What's Wrong With This Picture? If you happen to be passing by the S bin at a record store that would stock such a thing, stop for a moment and look for Boz Scaggs' new R&B/adult contemporary album, Come On Home. Don't buy it; don't even listen to it; just look at the album art. (Riff Raff will not reprint it here, as that might be construed as some sort of endorsement.) What we have is a gritty urban streetside, perhaps circa 1960. In the background, on the side of a run-down building: a poster announcing Boz Scaggs appearances -- "three nites only" -- apparently at Slim's, 333 11th St. between Folsom and Harrison (which Scaggs owns). A partially glimpsed poster off to the right advertises Hank Ballard appearing at an unspecified venue. In a doorway, an Af-Am man with a cigarette slack in his mouth points at a child. In the foreground: a fish-tailed car -- trunk open, with a suitcase inside -- and a pair of black children, one of whom appears to be holding a dollar or a wrapper. The entire image is suffused with a touched-up or doctored feel, even aside from the obvious poster insertions. Whatever it is, there's something downright unnerving about it. Lovecraft-style "non-Euclidian" geometry? A tiny genitorture still superimposed within a taillight? Worn-out scratch 'n' sniff? While Riff Raff can't quite figure out just what's wrong with the picture -- dorky race-and-authenticity subtext aside -- perhaps you can. In the meantime, we'll just be over here, minding our own business, fighting off a case of the creeps. (M.B.)
Three Chords, the Truth, and Controlling Interest on the Board of Directors Last Thursday at the surprise Neil Young show, while several thousand people lined up outside the Trocadero -- a couple of hundred just to use the pay phone (the hippie network, apparently) -- two employees of electronica-pioneering record labels 911 and Om amused themselves by sipping cocktails and arguing over which railroad company boasts Neil Young as a major stockholder. Lionel won over Amtrak. (Young, a model-train hobbyist and father of two, bought Lionel Trains Inc. with his partners at Wellspring Associates in 1995.) We won't tell you which hipster knew that special bit of dinosaur trivia. (S.T.)
Stranger Than Paradigms Class, we have an essay question. Jim Jarmusch's Year of the Horse -- the Neil Young and Crazy Horse concert movie that had its world premiere at the closing of the S.F. film fest last week -- creates an interesting theoretical puzzle. The opening credits of the feature, greeted with cheers by the audience, proclaim that the movie was "proudly" filmed in Super 8. But Jarmusch said after the screening that the music was recorded direct to DAT and remixed digitally. Please explain why it's cool to film the thing crummily, but not record it that way. Extra credit if your answer does not include the phrase "But it's the music that really matters." (K.D.E.)
Don't Ya Tell Henry "We needn't bow our heads in shame because this is the best album of 1975," Robert Christgau wrote of The Basement Tapes on its official release. "It would have been the best album of 1967 too. And it's sure to sound great in 1983." Nearly a decade and a half after even that, the mysterious, impenetrable song cycle -- the famously bootlegged Bob Dylan and the Band practice sessions -- can still entrance. The latest work from Berkeley's Greil Marcus is Invisible Republic, a book-length meditation on the dozens of songs recorded at the Band's "Big Pink" Woodstock hideaway in the months after Dylan's 1966 motorcycle accident. "The uncompleted world of the basement tapes," Marcus writes, "was a fantasy beginning in artifacts refashioned by real people, dimly apprehended figures who out of the kettle of the folk revival appeared in the flesh to send an unexpected message." Marcus reads from the book and answers questions Sunday, May 18, at 7:30 p.m. at Black Oak Books, 1491 Shattuck in Berkeley. It's free; call (510) 486-0698. (J.D.P.)
The Young and the X-less, Part 7 In our continuing series of outtakes from Ecstasy Club ("Destined to be a cult classic"), author Douglas Rushkoff -- who, the back cover informs us, has "lived the GenX life to the hilt as a hacker, raver, and commentator on the new-tech scene" -- hones his "addictively readable" and "hyperaccurate glimpse into the bleeding-edge subcultures that today's young people thrive in." Here, the protagonists smell something fishy. Simply put, Rushkoff's tome may be the best roman à clef study of subculture since Michael Hornburg's Bongwater. (M.B.)
"No," he answered quietly. "This was on a higher plane entirely." Of course it was. It was Duncan's plane, not Margot's or some ET's. "But there was another force there. A dark force. A force connected to the beings that took you, Margot, connected to whoever attacked Pig in the visionquest, responsible for the generators exploding, the police raid, Kirsten's disappearance..." Kirsten's disappearance? No one had called it that until now, and Duncan waited for this repositioning of the event to settle in. "I'm not saying she's working against us, necessarily, but there are connections we can't ignore any longer. If she were here, I'd have no problem confronting her directly. But she's not. Odd, isn't it?"
"What would you confront her about?" I asked, quite surprised that I came so quickly to her defense. It should have been Peter's job now.
"I know it's hard, Zach, considering how you must still feel about her" Duncan said. He knew I didn't still have those feelings, and underscored that fact by pretending I did. I sensed this was for Lauren's benefit -- to raise doubt about the longevity of my affections. "But we have to look at the connections objectively," he continued without missing a beat, pushing a myriad of agendas with every sentence. "Where is Kirsten from? Humbolt. Where is the Air Force base supplying the vacuum tubes? Where is the 707 area code of the number the computer spontaneously called on the visionquest? Northern California. Arcata. Humbolt. What is the connection between Malthus, eugenics, and Kirsten's Grateful Dead? Her play, 'Hand to Mouth' equating feedback loops with cannibalism and limited resources? How does that relate to Margot's aliens, their environmental doomsday message, and the genetics experiments they are apparently carrying out in her own womb?"
Damn, he was good. It was like three seasons of X-files in less than minute.
Riff Raff riffraff: Robert Arriaga (R.A.), Michael Batty (M.B.), Johnny DiPaola (J.D.P.), Karl D. Esturbense (K.D.E.), Jeff Stark (J.S.), Silke Tudor (S.T.), and Bill Wyman (B.W.). Send Bay Area music news, band stories, or petty gripes to firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail it to Riff Raff, c/o SF Weekly. No flack, please.