I’d love to say something like “Now that we’re about done, the band can go ahead and start writing the next one”….but I’d be crazy…this one is just getting started!! Amanda and I look forward to a few UK shows, and then with any luck, a few more US shows in the fall and beyond.
Thanks to all of our readers for their patience and their sincere efforts not to throw too many tomatoes at us for simply stating our undereducated and completely (*cough, cough*) unbiased opinions of the songs on this album! Now on to the review….
Instrumentation/Musicality: The first thing I’m going to admit here is that for about the first ten times I listened to the song, I didn’t know what in the hell the Speak and Spell was actually spelling at the beginning of the song. I rock that way, don’t I? That should probably give you a real clue as to just how “in tune” my hearing is at times. Even funnier is that I recognized the voice as the Speak and Spell I myself had as a child, but I somehow missed the spelling of Duran Duran. Bartender, send another drink down my way, please! Instrumentally, this song very much reminds me of more recent years for Duran Duran – I think this song could have easily been included on Astronaut without much of a stretch. While the melody line is good, it is SO electronic. Where’s the rest of the band? I do hear guitar occasionally – but the song is heavily synthesized – too much so, in my opinion. The guitar is lost and relegated to short riffs that are understated behind the overpowering synthesizer. While that might be fine on some songs, this one perhaps included, the trouble with Duran Duran (and it always HAS been the trouble since SATRT) is their particular “brand” of instrumentation – where the synth is king, is overused. They really seem to have trouble recognizing the self-worth of the guitar, and rather than having guitar as the driving force behind the melody – it’s a support player to the keyboards – and many times, the songs just call for more than a chord here and a chord there on guitar. It’s the one issue that drives fans crazy to this very day, this fan included – because I can almost guarantee that when the time comes that the song is played live, not only will I hear guitar – but the song will rock. Why water that down for the album??? In addition, I think the rhythm section is completely lost in the shuffle on this song as well, and it’s a shame. John is SUCH a good bassist – he doesn’t settle for just playing one or two notes over and over again – he actually has the musical integrity and chops to play a full bass “melody” so to speak. Use him, don’t bury him! That said, I must reiterate that I do love the melody – I do. I just yearn for some really gritty, crunchy guitar and some bass groove to bring some more depth to the song.
Vocals: Admittedly, all I think of when I hear this song is that it sounds every bit like a Duran Duran song should sound. Simon is at his best here – and I can completely picture him singing it on stage. Lately I’ve been listening to AYNIN (the album) in between several of their older albums (first album, Rio and SATRT). I purposely put AYNIN in the middle of them to see how much Simon’s voice had changed (as well as the music) – and the one thing I can say about Simon is that his voice has lost some of it’s timbre (pronounced “tamber”) over the years. There’s a certain fullness and depth that I think time (along with wear and tear) has taken from his vocal quality – but there’s no mistaking Simon’s voice. While I wouldn’t ever agree that all it takes is Simon singing to make a song a Duran Duran song, he is an integral part of the band that I wouldn’t want to do without. His vocal quality is as much a part of what makes this band Duran Duran as say, Nick’s keyboards or even John’s bass line. There’s no whining here, only a powerfully “Duran Duran” song.
Lyrics: Talk about a timely piece of writing. Naturally this song is all about our online lives. Yours, mine, theirs. There are more than a few lines of this song that completely relate to me…and I suspect everyone else out there who is reading this review, which makes the song interesting. No, it’s probably not the most obscure piece of lyric written – but it didn’t need to be in order to get us listening, and thinking, did it? From the moment Amanda and I knew the song title – we wondered what Simon would say. Quite honestly, I wondered if he’d rip us all apart for relying on our computer screens…and to be fair, I think he made his point rather well. The very first verse: You can call me wrong, you can put me straight. Say the very thing that I love or hate.” Isn’t that the truth? We have so much less of a problem being forward, confrontational and even overly aggressive online – yet I’ve met some of the same people in real life and they can’t even look me in the eye. Simon gets it. You lose your inhibition online. I know I do – I can write a book or a blog here and tell you all what I really think, but in person? I can be pretty quiet until I’m comfortable. A few verses later is even better, mainly because if I didn’t know better – I’d think that Simon was reading our blog!! “We’re writing a book, it’s a piece of cake. We could change the world, if we could stay awake.” (No, writing the book is NOT a piece of cake…and he’s absolutely right about staying awake. I can’t! :D) It will be very interesting in another 10 years to look back at this song, it’s lyric and see just how far we’ve gone. I like it.
