Yesterday’s winner: All You Need Is Now
Which song better represents the All You Need Is Now Tour: Before the Rain or The Chauffeur?
Yesterday’s winner: All You Need Is Now
Which song better represents the All You Need Is Now Tour: Before the Rain or The Chauffeur?
Yesterday’s winner: White Lines
Which song better represents the All You Need Is Now Tour: Wild Boys or All You Need Is Now?
Yesterday’s winner: All You Need Is Now
Which song better represents the All You Need Is Now Tour: Being Followed or Blame the Machines?
The song that best represents the Paper Gods Tour: Pressure Off
Which song better represents the All You Need Is Now Tour: All You Need Is Now or A View to a Kill?
Several years back, I found an article online that compared the first three Duran Duran albums to the original Star Wars trilogy. It was a brilliant comparison; unfortunately, I never bookmarked the article and have since been unable to track it down. (Note to readers: ping
me on Twitter (@ckshortell) if you happen to find it.)
I think a similar comparison could be made with some of Duran’s post-reunion albums and the newest Star Wars trilogy. Actually, there’s probably a longer comparison that could compare the entire Star Wars canon with all 14 Duran albums and side projects. But for now, let’s stick to a simple, but apt, comparison.
The latest Star Wars trilogy launched with 2015’s The Force Awakens. Ten years after the end of the financially successful but critically panned prequel trilogy, The Force Awakens, directed
by J.J. Abrams, was actually as much a “soft reboot” of the Star Wars franchise as it was a sequel trilogy. Hugely successful, the movie introduced new characters into the mythology while employing some heavy nostalgia. A bunch of plucky rebels must destroy a big bad planet killing machine! Or, in this instance, a star system killing machine! There were some changes, however. The hero was now a woman, played by the very charismatic Daisy Ridley; the bad guy, Kylo Ren, was still “in training” and not all powerful; and overall, the cast was much more diverse than the original.
Think back to nine years ago and All You Need is Now. That album came on the heels of 2007’s Red Carpet Massacre, itself a massacre of circumstance (after Andy’s departure and the shelving of Reportage) and collaboration (with very un-Duranie collaborators like Timbaland joining the team.) (For the record: I mostly like RCM. But for the purposes of this comparison, I’m going with how most of the fanbase reacted to it. Which was badly. Very badly.)
Where did Duran go? To Mark Ronson, as much the “hot” producer as J.J. Abrams was the “hot” director for the Star Wars franchise. And what did Ronson do? Basically “reboot” Duran by helping them craft an album closer to their original, early 80’s sound than anything they had done since. The video about the creation of “Girl Panic” is a microcosm of this approach. “Play the drums like ‘Girls on Film’, Ronson told Roger. And the guitar, asked Dom? “Like Andy played it…on Girls on Film.” And on and on.
But All You Need is Now was more than just a retread of the early material—it genuinely worked, with catchy hooks and classic Duran choruses that had been lacking from many of the previous albums. One review asked, “Where have all these songs been hiding all these years?” Yes, there were clear nods to Rio. But the album also paid homage to other Duran eras. “Safe” channeled the funk from Notorious. The industrial sounding keyboard synth on the title track,
coupled with Dom’s guitars, brought to mind the more rock-oriented 90’s Duran sound, while the chorus was vintage Duran.
Like The Force Awakens, All You Need is Now did add some diversity to the mix. Simon shared the vocals more on AYNIN than on any previous album, with guest appearances by Kelis and Ana Matronic, as well as broadcaster Nina Hossain providing spoken word codas to two songs.
Overall, All You Need is Now succeeded for the same reasons that The Force Awakens did: it created something new, yet familiar, with a broad appeal to both core and new fans alike.
There was a great deal of anticipation following the huge success of The Force Awakens. Specifically, the next movie was set to feature the return of Luke Skywalker, the hero of the original Star Wars trilogy. Mark Hamill reprised the role and was in the closing seconds of The Force Awakens, teasing fans and making the two-year gap between movies seem interminable. The Last Jedi also featured a different director—Rian Johnson—who took over the reins from
Unlike The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi proved to be a very divisive movie within the Star Wars fanbase. Luke Skywalker’s portrayal as a bitter, older Jedi who intentionally cut himself off from the Force came as a shock to fans, who wanted to see their childhood hero wield his lightsaber and confidently bring the First Order (the bad guys in the movie) to their knees. It didn’t help matters that Mark Hamill was quoted as questioning the script.
