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by Crispin Kott

22 Jul 2010


Ever since their foppish heroes burst in the scene in the early ‘80s, fans of Duran Duran have long been derided by “serious” music fans as unsophisticated nitwits in thrall to a band built on a platform of flashy videos, high cheekbones, and a sense of style which wavered between pure androgyny and cut-rate drag queen.

But all was never as it seems, especially where it regards Duran Duran. Witness the response to the band’s former label, EMI, which sorta-kinda acknowledged an error in a recent deluxe reissue of Duran Duran’s seminal debut in the Ask Katy section of the band’s official website…

“It has come to our attention that some fans have suggested that the mastering on the recently reissued editions of Duran Duran and Seven and the Ragged Tiger is incorrect. Mastering is always subjective, and we acknowledge that the mastering on these versions is different to that of previous remasters, however that does not necessarily make it wrong. We have received both positive and negative comments about the mastering which is usual for any project – although those that don’t like the sound of these new records are by far in the minority. We will always take on board constructive criticism and act upon it, where we believe it appropriate, and we respect the opinions of the fans. However, in this case there have been some personal comments about the mastering engineer that were highly offensive, wholly inappropriate and unjustified.

“There is a glitch due to tape deterioration in the camera clicks at the very start of ‘Girls on Film’ on the Duran Duran album. Whilst this glitch is not ideal, as it is in the camera clicks and not within the main body of the music, there are no plans to replace any discs.”

by Nathan Pensky

21 Jul 2010


Rufus Wainwright

“Word painting” is a technique in which the music of a song reflects or expands upon the meaning of the accompanying lyric. First used by the Madrigals of Renaissance Italy, word painting is used today mostly in musical theatre and film scores.

In a musical, if a character stands center-stage, spreads his arms, and belts out a life-affirming chorus about “making it to the top,” and the score’s tempo slows down, the melody hits a high note, or the strings swell to culminate in a cymbal crash, this is word painting at its most quintessential. Two great moments of word painting in pop music are Elliott Smith’s “Waltz # 1” and Rufus Wainwright’s “Vibrate”, which both use long, sustained notes to elaborate on the explicit meaning of their lyrics.

by Jessy Krupa

20 Jul 2010


“Momma Miss America” is another instrumental track on the McCartney album, as the only voice heard is that of an engineer announcing that this is take one of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Springtime”. That title was soon changed, as what was to become two separate songs “ran into each other by accident and became one”. Made up as McCartney went along, it was recorded entirely at his London home.

McCartney’s only recent involvement with the song is its inclusion on The McCartney Years box DVD set. (It is used as background music on Disc 2’s “Chronology” menu.) However, as I previously said about “Hot As Sun/ Glasses”, “Momma Miss America” has also been used as bumper music on PBS’ History Detectives TV series.

by Michael P. Irwin

19 Jul 2010


Countless sums of money are spent worldwide every year on advertising, constantly bombarding us everywhere we go. Whether it is on television, radio, in print, or online, every day we see ads that encourage us to buy one product or another. I do have to admit that every so often the pitch works, and I find myself spending money on something that I don’t really need, but that I do really want. I’m not talking about buying any of the products, though—I’m talking about buying the music that I’ve heard used in the commercials. Whether it’s a current hit or an old classic, advertisers have been using pop music in commercials for decades, and have been doing so more and more in recent years. 

One such instance that will forever stick in my head was the use of Van Halen’s “Right Now” in the ad campaign for Crystal Pepsi in the early 1990s. In fact, the commercial was even shot in a similar style to the music video, complete with the “Right now…” statements:

I really wasn’t a fan of Crystal Pepsi (or of Sammy Hagar-era Van Halen), but the two will be forever intertwined in my mind. Crystal Pepsi disappeared from the shelves in 1993, and I didn’t even get the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge album until a few months ago. However, there have been a few instances since then when hearing a song in a commercial has made me say to myself, “I need to find out who that band is and get their album immediately”.

by Joseph Fisher

16 Jul 2010


By now, the narrative surrounding the recording and ultimate release of William Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops has become an integral, if little known, part of post-9/11 American musical history. Basinski, the story goes, was in the process of transferring tape loops that he had made in the 1980s to digital hard disk, when he noticed that the tapes were disintegrating during the process, irreparably altering the music as it was originally recorded and permanently capturing the sound of decaying magnetic tape. The added significance of all of this is a matter of context: Basinski was transferring these loops during August and September of 2001. As he was completing the recording sessions, the World Trade Center was attacked, and Basinski watched from his rooftop in Brooklyn, The Disintegration Loops playing in the background as the Twin Towers crumbled into ash right before his eyes

Given the uncanny drama of this timeline, it is quite difficult to separate The Disintegration Loops from 9/11, even though the original recordings were made 20 years prior to the attacks. If we want to be accurate in the way that we historicize this particular cultural artifact, then it might be necessary to prioritize the original context in which the Loops were made over the incidental context of September 11, 2001. However, such a move would be a misstep, because even though the loops were unintentionally produced in the fall of 2001, their composition—the way that they capture the process of decay—makes them, perhaps, the most significant representation of the political and cultural tensions of post-9/11 America.

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