold", he did playfully acknowledge the Knitting Factory's intimate size and his recent UK trip for ATP's Nightmare Before Christmas show. Ultimately, the showcase took Swords' eerie verses and frigid beats and made them into something warm and revelatory.

After a second run through Liquid Swords tonight, GZA will join up with the Wu for a jaunt across the U.S. Dates and more photos below.


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