Category Archives: Daily Duranie Reviews

Blame the Machines-The Daily Duranie Review

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.” 

Amanda’s Take:
Musicality/Instrumentation:
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.

Vocals:
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.

Lyrics:
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.

Production Aspects:
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.

Overall Impression:
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!!

Cocktail Rating:

Rhonda’s Take:
Musicality/Instrumentation:
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.

Vocals:
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.

Lyrics:
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.

Production Aspects:
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.

Overall Impression:
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.

Cocktail Rating:

All You Need Is Now (single) – the Daily Duranie Review

As I mentioned earlier this week, Amanda and I felt that it would be fun to do our own review of each song off of the album, and today we begin that journey by reviewing All You Need Is Now. If you haven’t already downloaded this song off of iTunes, you really should!  As an early Christmas present from the band, the song is free for today, Wednesday December 8th, 2010!

The reality is, neither Amanda nor I are music experts – except perhaps in our own heads.  This review section is purely our take on the new music and is part of an examination we are doing of the Duran Duran’s music as a whole.  We aren’t expecting anyone to wholly agree with us, as it’s purely our take – just as when you listen to music, you make your own judgements.  You may find in reading that Amanda and I will not always agree or get the same take from the same song.  Personally, that’s what makes music so amazing: two people can listen to the same song and come away feeling completely different things.

A couple disclaimers aside from the above:

1. We are not employees of Duran Duran.  They aren’t holding us in duress, nor are they telling us what to say and write.

2.  We pay for our own music.  We do not receive early copies of their music and we listen to the same grade of music as everyone else.

The way we will handle reviews from this point forward is that both Amanda and myself will each do our own review within the blog.  We have 4 basic categories that we will review – Musicality/instrumentation, Lyrics (the writing), Vocals (yes Simon – we have a “special” category just for you!), and Production (or aspects thereof).   Finally, we will wrap up with overall feelings of the song, and then we will give an overall rating.   Hope that makes sense – R

Our rating system is simple, and very indicative of our personality:

1 cocktail:  It’s really not our thing and honestly at this point the band should be sending US cocktails just to keep listening.

2 cocktails: It could really use work.  There are problems in most, if not all, areas of the song/album.  It’s not making our ears bleed yet, but it’s close.

3 cocktails: It’s not bad, but it’s not great either.  We aren’t going to turn it off, but we might not actively listen either.

4 cocktails:  We’re liking what we hear!  It reminds us as to why we’re still fans after all of this time!

5 cocktails:  AMAZING!  Can this band really get much better?!?  This is the Duran we know and love!

Of course, we may even do half cocktails when necessary! 

Amanda’s take (as of now and is always subject to change!)

Musicality/Instrumentation:
This song is not static as it changes.  The first part is a rather in-your-face electro.  It is rather jarring and definitely not what one thinks of when they think of Duran Duran.  For that reason alone, I think I like it.  It is hard to miss and would definitely get people’s attention.  I also think it is fitting for the lyrics, which I will get to.  It also reminds of the Reflex, in terms of different introductions.  I remember when that song came out and everyone wondered about the beginning.  Yet, now, we can’t imagine the song beginning any other way.  Even with the electro part, the song feels like essential Duran on all levels, including musically.  The instruments are all present, which is a welcome return!  I adore the fact that the song goes through all of these changes from the intro to the verses to the chorus to the build up back to the chorus to the end.  Yet, throughout all of the different parts, the song is upbeat and makes you want to hear more!

Vocals:
The thing I noticed about Simon’s vocals is that the mood they created in me changed as the song changed.  In the beginning, he was more abrupt, more straightforward but with the chorus, he was more melodic.  This change seemed to match both the music and the lyrics, which is really what matters to me in the long run!

Lyrics:
Lyrics make a big difference in my ability to appreciate or like a song.  If I can personally relate to a song, it will really enhance it for me.  I think that is true for a lot of people.  Anyway, I heard the chorus of this song before I knew all of the lyrics.  When I heard the chorus, I felt in my gut that this song was to us, the fans.  Then, the rest of the lyrics just continued that feeling!  We do have to “sway” like when we were “younger” and have to let the music play “a little longer”.  Then, I started thinking about touring and it makes even more sense with the line about the VIP section.  The message seems clear.  Embrace the music.  Embrace being a fan.  Enjoy it.  Nothing else matters but this moment.  It is interesting how the lyrics start out with the line (as I hear it), “It’s all up to you now,” as the idea is that you have a decision to make.  This decision may not be an easy one to make unless you stop thinking about everything else but the music and the present.  Obviously, the lyrics really spoke to me as someone who has often not embraced this, at various points in my life and for various reasons.  Now might be the right time to embrace this philosophy.

