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Jul. 31st, 2004

'Future' Compilation Supports Political Change
R.E.M., Blink-182 and Fountains Of Wayne are among those who have contributed to a compilation CD that will raise funds for MoveOn.org and other like-minded political advocacy organizations. Organized by They Might Be Giants principal John Flansburgh, "Future Soundtrack for America" is due Aug. 10 through Seattle-based indie Barsuk Records.

"I basically had a very personal impulse," Flansburgh tells Billboard.com. "I'm essentially a private person. I enjoy the renown that the band has gotten and I like walking into a music store and people being nice to me, but beyond that, I pretty much don't need to be any more famous.

"But, as a citizen, I felt like we're living in an extreme time and I feel I'm very nervous and unhappy with the state of the world and I wanted to do something other than just shake my fist at the TV."

Also contributing previously unreleased tracks to the set are Bright Eyes, Death Cab For Cutie, David Byrne, OK Go, Black Eyed Peas' will.i.am, TMBG and late singer/songwriter Elliot Smith. Although not yet released, Tom Waits' "Day After Tomorrow" will also be included on his forthcoming studio album, "Real Gone," which is due in October through Epitaph's Anti- label.

All proceeds from the sale of the "Future Soundtrack for America" will "go to progressive organizations including MoveOn.org, Music For America, Common Assets and others," Barsuk label head Josh Rosenfeld says. In addition to standard jewel case packaging, the compilation will be included in copies of the forthcoming book "Future Dictionary of America," due from the publishers of the idiosyncratic literary journal McSweeney's.

Flansburgh, who had the support of, among others, film and video director Spike Jonze, says getting the artists on board was easy. "I called people that I knew and people I knew who knew other people, and I have to say I was completely knocked out," he says. "Virtually everyone we approached was into it.

"This is a very different moment than a lot of others," he explains, "where moderate people, people with sensible, measured political opinions are more than a little outraged by what's happening. Everyone has to remember the events of the last election. Things have not gotten better since then; they've gotten worse. There's no reason that we cannot affect a basic change.

"It's just not that extreme. How frequently do people have to get beheaded?" he says, referring to recent kidnappings and killings by extremists in the Middle East. "I mean, I just can't take it. I cannot live in this world."

Both Flansburgh and Rosenfeld admit that the release of the project has been delayed by the complex nature of political fundraising. "It's an extraordinarily strange spanking tunnel of regulation," Flansburgh says. "The kind people at Barsuk were trying to explain it to me while I was slipping into a coma."

The most recognizable beneficiary will be online-based non-profit advocacy group MoveOn.org. Under the banner "democracy in action," the organization has been vocal in its criticism of the Bush administration and the war in Iraq.

The group received a good deal of press in January when CBS refused to air a 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl that was the winner of a MoveOn.org contest. In recent months, the organization has sponsored a series of Bush-bashing speeches by former Vice President Al Gore.

"A partisan, political non-profit working to turn out our generation at the polls," Music For America is behind the Involver concert series. Featuring comedian David Cross, Juliana Hatfield and members of Death Cab For Cutie and TV On The Radio, among others, the shows aim to inspire political participation among young voters.

San Francisco-based Common Assets works to protect environmental, social and cultural resources it considers universally owned by all citizens.

At deadline, the compilation's full track listing was still being finalized. For its part, TMBG covers William Henry Harrison's 1840 campaign song "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too."

"It was the campaign song that invented the campaign song," Flansburgh explains. "I was interested in it because it's a great song, but historically, [through] the little bit of research I've done, I got the impression that it was the 'I Want To Hold Your Hand' of campaign songs."


-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.

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