Continuing in our weekly review series, today A & R will be reviewing the packaging for the new album. For most bands, perhaps that seems like an odd thing to review, but as fans of Duran Duran know, the band takes as much pride in how their end product is packaged as they do the content contained within. We will be reviewing the Best Buy Deluxe Edition packaging for the U.S.
It’s a relief to finally have something physical to actually hold!! I’d been waiting months to be able to pour over the artwork, hoping that the photos would somehow become clearer to me than what I’d seen online. Sadly, that isn’t really to be the case here, as you’ll read below.
First of all, I do like the striking contrast of the pink and charcoal front. The print is done in an almost metallic like finish, which is very different from what other artists use these days, since all of that ‘extra’ adds to the final cost of the album! The photo(s) on the front consist of a bed on one side (the “pink”) side, and on the charcoal side – what I think might be a chandelier. Maybe. Then of course there’s the infamous black “burn mark” with a giant pink D in the middle, along with the band’s name at the top, and the name of the album scrawled across the front. An interesting point is that there appears to be some sort of an animal print (Leopard maybe?) rug thing on the floor by the bed. I was really hoping that once I was able to see the artwork in person that it would somehow become clearer to me – and that just isn’t the case. I still can’t tell exactly what I’m looking at – although perhaps that’s the point. The only thing that is clear is what we’re examining at the time?
Clunie Reid is the artist that the band chose to work with to create the album artwork. I’m fairly familiar with her body of works, but what strikes me most about the artwork is that Clunie worked from pictures that Nick Rhodes took – and then used her own artistry to manipulate the photos into the story she wished to tell. My problem with the artwork is simply that it’s incredibly obvious. Think of Duran Duran for a moment. Tell me what images come to mind when you think of them (aside from each member of the band!). Women, beds, body images, sex…oh and I suppose some yachts might be nice on the side! (that would be over the top obvious for this album, no?) This album’s artwork has all of that…and perhaps even a leopard print rug. Duran Duran is smarter than that, and quite honestly, so is Clunie Reid. That aside though, the images aren’t necessarily beautiful. I look at the bed coverings – they seem to be those really cheap satiny finish bedspreads that I remember my mom having back in the 70’s. There’s a big black spot on the album cover that I still can’t quite figure out. The images in the art booklet that is included inside the album are very grainy…distorted and have more of that metallic finish. The artwork doesn’t detract from the packaging…but it doesn’t add that extra layer of interest that I believe Duran Duran have always excelled at including. The artwork isn’t smart, it doesn’t make you think…and that is very disappointing for this fan.
The booklet, as I mentioned above, comes with the deluxe version of the album. It’s printed in a reasonably good weight of art paper, probably so that the metallic effect that Clunie worked with would show itself off well. It appears that the images in the book are variations of the same exposure. The first pages are of a woman in what I think might be a jacuzzi or bath – she’s got a diamond pendant held up to her mouth. The second pages (intermixed with lyrics) are of a topless woman with water being sprinkled over her. There is great beauty in the female body – I’m pretty sure the band understands that rather well! There’s just a certain amount of boredom (for me) that goes along with that. I’m no prude whatsoever, but it’s just so OVERDONE and EXPECTED. I’m not surprised it’s there – I probably would have been more shocked had it not been, but it would just be nice to have it actually mean something for a change. It’s Duran Duran though, and I do suppose there’s a certain frivolity that goes along with that. As I said, it was expected!
One thing the booklet does not include are pictures of the band. Conspicuously absent from the artwork are any photos of the band. I know many fans don’t care, still others care very much. My personal opinion is that it would have been nice to have had at least one. I know it’s difficult to believe, but there are actual people out in the world that haven’t seen the band since the 1980’s. I’m guessing those people, should they be compelled to pick up this album, would like to see what the band looks like these days. Well, they won’t see that here. They’d better get themselves to iTunes or Youtube and watch some videos!
I paid special attention to the liner notes on the back page of the booklet, as well as the credit page. The list of thank you’s seems to be getting longer and longer!! One thing that I really found distasteful was the very last few lines of credits. The name of the band and it’s current members are in bold…and then a line is skipped and then Dom Brown is listed as guitar. I think it’s fine to have bolded the band – but I think that they could have found a better place to credit Dom with guitar. Perhaps he could have been included on the credits page (not in bold), and that way it wouldn’t have looked like such an afterthought on the back page of the book. Yes, it’s nit-picky. I agree. I just think it looks kind of lame to put him there, to be honest. I know the intention was probably to include his name prominently, but because of the fact the band is bolded, and Dom is not a 5th member of the band they couldn’t do that for him but felt he was worth more than just a mention on the credit page. It just looks tacky in the end.
