2011 Song of the Year Candidate #1: Duran Duran, “The Man Who Stole a Leopard”

Welcome to a new column here at ESDMusic, which I created for the sole purpose of talking about new songs that make me giddy. First up: my boys from Birmingham, Duran Duran.

Last time we heard from Duran, they were, well, royally pissing me off. They had just shelved an album that was reportedly a harder-edged back-to-basics affair, modeled after the Kaiser Chiefs and Bloc Party, two bands that Duran bassist John Taylor loved. Why would they do such a thing, you ask? Because Andy Taylor had left the band, again, because the band expressed interest in adding one more song to the album…featuring Timbaland and Justin Timberlake. Now, I can see where a guy like Justin might appeal to them, but Timbaland? Really? Do they know what he does to the people he produces? He makes sure they all sound like him. You will use this drum machine; you will use this keyboard sound. And you will let him say “wicky wicky” at some point. Is there any place for that on a Duran album? Answer: no, and Andy knew it, so he bailed.

DD_London_3705_Reduced

So the band started over from scratch, using the Timbaland collaboration not as a one-off but as a starting point (!). The end result: Red Carpet Massacre, where Duran Duran traded in their identity for one last attempt to remain relevant to the pop charts. The single stiffed, the label dropped them, and Duran went about making things right by doing what I’ve been wanting them to do since 2007: work with Mark Ronson. The band’s new album, All You Need Is Now, released on their own Skin Divers label – a curious name, considering it’s the name of the failed Timbaland collaboration – is the most traditional-sounding Duran Duran album since Seven and the Ragged Tiger (and is actually better than Tiger). And tucked away in the album’s back half is one of the best songs they’ve ever done.

“The Man Who Stole a Leopard”… Jesus, what do you say about this? It builds slowly, a la “The Chauffeur,” and features this gorgeous call-and-response vocal from Kelis that borders on haunting. The lyrics, based on an idea of John and Nick’s (and inspired by the 1965 Terence Stamp movie “The Collector”), tell the tale of a man who, you guessed it, kept a leopard in his apartment, and how his obsession with said creature fulfilled him like nothing else, but also led to his undoing. Ronson tones down the drum tracks some, making for one of those melancholy dance tracks along the lines of “Enjoy the Silence” or “Unfinished Sympathy.” With a run time of over six minutes, “The Man Who Stole a Leopard” is not likely to be among the songs chosen for release as a single, but you can bet that it will – and if the YouTube comments are any indication, already has – become a fan favorite. Give the video one listen, and see if you’re not running to the iTunes store seconds later.

Deep Cuts: The Clash

(Written by Una Persson)

For a band that was together for only 10 years, The Clash looms large in rock music history. They were one of the most successful bands to come out of the original wave of British punk rock in the late ‘70s, stand as icons for the entire punk rock movement (along with the Sex Pistols, of course), and, unlike most of their punk peers, could actually play their instruments. They also eschewed the nihilism and anarchy of many of their contemporaries for a more politicized, highly charged left-wing lyrical and ideological stance. Their seminal London Calling makes rock critics and Top Whatever list makers swoon. They only struck gold in America toward the end, with “Should I Stay or Should I Go” and “Rock the Casbah,” but from the outset, The Clash infused their brand of punk with a variety of other musical styles, from ska, reggae and dub to rockabilly, jazz, dance and anything else they thought would fit their punky musical stew. In fact, this edition of Deep Cuts takes a deep dive into one of those musical styles: The Clash, reggae-stylee.

“Police & Thieves” – The Clash
Junior Murvin and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s mid-‘70s international club hit was recorded almost as an afterthought when The Clash were recording their first album (the band used to fool around with it in rehearsals), but it stands as one of the first instances of a rock band integrating reggae into their mix (the very first being Eric Clapton’s version of Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” in 1974). Lots of first-wave British punks loved reggae and dub; The Clash were one of the few bands who actually incorporated it into their repertoire (one of the few bands of that era that had the musical chops to pull it off, most likely).

“(White Man) in Hammersmith Palais” – The Clash
First released as a single, and only included on the US version of The Clash’s debut album, Joe Strummer’s commentary on multi-culturalism, violence, race relations, class distinctions and other state-of-Britain affairs showed the band to be already head-and-shoulders above their punk brethren both musically and politically. The slow reggae burn throughout most of the song is decidedly different fodder than their early fans had already gotten used to from the band.

Give ‘Em Enough Rope
A decent album, not their worst (Cut the Crap holds that distinction) but far from their best, marred as it is with heavy-handed production and mixing. But, sorry, nothing even remotely reggae-sounding on any of the tracks.

“Wrong ‘Em Boyo” – London Calling
A revisiting of the Stagger Lee myth set to a rollicking ska beat.

“The Guns of Brixton” – London Calling
A sick dread skank, and the band’s first real experiment with dub (a reggae offshoot that overemphasizes the bass and drums, and blends in myriad other sounds and production and engineering techniques not part of a reggae song that evinces punk’s political violence.

To view the rest of the Clash deep cuts, click here.

