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As far as rock bands go, they don’t really come any more profit-oriented than KISS.

It’s decades now since the New York glam pioneers cottoned onto the idea, first articulated by the Rolling Stones, that nostalgia is the true money pit, that unabashedly playing the hits year-on-year to the same audience is a far more profitable well than the whole “recording new music” deal. In the last decade, the KISS and the Stones have released no fewer than two full albums between them, suggesting recorded music may not be a priority for them.

Which makes it all the more unusual that Gene Simmons, The Demon himself, continually manages to get himself caught up in disputes with illegal downloaders. Granted, he has a lot of albums in the can, but very few of them are actually sold in record stores, and it’s difficult to imagine the torrent sites buzzing with excitement over the latest 320kbps rip of Hot in the Shade or Revenge. You’d feel he might be better off leaving the record sales to the people who make records and stick to the pursuit of the midlife crisis dolla.

This week, though, he’s managed to outdo himself. Not only has he continued to voice his support for suing illegal filesharers (an approach even the RIAA has abandoned), he’s threatened to sue Anonymous – yes, the online community of teenage bigots and paedophiles – and have it/them jailed for launching a brute force Denial of Service attack on…

Calabasas, California rockers Incubus have been performing a new track, entitled ‘Surface To Air,’ on recent tour dates in South America.

This splendidly clear video footage was shot at the Santiago stop (that’s in Chile, for the benefit of all of you living in that space between Mexico and Canada) on October 8.

The band are currently working on their seventh album, their first since 2006’s Light Grenades, which is planned for release some time next year.

Thanks to user DoubtGin for the tip.

Last month, Villager-in-chief Conor O’Brien dropped by the Sun newspaper offices (for some reason) and recorded a cover of ‘Tightrope,’ the lead single from bequiffed soul sensation Janelle Monae’s excellent debut album The Archandroid (Suites II and III).

There are no ultra-choreographed dance moves that we can see or hear, unfortunately, but Conor’s simple acoustic guitar arrangement puts a whole new sinister spin on Monae’s vivacious dance number.

Villagers – ‘Tightrope’ (Janelle Monae cover)

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Photo by Lucy Bridger

To celebrate Jónsi’s (Sigur Ros) forthcoming tour of the United States, we’ve teamed up with the Icelandic musician’s label XL Recordings to bring you an exciting competition.

Jónsi and Alex, his boyfriend and collaborator in Riceboy Sleeps, have put together a mix CD containing 13 of their favourite songs, including tracks by Billie Holiday,  Django Reinhardt and Audrey Hepburn, and we’ve got 5 hard copies to give away, complete with custom-designed artwork. Jónsi and Alex designed the sleeve themselves, drawing on themes of childhood and innocence.

Before heading off on tour, Jónsi dropped into the NPR studios to record a segment for the network’s All Things Considered program, which can be listened to here.

To be in with a chance of winning, just send your full name, address (within the United States and Canada) and the name of your favourite Jónsi song to sputnikreviews@gmail.com with the title “Jónsi & Alex contest”.

Closing date: Thursday, October 21, 11:59 EST


1. ‘The Celebrated Polish Carillon using only the upper three keys of the piano’ – Natalia Janotha
2. ‘Ave Maria’ – Alessandro Moreschi
3. ‘Voggubarnsins Mal’- Smarakvarttinn A Akureyr
4. ‘Mother’s Last Word To Her Son’ – Washington Phillips
5. ‘Donx Sourire’ – Django Reinhardt
6. ‘The Gypsie Laddie’ – John Jacob Niles
7. ‘I Can’t Believe You’re In Love With Me’ – Billie Holiday
8. ‘Parlez-Moi D’Amour’ – Lucienne Boye
9. ‘Marche Funebre’ – Raoul

The Justin Bieber story took its inevitable step into hip hop last month with Kanye West’s remix of ‘Runaway Love,’ but it took a leap into the ultra-surreal earlier today when he premiered ‘Speaking in Tongues,’ the first glimpse of his rapping alter-ego Shawty Mane.

It’s entirely unclear whether this is a genuine musical statement or a pop culture spoof the likes of which the world hasn’t seen since Orson Welles dropped the radio broadcast of his namesake H.G.’s War of the Worlds in1938, but it certainly is… something.

Credit for this one goes to ATM on the hip hop forum.

Mere mortals like myself tend to be mesmerised by beatboxers at the best of times, but Los Angeles rapper Red takes it to a whole ‘nother level. This video, filmed when Red was homeless on the streets of LA, shows him in full G-Funk mode, mixing chest percussion, throat bass and insane natural vocoder action in what already ranks as one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

There’s a hint of a commercial tie-in as Red wears a “Just Do It” shirt while dropping rhymes about Nike, but it could as easily be coincidence. The numerous references to Warren G, G-Funk Records and Snoop Dogg, not so much so. Sit back and prepare to just… wow.

Shakira’s decision to cover the xx’s ‘Islands’ (originally retitled ‘Explore,’ now re-retitled ‘Islands’ again) isn’t exactly a huge shock, having been signposted in the summer with strategically leaked samples and a televised live cover at Glastonbury.

It is rather good, however.

Shakira’s cover is faster and less intimate than the original, laying a thumping club beat below the tropical guitar riff, but it does somehow manage to work.

Not a lot of people know this, but back before she was Lady Gaga Stefani Germanotta actually looked fairly normal.