Production: Here’s the reality – the pieces for this song were all there, and the production is what has made it what it is. For me, the production and the mix have watered down the very parts of the song that I feel would have made it a standout. Too many producers today are set to lower the volume of the real instruments in the band and they want to rely on the keyboards – probably because so many bands/artists/what-have-you on the top 40 don’t even HAVE instruments. They’re personalities that stand onstage and gyrate to whatever sound is coming out of the speakers – and occasionally they might sing along for effect. (whether that effect is good or bad depends on how loudly their mic’s are turned up.) I think that producers have generally forgotten how to steer the ship for a REAL BAND. It’s annoying and I won’t ever stop hoping that somehow, someway, the pendulum begins to swing the other way once again and we start having real musicians, with real talent, come to the forefront of the music industry once again. Until then, I think we’re going to continue hearing this sort of production, and I’ll just keep complaining. I suppose my complaint goes much farther than just through production – but in this case, I’ll just stick to the facts: NICK IS TOO LOUD and nothing else really comes through much. There, I said it. Yes, I’m picky, and yes – I’m a little judgmental. Still love you Nick, but honestly – where is the rest of the band?
Overall: As much as I’ve hammered the band here with regard to instrumentation and production – I really do like the song. I sing along, I bop my head along with the music. What more can I really ask for? More Dom please. More John please. My guess is that I’ll get my wish should they ever play it live. This band, despite their faults in production, or allowing their music to be produced in the matter it tends to get produced and mixed – is very much a LIVE BAND. I have found that by and large, even songs I dislike on an album are songs that more than rate when played live – and for me, that’s really the true test. I’ve been to far too many concerts where I’ve loved the music on an album, but yet none of it can be recreated live, and that’s disappointing. As far as Duran Duran goes, it’s exactly the opposite. Their live shows far far far exceed anything they’ve ever done on an album – and perhaps that’s why so many of their fans cry so loudly for shows. It’s because we know what they can achieve onstage.
Instrumentation/Musicality: Obviously, the very first thing to jump out at you when listening to this song is the spelling of Duran Duran. This completely threw me when I first heard it. Clearly, the spelling is to indicate that this is about computers or technology. Yet, what I find fascinating about it is that this is not a modern day sounding computer or other augmentative communication device. Then, I have to wonder if it is talking about 2011 computers or computers of the past. Did they really feel it necessary to include some sort of something to show us the topic? We couldn’t just get it with the lyrics or the song title? Then, why spell Duran? Weird. From there, the song jumps into a massive sounding electronic piece. It seems to me that the song has three different main parts: Verse, Chorus, Tap-Tap-Tap part with an additional little piece about 2:30 minutes into it. All of these parts are extremely electronic. When I listen with headphones, I have a sense that there are instruments there but they are not obvious at all. I couldn’t pick out the drums to save my life. Nonetheless, the song is full of energy and definitely gets me moving!
Vocals: This is the Simon I know and love. Even better, this is the Simon that I enjoy singing with…when I’m in the car, by myself! He is singing at a range that works for him and really helps to create that fun, danceable mood. You know that whatever Simon is singing about isn’t necessarily the most important or most serious topic. It is all in good fun, which is fitting for the topic at hand, and the lyrics, in particular since I think that’s the point. It seems all fun to be online but there is a current of concern that people should have.
Lyrics: The song is trying to give a little commentary about the online world. Clearly, he is trying to say that people live a lot of their lives these days online. They live there so much that much of their social interaction takes place there, “elegant times for no conversation”. Yet, no one really questions this. I don’t…much. Is this a healthy way to live our lives? Is it good not to be able to be away from your online world? It seems that to many of us (and I’m guilty here, too) that we all just seem to feel that this is a good way to have fun and it is, but I think the point is that it shouldn’t be our only way. Of course, there is the added idea that you can be whomever you want to be online. I could change everything about me and create a whole new identity. No one would need to find out. Thus, while the online world is fun, it is also one that can be deceptive. I appreciate this questioning. I like that it makes me think. I wish that he didn’t include lines about “youtube” or “facebook”. I always worry that those sites will become out of fashion and make the lyrics look dated. I think the online world is here to stay but the sites may change.
Production: This is a song that is one that you can’t escape and I’m sure that it was intentionally done by the production. There are many songs that I could just have on in the background and enjoy. This isn’t one of them. I would always notice when this song comes on. I’m forced to pay attention to it because it is just filled with sound. I wonder if there isn’t too much sound. Although, I suppose that is fitting as well. There is too much to see and do online and the music does represent this sort of over-stimulation. In terms of song quality, though, and Duran level quality, I wish that I heard more instrumentation besides the heavy electronic. I always want to hear John and Roger. Would the song have been more powerful if those instruments came through but the electronic pieces answered them? Could that have been symbolic to how the online world always seems to break through the regular daily existence?
Overall: I enjoy the song. I immediately found myself singing along to it, including those tap-tap-tap parts. I always wonder if parts like that would sound silly but they don’t in classics like Planet Earth. I think the electronic all-encompassing feel was intentional, but do wonder if it couldn’t be an even stronger song with more organic instrumentation pushing through. The lyrics make me think but I do wonder if they will hold up in the long run.