It was R&R in Amsterdam, on leave from The War. Central Station’s dingy hotel had a little TV: soft-porn teen soaps on one channel and live Bush/Kerry debates on the other. Kerry spoke verbose parabolae around and over the sound stage, and The Cowboy shot him down: “My opponent,” he slurred as he squinted and ducked, “is a Massachusetts Libbrul.”

Then it was SXSW in Austin, stateside now as before. Steam rose from bodies packed stage to stage in Emo’s as Sleater-Kinney hit its first dischords. A poodle-skirted MTV2 rep informed me that she was “so over Bloc Party” just as she slid toward a silver-haired exec wearing fauxhawk and blazer. His Corona splish-splashed onto the floor as they twisted to Corin Tucker’s beatific wails: “I want to run away! I want to get away!”