We are continuing to move on with our reviews to the fourth track on the Seven and the Ragged Tiger album. It is good that we have so many songs left to review as we are going to run out of things to talk about soon since it is so quiet on the band front. Oh wait…our impatience for news is the subject for a different blog. This one is all about I Take the Dice, one of those hidden album tracks in a very popular album. Should it rise to greater heights of popularity or stay more hidden?
Musicality/Instrumentation: There is simply no intro with this one – it starts and it’s off to the races immediately. Nothing to beckon you in slowly – it just slams you right in the face and keeps on going from there. Surprisingly, there is no guitar here until about the :15 mark, just as the lyrics begin, and it is deep in the mix. If you’re not listening, you’ll miss it because Nick’s keyboards are clearly the star here. Bass is there, attempting to keep the listener on track, but once again, there are so many different layers, loops and samples going on on top of the guitar and bass, you feel them before you really hear them, and the same for drums. One thing I will say is that it’s all very cohesive, and it blends together well. It’s not easy to pick any one thing out, and whether that’s by design or circumstance is hard to say. The one word that I could use to describe this song is loud. Everything is turned up to ten, and in my opinion, it could easily turn into one hot mess. What is interesting to me about this song, as well as most of the other songs on this album, is that they are immediately identifiable to me as being off of this album – I can’t decide if it’s the types of sounds they use, the chord progressions, the background chords from Nick that pull it all together or a menagerie of all of the above – but if you listen to each song on this album, there’s a distinctive sound from the entire album that seems to connect all of them together. It’s cohesive, barely contained chaos.
Vocals: I like Simon on this song. At the beginning of the song, when he starts off singing “Midnight, think I’m gonna make it.”, I can picture him smiling and almost begging us to come closer…where the music really does nothing to beckon me in, Simon is as good as any snake oil salesman in getting my attention. As he continues in the song, his voice becomes more passionate, playful and pleading. Where the first verse is very good at convincing me to listen…the second verse almost dares the listener not to. I have to admit, I especially enjoy the playful way he sings “Bop bop ba-bop ba-bop bop bop” part during the bridge, and the truth is – Simon conveys his feelings so well here, it’s hard not to at least like the song.
Lyrics: “Just this once I take the dice” It’s about the only line I understood as a kid, and even then…I’m not entirely sure. Is he gambling? Is this song about playing games? Is this about risk taking? Then there’s that whole line “kill that light it’s so bright and you’re shining it right in my eyes” I think in some ways, this is about fame, which makes sense given that this album came out at the height of their popularity. It might be about the risk and fears that go along with whom to trust, whom not to… I love the lyric “Show me a secret and tell me your name, catch me with your fizzy smile. Try to remember again and again what it is that I recognize”. To me, it really is all about figuring out who to trust, and who not to trust…and the gamble that goes along with that risk. Am I right? Not a single clue, but I like it.
Production: Overdone, in my not-so-humble opinion. It’s not just the effects, which can be great – it’s the fact that there is just too much going on at times that it’s overwhelming. I think they took a song with great potential, and added way too much. Someone needed to steer the band into a bit more simplicity with not so much background noise going on. They could have made the effect so much more with just a little less. Again, I find that this is the beginning of where the band got off course. Naturally, we all know how that changed everything going forward – but even without that knowledge I would say that this was an album that changed the band permanently. Prior to now, the recording was done in a way where each instrument had their time to shine and their job to do. Here in this song, even Simon is far too loud at times.
Overall: What strikes me about this song most is how easily identifiable it is with the rest of the album. There is real consistency in the types of sounds used and the way the album was produced. There are elements here that I love, and that are true Duran – everything from various synth loops to the harmonies and emotion used in the vocals, the background chords, the bridge section – it’s all Duran Duran. Yet there are also elements here that quite frankly drive me crazy, for example I can barely hear the rhythm section and hardly even recognize the guitar being there at all. It might be cohesive and blend well – but it’s almost cliché 80’s music with glossy production. I just think it might have been served better had some of the effects been turned down a bit and the other instruments been allowed a bit louder and more balanced voice.
Cocktail Rating: 3 cocktails!
Musicality/Instrumentation: As always, when I start a review, I go and listen to the song, very carefully, usually multiple times in a row. I am struck by how quickly this song jumps right to it. There is no lead in, no chance to move slowly into the track. No, there is an immediate upbeat sound, or notes that move up the scale, that you can’t escape from the beginning throughout song until the chorus about 2 minutes in. I get why they would have included notes like that. Obviously, they work to increase excitement, create a positive mood. Yet, I find it overpowering. The vocals also seem overpowering. I want to be able to more of the other instrumentation. I hear the other instruments. I know they are there but I can’t really get to them, which frustrates me. In the beginning of the song, I do notice the bass some, but that, too, gets lost to me. I do like the bridge that is about 2 and a half minutes in. It has a similar sound to New Moon on Monday, which does show that there is coherence to this album. Once again, though, like Cracks in the Pavement, I wonder if there is too much going on, musically, especially towards the end of this song.
Vocals: This song feels very much like typical Simon to me. I love that there is a little attitude with how his sings the lines, especially in that opening verse. There is a little bit of dark, mysterious, sexy quality there with some of those lower notes. Of course, he seems to become more passionate as he seems to be pleading about his current situation as the song moves into the chorus. Again, Simon does have a way of really working to create a mood, an emotion. The second verse seems more passionate than the first, which I also find interesting. I suspect this works better to convey the sense that once he sings the chorus he no longer had the self-control that he did. He couldn’t sound like he did in the first verse. Subtle but it works.
Lyrics: When I think about the lyrics to this song, the first line that comes to my mind is the one about the daddy’s bracelets. When I was a kid on the south side of Chicago, I don’t think I knew any male who wore a bracelet or something like that beyond a watch. It struck me as very odd. When I look closer at the lyrics, they really are quite fascinating. I’m not sure exactly what every line is talking about but there is the clear sense that it is about taking risks despite maybe being in the spotlight and sometimes this risk taking comes from advice. So much of this makes sense to me when I think of the state of the band at this point. They were in the height of their fame and popularity. The spotlight was always shining on them and that kind of pressure must be intense. It is clear in these lyrics and others from the album that Simon couldn’t help but have that experience show in the words he wrote. That said, I didn’t relate to these lyrics as a kid and now, I just want to study them. These are lyrics that I could see, at some point, with some experience really being able to connect to them.
Production: *sigh* The theme of this album is so, so very clear. The production and the mix makes such a difference. Instead of letting all of the instruments be heard, clear, Nick seems to be louder and so much more the greater focus. I struggled to really hear, differentiate the different instruments. Duran doesn’t feel quite right, then, to me. At times, it even seemed like Simon was too loud, too much in the front and masked the instrumentation. I want all members to shine and show themselves and their skills. The song doesn’t allow that, though. Again, I am left to wonder if I wouldn’t love this song if it had been mixed differently.
Overall: Like many of these songs on this album, this one feels like there is SO much potential. The lyrics fascinate me and I love Simon’s vocals, especially in the beginning. I want to get where Simon is coming from. I want to understand how he feels and why he feels that way. I’m even okay with not knowing or understanding. Beyond that, though, I struggle with the song because it seems to me that some elements overpower other parts. I don’t want that. I miss the parts that seemed to be ignored. Yes, the song is catchy and, yes, it gets in my head extremely easily, but I don’t know that it is enough.
Cocktail Rating: 2.5 cocktails!