The b-plot of the movie—the flight of the Resistance from the First Order—also ends in disaster for our heroes, which didn’t sit well with fans, who thought that much of that plotline was pointless. And, spoiler alert: most of the Resistance dies. In fact, there are so few remaining rebels that they are all able to fit on the Millennium Falcon at the film’s conclusion.
The movie also seemed to gut the new trilogy of any sense of mystery by resolving (or simply negating) far too many plot points than a middle act typically would. Who, exactly, was Supreme Leader Snoke? Apparently, it didn’t matter as he was cut in two by Kylo Ren. Who were Rey’s parents? They were “nobodies” – a major subversion of the “Luke, I am your father” revelation from The Empire Strikes Back.
Meanwhile, on planet earth, Duran Duran followed up the fan friendly All You Need is Now with Paper Gods, an album seemingly as divisive among the fan base as the loathed Red Carpet Massacre. Again, I will freely acknowledge my bias: While I don’t love every single track on Paper Gods, on balance, I think it’s an amazing album, possibly their best since The Wedding Album. As usual, my opinion is likely in the minority among the Duran fan base.
Like The Last Jedi, Paper Gods subverts expectations. The title track is like nothing we’ve really heard from Duran before—it’s an epic opener, a cross between “New Religion” and “The Valley” in sheer scope. And therein lies the problem for some—why would you ever want to channel “The Valley” in any way, shape, or form? (For the record: I love “The Valley”. So I’m fine with it.)
“Last Night in the City” follows, and once again, we’ve shed the 80’s formula from AYNIN. Synths dominate; guitar is largely absent. The band seemed more concerned with a sound that would find chart success in 2015 vs. 1983.
Paper Gods, ultimately, feels like a bunch of different albums lumped onto one playlist. There’s the modern, dance oriented, sequel to Red Carpet Massacre that can be heard on tracks like, “Last Night In the City,” “Danceophobia,” “Face for Today,” and “Change the Skyline.” Then there are darker, more experimental cuts like the title track and “You Kill Me With Silence.” There’s more funk on this album than anything since Notorious, as found on “Butterfly Girl”, “Pressure Off,” “Only in Dreams,” and even “The Universe Alone.” And then there are songs that refuse to fit in any box: the dreamy “What Are the Chances,” in the classic tradition of Duran ballads; the 70’s sounding “Sunset Garage,” which sounds like nothing heard before on any previous Duran album. Even “Face for Today”—which I lumped in with the “modern dance” set of tracks—features as classic a Duran chorus as you will ever hear, that could hav been ripped from 1983’s Seven and the Ragged Tiger sessions.
Paper Gods, like The Last Jedi, dared to be different; it dared to cover new (and old) ground. And both caused their respective fan bases some consternation, as they seemingly failed to live up to the expectations set by the preceding work.
Which brings us to the present. Expectations are high across both the Duran and Star Wars fandoms. In a little over a month, the new Star Wars trilogy concludes with the highly anticipated Rise of Skywalker. The trailer has offered some tantalizing clues, but overall, the plot continues to be shrouded in mystery.
Likewise, the next Duran Duran album is slated for release…possibly in the spring of next year? We all know not to give too much credence to when the band claims its new album will be out. But everything seems lined up for a new album and tour to (finally!) commemorate the 40th anniversary of the band. We’ve gotten a few details on it—Simon claimed recently that it’s an album that will “make you dance” like “Rio”—but we’ve heard similar claims about previous albums that didn’t necessarily turn out true.
What is true is that both the next Star Wars movie and Duran Duran album are highly anticipated by their fans, and many are hoping for change of direction. Will fans be happy with the finished product? Or after so many hears, is it an impossible task that we’ve set up these artists to accomplish?
Stay tuned…and May the (Duran) Force Be With You
a dialogue between the ego and the alter-ego
As a music writer who recently lost his primary publishing outlet, the kind offer from Daily Duranie to be their intern and write once a week really softened the disappointment. Over the last few weeks, I have dove back into every corner of my Duran Duran memories and music to establish a mental base of operations for future writing. I’ve listened to every album again and watched some DVDs that I had missed. In the end, I realized one thing about myself. I am a divided self. At least, I am with Duran Duran albums.
