After a brief hiatus where we may or may not have forgotten to do a review…we’re back this week to review Drug (It’s Just a State of Mind). At some point, we really will make it past the Big Thing album, we promise!
Drug was originally known as “Take Me” during the initial recording sessions for Big Thing, and is widely rumored to have created a fair amount of discord within the band. The tale goes that John preferred Daniel Abraham’s mix of the song, to which he was outnumbered and outvoted, and as rumor has it, he nearly quit the band. Many of you probably know that Abraham’s mix was released as a bonus track on the CD version of Big Thing, and it did appear as a B-side on copies of “Do You Believe in Shame” that included the John Taylor picture sleeve. Coincidence??
That may be more than any of us ever thought about with regard to the song, so let’s move on to the review!!
My first thought upon listening is that this song could have been on Notorious, with the background vocals and horns. Guitar is incredibly way way way down low in the mix, so it really functions as a rhythm guitar, and even then, very limited. The song is very synth-heavy, which is balanced by strong bass (both by a synth baritone sax and electric bass, courtesy of John Taylor). I struggle to understand why Duran Duran chooses to use their guitarist in such a limited fashion – something that goes on even today. Regardless, the song is very funky, helped along by the slight Chic-like rhythm in the background as well as the well-placed staccato horn fills.
The song is very background vocal-heavy, and at times it’s difficult to even hear Simon. I have to say that for the most part, it doesn’t work for me. I’ve never been a fan of songs that are so heavy on the female backgrounds, and Drug is no exception. The female background voice serves as a sort of “whisper in the ear” or “devil on the shoulder” for the song, telling the listener to “use me”, “take me”, etc….and I have to admit that it is slightly amusing that the band would choose to make that voice female. That said, I think the effect is used way too heavily throughout the song and tends to be a distraction. Simon’s vocals are fine, just not prominent enough in the chorus for my taste.
There are times when I have no idea what the lyrics mean…and then there are songs like this. There’s no doubt that the song, at least on the surface, is about drugs. That said, I kind of think there’s more to it than just that. The song is also about how there’s a drug of some sort out there for every single emotion or state of mind they need. “A hit to fit reality”…any thing they need to feel, they’ve got something to fix that. I think the song is also about how robotic it all was at this point for them. Going through the motions, doing whatever had to be done to get through it all. “It’s more than just an axe you’ve got to grind” It’s as though the life had gone out of it for them, and the only way to feel at that point was to take something to change their state of mind to get there. Once again, I like how the words can mean one thing if taken literally, but they also have the potential to paint a slightly different (and deeper) picture.
For me, the song is mostly a miss. I desperately wish the band would have used the guitarist more effectively (something I continue to wish for even today), and I think the more electronic nature of Big Thing really takes away from the full-experience of the BAND in general. It tends to become more of a showcase for synth, and while I love Nick as much as anyone, the one thing Duran Duran had going was a real balance between synthesizers and guitar, and that seems lost on this record. While there’s definitely some funk to the music, I’ve always felt the song is a bit boring, musically. The lead vocals are incredibly overshadowed by the female background voices, which do nothing to help the strength of the song; and lastly, could we have some damned guitar??
This is one of those songs that you can’t ease into it at all. Right away, there are horns blaring in your ears, which does connect to previous Duran (i.e. the Notorious album, in particular). The song is interesting in that there feels like there is a lot going on, instrumentation wise; yet, it is hard to pick out much beyond the synths, creating very much of a dance/club feel. Of course, there are moments when you can hear the bass or various percussion but those are hard to separate from all of the keyboards. Interestingly enough, if you watch live clips of this song from the Big Thing era and how they decided to perform it, there are a LOT of keyboards (Nick and an additional musician) and Sterling Campbell (drummer) works hard but there isn’t much going on with Warren and John at all. John only adds some bass at the end, in fact.
Every time I listen to this song, I think the same thing. Too much! I want some quiet or at least less vocals! Perhaps, part of my problem is that I think there is just way too much backing vocals–whether those vocals join Simon’s or are by themselves! I want to hear Simon and I don’t hear him nearly enough. Then, at times, when I do, I find myself wanting him to articulate or enunciate his words more. Overall, the lyrics don’t really work for me.
The question with these lyrics is a simple one? Are the lyrics about drugs? They sound like they are but could they be about something else? Could it be about quick fixes? Could it be about society’s obsession with taking pills for every ailment under the sun rather than being patient and seeing if the ailment goes away or if something else could be done about it? The one thing to note about the lyrics is the amount of repetition. The song basically has about the chorus repeat about 4 times with 2 verses that are basically the same minus a few lines. My point is simple. While the lyrics could be a metaphor or a larger statement about society or something deeper than just drugs, they are too short and lack variety.
I wish that this was a song that I liked more. It has a lot of energy as there is a lot going on from the non-stop keyboards to the lead and backing vocals to the repetitive lyrics. That said, I feel all elements aren’t quite right. Keyboards are too dominant. The vocals don’t work for me as I miss Simon. Likewise, the interesting part of the lyrics are lost by the lack of variety. Clearly, the song isn’t a favorite.