Yes, we know it’s been a few weeks since we reviewed something from Big Thing…so today we’re trying to get back on schedule! Remember the 33 second pieces of music that pop up on Big Thing, first between “Palomino and “Land”, and then again between “Land” and “Edge of America”? This is our super short review of both “Interlude One” and “The Flute Interlude.”
Since these interludes are pretty short – we’re not going to structure this review like most others, as you’ll read below. It’s a quickie!!
Each interlude is each incredibly short, as in, “Yawn for too long and you’ll have missed the entire thing.” To be fair, they are snippets that, unless I am paying rapt attention – I don’t even notice. I feel badly about that, because obviously the band felt strongly enough about each of them to include on the album, but it just doesn’t add enough power or punctuation to “Palomino, “Land”, or “Edge of America”, for me to really sit back and notice. It begs an answer to the question of why they may have been included. Each piece is very experimental in nature, and likely the most experimental bits of music the band had included on an album to the date of Big Thing. “Interlude One” has a very cartoon-like sound to it – reminding me very much of something I’d heard on one of the Chipmunks albums I had as a kid. I don’t really hear how the sound helps to usher in “Land”, but perhaps if the music were slowed down I’d recognize something. “Flute Interlude”, however, sounds much more comfortable in it’s musical place. I can see how it fits right between “Land” and “Edge of America”, because if you listen to the fade-in, it begins with flute – very light and airy in nature, which truly isn’t that dissimilar from “Land” in some respects. This flute is very much layered with other sampled sound effects, and then it fades back out as an electric guitar fades in, thus signaling the beginning of “Edge of America” – which, I don’t want to give anything away since we’ll be reviewing that song soon – but it’s a song with a pretty hard-edged guitar. So the “Flute Interlude” serves the purpose of blending those two seemingly juxtaposed songs together. It ends one statement while beginning another. I struggle to say the same for Interlude One, to be honest. Even so, I like the way the piece seems to snap a listener out of daydream at the end of “Palomino”, opening the door for “Land” to begin. While I do like the way the pieces seem to not only mark the end and the beginning with a sort of punctuation mark, I still stand by the fact that if I’m not paying full attention, I almost don’t even hear them most of the time. The punch isn’t powerful enough, and so I have to wonder if it was really that necessary or effective. I’m left feeling that if the idea had been developed for just a little bit longer, perhaps a little more given to the length, the interludes would have met a fuller potential.
Cocktail Rating: 2.5 cocktails!
These interludes are so short. Of course, it won’t be the last time that Duran includes super short instrumentals on their albums. Yet, unlike songs like “Return to Now” on All You Need Is Now, these don’t grab my attention in the same way. I’m not sure why. The length? The instrumentation used? The fact that they are both so experimental vs. more classical, in nature? Anyway, I always welcome these reviews so that I take the time to REALLY listen and pay attention. When I listen, I am grabbed by the most obvious aspect of both, which is how the volume starts out slow and gets louder until it changes again towards the end. As far as “Interlude One” goes, once there is enough volume, you notice how random the instrumentation/sounds are. It almost reminds me of a record being played on the wrong speed combined with some extra keyboard sounds thrown in for good measure. It isn’t the most pleasant of sounds, really, as the track is really pretty jarring. What is interesting, then, is its placement between two slower tracks of “Palomino” and “Land.” Did they do that to break up the quietness found in those songs? Did they worry that those songs would be missed or overlooked otherwise? “Flute Interlude,” on the other hand, comes after Land and before “The Edge of America.” While “TEOA” is somewhat of a slower tempo, it isn’t as ballad-like as Land and Palomino. What is interesting is that this interlude ends with a lot of guitar and “The Edge of America” features a lot of guitar. Is that the connection or the reason for this song’s placement? Like the previous interlude, this song builds in volume and intensity. It almost feels like a rapidly increasing heartbeat. As it grows in intensity, the flute is very much present as is other instrumentation until it is not, leaving only guitar and some additional sampled sounds. In general, I much prefer this one over “Interlude One.” The instrumentation is just much more pleasant. While it is still somewhat jarring at the end, it is not like the sounds of a record being played backwards, which is what the first interlude reminds me of. Both of these very short tracks, though, remind you that the band really was experimenting with sound in a very different way than they ever had been before. Overall, these tracks are interesting but still can be easily overlooked. More importantly, I’m not sure that they really enhance the album much, especially “Interlude One.”
Today, we continue our reviews of the songs off of the album, Notorious. This time, we look at Meet el Presidente, the 8th song off the album and the third single. This one did not do as well as hoped as it only made it to 70 in the U.S. single charts. Should it have done better? Read on to see what we think.