Deep Cuts – Paul McCartney

If you’re Paul McCartney, you’ve had a lot of albums and singles released under your name. Many of these have been worldwide hits, no doubt. But you’ve also found the time to put things out that weren’t released as singles or just became little bits of treasure to certain circles of fans. If you’re Paul McCartney, you can continue to do these types of things, as you have tons of money and at this point in your career it doesn’t matter at all if you get back on the charts. Your fans are there and they will embrace something of yours out there somewhere. Luckily, though, you happen to have some tasty non-chart topping album cuts that are worth discussing. If you’re Paul McCartney, we’re going to be discussing those bits right now. If you’re not, just read, learn, and enjoy it all just as well. As Clint Harrigan (whoever the hell that was) said in the liner notes on the back of the first Wings album, “Can you dig it?”

Check out the full run of Macca’s Deep Cuts after the jump.

Deep Cuts: Soundtracks

There was a time when the soundtrack ruled, dude. Bands would actually beg their managers to get them on the soundtrack to a hit movie. By the mid-‘90s, however, the tables had turned; bands would hold out for more money before they agreed to have their song appear on a soundtrack, since the bands figured that putting their next big hit on some nameless soundtrack would cost them untold thousands of copies sold of their next record. The labels wouldn’t pay, the bands kept the songs for themselves, and boom, the soundtrack was dead, just like that.

This list is a tribute to one writer’s favorite songs from his favorite soundtracks. The rules for what made a soundtrack Deep Cut were simple: it can’t have been released as a single and, in an effort to keep the pool of eligible songs somewhat reasonable, it can’t have been written for the movie in question. The beauty of a list like this is that it’s open to interpretation, so expect sequel after sequel of this list to appear in the near future. But for now, Mr. Brit Pop is in charge, and he’s taking names. Tom Hanks, please step forward….

“Why Do Good Girls Like Bad Boys,” Angel & the Reruns (“Bachelor Party”)
Any fan of the Waitresses will love this sax-filled New Waver. When explaining why bad boys like good girls, the answer, of course, is “he must want to be the first / To make her little bubble burst / Shock her with his attitudes / Get her hooked on beer and ‘ludes / Make her parents think she’s nuts / And all her friends will hate her guts.” Absolutely of its time, which is what makes the song so awesome.

“All the Young Dudes,” World Party (“Clueless”)
When Karl Wallinger decides to cover something, he is not one to stray too far from a song’s original arrangement – his version of “Penny Lane” is nearly note-for-note – and that’s a good thing. A World Party cover version is less about a radical reinterpretation, like our good friend Carmel did with the previous entry, and more about how incredibly cool Wallinger’s voice sounds singing, well, anything. Bullz-Eye associate editor Will Harris saw World Party cover “A Day in the Life” at a show once. I think I hate him.

“Kelly Watch the Stars (Moog Cookbook remix),” Air (“Splendor”)
No, I had never heard of the movie “Splendor” either, but when I saw its soundtrack in a bargain bin and read the track listing, it was the “Yoink!” heard ‘round the world. The general premise is that it features new remixes to various UK artists, along with a few assorted B-sides and single edits. What those pranksters known as the Moog Cookbook did to Air’s mellow jam “Kelly Watch the Stars” is hard to put into words, but I’m pretty sure that George Clinton has had made sweet, sweet love while this was playing in the background, if that helps.

“Papua New Guinea,” Future Sound of London (“Cool World”)
Much like “Until the End of the World,” the soundtrack for “Cool World” was received far better than the movie it represented. Look at that track listing: David Bowie produced again by Nile Rodgers, Electronic with Neil Tennant singing lead, the Cult produced again by Rick Rubin, Moby getting his first major label exposure, and Ministry just beating the snot out of everything in sight. In between all of these bands was a pair of British unknowns who turned a Dead Can Dance sample into something that could both pack a dance floor and seduce your girlfriend. Trust me, Brad Pitt would want you to remember it this way.

To view the rest of the list, click here.

Deep Cuts: Stone Temple Pilots

Written by Bill Clark

Stone Temple Pilots are one of those bands for whom, in hindsight, it’s easy to wonder how they did as well as they did, given the music scene at the time. 1992’s Core landed right smack in the middle of the grunge era, but STP’s sound from the get-go veered more towards hard rock – and fairly catchy hard rock at that. The band always wore its influences on its sleeve; from the Beatles to the Doors to the blues. They were a multi-faceted band, and one that can be even more appreciated when you dig deeper than the 15 Top Ten singles they released during their career. They may not have always been the most original band, but they were immensely talented musicians and performers. The following list is in chronological order and covers all five studio albums.

“Dead & Bloated” – Core
If ever there was a song to start off and set the tone for a debut album, this is it. Beginning with vocalist Scott Weiland singing “I am smelling like a rose that somebody gave me / Cause I’m dead and bloated,” the tune shoots into a heavy verse and soaring chorus. It’s an excellent audio personification of STP’s early days.

“Sin” – Core
Trapped between radio hits “Wicked Garden” and “Creep” is “Sin,” one of the most underrated STP tunes out there. It has the kind of intro that leaves you baffled as to where it’s headed, but soon enough it dives into a signature STP verse and an excellent low-end chorus. The acoustic interlude and subsequent explosive guitar solo is a treat that would pave the way for STP’s musical growth.

“Piece of Pie” – Core
Now here’s one rockin’ tune. Guitarists (and brothers) Robert and Dean DeLeo drive this monster home with every palm-muted chord, and Weiland’s expansive vocals compliment it to perfection.

“Meat Plow” – Purple
Talk about another killer opening track. The monstrous opening riff eventually molds with the chorus’ slide guitar (a method STP would go on to use liberally) seamlessly. This is down-and-dirty STP.

To view the rest of the list, click here.

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