Here begins the Daily Duranie review of Duran Duran’s new album, All You Need Is Now. We have already reviewed the single and first song. Today, we move on to song number 2, “Blame the Machines.” A different song will be reviewed each day, followed by the review of the album as a whole as well as a review for the video for “All You Need Is Now.”
I love that this song starts out with a deep, almost heartbeat like sound with subtle keyboards as it gives a serious feel even as it quickly dives into a catchy pop song. Perhaps, this initial sound was created to enhance the story of this person who follows his/her GPS so much so that s/he ends up lost or worse. Maybe it is to indicate the person’s heartbeat as s/he realizes that there is trouble. The chorus is a standout and I appreciate that. When I think of solid pop songs, I want to be able to tell where exactly the chorus i and this song makes it clear. Then, of course, my favorite part is when it seems to slow down to showcase the GPS-like voice of Nina Hossain telling the driver (or us!) about how we have no control over ourselves. Then, there is a return to the beginning sounds, including the heartbeat of sorts, which is a nice touch. I appreciate the changes, musically, as it keeps my interest. Overall, it has both the elements of a classic pop song but gives enough of something different to keep it special.
This song makes me want to sing along, which is always a plus! Simon’s vocals sound very smooth. I also adore the little “oo-oh oo-oh” throughout the song.
I think these lyrics are fascinating. While on the surface, they seem completely obvious. It is about a guy who got lost following the directions from his GPS, right? Or is it? Could the machines be something different? There are a number of lines that make me question this seemingly easy-to-understand song. First, the part with Nina Hossain starts out exactly as it should with giving a direction of “turn left”, but then quickly dives into how the machine has control over everything, including what we hear, see, love, feel, want, do, go and know. This machine is much bigger than a GPS. Is it the music industry? Maybe. Is it media in general? Media certainly does have an enormous impact on those things mentioned. Then, I look at the chorus: “so like your solid soul to leave me lost and stranded”. Solid implies that is is something tangible. Real. Obviously, whatever the machines are, Simon shows how he feels when he says, “I hate to think I’ve been fooled by you.” Is this a message to think critically, no matter what machines are around us? I like to think so. Nonetheless, I adore that these lyrics make me think. It could be obvious but it could be filled with subtext. This does remind me of songs like, “Hold Back the Rain, ” which does the same thing. Nice job.
Like with “All You Need Is Now,” there are many subtle elements added to this song, which really enhances its sense of fun. For example, there are subtle sounds. There are also obvious changes to the speed and tempo of the song, which enhances its quality. Yet, these changes take place, smoothly, in such a way that you are left believing that this is the only way the song could have been done. While the more pop like elements, musically, seem to be on the surface, it is clear that all the instrumentation is there and doing its job.
This is a fun, catchy song that makes me want to move and sing along! I appreciate that while it doesn’t seem serious at all, it totally could be depending on one’s interpretation of the song lyrics. I can imagine that this is going to be very fun live!!
I have to say that in earlier versions I’d heard, I had some definite concerns over just how overproduced this song might end up. The final mix absolutely did its job 100%. This song is a perfect example of that Duran Duran musical balance. There is a muted guitar in both the chorus and the verse, and it plays a game of call and answer with Nick’s keys. I wouldn’t normally comment directly on the guitar playing because I realize that Dom is a studio guitarist and not a card carrying member of Duran Duran at this point – but I really believe that he deserves HUGE credit. He is playing guitar in a way I haven’t felt since the beginning days of the band. He is able to play off of Nick in a way that not only compliments Nick, but also himself without seeming full of himself. There’s not a sense of tension in playing the way I always felt with Andy, but he doesn’t completely slip into the floor and become submissive, either. I can honestly say this is the first album that I’ve heard in a good many years that I don’t stop and say, “I miss Andy’s playing”…and that includes I don’t hear a ton of bass on this song, but I feel it…and really, that’s the job of the rhythm section – and they do it well. Roger’s drums are strong and clear (and I’m happy to hear that it doesn’t sound like he’s hitting a cardboard box the way it did on the earlier versions of this song that we’d heard along the way). The music is electronic and fun in the way that only Duran Duran can do it and get away with. It’s definite pop, there isn’t a dark edge to be had in this song, but that doesn’t mean we should take it any less seriously. The chords and timing could have come off of any one of their previous albums, but it has a new feel to it – the band didn’t take this out of the closet from 1985 and dust it off, that is for sure.
The first thing I think of when I hear this song is that it reminds me so much of New Moon on Monday with the harmonization. Not necessarily the speed of the song of course, but Simon’s harmonies are perfect. I can’t get over that Simon is over the age of 50 now, and yet his voice shows no signs of strain on this song. I know of kids half his age that sing with far more strain. It’s gorgeous and I’m envious of his talent.
This is one of those songs where fans will say the lyrics are very straightforward, and then they’ll say that they long for the day way back when where Simon’s writing would make zero sense straight up until we’d all listen to the song 50,000 times and come up with our own meanings – a la The Reflex. In my head, I think this song can be taken for what it’s telling on the surface – which might not means much other than the machines are taking over this world (hence the GPS voice in the middle of the song, brilliantly performed by Nina Hossain), or you can look a little deeper, which is what I have to hope Simon intended. When I first heard the short teaser snippet several months back, my first thought was that this song is about the music industry (the machine). It’s all a big metaphor – the machine is the industry, the love affair Simon sings of is the love affair between the fans and the band (or it could be between the band and the label??), and let’s face it – most of us kind of took a giant step back after RCM, didn’t we? The GPS in the middle of the song is probably the way the band felt while under the guidance of a label (probably ANY label at this point!). The band isn’t mean to think for themselves, that’s not their job. They just need to do what they’re told. They blame themselves and the machines. What a sad state of affairs. That’s OK…I blamed the label as well. 😀 I think this is one of those songs that if you look deeper than surface, anyone can come up with their own meaning – which is the TRUE beauty of Simon’s writing. As straightforward as we might think it is…maybe it isn’t so much.
I really believe that this song has struck the perfect balance between production/talent/mix/reality. I don’t hear a wall of sound coming at me, which is a welcome change from the mixing and production treatment that most songs get these days. It’s even better when I take the time to listen to it through earbuds or even better…headphones because I hear all of the subtle nuances that I can easily miss otherwise.
Blame the Machines was the first song that I heard (snippet) that struck me. Up until I heard this song – I wasn’t quite sure what to think. I liked everything, which was a real improvement in and of itself – but I wasn’t bowled over. When I heard the chorus from this song, I felt it held real promise. I’m happy to say that it lived up to my expectations, and the mix totally exceeded them. I can’t believe it sounds as great as it does, to be honest. I really do think this song is a bit of an explanation of sorts, whether it’s an explanation of recent times, or an explanation of what their entire career has been like for them – but in any case, it hits a home run with me. This song might not be a flashy standout on the album for many, but as I’ve learned – the fans tend to work their way through the catalog at their own pace, and I have no doubt that in time, if not immediate, this will be one of those classic Duran Duran favorites that we’ll ask to have played at shows again and again.