Riff Raff

Another Reason Why S.T. Should Henceforth Be Known as Riff Raff's "Goth Correspondent" Those of you who were watching Hard Copy on June 26 -- and don't even bother trying to deny that you watch the tabloid show -- might have recognized the euphonious strains of local goth torch singer Jill Tracy. The television "news" magazine chose music from Tracy's album Quintessentially Unreal to accompany its in-depth piece on the resurgence of absinthe use in America. For those tragically ill-informed about the popular narcotics of the turn of the century, absinthe is a syrupy, emerald-green, 80-proof liqueur distilled from wormwood, angelica root, sweet-flag root, star anise, and dittany that induces a lucid, deeply introspective high (not that anyone on the Riff Raff staff would know from firsthand experience). The liqueur -- a favorite of Baudelaire, Monet, Poe, Wilde, and Gary Oldman's Dracula -- can cause delirium and jaundiced eyes, among other physical maladies, and was prohibited in the U.S.A. in 1912. Riff Raff would like to note that it can still be purchased legally in Portugal and the Czech Republic, and illegally in the Bay Area, which, according to Hard Copy, is a hotbed of illicit absinthe consumption goaded, the show says, by Nine Inch Nails' "Perfect Drug" video. Tracy, whose album is often the music of choice at local absinthe parties, denies this, saying that the liqueur has always been popular within the gothic community, which goes to great lengths to emulate Victorian behavior and dress. Still, Hard Copy's interest gave her an opportunity to appear on national television (along with local absinthe drinkers and producers who wore masks to protect their identities) and to have her album credits run alongside those of Trent Reznor. Although Jill Tracy has tried absinthe on occasion -- in order to "better understand the muse which has compelled so many of the world's visionaries" -- she is by no means a habitual absinthe drinker. The popularity of her music within that crowd reflects the dreamy, opulent nature that has always existed in her work. "Drinking absinthe is like drinking a part of the past," says Tracy. "I have always been intuitively drawn to a different era. Subconsciously, I channel many ghosts, and that shows in my music." (S.T.)

Single Minded Just when Riff Raff was beginning to think that San Francisco's mainstream media might have some clue about any of the music and culture of the past 20 years, the illusion was shattered. To wit: a front-page, above-the-fold story in the July 12 Examiner dubbed "No. 1 of All Time." The story originally appeared in the London Independent; it was based on a survey-cum-publicity stunt by the British magazine Mojo, whose unapologetic focus is on classic and bygone rockers. But by placing the article front and center, alongside news stories on budgetary maneuvers, fires, and the like, the Ex compounded the English press' mistakes. And those errors are plentiful. Let's start with the obvious: Prince's "When Doves Cry" is renamed "Just When Doves Cry," while breezy Brit popsters the Lightning Seeds transmogrify into the Lightening Seeds -- both in the story's first six paragraphs. But butchered names and titles are least among the article's problems: Its self-righteous take on popular music bolsters our suspicions that boomers are a bunch of narcissistic know-nothings. Here's the lead. "The baby boomers' refrain that pop music has gone downhill since the '60s has been confirmed by a poll of pop experts that seems to show the art of the single peaked in 1966." Given the poll's origins, this sentence is basically tautological. The story tries to blur the issue. "[Mojo] insists that the music industry people questioned were not all aging hippies and rock dinosaurs," the piece continues. "In fact, those voting included Ian Broudie, lead singer of the Lightening [sic] Seeds, Noel Gallagher of Oasis and former Take That star Gary Barlow." Gallagher's retro sensibility and Barlow's penchant for pop schlock don't convince us that Mojo intended the poll to be anything but comforting to its readers. While the Ex didn't provide the full list, the story says plenty about what's not there -- namely, much of anything from 1977 on. The '80s and '90s merited just one tune each ("When Doves Cry" and, of course, "Smells Like Teen Spirit"), and, as the story says, "There is only 'God Save The Queen' by the Sex Pistols to represent the entire punk and post-punk era." Hip hop got nary a mention. The story goes on to quote one Paul Trynka, features editor for Mojo, who speculates that the increasing niching of musical genres led to less "unanimity" about recent singles. It's a valid point -- but if that's true, why call the poll the top 100 singles of all time? Trynka also rationalizes that pop creativity and originality died, conveniently enough, in the late '60s. "Like any art form, the principles are established fairly soon," he proclaims. "By 1968 they had done everything that could be done with a single." This is absurd on its face -- was visual art said and done after prehistoric cave painting? Any number of art movements since prove otherwise. And again, this is exactly what we'd expect an editor of Mojo to say. But the Examiner didn't explain all this to readers in its rush to give its boomer readership its daily pat on the head. (Steve Boland)

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