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Arthur Reborn!
Arthur the aardvark still getting into mischief, moralizing

Just a few months after a tragic retirement from newsstands, it seems Arthur magazine is getting primed for a triumphant return. As reported in Los Angeles weekly CityBeat, editor and co-founder Jay Babcock (as Arthur Publishing Company) recently bought out publisher Laris Kreslins' 50% share in the bi-monthly rag, which Babcock has designs on resurrecting.

"I have now gained 100 percent control of Arthur," Babcock told CityBeat, "and I intend to resume publishing the magazine as soon as all the financing is in order."

To secure funds for the buy-out, Babcock turned to those he knew best. "When I reached out, it was to a close circle of family and...longtime friends," he told CityBeat, adding, "We probably will do a benefit or two or auction off one-of-a-kind items to help me pay back all the people who loaned me money."

Since establishing the periodical in 2002, the folks behind Arthur have published 25 issues devoted to music, art, and cultural and political criticism, and distributed them free of charge. The 26th issue, in process at the time of Arthur's premature demise in February 2007, will not see print, most of its content having already appeared in other publications or on the Arthur website.

Babcock hasn't forecasted precisely when Arthur will return to the press. "It's not time yet," he told CityBeat. "All the ducks are getting in order, and then we'll go for a swim."

It's also not clear at this time what this means for Arthur-sponsored festivals, nor the Arthur-spawned imprint Bastet.

Kreslins, meanwhile, confirmed the business transaction in a recent e-mail to Pitchfork. He also sought to clear up some of the confusion regarding his break with Arthur: "There's no 'one' version of what happened...There's a full scope and it's complicated and emotional. I had been openly planning my departure from the magazine for a long time and marked issue 25 as my last issue as publisher more than a year before it went to print," he wrote, adding, "I really am looking forward to the next issue of Arthur."

Kreslins will continue work "developing a concept for a Philadelphia-centric magazine and focusing my attention on projects I have going on locally." What's more, "I just found a litter of kittens who don't have a momma, so that's taking up a chunk of time, too."

Ted Leo Adds U.S. Dates to Neverending Tour

Whatever Ted Leo's on, I want some: the stalwart punk synergist never seems to run out of gas (insert "vegan cheese" gag here).

Ted and his Pharmacists cap their previously announced string of European shows with Lollapalooza, a hightail around the American South, and a date in Cleveland (which, I'm told, rocks). Of special note is a stop at suburban Atlanta's WhirlyBall bumper-car arena, which should top your "venues to attend before I die" list.

In other Leo lowdown, he's got a track on the soundtrack to the Clash documentary Let Fury Have the Hour, and a recipe in the indie cookbook I Like Food, Food Tastes Good. [MORE...]


Photos: The Mountain Goats / The Extra Glenns [Brooklyn, NY; 05/11/07]

Photos by Kathryn Yu

Cram some 150 people into a room meant for maybe 100-- with the overflow clamoring around the outside windows for a peak-- and sweat is bound to pour forth in earnest. Luckily, the folks who turned out to see John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats play a special solo set at Brooklyn's Sound Fix record store-- with a rare bonus appearance by Darnielle and Franklin Bruno's the Extra Glenns-- didn't seem to mind all that much. Instead, they rejoiced in watching a gleeful Darnielle play "old and obscure stuff," in his words.

John also played "Palmcorder Yajna", first referencing Ben Gibbard's cover and declaring, "I spent all day trying to learn how to play 'Transatlanticism', but I have a very short term memory. Instead, I'll play the one he played." With Bruno, Darnielle debuted a new Glenns tune, "Programmed Cell Death", calling upon an audience member to hold up the lyrics sheet. And when John forgot the first line of another, unreleased Glenns jam, "Carmen Cicero"-- one he claimed "only the hardest of the hardcore" would know-- the audience once again came to the rescue, with one super fan (in a Captain America t-shirt, no less) dialing up a live bootleg of the song on his iTunes so John could have a listen and jog his memory. Hardcore indeed.


Exclusive: Polyphonic Spree Announce Summer Tour
Band gets smashed, becomes Polyphonic Pixy Stix

Been moving through life like a slug? Are you letting it live you, rather than living it yourself? Are you looking for someone who really understands? The Polyphonic Spree can help. Their potent blend of happy-go-culty Kool-Aid has inspired devotees with wills stronger than yours, brother. They're just looking to show you a better way.

The spectacular (and only slightly creepy) Polyphonic Spree wish to welcome you to the fold this summer on a bunch of North American happenings and be-ins. You can find out firsthand whether or not those new black get-ups have any end-of-days significance, and maybe pick up a copy of the TVT-issued, tracklist-flux The Fragile Army, due June 19. Just make sure not to eat anything you didn't personally unwrap. [MORE...]