When I think about Duran Duran albums, there is a friction between my critical mind (which reviews an album or two each week) and my nostalgic heart. If you asked either piece of me to rank the albums, the lists would look quite different. So, I had to make a list. It’s a guy thing. We like making lists and arranging our taste in some sort of hierarchy that proves how smart we are. We are aware of this issue and we are working on it.
The Best Duran Duran Albums
1. (1.) Rio
Rio is never a debate. From the artwork to the videos to every single song, the album captured a moment in popular culture and convinced us the our lives could be a James Bond film in some way. The bass lines are the stuff of legend and the band never again found such a perfect balance between Andy’s aggressive guitars and Nick’s carefully arranged melodies. Every band has “that” album where they are in the zone but sometimes you get tired of it. Not with Rio.
(What he said.)
2. (2.) Duran Duran
A formidable debut album. From the Buzzcocks’ 1977 Spiral Scratch EP to this sounds like an eternity but it was only four years from punk to post-punk to Duran Duran. The musical maturity is already there in the arrangements and the band still sounds young and hungry. If this and Rio were all they ever released, Duran Duran would be revered like Joy Division.
(OK, not Joy Division. But this debut rocks harder than people remember. The later addition of “Is There Something I Should Know?” in 1983 actually disrupts the album with Alex Sadkin’s production sounding too bright and colorful amongst the Colin Thurston tracks. Rarely talked about by critics, this is one of the strongest debuts of the decade.)
3. (5.) Big Thing
Experimental with purpose and the proper dose of Warren on guitar has aged this album extremely well. “All She Wants Is” still sounds pristine with a low-end that can shake the room. From moody ballads to driving dance tracks, Duran Duran colorfully (those outfits…) flaunt the ease with which they juggle pop and art.
(Your neon colored eyes were at this show in 1989 and the band was fading in popularity. This album’s lukewarm success further pushed the band asunder of popular culture so how grand could it all be? Well, it is pretty grand but “Drug (It’s Just A State of Mind)” sounds completely out of place and is a total duff. If only there was an incredible B-side that should have replaced it. Hmm.)
4. (14.) Arena
The opening drums of “Is There Something I Should Know”. Is anybody hungry? Switch-it off. Was I chasing after rainbows? So many lines ignite the memory of listening to and watching this concert. Hearing “Seventh Stranger” on the last tour with the footage from 1984 playing above the stage was truly special.
(How many live albums are really not that “live”? Probably most. How many of those also “live albums” include a studio recording mid-set? “Wild Boys” drops out of the sky into the middle of a concert and nobody thinks this is weird? When you can actually hear John’s bass, the songs sound better but the original version of Arena sounds like it was mixed in a soup can.)
5. (7.) Seven & the Ragged Tiger
As a kid, the build-up to the video premier of “Union Of the Snake” felt as exciting as watching the Space Shuttle launch. Lizard people in a desert. An underground society of freaks. The song and video ushered in the band’s most saturated time in popular culture. Soon after, “The Reflex” brought Duran their first US #1. As good as the singles are, the desolate “Seventh Stranger” remains the masterpiece here.
(Nile Rodgers saved this album by fixing “The Reflex”. There are three songs in the middle of the album that I have always confused. As I try to hear them in my head, “(I’m Looking For) Cracks In the Pavement” is the one I like best and the one that isn’t about dice is the one I like least (at a loss for what it is called right now and I listened to this cassette every day for a year when it came out). This album is inconsistent and the band sounds stressed that the fans might catch on.)
6. (4.) Notorious
I wasn’t ready for it when it arrived but this and Big Thing really stand-out in the band’s career. The band really fought themselves out of a corner with Notorious and established themselves as musicians, not teenage heart throbs. The musical talent was always there but the band sounds more focused and precise.
(Notorious was when Duran Duran stopped trying to be James Bond and took a deeper interest in the relationships of our beloved 007. “Skin Trade” is as sexy as Duran has ever been. Even with Andy gone, the guitars are still keeping Mr. Rhodes’ more pretentious proclivities in balance yielding a mature and confident Duran Duran. Song for song, there is a consistent quality to the album where every song serves a purpose.)
7. (3.) All You Need Is Now
Without a doubt, my favorite Duran album post-80s. Mark Ronson keeps it simple by focusing on what works best. They might not be hits in a commercial sense but fans of a band know when a song is a “hit”. The title track and “Girl Panic!” were top-shelf singles in any decade. An unfair criticism but the fact that we don’t listen to albums on repeat day after day anymore probably makes this slightly under-appreciated by me.
