Duran Duran/Arcadia: The Special Editions

After testing the waters with last year’s super-expansive relaunch of Duran Duran’s seminal 1982 album Rio, Capitol plays the ‘reissue, repackage, repackage’ game with the rest of the big sellers in the band’s catalog, and to their credit, they have been extremely thorough in their archiving. Most modern-day reissues are fond of providing ‘unreleased’ content like crap homemade demos in favor of assembling a comprehensive collection of released but rare material. (The Cure’s The Head on the Door, we’re looking in your direction.) Capitol does not make that mistake here; every remix, B-side and even 7″ edit that Duran ever released is here, along with some unreleased remixes and demo versions that, in one instance, are absolutely mind-blowing.

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Look at those pups. Leather pants! Warhol bed head! Don’t let these old pictures fool you, though; these guys could play. Indeed, they even rocked at one point in time. Time to get in the wayback machine. First stop: 1981…

Duran Duran: Duran Duran

RIYL: New Romantics looking for the TV sound

Rio is largely considered to be the Duran Duran’s watershed moment, but one could make a very strong case for their eponymous debut as the best album they’ve ever done. There isn’t a duff track in the bunch, and the album’s three singles (“Planet Earth,” “Girls on Film,” “Careless Memories”) are pound for pound the best batch of singles from any album in the band’s catalog. The most interesting facet of the album in retrospect is how well balanced the album is; everyone gets their chance to shine, from John Taylor’s slinky bass lines to Nick Rhodes’ icy, flanged keyboard treatments to Andy Taylor’s forceful guitar riffs. It is the marginalization of that last one that would prove to be the band’s undoing down the road.


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21st Century Breakdown: David Medsker’s Songs of the 2000s

I used to have a thing about my musical tastes. I so desperately wanted them to be cool, or at the very least be something that only a handful of people were privy to. (I was tempted to say ‘hip’ instead of ‘privy,’ but you can’t spell ‘hipster’ without ‘hip,’ and God knows I’m not hip enough to be a hipster.) My friend Kathi, she has obscenely cool taste in music. I’m surprised she’s friends with me, since I surely bring her cool factor down by a good 20 points.

Then a couple of years ago, I realized – who the hell cares? A great song is a great song, and it doesn’t really matter how popular – or unpopular – it is. I can’t tell you how freeing that was, and I have a very well-known blogger to thank for it. When she admitted to me in private how much she enjoyed a band at Lollapalooza, only to dismiss them a few days later in her column, I realized that it was completely pointless to pander to hipster elitism. You’re being dishonest with yourself, and the hipsters are only going to turn on you in the end, anyway.

So I turned a blind eye to what was a pop song versus what was a “pop” song, as it were, and realizing that there was no distinction between the two made everything soooooo much easier. So here we are in 2009, and as part of our recap of the best music the decade had to offer, I have to try to apply this whole revisionist history viewpoint to the entire decade, which is no mean feat, to say the least. It therefore makes sense that assembling one big-ass list of songs will look like the work of someone with multiple personalities, so instead they are cut up into bite-sized lists for easier consumption, with YouTube links for the uninitiated.

Top 10 Modern Rock Songs of the 2000s
10. “Do You Want To,” Franz Ferdinand
“Take Me Out” was the bigger hit, but this song swings like Austin Powers in the jungle. Nice riff on “My Sharona” in the break, too.

9. “Galvanize,” Chemical Brothers
Push the button; shake that booty.

8. “The Bleeding Heart Show,” The New Pornographers
What the world needs now, is more hey la, hey la’s.

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7. “Sometime Around Midnight,” Airborne Toxic Event
Suck it, Pitchfork. These guys are good. You’re just too far up your own asses to admit it.

6. “American Idiot,” Green Day
The only sad thing about this song is that Joey Ramone didn’t live long enough to hear it.

5. “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor,” Arctic Monkeys
I love the way these guys riff on Duran Duran lyrics, and then act as if they made it all up themselves. As the old adage says, talent borrows, but genius steals. And for the record, we don’t care for sand, either.

4. “Chelsea Dagger,” The Fratellis
Best drunken barroom chorus since “Tubthumping.”

3. “Laura,” Scissor Sisters
For all the progress that was made this decade in terms of hip hop and black culture becoming more accepted on pop radio, it appears that the gays still have a long road ahead of them. Pity.

2. “Never Miss a Beat,” Kaiser Chiefs
They opened their set at Lollapalooza with this. The only other band to grab me by the throat like that with their opening song is, well, My #1…

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1. “Knights of Cydonia,” Muse
September 11, 2006, Columbus, Ohio. Muse opens their set with this song, blows the roof off the place.

Top 10 Pop Songs of the 2000s
10. “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” Kylie Minogue
Proof that even the most alt of alt rockers love Kylie: The Flaming Lips covered this song.