Here’s Stefani aged 15 guesting on an episode from season 3 of the Sopranos.

Weezer laughed off an offer of $10 million to break up, but would it really cost that much?

It helped that it was a slow week, but there was an unusual amount of press attention last Wednesday when Seattle man James Burns boldly offered rock band Weezer $10 million to stop making music.

The concept of paying musicians to retire isn’t exactly a new one, but in this case it reflected a real long-held view among part of the band’s fanbase that, well, maybe retirement wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world. Having spent much of the ’90s and early ’00s as a solid ‘album every two or three years’ band, Weezer have released four in the past five years and the dramatic slide in quality has been noticed by all but the most easily-amused fan.

Whether the petition was intended as a joke or a genuine expression of frustration – more than likely both – the band were quick to laugh it off, with drummer Patrick Wilson joking that “if they can make it 20, we’ll do the ‘deluxe breakup’!” Frontman Rivers Cuomo rather missed the point entirely, reassuring fans that “no petition and no amount of money will stop us from being together!” In any case, spoilsport Burns has since shut the petition down.

It’s a pity – it would have been nice if Weezer had at least have pretended to entertain the offer…

Halloween is coming up in a matter of weeks (one of only 11 Irish festivals, so enjoy it while you can!)

This year, Insane Clown Posse – Michigan’s scariest, most grotesque rap duo since Kid Rock and Joe C. – have decided to mark the occasion with a brand new song entitled ‘This Halloween is Crazy.’ Well it certainly is that.

You thought rainbows were insane? Just you wait for this Halloween – it’s crazy. Magnets… confusing? Wait until it starts raining pumpkins up in this bitch. Spooky, spooky! A witch smacks into a tree? BOOM! Welcome to Detroit, bitch.

Insane Clown Posse – ‘This Halloween Is Crazy’

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In anticipation of their second album Helioscope, tentatively scheduled for February 2011, we’re proud to present the video and full-length stream for Vessels’ new single ‘Meatman, Piano Tuner, Prostitute.’

Vessels fans will notice one new feature on the band’s new single, ‘Meatman, Piano Tuner, Prostitute’: vocalist Stuart Warwick (himself a solo musician) is omnipresent on the track, making it about as close to a standard “pop” track as the Leeds post-rockers have ever made.

Vessels’ debut album White Fields & Open Devices was lauded on Sputnik for its unexpected twists and imaginative way of combining sounds, including a refreshing willingness to use vocals as an extra instrument rather than as focal point or (such is the case with most post-rock acts) just ignoring them completely.

‘Meatman’ is a bit of a departure, then, as Warwick’s singing is very much the central structure. However it’s very much a change that pays off as it allows the group to incorporate more non-rock effects, with shimmering, distorted sounds and corrosive piano effects jarring elegantly with Warwick’s fluid, almost violin-like vocals, and the inevitably explosive release of guitars and drums is all the more electric as a result.

The single is accompanied by a Kira Zhigalina-directed video that is as colourful and distinctive as the song itself.

Vessels — ‘Meatman, Piano Tuner, Prostitute’

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Download here.

Vessels will head off on tour with Oceansize later this month, with…

Ham SandwicH (there’s no real reason for that capital H – it doesn’t make it look any more symmetrical)  released their second album, White Fox, last week (stream here).

To coincide with the release they went on Irish and recorded this oddly brilliant cover of Britney Spears’ slut’s anthem ‘Piece of Me.’

It’s Britney, bitch. Not really.

Ham Sandwich – ‘Piece of Me’ (Britney Spears cover)

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I don’t really know anything about Sound Set aside from what their Facebook and my rudimentary French tells me, which is that they’re a Franco-German trio of DJs and producers with a passion for new wave, house and “The Swedish touch.”

Whatever their influences, they’ve zeroed in on the most important one of all – Butch Walker – and unleashed this beefy remix synced to the original track’s Kung Fu-themed video. Enjoy.

As part of my ongoing efforts to educate the masses about an archaic musical genre that nobody really liked in the first place, I’ll be highlighting some of the forgotten classics (i.e. all of them) of the hair metal era. Anybody who had harboured any lingering respect for me up to this point will soon see the error of his ways.

OK, I know I’m ever so slightly breaking my own rules by featuring a parody act, but given Steel Panther are more or less carrying the flag for ball-grabbing hair metal I feel it’s justified. Choosing a track for this edition of the series, I was put in the rather awkward position of not really knowing where to start: Steel Panther only have a handful of tracks and they’re more or less all equally awesome.

Steel Panther began life as Metal Skool, a semi-satirical glam metal covers band that set up residency in LA and regularly featured guest spots from the biggest names in rock, from Kelly Clarkson to Billy Ray Cyrus and all the way back to Kelly Clarkson again. All four members are fully paid-up veterans of the Sunset Strip – frontman Michael Starr was briefly a member of LA Guns and guitarist Satchel played with Rob Halford’s post-Priest project Fight – so they know their source material better than almost anybody.

Steel Panther’s first official album (second album proper) features 12 slices of ’80s rock magic closely modeled on the work of some of…

On last night’s (Wednesday’s) edition of his Late Night show, Jimmy Fallon finally managed to combine his dual-interest in classic hip hop and wooden acting in a surprisingly good medley of classic rap songs with help from Justin Timberlake and house band the Roots.

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