(Slightly under-appreciated?! Song for song, this belongs in their top three. The artwork, the analogue synths, the stellar guitar work of Dom Brown, and an arsenal of hooks makes this an unforgettable Duran Duran album. What is harder than following up a massive debut album with an even bigger one that conquers the world? Recording an album two decades later that holds its own with the first two.)
8. (6.) Medazzaland
Mid-period Duran Duran without a Taylor was a little uncertain but Medazzaland remains an experimental delight. The video for “Electric Barbarella” might stir debate but the song sounds futuristic and kitsch. They even erupt like Tesla on the chorus of “Who Do You Think You Are?”. A few anonymous tracks drift-by but the album never loses its grip on you.
(Not releasing it in the UK was a tragedy. The UK audience would have appreciated the cold electronics. While not exactly Bowie’s Low, the band’s experiment pays off with a strong collection of songs. Warren colors between the lines when he needs to and enhances Nick’s digital landscapes. Best experienced as a whole, Medazzaland sounds like a place we should visit.)
9. (11.) Red Carpet Massacre
The follow-up to Reportage (apparently), suffers from a case of uncertainty but there are some genuinely killer dance tracks on here. Hearing “Tempted” live sent me back to this album and I found more than I remembered. Simon’s voice on “Box full o’ Honey” sounds exquisite, for one. “Dirty Great Monster” sounds like a lost Cheap Trick gem and “Last Man Standing” is the sort of album track that can carry an album beyond the singles.
(Parting ways with Andy should have ignited a spark of swagger from the band but they sound content to the let the high-priced producers do the driving. Timberlake really brings little to the party besides being popular at the time. He is a once-in-a-generation talent but the collaboration was stale. Chasing a more “authentic” club sound only reminds us how important Roger Taylor on real drums is to the Duran Duran formula.)
10. (8.) Liberty
Unfairly maligned for some misteps like “Hothead”, there is some really great material on Liberty. Every critic said the lead single was a terrible choice but I actually dig “Violence”. The second side of the album definitely loses some focus but the first half proves worthy of frequent listens and “My Antartica” is nothing short of beautiful.
(The modern-pop of “Serious” and the fierce “First Impression” showcase a band considering future paths. At the time, it was easy to call this indecision but I think it was borne from curiosity the more I listen to the album. The myth that Wedding Album “saved” the band implies that Liberty was a catastrophe. Nothing is further from the truth.)
11. (12.) Wedding Album
The first time I heard “Ordinary World”, I was crossing the railroad tracks near Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach, FL. I remember it that vividly. Duran Duran was back! Three classic singles and some interesting filler made for a respectable but overrated album.
(No matter how successful “Ordinary World” was to the band, it still doesn’t sound like a classic Duran Duran song. While the liquid grace of “Come Undone” and the attitude of “Too Much Information” were dynamite, the rest of the album is far less coherent than Liberty.)
12. (9.) Astronaut
Andy Taylor’s guitar tone has a unique frequency that just soothes my soul. His style is a breath of fresh air after Warren’s antics on the fretboard (and in the bedroom). Even if there was only the reunion tour, it was worth it but the band took the time to deliver new material that often reminds you of their best work while not quite getting there.
(I would have liked to see them hit the studio after a reunion tour while the juices were flowing but “What Happens Tomorrow” and “Nice” will always make my Duran playlist. Rest of it is somewhat forgettable but I enjoy it when I listen to it.)
13. (10.) Paper Gods
Living in Vegas, you build up an instant distain for anything that smells like EDM. So, “Last Night In the City” will always be an album killer for me. The ballads lack the necessary hooks and the best songs from this period were relegated to b-side status. Paper Gods took too long to record and there were too many cooks in the kitchen.
(Not nearly as bad as I think. “Sunset Garage” could almost slip into a Motown playlist while “Danceophobia” is a legendary band having a laugh. The bold title song shows confidence at the front of the album and the band sounds ready to keep the party going for at least another decade.)
14. (13.) Thank You
(The critics were savages when this came out but the production is quite good. “Perfect Day” is full of grace and “White Lines” captures the paranoia of the original. Still, it could have been much better than it is. )
15. (15.) Pop Trash
This was mostly trash.
By Bart Van Bemmel
Math is the most universal language in the world. It’s all around us. It binds all living things together. Even Duran Duran uses math….