9. “Drops of Jupiter,” Train
They did a great job recreating the Elton John sound. Too bad they didn’t have Bernie Taupin write the lyrics. Fried chicken? Ugh.

8. “Music,” Madonna
I watched this song take one of those sports bars that has basketball courts and bowling alleys, and turn every one of its patrons into dancing fools.

7. “Is It Any Wonder?,” Keane
Dogged by some for its similarity to U2, but when was the last time U2 wrote something this bouncy?

6. “Shut Up and Let Me Go,” The Ting Tings
I’ll shut up, Katie, but there’s no way I’m letting you go.

5. “Chasing Pavements,” Adele
It took two Grammy wins for this song to finally crack the Top 40. (*shakes head in disbelief*)

4. “Hey Ya,” Outkast
Andre 3000 finally picks up a guitar to write a song, and this, THIS, is the first thing that comes out. Mother, fucker.

3. “Crazy,” Gnarls Barkley
When my mom comes home from a trip to see my brother on the east coast and tells me about a song she heard by a band whose name is similar to some celebrity or other, I know that said celebrity knockoff band has struck a chord.

2. “99 Problems,” Jay-Z
“You crazy for this one, Rick!” Actually, Jay-Z, you have it the other way around. You crazy if you make this song with anyone other than Rick Rubin.

1. “Umbrella,” Rihanna
It was at least a year before I made the effort to find out what the hubub was about this damn “Umbrella” song. And then I heard it. Holy shit, this song pisses genius.

Big in the UK
7. “LDN,” Lily Allen
No guy wants to hear his ex tell the world what a lousy lover he is, but is there a man alive that doesn’t want a shot at Lily Allen?

6. “Nearer Than Heaven,” Delays
My favorite new musical expression of the decade: skyscraper, used to describe a song with soaring melodies. And this puppy’s the Empire State Building.

5. “Boyfriend,” Alphabeat
That this album didn’t even see the light of day in the States shows just how myopic our views of pop music have become.

4. “Digital Love,” Daft Punk
Keytar!

3. “Plug It In,” Basement Jaxx featuring J.C. Chasez
Come on, bang that head in the chorus. You know you want to.

2. “Never Be Lonely,” The Feeling
B-b-b-baby, this song is c-c-c-crazy catchy.

1. “Kids,” Robbie Williams & Kylie Minogue
Another song I thought had a shot at cracking the US charts. Funky verses, slammin’ choruses, what’s not to love? Robbie Williams, apparently. He never gained the traction here that other UK singers did. Strange.

Best Pop Songs You Never Heard
Of course, you probably have heard most of these songs, but I didn’t have another category to place them in, so they’re going here instead.

“Nice,” Duran Duran
Easily the band’s best song since “Ordinary World” and “Come Undone.” Anyone who likes Rio but has since given up on the band, go listen to this at once.

“I Believe She’s Lying,” Jon Brion
Los Angeles’ resident mad genius of pop finally gets his 1997 album Meaningless released in early 2001. Power pop fans proceed to lose their minds. And can you blame them? Listen to that drum track. It’s like the piano solo to “In My Life,” gone drum ‘n bass.

“Mine and Yours,” David Mead
If the video I linked to is any indicator, this was a big hit with the Japanese karaoke crowd. Go figure.

“She’s Got My Number,” Semisonic
Where an otherwise straightforward pop band goes off the deep end into delicious, melancholy strangeness. One of my bigger interview thrills was getting to tell Dan Wilson how much I loved this song.

“My Name Is Love,” Rob Dickinson
Catherine Wheel singer turns down the distortion, ramps up the harmonies. Again, the word ‘skyscraper’ comes to mind.

“Can We Still Be Friends?,” Mandy Moore
Dan Wilson reference #2: he sings backing vocals on this shockingly good Todd Rundgren cover. People have scoffed at the notion of Ryan Adams marrying someone like Mandy. Not me.

“io (This Time Around),” Helen Stellar
Let it not be said that nothing good came from “Elizabethtown,” as it introduced me to this beautifully spacey song.

“Buildings and Mountains,” Republic Tigers
Truly a band out of time, which is exactly why I love them. I wonder if the reason A-ha is breaking up is because they heard this song and thought, “Damn, they do us better than we do.”

“The End of the World,” Gin Blossoms
Most bands that take 11 years between albums come back as a pale imitation of their former selves, but the Gin Blossoms’ 2006 album Major Lodge Victory was a damn fine little record. This one appeals to my not-so-inner Beatlemaniac.

“Fragile,” Kerli
This Estonian princess is an odd little bird, but that’s what I like about her. This ballad closes her debut album with quite the quiet storm.

