I have to admit that when I first heard about this album finally seeing the light of day, I really paid almost no attention. I took note in the back of my mind, and went on about my day – not really thinking much about it until a brand new, interesting sort of Twitter account showed up on my radar. I paid rapt attention to @TVManiaMusic – I enjoyed the banter between the tweeter and those of us who desperately wanted to somehow decipher the images, comments and quotes into something that made sense. I was so curious, and the art-geek within me LOVED trying to figure out what all of it meant. Anyone who has been reading this blog for any amount of time probably knows that Amanda and I do that – with vim and vigor – whenver the band releases anything new. Overthinking? Yes!! I was delighted when the banter went on for several weeks (I’m honestly thrilled they are keeping it up!) Even so, I was concerned about the music. Would I like it? Would I appreciate the work? I was almost relieved when someone posted “Euphoria” – because I could finally listen and see how I would react. I shakily pressed the play button and hoped for the best.
It is not Duran Duran. But then if it had been, I would have been incredibly and deeply disappointed. Nick and Warren do not disappoint.
I have learned to love this project over time…and for me, that’s the best part about it all. It isn’t JUST music. It isn’t JUST art. It isn’t JUST a story about a family, or a commentary on our addiction to media. It isn’t JUST an album. It is an art project that has grown beyond the boundaries and expectations of anything I ever had in mind. I can listen to the songs over and over again and hear something completely different every single time without fail – it is that good. No my friends, this isn’t Duran Duran, but that doesn’t mean you should shy away. I hear very recognizable things on the album that are worth your time and worth opening your mind wide enough to appreciate. “What About God” has this chord section at the beginning that reminds me SO much of “Tiger Tiger” with a smidgeon of “Faith in this Colour”, I half expect to hear Roger’s drums or at the very least envision those ever-familiar semi-trucks at the beginning of “Sing Blue Silver”. “Euphoria” – the very first song I heard off of the album has vocals that I would swear sound like “Love Voodoo”. Then there is “Paramount”, the one song off of the album that has a real melody line that can nearly get one dancing. I love the “music box” type feel of “What’s in the Future”, and let me say one thing about Warren’s guitar. It is amazing. (That’s right…you read that correctly and no – no one is paying or forcing me to say that!) I couldn’t have ever been able to guess how he would have incorporated a guitar with Nick’s synthesizers on this project, and I really questioned how it would work. I love his work on “Beautiful Clothes” and “I Wanna Make Films”. No question here, there are some really “out there” songs on this album as well – “Yoghurt and Fake Tan”, “Using a Hidden Camera” and even “People Know Your Name” can be tough to get through if you’re not into the more experimental type of music. I think the key there is to listen without judgment – see the forest through the trees. This is not a dancing, singing along type of album. It is the kind of album, much like most really interesting artwork out there, that forces you outside of your comfort zone and convinces you that your taste can grow beyond its assumed boundaries. Challenge yourself and download it.
Rhonda is right that we don’t listen to a ton of electronica, but I did more in the past when I was into more EBM, techno, industrial, etc. I went into this album with that lens on, rather than my usual lens as a Duranie. To me, it wouldn’t be fair to judge this project in any other way. Likewise, if and when we go back to review an album like Neurotic Outsiders, we will need to look at it with a much harder rock lens on. I, for one, absolutely appreciate that Duran and their related projects dive into so many different genres and styles. I don’t find that with other bands that I listen to.
Rhonda mentions in her review about how she didn’t think much about the project until the tweets began with their variety of pictures, commentary, characters and more. I was worse. I knew that I would buy the album, think about it and even review it. I own everything I can, including side and solo projects and like Rhonda mentioned, I definitely enjoy analyzing whatever the band or the band members put out there. I, too, am a lover of art (it’s in my genes!) so once I knew that there was more to this project than a series of songs, I began to get more intrigued. That said, I didn’t get into the tweets. I was out of town when they began and had a hard time catching up with work, sleep and household chores when I returned so that something had to give. It was TV Mania’s twitter. Now, I check out the tweets when I can, but I don’t think it is the same as I had been around in the beginning with them. The one thing I definitely did avoid by choice, however, was all of the samples of songs that were released in some way. Why? It wasn’t that I was avoiding hearing them. Nope. I just wanted to hear them for the first time on the vinyl I had ordered (still not here. Ugh.). I also wanted to absorb the whole project by listening and looking at the packaging at the same time. I suspect I will have things to say when the vinyl does arrive. I gave in this weekend and finally downloaded it. I needed to hear it.
As Rhonda mentioned, it isn’t Duran. We couldn’t review it like we do their songs. The instrumentation will not be separated from the lyrics and vocals. These songs don’t work that way. Yet, I still struggle for an adequate way to describe what I hear and what I think exactly. This is exactly what I think when I walk through a contemporary art museum. Generally, at the end of a visit, I will determine the pieces I liked the most were the ones that got me thinking and feeling the most. These songs do that. Some songs work better in that regard than others. Sometimes, it is the subject matter that seems to grab my attention even though there aren’t lyrics in the same way a usual song has them. A song like, “What About God?”, is a perfect example of that. I wonder about the samples chosen and like that they make me think about an intense topic of religion and religion is our modern times. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the song has not only samples, but layers of other sounds, too, including bells at times, female vocals at others. Other songs grab my attention because they are like what Rhonda mentioned–reminders of Duran, at least in some small way. “Beautiful Clothes” is the most mainstream of all of these songs and definitely sounded like something that could have been on Medazzaland. A song like “Euphoria” begins with a sample that sounds like just classic sci-fi, which Duran has always been connected to right from the beginning with the fascination with space. Even the female vocal in that song reminds me of a certain 70s vibe. Frankly, there were moments in many of the tracks that reminded me of The Devils (side project of Nick and Stephen Duffy’s that really was the first Duran tracks). I think that is the part of this project that I was most surprised by and pleased with–the fact that it managed to sound both completely modern, very 90s and decades before that. This mix would often be found in the same song like “People Know Your Name”.
On top of everything cool with this project and there are many, I found myself being hyper productive this weekend while listening to it. The songs got into my head and did make me want to listen more to figure out all the layers. I definitely could see that this will be one album that I would get something different out of it every time I listened to it. I definitely recommend it to those people who want to step out of the norm, think a little bit about society, and have music that is a real unique art form.