On their recent Paper Gods Tour, Duran Duran went on record saying they use the mathematical formula of 3:1 for their set lists — for every three classics you get a new song. But what if who ever runs Duran’s numbers didn’t take in account that their past two albums All You Need is Now and Paper Gods were going to be so magical that they created NEW CLASSICS? Imagine that — a band that’s still around after almost forty years is still creating powerful and vibrant new music? This modern material just can’t be locked away forever with no holdovers on future tours. Not ONE song from All You Need is Now was held over on the Paper Gods Tour and I’m still not over it. Fine, I’ll hold a grudge! After all, it’s their fault they did this to me (and others). And this is pretty much what inspired this blog post. With a new album in the works and a prospective tour to follow, I’m here to show you why Duran’s set list “math” could be the way it is and why their common core needs to change.
Maybe I need to get all Stuart Smalley on Duran and give them my own daily affirmation: You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and dog gone it — people like you. But I understand why you are the way you are. And I understand how you arrived at your 3:1 song ratio. Some “Duranies” aren’t very forgiving when it comes to your band. Often times they can be brutal — especially each time you to push yourselves, push boundaries, and be forwarding thinking with your music. God forbid if your new album doesn’t sound just like Seven and the Ragged Tiger part two there will be hell to pay. I often wonder if some in this fan base cripple your band with their own limitations. It’s as if other artists and bands out there are allowed to grow up, but not you — NOT DURAN. It’s as if some fans have fastened one of those retractable dog leash collars that they put on their kids in the mall around your neck. You will NOT wander off, Simon! Now add in the music media into the mix. Are they any different? When Bon Jovi re-invented themselves with the countrified sing-a-long, “Who Says You Can’t Come Home” and then soon after 2007’s Lost Highway album, it landed them their first ever release to debut on number one on Billboard. But if DURAN were to ever be so bold to be something different (by all means I’m not saying country music here) — we will stand there — arms crossed, until you play one of your greatest hits.
I get the whole Fab Five world domination effect you had, but we’re still here… and you’re still affecting us — 100 million albums sold later (ah — more numbers for you). And I’m NOT sorry to say, but it’s highly unlikely that most casual Duran fans have been shelling out the dollars to fly from all around the world just to see you on your latest mini run of back-to-back sold out shows in New Orleans, Vegas, and others, just to hear you play the Reflex. We aren’t the casual fans. We’re the die-hards. WE sold out those shows. And we love all that YOU are — especially your “new” stuff.
With that said, you have created NEW CLASSICS! NEW MASTERPIECES beyond the greatest hits! You have even said in an interview that the song What are the Chances from Paper Gods is the best ballad you’ve written since 1993’s Ordinary World. That’s a pretty bold statement. But, we’re here to tell you that we agree with you. But what now? Does this song fade away into Duran obscurity? We can’t let this happen.
So here’s my list of (4) NEW DURAN CLASSICS that should be considered and intermixed for future tours:
1. All You Need is Now (AYNIN)
2. The Man Who Stole a Leopard (AYNIN)
3. Pressure Off (Paper Gods)
4. What are the Chances? (Paper Gods)
Maybe factoring in “new” classics into the live-set ratio would create some kind of New Duran Math that could potentially throw this universe alone into some tailspin (see what I did there?). But if any band was going to invent a new formula for rock and roll, Duran Duran would be the band to do it.
I’m curious to see what you — the fans, think some of Duran’s new classics are in your comments!
Any Mark Ronson fans out there? Well, YouTube hears your pleas, and they have answered with news of a Mark Ronson documentary, to be aired (for free!) on YouTube on October 12. Mark (ha!) your calendars and set aside a couple of hours for viewing! Extra special for DD fans, Simon Le Bon was interviewed for the documentary along with a plethora of other celebrities and music artists, such as Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, and Miley Cyrus. Other friends and family are also featured including Boy George, Charlotte Ronson, Josh Home, Lykke Li, and even Sean Lennon, among many others.
Perhaps worthy of note to some, I see that this film was made as a Livewire/Eagle Rock Films production, which is the same production company that did A Diamond in the Mind. Here’s the trailer below!