Production Aspects:
I feel like this is the one area that takes the song down some on the cocktail scale of excellence.  It sounds a bit too polished.  Some of the rawness seems to have been taken away.  While that in no means makes it bad, it is a blown opportunity.  A perfect example is the electro part.  While in the beginning, I really like it and feel like it has its place but it is too loud during the second verse.  It distracts from Simon’s vocals and the rest of the musicality there.  Plus, it would have been more fitting for how I see the song flowing.  By the end of the song, there is more of a beautiful reminder that all you need is now.  The electro part comes back from time to time as does real life or the worry for the future but should be pushed aside for the seize the day mentality of happiness.  It should not be such a strong presence after that first chorus.  On a different note, I find the inclusion of the street noises at the end of the song to be interesting.  Could these noises be saying that once you accept the current status, the real world becomes a background noise.  I think it is a nice touch!
 
Overall Impression:
This song seems to have a theme running through it, to me.  It represents how people have decisions to make about how they are going to live their lives.  While those decisions might be difficult and abrupt, everything becomes beautiful once the present is embraced, once one’s core joy is embraced.  I feel like this song could have been written as a reminder for Duranies to accept where the band is, accept the fact that the band is still around and still making beautiful music and accept that we are still fans, still Duranies.  It is something that makes us happy.  As a musical piece, I love that it feels like the Duran I know without being something we have already heard!

Cocktail Rating:

Rhonda’s take on All You Need Is Now 

Musicality/Instrumentation:  I have to say that it’s nice to be able to hear John again.  I don’t think I’ve heard that funky bass in many years – I love that you can feel it and hear it, yet John isn’t looking to be the lead. It’s a real rhythm section again, and is a welcome change from their more recent albums. Roger provides a very clear and strong back beat – and when he hits that high hat I can almost see him twirling that stick!   The rhythm is impossible to ignore during the verses, and it really does well to provide the backbone.   The guitar is there, although on this particular song it does not play the lead role – that seems to go to Nick, and appropriately so.  If you listen during the verses, the guitar plays a call/response game with Nick’s synths, and it’s a beautiful thing.  One thing I’ve always enjoyed in Duran’s best music was the tug-of-war played between the guitar and synths, and it’s been sorely lacking in their recent attempts.  The chorus is Duran Duran perfection in every way.  Both anthemic and atmospheric in the way only Duran Duran can do it.  That said, I feel it’s very electro in parts – dangerously close to annoyingly so.  It’s amazing because I would have sworn after the first couple listens that the song was originally two completely different pieces of music.  The verses are strangely similar to something I have heard on more recent albums (I hate to say it, but I could imagine it being on Red Carpet Massacre), and the chorus could be straight from 1983, give or take a few years in either direction.


Vocals: Who am I to critique Simon when he is at his best?  His voice is strong, and while I know that he’s had the tendency as of late to sound strained and nasally, I don’t hear that in this song.  I know that in the past, Simon had a way of reaching notes much lower than I would have expected of someone with his vocal range – almost whispering like Barry White (a slight exaggeration) into the microphone, but this song doesn’t require that, and so I don’t expect it.  I have tried and failed to think of one thing that could have been done differently to improve the song from a vocal standpoint.

Lyrics:  I originally heard snippets of this song when it was played on Behind the Music during the credits – and I felt that lyrically, the song was more reminiscent of Simon’s more recent work.  His writing has been far more straightforward than the poetic, filmy imagery of his early Duran Duran days.  That doesn’t mean to say that the writing is at all poor, because it is not.  The chorus is VERY straightforward – it says what it means and means what it says, which we should embrace and appreciate.  The writing is strong, and while yes, the fans from way back when might say he’s become a weaker lyricist over time,  I would wholeheartedly disagree.  It’s far more difficult to put yourself out there in black and white than it is in a series of gray that could mean one thing to you and something completely different to the next reader/listener.  Does it lose the romance of previous work, though?  For me, I’d have to say no.  This song is written for the fans, it’s written for me, it’s written for you – and I think it’s even written for them.  Who needs romantic flowery lyrics when you’ve got Simon telling you to sway in the mood?  My favorite line?  “Everybody’s gunning for the VIP section; but you’re better off running in another direction.”  (how’d they know I felt that way?!?)   This song was written about their fans, and about themselves.  It’s a beautiful relationship.

