TV

The Riches

Todd R. Ramlow

Greed and amorality are the real currency of "the American dream," as The Riches demonstrates by equating small-time grifting with large-scale corporate corruption.

The Riches

Airtime: Mondays, 10pm ET
Cast: Eddie Izzard, Minnie Driver, Shannon Marie Woodward, Noel Fisher, Aidan Mitchell, Gregg Henry
Network: FX
US release date: 2007-03-12
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When we first met Dahlia Malloy (Minnie Driver), she was sitting roadside, just released from prison. She looked wracked and acted all junkie-jittery as she waited for her family to pick her up so she could reclaim her life. Trouble was, her family had run into some of their own trouble with the law. A crew of Irish grifters, Wayne (Eddie Izzard) and the kids (Shannon Marie Woodward as Di Di, Noel Fisher as Cael, and Aidan Mitchell as Sam), were having a difficult time explaining their broken-down Winnebago stuffed to the gills with other people's wedding presents.

Soon reunited, the Malloys met up with their extended clan of travelers in a backwoods celebration of Dahlia's return. She's the daughter of the patriarch, who was on his deathbed. After a power struggle between Wayne and Dahlia's brother Dale (Todd Stashwick), the family hit the road again, with a bunch of lucre stolen from the clan. Chase ensued and in the process, a yuppie couple was killed in a crash. Backed into a corner by his own doings, Wayne convinced the family to hide out at the couple's new house (the keys and title were in the car) until things cooled down. Once there, he cooked up a scheme to take over the couple's lives; they'd bought the house online, no one in the community had actually ever seen them. And so the Malloys became the Riches.

This is the somewhat elaborate set-up for The Riches. While it sounds like other class-clash stories, the series does not reduce to obvious or obnoxious social buffoonery. The comedy is bittersweet, driven by the family's various desires for the "good life" and anxieties about being "found out" or found insufficient or too fake. Such anxieties are, The Riches suggests, the underlying condition of striving for "the American dream."

To that end, The Riches exposes dominant US ideological fantasies. In the second episode, "Operation Education" (26 March 2007), Dahlia insisted to Wayne, "They don't just give you this American dream thing. You got to take it." Along with the rest of her family, Dahlia embraces visions of self-reliance and boot-strap-pulling. Talented con artists, they quickly infiltrate elite institutions; Wayne takes Doug Rich's new job as head of legal counsel at a real estate development firm, and the kids lie their ways into the most exclusive local academy.

The Riches thus exposes that education, hard work, and intellect aren't the real qualifications for achievement. You only need to look the part and perform appropriate social roles. Doug bluffed his way through his first meeting with his new staff by calling the legal department the "rock" of the firm, blah, blah, blah. He mouthed platitudes, but did so with the right force and inflection. Most importantly, he's got charisma, and within a few short minutes, his new job was secured.

The Riches' class critique also makes clear the raced aspects of the dream. The Malloys repeatedly appear underprivileged and "other" in terms of class, but their lily-whiteness affords them an initial presumption that they "belong." The few characters of color depicted in The Riches -- in trailer parks, in subordinate, administrative or service positions -- are decidedly removed from dream the Riches enter into with such ease.

The Riches is more direct in its critique of corporate culture. The distance between the Malloys' hornswoggling cons and the "tough" business tactics of Wayne's boss, Hugh Panetta (Gregg Henry), is miniscule. The only difference is one of scale. This lesson was driven home in the most recent episode, "X Marks the Spot" (30 April 2007). After filching money out of Hugh's safe to fix some traveler troubles, Wayne had to do some swift footwork to stay out of suspicion and in Hugh's good graces. He quickly concocted a story about his secret romancing of a high-profile client for the firm, and promised to deliver a big $500K investment.

Wayne and the family, despite their nerves about never having gone for a score this large, developed and carried out a grand scam that produced the $500K for Hugh. They were all amazed when they pulled off the con, but as Dahlia remarked earlier in the episode, "People make this kind of money every day." And, the show asserts, in the same illicit manner. Greed and amorality are the real currency of "the American dream," as The Riches demonstrates by equating small-time grifting with large-scale corporate corruption.

8

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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