Now, I wouldn’t be me…or Daily Duranie for that matter…if I didn’t note that despite my watching the trailer twice, I didn’t see or hear Simon. (forgive me if I’m wrong!) He might have been in there and I missed it, but I don’t think so. There were a lot of different voices in the audio overlay, but you’d think I’d be able to pick Simon out, right?? I also didn’t see footage of Mark with the band, which on one hand didn’t surprise me, but on the other – I couldn’t help but be the tiniest bit sad. Yeah, I’m picky and want it all. Am I not a Duran Duran fan?? <insert wink here!>
There was, however, one quick flash of Mark with the platinum blonde hair he sported during the production of All You Need is Now, so I’m obviously hoping for a bit more during the film. I guess we’ll see, because I’ve got it on my calendar for viewing this weekend! Regardless, I think it will be very insightful, inspiring, and worthy of a watch or two!
I have one piece of non-Duran news to share. A-ha is coming to the US for just two shows in 2020, on September 25 and 26! Both shows happen to be at the Wiltern theatre in Los Angeles, and they will be playing their album, Hunting High And Low in its entirety. The shows go on sale Friday at 10am.
This is worthy news because I know that there must be many DD fans who, like me, fell in love with A-ha at the very first moment they heard “Take on Me”, or saw the iconic video (which remains one of my most favorite). As I understand it, next year will be their 40th anniversary as well, and they’re celebrating by playing their breakthrough album live and even coming to the states to do it! It is one of my very favorite albums of the 80s, and I’ve never seen A-ha live.
It’s funny because today on Feedback, the music talk show that fellow Duran Duran fan Lori Majewski co-hosts alongside Nik Carter on SiriusXM channel 106, the subject of albums you’d most want to hear played live came up. Hunting High and Low is on that list for me, along with several others, of course!
As a quick aside – Feedback is a great show. If you haven’t heard it, I strongly recommend it! I can appreciate the different points of view, and Lori does a great job of keeping Nik’s ego in check (as she well should!). It is tough being a female in that world, which is a subject that is near and dear to what Amanda and I have been researching and working on for the past few months. It is alarming to hear that even in 2019, women seem to be far and few in between when it comes to discussions on music. I would swear that the only people that listen or call in seem to be male. Yes, I actually do think that’s a bad thing, for a multitude of reasons (another blog, another day). I listen every day, but I’m on the west coast. Calling in doesn’t work for me, as I hear the show about three hours after the fact. That said, I’m an avid tweeter, even though I’m tweeting after they’ve already gone off the air and I’m listening to a replay! Hoping some of my Duranie friends remember to let them know they’re listening.
Back to A-ha…
The news of their 2020 tour is also worthy of mention because of the timing. What I mean is that these shows go on sale this Friday – October 11th. They’ll likely sell out completely given that they’re the only US dates and the Wiltern isn’t a huge venue. Yet, the shows are nearly an entire year away. I can remember when we used to buy shows that were just weeks away, and then it grew to be where we’d have to pony up for tickets three months out. Even then, I never minded. Lately, I’ve seen pre-sales announced closer to six months out from show dates, and now? This is nearly 12 months away. An entire year.
Maybe I’m alone in this, but I think it is bonkers to plan that far in advance. Essentially we’re giving our money to someone else who can essentially earn interest for nearly twelve months before we even see the concert. While there may not be much I can do to stop this ball from continuing to roll downhill, I can say that it makes me think twice before buying tickets. In the case of my very frugal and pragmatic husband, it stops him dead in his tracks, including this time. There’s no good sense of giving someone your money to sit on for that length of time, and in his head – if that’s what it takes to go to shows, then he guesses it’s time to stop giving money to big acts like this and just go to see local bands who haven’t quite made it yet.
Will I die if I don’t see A-ha before they end their career (could have sworn they announced their retirement once….)? No, probably not. I’d love to see them, but I’ve made peace with knowing that much of what I want isn’t what I necessarily need. A-ha is in the “wish” column, rather than the “must” column, right next to Duran Duran. All of that said, these bands, promoters and/or venues could make it a little easier if they didn’t demand our money so far out in advance. Twelve months seems ridiculous, don’t you think? Maybe I’m just old.
Hey, you kids, get off my lawn!
the lasting first impression is what you’re looking for – “First Impression”
The excitement of unwrapping a new cassette, CD, or vinyl record, and settling into a new listening experience retains its sense of excitement no matter how old we get. There is something magical about hearing new music from a favorite band and, often, the first three songs of the album are a strong indication of where you are headed together. The trio of songs that open U2’s The Joshua Tree and Prince’s 1999 are astoundingly good and a huge reason both are considered classic albums. Does Duran Duran have a trio on the same level? Maybe not but it made for a fun Duran Dissection project.