Ultimately for me the packaging on this album is generally ho-hum. It doesn’t add, it doesn’t really detract…but it’s not the work of beauty that the album so richly deserves. When I think back to what this album really stands for, and what adversity the band has come from in order to get to this point, I just feel they missed the yacht on this one.
Many of my comments will be similar to Rhonda’s and others not so much. Like Rhonda, I was completely thrilled with being able to hold an actual album in my hands. While I am okay with downloading much of my music, for some bands, for some artists, I must get a hardcopy. Those artists are like Duran in that I have a large collection of their music AND they take their time to produce a quality product. I can remember even being excited to hold Red Carpet Massacre in my hands on the day it was released. I also remember being generally pleased with the packaging even if I wasn’t thrilled with the actual cover. Therefore, I figured that AYNIN would, at least, be as good of quality.
I purchased my copy at the local Best Buy (see Rhonda’s post on March 22nd for all of the details of her experience!). As soon as I unwrapped it, I noticed there was a sleeve covering the actual album. At the time, I thought that seemed strange to have an additional sleeve like that because it is cumbersome to take off and on, especially since it goes on from the top or bottom as opposed to the side. On closer inspection, I realized that this additional sleeve was added to show the additional songs available on the exclusive Best Buy edition. That made perfect sense to me until I realized the back cover of the actual album doesn’t match like the outside sleeve does. On top of that, the booklet does not match either. The booklet contains the lyrics to 13 of the songs with lyrics. It does not contain the lyrics to ALL of the songs on the Best Buy edition. Okay. I can live with that. Networker Nation’s lyrics are in the booklet with the track number being 15. Uh. On the Best Buy edition, it is number 17. Why put song numbers at all if the booklets were to be used for all editions? Why not just have song titles? The way that they have it seems lazy. If they wanted to keep both song titles and track numbers, then why not have a special booklet for this exclusive edition? Then, it could have included all song lyrics. This seems very un-Duran Duran like. Where was the attention to detail here?
Now, as for the front cover itself, my opinion about it didn’t change much from when it was unveiled online months ago. I appreciate the glossy quality of the pink D and think that it is a nice touch to have the “All You Need Is Now” part raised. That seemed to be the Duran that I know and love. Very detail focused. That said, the artwork still seemed generally okay with me. I was hoping that it would fit more with the music, but it didn’t. The left side still seems dark and the right side or pink side seems brighter. Yet, on the album, the songs don’t go in the same order. Some of the darker songs are toward the end of the album. Maybe that is the whole point. Maybe the cover really doesn’t have anything to do with anything and that the joke is on those of us who are looking for a pattern, a reason, something. As for the back cover, I liked that it was all in pink and still had a big D on it, which goes in the opposite direction. Yet, it didn’t have the same glossy finish. It isn’t bad but it isn’t anything special either.
The inside part of the packaging had more Nick photos with Clunie Reid’s art. Like Rhonda, I, too, don’t really need to see another woman. Duran has done it to death. I do appreciate that the artwork carried over to the actual CD and DVD even with a D featured on them. I do appreciate that they got a theme and stuck with it. I wish that the CD and DVD were easier to get out and in. I worry that I will end up putting fingerprints all over them! Perhaps, they would have been better off putting it in different kind of case? I don’t know. Obviously, it doesn’t matter for the booklet at all, though.
Speaking of the booklet, I had a very similar reaction to Rhonda. In fact, on that day, while she was still in her quest to find a Best Buy with a copy, I had texted her to complain that there are NO pictures of the band. While I love art and I do (my mom is an artist), I also love seeing pictures of the band. I keep seeing these great photoshoots but where are the photos? When and where will I see them? It is like they are trying to tease me/us! Now, I do appreciate that they included the lyrics (unlike RCM—what does that say about what they think about these lyrics vs. those lyrics of the last album?! Hmm….) I also appreciated that they included the date of the writing/recording as well as who was a writer on the song. 🙂
My general impression is like Rhonda’s. The packaging isn’t bad but it isn’t really what I’m used to. Of course, they have a chance to redeem themselves a bit when they come out with the vinyl packaging. I was much more impressed with the packaging for RCM’s vinyl than I was for the regular or deluxe version of it. Perhaps, the same thing will happen with this album.