April 30, 2010
Reprinted from Time.com
There are professors who pretend to be populists and populists who pretend to be professors. But there have never been a head and heart so perfectly matched as the pair within William Jefferson Clinton. It’s an impossible equilibrium: wonky intellectual meets “Oh, hell” card player, oxygen and hydrogen. He defies the laws of physics as his daily exercise, but without him the universe just wouldn’t be as friendly to humans.
Especially those who have it the toughest. And there was no tougher place to be on Jan. 12, 2010, than Haiti.
Bill Clinton, 63, has been in love with this tiny, captivating country for a long, long time. In love with Haiti as it is — and in love with the idea of what Haiti could be.
That’s why he was a brilliant choice to coordinate U.S. support earlier this year, along with President George W. Bush. And a brilliant choice by the U.N. to be its envoy to Haiti in 2009. Involved long before the earthquake struck, he will be there long after the buildings are back up, working alongside Haitians to make sure things do not return to normal but are better — much better — than before.
That’s a much harder job than bricks and mortar. He knows that the catastrophe in Haiti is not, in fact, a natural one.
Tackling extreme poverty is something Clinton is no stranger to — he has worked in Africa for many years, kicking off debt cancellation, which resulted in an additional 42 million African children going to school. He had a huge hand in slashing the price of AIDS drugs for people who couldn’t afford them.
Where I’m from, he’s a mythic figure. Ditto Haiti, ditto Africa — a huge crowd puller wherever he goes. Rock stars can’t be President (lucky for you), but we’ve all got reason to be thankful that Presidents can be rock stars.
Bono is the lead singer of U2 and co-founder of ONE and (RED)
April 28, 2010
The flowers are budding, the sun is starting to shine and the Rites of Spring Festival has returned again to Vanderbilt University in Nashville Tennessee! [Read more]
April 26, 2010
Having their Evil Urges tour cut short by Yim Yames’s injury (falling off the stage in Iowa), My Morning Jacket are back on the road for the first time since welcoming 2009 at Madison Square Garden. Always inspired and innovative about what makes a rock show special, the Jacket have brought the Preservation Hall Jazz Band on tour as support.
With a stop at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival behind them, the short spring caravan dances throughout the southeast. Later this summer, the Jacket will hit some festivals and do a few nights opening for Tom Petty. On the second night of this leg, the phenomenal five-piece brought its virtuosity and ferocity to Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium.
For the small crowd in attendance for the opening set, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band created a timeless, romantic, and clubby vibe, complete with clarinet solos and a soaring sousaphone. For two tunes, Yim Yames took the stage and sang lead through a red cheerleader’s megaphone. The collaborative spirit and mutual respect seen then would return for the encore, where the Preservation party would join the Jacket for a full-on, throw-down, soul-town, funkytronic dance party.
Seeing the Jacket’s many gifts, the Nashville faithful bore witness to the sheer ingenuity of a band that can surf seemingly oppositional genres to create a seamlessly unified wave of wondrous get-down. With Yames’s pleasing pipes and gently charismatic muppet magic at the helm, the Jacket’s sizable mojo has always pointed towards a guided tour through the historic kaleidoscope of popular music.
This night hit all the high points of rock and roll diversity and kept getting higher. Now a staple in their always expansive sets, the Jacket jack the unifying rock anthem and execute it at an arena-fit altitude on tracks like “Gideon,” “I’m Amazed,” “Wordless Chorus,” and “Evil Urges.”
Showing Yames as a folk balladeer who could trade wisdom tales with the likes of John Prine, the obscure “Wonderful (is the way I feel)” offered a quiet, reflective, mid-set moment of profound lyrical insight. Other soft spots like “The Way That He Sings,” “Golden,” and “Thank You Too!” tap a vein to the 1970s where light rock, soul, and alt-country (before it was called alt-country) converge in an exploding cassette deck of American mythology. A new track – called “Friends Again” on the setlist – also channels a lost Bic lighter raised to the spirit in the sky with direct telepathy to a bygone era.
Of the more passionate Jacket fans, many come for the deeper valleys of the show, the gorgeous dark spots on the sun that can be found in face-scarring psychedelic jams, last week seen in the trilogy of “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream, Pt. 2,” “Dondante,” and “Run Thru” that closed the main set. Wiggy epiphanies like this once gave the Jacket certain stoner credentials, a legend along the lines of “they’re hirsute cave dwellers who live like the-Bonnaroo-of-the-mind never ends.” What’s ultimately refreshing, then, about the encore, is that the Jacket didn’t stop with the revelation of that hard-jamming indy-psychedelic crown they wore after Okonokos.
Like any good musicologist, Yim Yames knows that all good American music has African roots, and his recent explorations of the jazz-soul-funk continuum prove that his spiritual inclination best meets a communal extrapolation without limits based on genre or cultural boundary. Now, some more academic folks have been “Highly Suspicious” of blues funky white boys from Clapton to Page or of afrobeat borrowers like Paul Simon, for their alleged stealing of the “black” sound. Not only does Yames seem beyond that debate and to be sincerely working in a spirit of musical and cultural solidarity, the dance party the Jacket threw for all of us with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band pumped pure bumps of joy into the Nashville skyline, superior sounds that will reverberate in our bones until the Jacket’s next visit.
