We are waist-deep in the throws of Seven and the Ragged Tiger, and this week we bring you our thoughts on Of Crime and Passion. A song that the band has never played too incredibly often live, how does the song hold up some thirty years later?
Musicality/Instrumentation: I must admit I have always loved the first seven seconds of this song best – a quickening heartbeat to draw you in and listen closer, and then…two jarring chords that knock you right off of your feet…which are my least favorite two notes the band has probably ever recorded. My mother always threatened to put this song on as my alarm in the morning. Thankfully I’m still here, so clearly she never followed through. Those two notes never fail to scare the hell out of me, so the shock value? Yep, still there. Thanks! Those notes are continued to be used throughout the song, and I think their main purpose is to really to jar the listener. Mission accomplished. This is one of the darker, slightly grimy “rock” songs on the album, with plenty of guitar, to which I’ll admit – I’m slightly partial. I think that as opposed to the other more synthesizer/keyboard-centric songs on the album, this song is where Andy is allowed to shine, and that he does. The guitar is the perfect way to play out the anger felt in this song – it speaks beautifully through the music, and there’s no way to miss the emotion that is being conveyed. I never lose him in the mix, and John is close behind, providing a steady bass, although I do feel that we feel him more than we hear him during much of the song. It’s funny because I feel the same way about Roger’s drums – I can hear him on the snare and maybe some toms from time to time, but bass drum? Not as much. I can feel it, but I can’t always hear it. On this song, Nick seems to be much more in the background, creating atmosphere in much the same way he did on the first album. Summing up the instrumentation, I would say that it is as though this is a throwback to their earlier style of songwriting, but done with current (well, “current” to the year this album was recorded!) production/recording.
Vocals: One thing that Simon does incredibly well, is create mood. Simon doesn’t just show up and sing – you can hear the emotion in his voice, and it changes throughout the song, throughout the set, and even throughout whatever album you’re listening. Many singers today do not know how to do that, and I give Simon credit – he does it superbly. This song is no different – he starts off lower in his range here, and you can feel the anxiety, the irritation, and even the rage increase with each set of verses, and then in the chorus he explodes with this amazing amount of energy. The listener can feel exactly what he’s singing. I have always loved Simon’s lower vocal range, and this song shows off his abilities beautifully, showcasing everything from his emotion, to range, to harmonization.
Lyrics: All I really understood about this song when I was young was anger and rage. It was easy enough to glean the anger just from the way Simon sang the words. When I listen now, I’m struck by just how accurately the words describe the receiving end of deceit. “Why did you let me run when you knew I’d fall for the gaping hole where your heart should be.” It’s almost as though he’s having a conversation with the person, assuming he hears a reply and answers back “Liar! Couldn’t cut me deeper with a knife if you tried. Take a look before you run off and hide at your victim, arise.” I love that he commands the person to look at the damage they’ve caused. Brilliant. “How quiet they gather when the storm’s about the blow” I’ve thought of that line many, many times over the years. It’s so true. He captures the feeling – the anger, the confusion, the hurt and yes, the passion and rage one feels when they realize they’ve been lied to. Lyrically, it’s fantastic.
Production: There is something about the production on this entire album that is difficult to describe. It is similar (but not exact) to the “Wall of Sound” technique that Phil Spector first used back in the 1960’s. Basically, it’s a way of layering tracks so that the sound is very dense with a ton of reverberation. When everything comes together in the chorus, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of sound coming at you. I notice on this album, the production is very heavy as opposed to the previous two albums – with a ton of layering, reverb and background ambience. I think that it’s effectiveness depends on the song, and just how heavy-handed it is. On this particular song, I think that the chorus is completely overdone, with maybe much more being done post-production than we tend to mention normally here on the blog. I believe much of this is due to the fact that in the 1980s, recording technology was really beginning to take off – with a ton of innovation happening – and so it was very easy to want to try everything and overdo it. I feel that in select parts of this song, the sound falls victim to the technology.
Overall: I can hear the elements of early Duran Duran in the songwriting here. The dark edge, the gripping guitar, the ambient keyboards, the emotional lyrics. The production, however, brought the song to 1983. I like the instrumentation with Andy taking more of a lead than in other songs on this same album, and I feel that Duran Duran works best when there is both strong guitar AND strong keyboards. Simon’s lyrics are as good as they get here for me, and I can feel myself wanting to stand up and sing this song loud and proud right along with him. The emotion is there. However, like other songs on this album, the production is where I feel the songs, or parts thereof, seem to fall short. The chorus is incredibly overwhelming musically as it is – without the reverb effect, and I think that pushes it over the edge at times. I just wish they would have backed off just a little and allowed the music to tell the story and speak for itself as it is – the song is plenty strong enough on it’s own.