Photos: Morrissey [Omaha, NE; 05/11/07]

Photos by Paparazzi by Appointment

Morrissey-- he of the electric eyebrows and the lovable tuft-- swung through Omaha's Orpheum this past Friday on a quest to make Midwestern boys and girls swoon. Quite the endurance test, that quest continues through late July, with blue-eyed Moz melting hearts from the East to West coasts and everywhere in between.


Smashing Pumpkins Announce U.S. Residencies

In anticipation of the July release of their long-awaited new album, Zeitgeist, the partially reformed Smashing Pumpkins have announced live residencies in Asheville, North Carolina and San Francisco surrounding their appearance at Live Earth.

The Asheville residency comes first and will feature the band at the city's Orange Peel club, playing nine shows between June 23 and July 5. The San Francisco residency will consist of eight shows at the Fillmore between July 22 and August 1.

At the residencies, Billy Corgan, Jimmy Chamberlin, and co. will vary their set lists nightly as they play material from Zeitgeist as well as their extensive back catalog. They also plan to rework songs from the cutting room floor of the Zeitgeist sessions and perform songs written the day of each show.

The Pumpkins have also changed Zeitgeist's release date to a Tuesday in alignment with industry standards. The record will now come out July 10 instead of July 7, but don't let those three extra days convince you to go stealing anything.

As for who, exactly, is in the Smashing Pumpkins right now, rumors are swirling that bassist Ginger Reyes from the Halo Friendlies is playing the D'Arcy/Melissa Auf Der Maur role, while guitarist Jeff Schroeder from the Lassie Foundation is the new James Iha.

The rest of the band's tour dates are still mostly at European festivals, but they begin with a non-festival date in Paris on May 22. [MORE...]


Kanye, Madlib, Hi-Tek Produce Kweli's Ear Drum
Album also features Jean Grae, UGK, um, Norah Jones

Talib Kweli will release his fourth official solo album, Ear Drum, on July 24 via Warner Bros. and his own Blacksmith Music. The album features production contributions from Kanye West, Madlib, frequent Kweli collaborator Hi-Tek, and, and there are vocal guest spots from UGK, Norah Jones, and semi-recent Blacksmith signee Jean Grae.

In typical rap-release style, Ear Drum does not yet have a tracklist, though a few song titles include first single "Hot Thing", "Soon the New Day" (the Norah Jones collaboration), and the, Jean Grae-featuring "Say Something". Eager ears may stream the latter track below.

We sincerely hope that Ear Drum does not go the way of Kweli's buddy Mos Def's most recent album.

Kweli also guests on the recently released Sa-Ra album The Hollywood Recordings, out now on Babygrande. And he will perform at NYC's Highline Ballroom on May 18.

Bad Brains, RJD2 to Rock NYC Cruise Ship
Now we know what "Sailin' On" was really about

What better way to celebrate nearly 30 years of punk rock rebellion than with a new album and a show... on a cruise ship? We're surprised as well, but that is indeed how Bad Brains plan to celebrate the release of their new album, Build a Nation (out June 26 via Megaforce Records and featuring the band's original lineup and production from Beastie Boy Adam "MCA" Yauch).

Fans will pay to cum aboard (not literally, please) a ship called the Temptress to see the Brains play a seasickness-inducing set on June 25 as part of the Sixth Annual Rocks Off Concert Cruise Series. The summer-long series will also feature sea-faring concerts by RJD2, the Weakerthans, Electric Six, Amon Tobin, Kid Koala, Elliott Lipp, a bunch of cover bands, and...the Pietasters.

The ship show is one of a few North American dates Bad Brains have scheduled for this summer. Those dates commence May 25 in Portland.

RJD2 has added European dates to his own previously reported tour, which only included North American dates before. He will also release The Third Hand's "Have Mercy" as a 12" and digital single via XL on July 9 in the UK. He will precede the single's release with a brand new, download-only track titled "Roller Skating Jam" on June 4. [MORE...]


Aesop Rock Talks New Record, Darnielle, Storytelling
"I hung out in parking lots. For like, years and years and years."

Photo by Chrissy Piper

Musically, Aesop Rock's last four years have included shows, an EP, a book, and one of those Nike exercise mixes. What they haven't included is a full-length album. But the MC will fill the LP-shaped void in his recent past with the release of his fourth album, None Shall Pass, via Def Jux on August 28. He spoke to Pitchfork about the album earlier this week, and during the course of the conversation, he revealed insights about the writing and recording processes, his (and Def Jux's) history, and his friendship with Mountain Goats songwriter John Darnielle, who provided a seemingly unlikely guest appearance on None Shall Pass.

Pitchfork: What's the idea behind the album's title?

Aesop Rock: Well, I turned 30 this year, and I did a bunch of shit there that was more adult-y than things that I've ever done before, so it settled into my head that once you hit an age-- I guess I'll throw 30 out there, around then-- is sort of a time when you become ultimately responsible for your actions. And I guess None Shall Pass is saying nobody is going to get past this mid-point in their life without being looked at or judged in a certain way by their peers and their contemporaries.