Production Aspects:  I hear what I hear, and on this song – it’s just a little overproduced, in particular during the chorus.  Unfortunately with today’s music and production – to hear a song that isn’t a victim to overproduction is the rarity.  The music is a victim to the technology, in my mind.  There is so much we can do to play with the sound of an instrument and with the mix of a song – we do too much.  The chorus sounds rather flat at times, as though it’s a giant brick wall of sound coming out you to hit you with force.  The synths blend so much into the vocals that it can sound rather muddy, and not just because it’s an iTunes file.  Sometimes too much is really too much.  I will also say that as far as the mix goes, the electronic part that plays during the verses is way, WAY too loud.  It competes with Simon’s lyrics, and that’s just wrong.

Overall Impression:  Here is where it gets personal.  When I first heard this song on Behind the Music, tears rolled down my face.  I had wondered where Duran Duran…*my* Duran Duran…had been all of these years.  Of course, I’d only heard the chorus, but it was as beautiful as anything they’d ever done.  I dare say it was perfection.   When I had the opportunity to hear the entire song, I stumbled back a bit.  The verses didn’t blend well into the chorus and overall it felt very awkwardly done.  I will admit that as time has gone on, I’ve gotten used to that – and I actually enjoy it now. The very fact that the song grows on me and changes for me over time signifies that it’s something very special.  Does it lend itself to the days of Rio?  Is that really even a fair question??  My answer is that it’s a Duran Duran song.  There is nothing about this song that I wouldn’t attribute completely and solely to Duran Duran, and for me – that’s a victory, plain and simple.  Will it get airplay?  Will it be a hit?  Who the hell cares?!?  This is for THEM.  For US.  Enjoy it!!

Cocktail Rating:

It’s Monday – are you awake out there?!?

If you’re anything like me…or Garfield (my favorite cartoon character)…you hate Mondays.  I despise them, mainly because each Monday, I feel as though I’m being thrust back into reality with brute force.  It’s insanity in my house as we race to get kids to school, a husband to work, laundry, groceries, and catching back up with “life” on the computer.  Granted, I could probably make this weekly adjustment easier on myself by grocery shopping over the weekend, or doing laundry another day besides Monday, and if I actually spent time on Sunday night looking at my email or catching up on the weekend’s worth of Duran Duran news, I might even have a blog in mind for Monday morning.

Well, THIS weekend, I did all of that.  I did laundry on Sunday, for crying out loud.  I didn’t grocery shop – let’s not be hasty here – but I did get prepared.  I even read the boards briefly yesterday afternoon, and I even had a blog in mind for this morning.  What I didn’t take into account, of course, was the band.

What is it “they” say about the Best Laid Plans??

After the initial Monday morning rush to get everyone out the door, I sat down to the computer with a nice cup of coffee and the beauty of a blog topic in my mind.  It took all of 30 seconds to blast me from a relaxing zen-like calm, to feelings of near panic – and not just because the flooring people showed up to my house and started making enough noise to wake the dead.    Today on Facebook and Twitter, the band announced an early surprise – “it’s really all you need”.  Upon further investigation, it is pretty clear that the release date for the single has been moved up to Wednesday!

Of course, this is fantastic news for the fans.  We have been waiting for what feels like a lifetime (actually in my case, it has been – my youngest is 2!) for the new material to surface, and I honestly can’t wait to hear it!  All of the teasing snippets and reading how Mark Ronson believes this is the best thing the band has done in 20 years will be coming to an end. (well, maybe Mark will continue saying that, but soon we’ll have our own opportunity to weigh in!)  Wednesday is only two days away!

This is also an exciting time for our blog.  The Daily Duranie has always been about the fans, first and foremost.  Yes, we share news.  Yes, we might even gush a bit.  We also make sure to cover all of topics from a fans point of view as opposed to that of a journalist – and those topics can be anything from lyrical content, to art, to issues that go on within our fan base.  In addition to that, it is the intention of Amanda and I to give our own take on the music, since that’s what brought us to Duran Duran to begin with.  Sure, they don’t hurt my eyes to look at them….but the music really IS what’s between us.   Our plans are to take a deeper look at each individual song (beginning with All You Need Is Now) and each album as a whole.  We hope you stay with us, and we invite you to weigh in with your own thoughts and comments as we go along this journey!

-R