“Road to Recovery,” Midnight Juggernauts
Another band whose lack of success has me scratching my head. It’s the best dance album Peter Murphy never made, or the best rock album Daft Punk never made, one of the two. Or both.

My sincere apologies to the following bands, who also deserve mention:
Divine Comedy, Noisettes, Pet Shop Boys, Doves, Rialto, Beck, White Stripes, Rufus Wainwright, Kenna, Mylo, Pete Yorn, Apples in Stereo, Hard-Fi, The Thorns, Rock Kills Kid, The Hours, Derek Webb, Glen Hansard, Aimee Mann, Kirsty MacColl, Gorillaz, Air, Charlotte Sometimes, Mika, Def Leppard, Coldplay, Chicane, Elastica, XTC, and about 50 others.

  

Duran Duran: Rio (Collector’s Edition)


RIYL: The Killers, Roxy Music, Spandau Ballet

Finally. Ask an American Duran Duran collector, and they will tell you that every CD pressing of the band’s seminal 1982 album Rio up to now has been horribly flawed, because Capitol had the nerve to use the original mixes of the songs on “Side I,” instead of the David Kershenbaum remixes of those songs that we Yanks grew up with. Some of the Kershenbaum mixes popped up on later CD singles and compilations, but two of them, namely “Rio” and “Lonely in Your Nightmare,” remained in the vaults…until now. This two-disc set features a remastered Rio plus the Kershenbaum remixes on Disc One, and a veritable treasure trove of demos, B-sides, Night Versions and remixes from the various Carnival EPs on Disc Two. If a specific mix or B-side has eluded you up to this point, odds are it is included here.

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As for the difference between the 2009 remaster of Rio and the 2001 remaster, well, if you can spot a difference, let us know. We’ve played several tracks back to back, and they sound identical. (The version of “Hold Back the Rain,” though, is a different mix entirely.) And why shouldn’t they? Colin Thurston’s original production was so crisp and well balanced – not to mention recorded in the pre-digital, compress-the-shit-out-of-everything era – that there is little point in tweaking Rio for the sake of tweaking it. Those long-dormant Kershenbaum mixes, however, could have used a tune-up, specifically in the upper frequencies, so if you had designs of assembling a playlist equivalent of your original Rio cassette, prepare for a few shifts in audio quality. Still, the ability to finally make that playlist, with enough remixes left over to make your own personal Carnival, makes this set a no-brainer. They even tagged a Christmas greeting from Simon LeBon onto the final track on Disc Two. Awwww. (Capitol 2009)

Duran Duran MySpace page
Click to buy Rio Collector’s Edition from Amazon

  

Various Artists: The Best of Bond…James Bond

Albums like The Best of Bond…James Bond are tough to critique; on one hand, this album was released with a near-identical track listing back in 2002 (the 2008 version replaces Moby with Chris Cornell and k.d. lang), which means the 2008 issue is just an opportunistic cash grab. On the other hand, the contents of both albums are impeccable. Louis Armstrong, Shirley Bassey (three times), Paul McCartney, Duran Duran, Carly Simon, A-ha (don’t laugh, their theme for “The Living Daylights” is one of the most underrated Bond themes ever), and Tom Jones on one disc? That is 16 different flavors of awesome, right there. Of course, the album doesn’t feature “Another Way to Die,” Jack White and Alicia Keys’ theme for “Quantum of Solace,” but don’t worry; that will surely appear on the 2014 issue of this album. See our problem with this? It’s good stuff – but its existence is awfully cynical, too. (Capitol)

Click to buy The Best of Bond…James Bond

  

Classic Albums: Duran Duran, Rio

Man, do we love this series. Eagle gets away from their classic rock leanings and brings in four of the Fab Five – Andy Taylor, having left the band once again, does not participate – to dissect Duran Duran’s 1982 worldwide breakthrough album Rio, and while it doesn’t contain any of the bizarro production stories that were revealed in the episode dedicated to Def Leppard’s Hysteria, it is still a very entertaining and informative analysis of one of the biggest albums of the ‘80s. Nick Rhodes describes the origins of the opening sound on the album’s title track, and talks about how he remodeled “The Chauffeur” into an electronic track from its origins as an acoustic number. They even recruited David Kershenbaum to talk about remixing several Rio tracks to make them more “American” (smart move, that). John Taylor pulls out his bass and plays a few riffs, and reveals that he had to switch from his fingers to a pick and back on “Hold Back the Rain.” Russell Mulcahy is on hand to talk about the videos he shot in Sri Lanka (three videos in three days, yikes), and Bob Geldof is on hand to rave about the record, too. It’s a fine addition to an excellent series. May we suggest ABC’s The Lexicon of Love as a future candidate? (Eagle Vision)

Click to buy Classic Albums: Duran Duran, Rio

  

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