–Andrew William Smith, Editor
Photos by Andrew William Smith
My Morning Jacket are currently on tour. Please visit www.mymorningjacket.com
April 25, 2010
In yet another list, Spin names U2′s early 1990s comeback the best records of the last quarter century. Here, we proudly repost Charles Aaron’s excellent reflection.
With the middling reaction to last year’s better-than-you’ll-admit No Line on the Horizon, U2′s chest-heaving big-box spectacle seems to be fatiguing more of pop’s body politic than it’s inspiring. Weirdly, this was exactly the case more than 20 years ago. After the critical and commercial sweep of Joshua Tree, the Irish conglomerate followed its bombastic muse with the ponderous 1988 docu-fiasco Rattle and Hum, which featured a Bono mot that would haunt many of us for years to come: “Okay, Edge, play the blues!” Flailing and directionless, the band retreated and reconsidered whether it was time to fold up their flag for good.
Instead, three years later they emerged with the album –Achtung Baby, cheekily titled as a nod to German reunification — that would energize their career and genetically engineer rock music into the hybridized mutant we know today. Initially recorded at Hansa Studios, a former SS ballroom near the reopened Berlin Wall (and later completed back home in Dublin), Achtung was an effort, stoked primarily by Bono and the Edge, to “deconstruct” the band and rewire it with jolts of beat-generated clutter and collage, nicked from industrial music, hip-hop, dance remixes, and the Madchester scene. That method almost collapsed the band — bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr., as well as coproducer Daniel Lanois, were left bewildered and cranky.
But the frisson found expression in U2′s most immediately dynamic music since 1982′s War, and its most emotionally frank songs to date, capturing that particular early-’90s rub of boundless possibility and worn-down despair. Bono’s lyrical flights had a battered grit, like a defrocked cleric stirred to regain his flock without the usual trick bag of bullshit. “One” became an indelible anthem because it admitted “we’re not the same” but urged that we’ve gotta “carry each other” nonetheless. The squalling swagger of “The Fly” resonated due to the rock star at its center confessing he’s a liar and a thief. And for “Mysterious Ways,” the Edge somehow concocted a jubilantly snarling riff that transformed Bono’s gospel come-on so it didn’t feel gross the morning after.
Unlike Radiohead with OK Computer and Kid A, U2 took their post-industrial, trad-rock disillusionment not as a symbol of overall cultural malaise, but as a challenge to buck up and transcend. Their confessions of frailty and blindness amid murky atmospherics (no doubt egged on by coproducer Brian Eno) had an air of cleansing rather than whining. That the album trails off introspectively is brave in its own quiet way.
Though they continued to bumble through periods of bloat and self-delusion and irrelevance, U2 became the emblematic band of the alternative-rock era with Achtung Baby. Struggling to simultaneously embrace and blow up the world, they were never more inspirational. – Charles Aaron
Originally published on Spin.com
April 25, 2010
Editor’s Note: In the current Rolling Stone, a Top “40 Reasons To Get Excited About Music” lists the return of the 360 tour this summer as number four. In that piece, the U2 manager weighed in on the rumored album Songs of Ascent. Interference asked its contributing writer and resident comedian Jaime Rodriguez to chime in on the news.
Well, by now you’ve Heard the details: U2 Manager Paul McGuiness briefed Rolling Stone magazine: there will be no U2 album by June when the 360 Tour resumes. He also added it’s increasingly likely they will have an album ready by the end of the year. This, of course, invalidates what he told the U2 fan community earlier, promising albums and new songs.
Any moment now, I’m sure we’ll receive a statement from Principle Management, telling us Bono is a social activist and that Larry King wears suspenders. Unfortunately for us U2 fans, statements from McGuiness have become a problem, like eating Chicken Fingers by yourself before applying Cocoa Butter to your body: initially grandiose but ultimately leaving you depressed and crying.
All of this talk of managers telling fanbases things that aren’t true has made me a little nostalgic for the days when I used to go do errands with my grandfather who used to work at a local record label and seeing what he did for fans. By the way, we call my grandfather “Bumpy.” Which, apparently in my native Colombia, is a nickname for a grandfather. As opposed to in Miami, where it’s a nickname for a drag queen.
Back in those days, Bumpy liked to wander the streets asking fans what they thought of their favorite local artists. Whatever negative complaints he heard, he always wrote them on a napkin or on a spare tobacco box in his pocket.
Anyway, Bumpy would pick me up at my house, offering the obligatory “you do not mind the pipe, do ya?”
“No, (cough),” I’d say, “it’s (cough) fine,” as I blindly tried to find the window handle-through the cloud of tobacco smoke.
Meanwhile, the radio would be set on the smooth rock station. You know, the one that boasts the largest playlist of ballads and Diana Ross / Lionel Richie duets. Yeah, that’s Bumpy’s favorite. And for an added bonus, he’d offset the music with strings of expletives frequently leveled at other drivers. To this day, I instinctively blurt out “eff-ing do not even try it, pal” whenever I hear Carole King’s “So Far Away.”
But the point here is that Bumpy knew how to treat fans. And although it was a smaller scale, I don’t remember him ever saying facts that aren’t facts, or promising new records that won’t happen. I realize this is not the band´s fault, but maybe it’s better to say nothing at all than to have to backtrack and disappoint every six months. –Jaime Rodriguez, Contributing Writer
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