Duran Duran (1981)
The camera shutter of “Girls On Film” is certainly prophetic given Duran’s success in front of it on MTV and countless teen magazines. Then you get “Planet Earth”, a song that encapsulates a moment in time when all the various styles of the 1970s were coalescing into a new sound that would change the world. While “Anyone Out There” might have made it back into recent set lists because of the NASA show, it would be hard to find someone unhappy about it. Not necessarily single-worthy, “Anyone Out There” remains one of the strongest album tracks the band would ever record.
Verdict: A- (I decided to use letter grades since Amanda is a teacher and we need more heroes like her on the front lines of education)
From the dark clubs of the New Romantic movement to the world stage, the more colorful sound of “Rio” is pop perfection and succinctly captures the spirit of the 1980s. The trio gets a little shaky, however, with the album version of “My Own Way”. No matter how much I love this album, there is always a voice in the back of my head telling Roger to speed it up on this song. I much prefer the Carnival remix and the night version to the original album version but maybe that’s just me. I also prefer the longer version of “Lonely In Your Nightmare” on the remixed US version of the album. The mood and atmosphere are allowed more time to capture your imagination.
Seven & the Ragged Tiger (1983)
Nile Rodgers gets the A for his remix of “The Reflex” because the original is pretty flat overall. Given the anticipation for this record, it is a disappointing start. “New Moon On Monday” feels more fully realized but then the album loses momentum again with “(I’m Looking For) Cracks In the Pavement”. While not a horrible song, it isn’t essential to the album. One of the weakest opening runs of any Duran Duran album, it might have frightened casual fans away from the magic that awaits on side two.
A statement of purpose, the title song ring in a new era of Duran Duran that feels a little chippy (at least towards a flaky bandit). Then, “American Science” sways like a palm tree in the dark. Full of sophistication, the new Duran Duran were growing up faster than some fans; including me. The sexy “Skin Trade” should have faired better as a single and rounds out a thrilling opening suite of songs. The overall mood of the album comes through on these songs and all hold their own individually.
Big Thing (1988)
I sense that the title track is a love it or hate it moment in the band’s history. In 1988, I was definitely a little hair metal kid so the punch of it instantly appealed to me. Then, the band delivers two of their finest singles. I’ll argue all day that “I Don’t Want Your Love” and “All She Wants Is” are stronger singles than “The Reflex” and “New Moon On Monday”. OK, maybe I’m stretching it, but this album was criminally ignored by the industry.
I just waxed nostalgic over Liberty here so I’ll keep this brief. The first two songs are solid introductions to a slightly uncertain time for Duran Duran. That uncertainty turns into a hot mess on “Hothead”. I’ll leave it at that.
Duran Duran (1993)
Please, please let me know. Are we officially calling this The Wedding Album now? Despite the slight hypocrisy of the lyrics in “Too Much Information”, the song practically explodes from the speakers after the timid Liberty. Where would Duran have ended up had “Ordinary World” not turned the tide on their commercial free fall? I’d rather not think too hard about that. Unfortunately, “Love Voodoo” hints at some of the uneven music that follows on The Wedding Album.
Experimental, bold, fresh. There are so many words to describe the mysterious Medazzaland album. The opening three songs are all of the above-mentioned adjectives and more. The album loses its luster the deeper you go but the opening trio lays to rest any concerns about Duran Duran bouncing back strong from the critical mess that was Thank You. It is hard to resist “Electric Barbarella” as a single. The percolating synths and guitars work well together. Its classic Duran Duran even if the video’s stab at humor fails to overcome the sexist premise.
Pop Trash (2000)
A new century of Duran Duran began with “Someone Else Not Me”, a fine song but a difficult album opener. Bordering on 60s psychedelic folk-pop, the song challenged us to open our minds to what Duran Duran could sound like. The opening guitar and drums of “Lava Lamp” could pass for a Matchbox 20 song before Nick and Simon arrive while the swirling “Playing With Uranium” manages a decent chorus. I find that I enjoy Pop Trash in a single listen so any three song run from this album leaves me indifferent.