Cocktail Rating: 3 Cocktails!
Musicality/Instrumentation: I love, love, love how they start this song with the heartbeat that increases in tempo until the rest of instrumentation kicks in and really kicks in. It is definitely fitting with the lyrics of the songs. The increase in heart rate with the passion until “bang,”the crime happens or the instrumentation kicks in. Then, for the most part, the song feels like it is all about emotion, driving emotion from there on out. At times, the overdrive of instrumentation slows down a bit but it is a very tiny bit before it kicks up again. One cannot escape the emotion or slow down the adrenaline. This is particularly felt during the chorus in which there is so much instrumentation, music and sound going on that one could probably listen to the song thousands of time and not catch everything there. It is complex, that’s for sure. The instrumentation seems to include all of the band well with Roger a bit more in the background. It is interesting to note that even guitar seems to be present and accounted for more on this song than others on this album. Like earlier Duran, there seems to be more of a balance between the guitar and keyboards than on previous tracks. Similarly, John’s bass seems to provide that steady layer of sound forming the foundation. One thing I do love about this track is that bridge with about a minute to go. The guitar there is fabulous. One thing I am surprised by is the end. I wouldn’t have expected it to just fade to end. I would have it expected to end in a much more abrupt way based on the topic of the song and how it begins.
Vocals: Yesterday afternoon, I was driving home, listening to music when a song popped up and caught my attention. How come it caught my attention? Simple. I loved the music of the song and cringed as soon as the vocals began. Why? Simple. They didn’t fit the music, the song. It was like the vocals were for a different song and placed in this one by accident. Why am I sharing this here? It is the exact opposite here on this song. Simon’s vocals seem so deliberate. It isn’t just about singing the notes and getting the job done. It is about being the 6th instrument on the song. It is about working with the instrumentation. As a reading teacher, I discuss fluency a lot with my students and we discuss how good reading isn’t just about reading the words correctly but reading them with the expression they are intended. Simon shows how it is done on this song. You can feel the level of passion and the level of worry. In the beginning of the song, it seems like he is trying to control those emotions until he just can’t and has to let them out. Then, as the instrumentation doesn’t let up, neither really does Simon, even during the verses that start out more controlled. A good example of this is about 30 seconds in when the word “liar” is sung full of that barely contained fury. The chorus is also just full of emotion that cannot be denied, which really adds to the song.
Lyrics: Earlier this year, I took a long look at this song’s lyrics, which you can read here. The basic idea of that blog is that I really have no idea behind what exactly this song is about. To me, the lyrics play like a movie. Perhaps, then, Simon’s emotions is much like any other actor taking on a role. That is sort of how it feels to me, too. It about someone else. It doesn’t feel personal at all. Maybe, I feel this way because I haven’t been able to find a real connection to it. I’m not sure. It isn’t that there is something wrong with the lyrics. There isn’t. They are fine but, for whatever reason, I want something different even with some very cool lines. I like the idea of crime and passion and think they are interesting ideas. Yes, I also understand that Simon probably hasn’t really been involved in some sort of crime but couldn’t that “crime” be something more metaphorical, more symbolic? I don’t sense that here. Despite the fact that I love Simon’s vocals, I don’t feel like he has a real connection to the lyrics.
Production: Like many of the other songs on this album, I really think the parts are there for a really fantastic song. The instrumentation is there. The vocals are definitely there. The lyrics have great lines. Yet, like with so many other songs, I feel overwhelmed while listening to the song. The overpowering, can’t escape feeling is there. I get why this kind of production was used. It’s a great song and everyone needs to be surrounded by it when listening so that this greatness can be heard and felt. Yet, it feels like they are trying too hard to show how cool it is. Yes, it is clear that recording and production methods and tools were changing and shifting and I admire Duran and their people wanting to embrace what is new and innovative. I just wish that they could have figured out a way to use what was cool about the new with what really worked with the old. This song didn’t need to be so overwhelming in order to be thought of as cool. It has enough really positive features on its own to warrant letting it just be.
Overall: There are so many elements of this song that I really love. The instrumentation is there as are the vocals. The lyrics are cool but they could hit it out of the ball park if they felt more personal to me. Yet, as with so many other songs, I feel that those positives aren’t allowed to shine in the way they should be. The production and/or the mix is too much, too overpowering. It feels like the assumption is that we wouldn’t get it if we weren’t beaten over the head with the song. That said, it still has enough potential to be one that I would truly enjoy seeing performed live. In fact, I would really love to see it live. Perhaps, in that setting, the true coolness of the song would be clear.
Cocktail Rating: 3 cocktails!