Tag Archives: Duran Duran album

The Heart, The Mind, The Albums

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

Heart/(Mind)

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

What they should have covered.

(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.

(Yep.)

Skin Trade, 1987 (and other deep cuts): Do You Remember?

So let’s get right down to it: on this date in 1987, Working for the Skin Trade debuted on MTV. Do you remember?

I know one person out there does for sure.  Patty Palazzo, owner of Punk Masters and one time assistant for someone named John Taylor, likely remembers this without much problem. A year or two ago (maybe even longer?) I interviewed Patty for Daily Duranie. During that interview, we talked about Skin Trade, or rather – her obsession for the song. I haven’t forgotten that little tidbit!

So, in honor of this special day, let’s watch the video!

 

I like the days in history where we have a song, single or video to celebrate – it gives me a chance to watch again. I’m not one of those people who will purposefully get out my collection of Duran videos (I don’t really have much of one) and watch them. There’s not enough time…which is why whenever I’m at Amanda’s house I basically overdose on Duran videos when I have the chance!

The thing is, there are a lot of other songs that I almost never think about because they aren’t singles or on setlists…and some of them don’t even have videos at all.  On Monday morning, DDHQ asked what should have been a simple question: what is your favorite “deep cut” by Duran Duran. Deep cut meant a song that wasn’t a single.

My first thoughts were Late Bar and Secret Oktober, as always. But..DOH!…those were both B sides ON singles. Do they count? I’m always afraid of posting an answer and then realizing that I didn’t answer the question correctly. The last thing I want or need are 50 other fans telling me that I didn’t answer right (and yes, there are always some that take a certain amount of glee in setting someone straight). So I checked out some of the other replies before posting. I decided that no, I probably shouldn’t post those two songs because while technically they weren’t singles, they were B-sides and not even on the albums. sigh So what to choose?

My brain went blank. Amazingly, peacefully, blank. I might not have even been able to remember my name at that point. Seriously. What in the hell was (is…I mean IS) wrong with me?  So, I went album by album in my head. What was on the first album? I thought of those songs. Nothing really jumped out at me. Went on to Rio – what was on there? That’s when I came upon Hold Back the Rain. Always did like that one. Almost never hear it live. Hmm. Then I thought about other albums. Notorious was never one of my big faves (sorry). Big Thing was fine – shoot, now as I’m writing, I’m thinking I should have probably picked Land or Palomino. Wait, are those singles? (No, no they weren’t. I’m an idiot and need a brain transplant.)

So…I could have done that all day, as it turns out. I settled on Hold Back the Rain rather quickly because of two reasons: A. it is a good song and one I really like. B. I was trying to hurry.  But, I did think about Paper Gods. One of my most favorite songs off of that album is a pretty deep cut that you don’t even get unless you buy one of the exclusive versions – Planet Roaring.  That’s another one that I would probably give my eye teeth to hear live. (well, maybe NOT my eye teeth. I’d look strange without them. How about a molar??) The big fan in me wishes they’d play it live. It’s anthemic, it’s easy to sing along with them, and it would get the crowd going…or at least the crowd in the first three or four rows. sigh.  I hate it when my brain knows something my heart wishes to completely disregard.

So, go on then…what’s your favorite deep cut?  No pressure…we’ve got time…answer in the comments!

-R

Today in Duran History – Pop Trash

On this date in 2000, the album, Pop Trash, was released in the United States.  14 years ago!!!  Pop Trash is an album that is not frequently talked about within the fan community.  Why do you think that is?  Fans don’t think the songs are worthy?  They didn’t like the album as a whole?  Perhaps, people didn’t like the line-up at the time (Simon, Nick and Warren)?  Yet, as soon as I type this, I am certain that we will receive comments from fans who absolutely love Pop Trash.  I’m curious to hear why they love it and also why they think it is an album that is often dismissed within the fan community.

No matter the level of popularity of the album, I thought it might be fun to take another look at the album for it’s anniversary.

Pop Trash

The track listing for the album was as follows:

 

  • “Someone Else Not Me”
  • “Lava Lamp”
  • “Playing with Uranium”
  • “Hallucinating Elvis”
  • “Starting to Remember”
  • “Pop Trash Movie”
  • “Fragment”
  • “Mars Meets Venus”
  • “Lady Xanax”
  • “The Sun Doesn’t Shine Forever”
  • “Kiss Goodbye”
  • “Last Day on Earth”

There were a few bonus tracks as well for some international releases, including the song, “Someone Else Not Me” in both French and Spanish and a song called “Prototypes”.  The album featured one single, universally, “Someone Else Not Me”, which peaked at number 53 in the UK but did not chart in the US.  Japan saw an additional single in “Last Day on Earth” and “Playing with Uranium” was supposed to be a single in Italy, according to the album’s wikipedia page.  There was a video made for “Someone Else Not Me”, which was significant in that it was the first made entirely with flash animation.

Some other fun facts include:

-Released on Hollywood Records

-It was the only Duran album that John Taylor was not involved at all in the writing and recording process

-Produced by TV Mania in association with Syn Productions

-Pop Trash Movie was originally written by Nick and Warren and recorded first by Blondie

On this day, on this anniversary, I invite all of you to put the album on for, perhaps, the first time or for the one millionth time then tell us what you think about it.  Happy Anniversary Pop Trash!

-A

 

 

Duran Duran and Mr. Hudson

That title sounds like a movie in the making…

Did anyone see that the band is in the studio working with Mr. Hudson?  I won’t lie, I didn’t know much about Mr. Hudson, other than he’s worked with Kanye West – in fact he was signed to Kanye’s label and his recent effort, Straight No Chaser was recorded with Kanye West as the Executive Producer, so I took to Spotify to check out his work. I’ve heard a couple of his songs before, but as is typical for me, I’d never really listened. One thing I immediately detect is a sort of shout out to the 80’s.  Not cheesy 80’s, mind you – not throwaway top 40’s pop from the 80’s (thank goodness) – but some of those elements you might hear from Duran Duran, Missing Persons, Joy Division, New Order, ABC…(I could go on and on really).  The arrangements might not be entirely obvious, but you can certainly hear the influences of bands we know and love in the background, despite the fact that the music as a whole is solidly modern.  While I might not be a fan of some of the more urban sounds he seems to favor – I’m hopeful that he’ll work with to maintain respect for the sound we know, recognize, and love.

I also checked out Google to gain understanding of where he’s from, what he’s been up to, etc.  He’s from Birmingham (that can’t hurt!), and he’s toured with everyone from Amy Winehouse to Jay-Z.  As I mentioned, he was signed to Kanye’s label, and has worked with Kanye, Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus…and even dub step artist Caspa.

It will be very interesting to hear the final product, but I suspect that the band is looking to breath some modernity into the musical space that they own. As the band has often said, they want to keep looking forward.  I like that Mr. Hudson seems to be able to span the distance between the best that the 80s had to offer and some of the more urban, modern sounds of today.  If he can do that without destroying the band’s musical identity for their fans – then we’re on to something.

If you’re like me and aren’t entirely familiar with Mr. Hudson’s music  (I think I’d only heard Supernova and maybe a couple other songs of his???) – you should check him out, you might just be surprised.