Pitchfork: How did the John Darnielle collaboration on the record come about?

AR: I think it was like 1994. My older brother was in college, and I went to college and he was like, "Hey check this band, the Mountain Goats, out," and I heard a bunch of Mountain Goats stuff starting in '94. I was kind of an über-fan for many years, and sometime after Bazooka Tooth came out, I was randomly reading a Mountain Goats interview and he had put Bazooka Tooth on an end-of-year list. And I was just floored, because I was a super-fan, and I was like, "Holy shit! He's a fan!" And I had seen him do shows for years and years and years, and then finally I was at a Mountain Goats show in New York, and I was like, "Should I be that fucking asshole who's just like, 'Hey, I'm fuckin' Aesop'?" But I did, and I was like, "Hey man, I think you know my stuff," and then he was like "Shit yeah," or whatever, so we got to know each other. That was at some show in New York three or four years ago, I guess 2003 that was, and we've been pretty good friends since.

That guy is one of the better lyricists of our generation. One time we were in Brooklyn when he performed, and after the show we were going to do something, so he actually recorded some other stuff at my house that's not getting used. [Because] I don't know how to figure out how to collab with someone who's not rapping [laughs], he just recorded a straight-up acoustic song at the house. And I was like, "Well, it's a good song, maybe I'll fuck with it and tweak it and turn it into a beat and rhyme on it," but it never ended up panning out. So eventually I was recording songs for the album, and I just sent him an mp3 of a demo, and I was like, "Hey can you sing anything on this? Would this be up your alley?" And he did a pretty damn good job.

Pitchfork: So the song that ended up on the album is essentially a rap song, and he gave it the equivalent of an r&b singer treatment?

AR: Well, he doesn't do the hook [laughs]. He's got a verse. It's not like a rap verse or anything, but he sings a verse on the song.

Pitchfork: Was it weird to be a fan of his for so long and then to meet him and become friends?

AR: Yeah, it's completely weird. This is a guy who, out of everybody in the world, was on my real top list of people that just flat-out impressed me, and so, yeah, when I found out that he liked my stuff I was going crazy. It was definitely a bit of a dream come true. And then when he actually did the singing and recorded and I got to hear it, it was better than I had hoped. I think it came out sick, I can't even lie. I kept rewinding his verse for a long time.

Pitchfork: When you guys first met, was he in awe of you at all, or did he play it cool?

AR: Oh we probably had a bit of a mutual fan-out, but he's been putting out music since way before I was putting out music, and I feel like I'm probably a bigger fan of him than he is of me [laughs]. But that being said, he definitely knows my stuff, and he likes it. At this point, it's turned into a friendship, but one of those friendships where he'll sing on a song, and I'll be reminded, "Oh yeah, you're this guy, and you're really talented on top of everything." There are probably more collaborations to come, too. We've just got to figure out a way not to make it too Judgment Night-y. That was our biggest worry. [MORE...]

Meat Puppets' Kirkwoods Reunite and Rise, Tour

They've been Up on the Sun and Too High to Die, II, but they'll be damned before they'd call the trip done just yet. Both Curt and Cris Kirkwood will appear on Rise to Your Knees, the newest album from the twisty-wristed punks of the Meat Puppets, due out July 17 on Anodyne. It's the brothers' first on-record pairing since 1995's No Joke! and the first Puppets studio album period since 2000.

And what would a reunion record be without an accompanying tour? Diddly, that's what. The Puppeteers have a few west coast dates slated for May, with an "extensive U.S. tour" promised later in the year. [MORE...]


Alog Drop Chops for Amateur

Espen Sommer Eide and Dag-Are Haugan of Norwegian electronic duo Alog have been fooling around. They've recorded themselves playing various instruments to which they are not accustomed. The result is anything but amateurish, but it is Amateur, a collection of these recordings releasing in North America on double LP and CD May 15 on Rune Grammofon.

Rune Grammofon are having themselves a busy late spring, with MoHa!'s Norwegianism and Ultralyd's Conditions for a Piece of Music both due out this month. And Supersilent are at work on a new disc, tentatively scheduled for late summer or fall according to the label's website.

Alog's got an awfully leisurely schedule in comparison, with a single September date scheduled in Spain. [MORE...]


Drag City Launches World Music Label Yaala Yaala

Chicago indie Drag City has always favored music a little out of step with the indie rock norm (check the booklet of Ys for testament to that), but their latest venture takes them quite a few paces off the beaten path.

May 22 will see the proper launch of Yaala Yaala Records, the new world music imprint under the Drag City umbrella that will release three albums of music from lesser-known West African artists May 22. Albums by Wasulu duo Pekos & Yoro Diallo, Malian griot Daouda Dembele, and a collection recorded at house parties in the Malian locales of Bougouni and Bamako will all hit stores with a Yaala Yaala sticker.

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