And then they were back. “(Reach Up For the) Sunrise” has a chorus worthy of a stadium. It is contemporary but without sacrificing the values of early Duran Duran. “Want You More!” is the sort of synth-pop gold that the band used to dispense with ease. LeBon’s voice sounds particularly strong on “What Happens Tomorrow”, a mid-tempo rocker the band seems determined to put on every album since the success of “Ordinary World”. This time, it works out beautifully.
Red Carpet Massacre (2007)
Opener “The Valley” suffers from confusing production. This song should be a distant cousin to The Normal’s “Warm Leatherette” but it ends up trying to be something urban and hip. The title song and “Nite-Runner” are better examples of what the band was aiming for. It might have driven Andy to Ibiza and left me dreaming of what Reportage will someday sound like but this project has grown on me.
All You Need Is Now (2010)
Such an incredible album, the band hasn’t kept any of the songs in the set list since the tour ended supporting it. I’m not bitter. Yet. The title song is the best Duran Duran single since “All She Wants Is” and introduces an album that holds its own with the band’s best work during their imperial phase. “Blame the Machines” and “Being Followed” get the adrenaline racing with the perfect balance of synths and guitars. This is Duran playing to their strengths in every respect.
Paper Gods (2015)
One of the most instantly intriguing opening tracks the band has ever done. When the instruments come in, you can hear a little of M’s “Pop Muzik” buried in the DNA of the track. It’s an instantly likable blend of the band’s pop aspirations and art-school fixations. Of all the band’s albums, this one suffers the most from the sequencing. “Last Night In the City” is the sound of a screeching car crashing into a wall with some EDM blasting through the stereo. It feels out of place after the moody opener. “You Kill Me With Silence” feels like the appropriate follow-up to “Paper Gods” and doesn’t create such a disjointed listen. I could write an entire Daily Duranie piece on restructuring Paper Gods. Maybe, I will.
What happens when there’s a power outage and I’m still sleeping?
Basically, I slept in far too late, and now I’ve got a blog to write and publish in record time before a meeting with Amanda.
Many fans responded to my question about fandom. What keeps you interested as a Duran Duran fan? Handfuls of fans responded, from incredulous sounding “The music, of course!” to the slightly more introspective, “Because they get me.” Several others feel that it is a combination of the music and the friendships they’ve made along the way.
I feel as though I need to clarify that Amanda and I weren’t fishing for specific answers. There’s no one “right” answer that we were hoping someone would type and send. Our creative juices needed a jump start. I think we needed reminding as to why we’rehere to begin with. I call this, “getting stuck in our own head(s)”.
That said, of course we assumed that most were still here because of the music. I think though, I was hoping to gain a better understanding of what about their music it really IS that keeps us all anxious and waiting for whatever project comes next. When I think about why I’m still a fan, it all feels fairly overwhelming. Where do I even start?!? I suspect many of you might feel the same.
Does anyone think that their feelings about Duran Duran have changed since they first became a fan? Maybe their videos intrigued you, initially. Perhaps like me, you loved the idea of a synths paired with a rocking electric guitar. As the decades flew by, you can see that your interests in them have changed.
So in my case as I became a fan back in the 80s, I felt that other bands that relied more heavily on keyboards and synthesizers. While I can name many I liked, it always felt a bit shallow, or thin in sound to me. Duran Duran had this push and pull of balance, the sound was layered and deep, and I liked that. As the years have gone by, though, I feel as though the band has changed a little in that regard. I don’t think there’s that same constant struggle for equilibrium, although the depth of sound has always been there.
I’m not going to rehash the band’s career because that’s not really my point – but I’ve found that my interests in their music have evolved a bit. I find myself listening to the words, recognizing how the music may drive the lyrics (or vice-versa). I love the way each one of their songs is a full-package. No two are the same, just as no two albums are the same. Speaking of albums, the one thing I appreciate most about Duran Duran is that their albums are typically meant to be listened to from start to finish. It is a full, complete story. There’s no “fast food music” delivery here, where you can buy a song or two on iTunes and feel like you’ve gotten the complete meal. No, with Duran Duran – sitting down and committing the full-45 minutes to an hour to really absorb the entire message is key. I felt that with Paper Gods, with All You Need is Now, and yes, even with Red Carpet Massacre, believe it or not!
If anyone has more to add on this subject, I am always ready and willing to share ideas. I love reading what everyone has to say about what continues driving their fandom. So much has changed during the four decades the band has been in existence – I want to hear from you. What keeps you going?