Riff Raff

Might We Suggest Hype! II: Electric Boogaloo? and Listing Toward San Francisco

Might We Suggest Hype! II: Electric Boogaloo?It doesn't have a title yet, but the people who created the 1996 Seattle grunge documentary Hype! were in town recently to finish work on a film on turntablism. A couple of weeks ago, a film crew was shooting at a Justice League showcase, which finishes the San Francisco round of live shots and interviews with DJ Q-Bert, DJ Shadow, Peanut Butter Wolf, and the Supernatural Turntable All-Stars that were conducted in the last few months. San Francisco's just one of the locations for the Doug Pray-directed film, which also devotes time to Los Angeles and New York City. "We're super-excited," says producer Brad Blondheim, who was drawn to the idea of a turntablism documentary because "for the first time in 100 years, we're seeing the evolution of a brand-new instrument, and one of the first of the next century." Films devoted to turntablism are abundant, from the locally produced Shigger Fraggar Show tapes to videos of the ITF and DMC competitions, but the closest thing the genre has to a quote-unquote serious documentary is last year's Modulations, directed by Iara Lee with more of an ear to electronic music in general than scratching in particular. According to Blondheim, the crew will start editing down its footage next month, and hopes to have a final cut ready for the film festival circuit in early summer. Plans to have the DJs tour along with the film are in the works.

Listing Toward San FranciscoHaving done some hard time in the world of music journalism, Riff Raff has devoted a fair amount of effort to reading -- and sometimes compiling -- best-of lists. So we took a special interest in the Chronicle's enumeration of the "Bay Area's All-Time Best Bands," which appeared with much fanfare in the Dec. 19 pink section. Pondering the list for a while, we came to two conclusions: 1) A top 50 list would've been more honest and less embarrassing, and 2) Even Chroncolumnist Ken Garcia realized this.

Really, thinking of Van Morrison (ranked 19th) as a Bay Area artist is a bit like thinking of Reggie Jackson as a California Angel. Giving Eddie Money (85), Pablo Cruise (91), and Mr. Big (100) any credit -- any -- for doing something musically useful, let alone great, is being too kind. And if the list's assemblers (Joel Selvin, James Sullivan, and Neva Chonin) confess that Jefferson Starship (99) was a purveyor of "hollow, empty pop," what's so "best" about that group of hacks?

However, what's most striking about the list is that, as a catalog of what people talk about when they talk about Bay Area pop music, the Selvin-Sullivan-Chonin brain trust got it exactly right. Few local bands or musicians who have made a dent on the national scene got omitted -- though the unlisted Operation Ivy was a much better and more influential band than its listed spinoff Rancid, and alas, Night Ranger couldn't crack the top 100.

To be fair, the list does do justice to locals' contributions to punk (Dead Kennedys, Flipper, Avengers), hip hop (DJ Shadow, Invisibl Skratch Piklz, Spearhead, Too Short, and Tupac, that last being questionable as a "local"), altrock (Imperial Teen, Red House Painters, American Music Club), and wonderful weirdness (Negativland, the Residents). The question has to be asked, though: Why do the list at all? Right -- to sell newspapers, but let's think a little harder on this one. In many things, not just pop music, the Bay Area is rigorously assertive (and defensive) about its place on the worldwide scene, often to the point of absurdity. There's a tone of "Hey, we're important too!" to the list, both in its prose and in its concept. The defensive stance stems mainly from the way the Bay Area gets treated by the cultural power centers in New York and Los Angeles, which is to say, receiving condescending little pats on the head, as eager schoolchildren do when they've aced their spelling tests. Your little band charted onGavin? Good for you! When are you going to move to L.A. and get serious?As one music industry insider infamously put it, the local rock scene suffers from an "enthusiastic mediocrity."

We trust that in saying all this, nobody will interpret us as having some sort of bad attitude toward local music -- although we confess that we've sat and stood through a whole lot of enthusiastic mediocrity from locals this year. But when it came time to sort through stacks of records and recall the good ones, we had little problem coming up with a sizable pile of local CDs we got a genuine kick out of. So, then, here are 25 we remember quite fondly, listed in no particular order:

El Stew(Om)

Mushroom, Analog Hi-Fi Surprise(Innerspace)

Joe Goldmark, All Hat -- No Cattle(HMG)

Quannum Spectrum (Quannum Projects)

Halou, We Only Love You (Bedazzled)

Matmos, The West(Deluxe)

Oranger, Doorway to Norway(Pray for Mojo)

Blackalicious, A2G EP

(Quannum Projects)

Paula West, Restless (Noir)

For Stars, Windows for Stars

(Future Farmer)

Tin Hat Trio, Memory Is an Elephant(Angel)

Johnny Dilks & His Visitacion Valley

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