Rhonda on Meet El Presidente
The song begins pretty brightly with an upbeat jazz, which is pretty atypical for Duran Duran. The bass is turned up in the mix, which is good because it tones down the brass section a bit and adds a little funk. The song strikes me because of how far down in the tracks you have to go to really hear much of Nick – it’s as though they took the traditional Duran instruments and put them off to play in a corner while the brass section was brought out front to shine. While that’s an interesting change of pace, this is Duran Duran, isn’t it?? The music is pretty syncopated, which again – is very unusual for Duran Duran, making the song unique. Overall, the music doesn’t feel like it was written by the band…it feels very unnatural and out-of-place in their catalog. I commend them for being willing, but there’s something to be said for sounding like a Duran Duran song (aside from Simon’s voice of course).
The song opens with a lot of ad-lib from Simon, it reminds me of someone who is trying to find the key before jumping into vocals, and for this type of song – it is appropriate, even if it truly doesn’t hold much in common with any of his other work with Duran Duran. That said, it continues throughout the song, and it’s annoying – it fills far more like “filler” than creating a casual, laid back way of delivering jazz vocals. Additionally, once again I find that the female voices are way, way, WAY too overdone here. Too loud, too overpowering, and way too much. That said, thank goodness Simon actually sang the song, otherwise you’d never know this was Duran Duran.
The one bright spot for me with this song is the lyrics. In some ways, they remind me of being a stay-at-home (I always laugh at that “home” part…more than half my day is spent in the darn car!!) with the way Simon says “She’s on demand at dinnertime”….but when you really listen, I think it’s about being a woman in general (from an enlightened man’s point of view, of course). Simon sings about a variety of different “typical” female societal roles, and I just have to smile at some of the lines. “She blew your money on taking a cruise” (um, yes. Yes I did.) “Hell hath no fury like a young girl’s ego” (and if you think the young girls are bad, you should probably be really afraid of the adult women…) I do laugh because the real deal is that yes, we women let the men think they are in charge, let them believe they’re making the big decisions, all the while we’re running off to concerts with our friends…and Simon gets it. (Wait, maybe that’s just me??) No matter, the lyrics are smart and I love them. I do admit to playing this every once in a while when my husband is in the car, just to see if he even gets it (nope)…I do appreciate a good lyric! As an aside, this entire song reminds me of an interview with Yasmin. She explains that if a fan gets too friendly with Simon, she’ll walk up behind him and grab his crotch, proclaiming it to be hers. Good for you, Yasmin!!
So I’m not a huge fan of the music on this one, but I openly admit that the lyrics save it for me every single time…otherwise I’d probably pass this song right by every time it comes up. I really detest the back-up vocals because they definitely overshadow Simon’s vocals, and I really feel as though the Duran Duran “typical” instrumentation has been put in a virtual corner here – which is unfortunate. This one song that I wish they’d rework and bring up to date, if for no other reason so that we can all sing it loud and proud live.
Cocktail Rating: 3 cocktails!
Amanda on Meet El Presidente
In general, the instrumentation of this song does not get the majority of my attention/focus except when the horns come in and they do frequently. I’m typically not a fan of horns like this. They are there too much and garner too much of the attention, musically. They should be much more of a back up instrument or during a bridge, not the one in the spotlight, at least in Duran songs. That said, I do like what is going, musically, at the beginning of the song. There is John’s funky bass and Nick’s keyboards that go with and compliment. This part doesn’t last too long, though, as the horns dive in quickly. Guitar is there, too, but definitely takes a back seat. I think that is unfortunate. The funkiness continues through the rest of the song but vocals come in and dominant along with the horns. The instrumentation of the band members is WAY overshadowed. The band just feels lost to me.
Right away, I’m annoyed at the vocals as Simon starts out with the “yeah” and the “hmm”. Are those needed? Do they add to the song? Of course, the additional female backing vocals repeating Simon doesn’t help. Now, the vocals during the verse are decent as Simon sounds strong and solid there. Yet, as the song moves from verse to chorus, more backing vocals come in. I find them distracting; they almost take away from Simon’s vocals. Perhaps, the problem is that there are simply too many backing vocals throughout the whole song. The chorus, as opposed to the verse, is a problem. I dislike how Simon hits a real high note to alert the listener’s that the chorus is coming. I much prefer Simon had the lower end of his vocal range. Then the “oohs” during the chorus do nothing for the song at all. It sounds more like filler than an enhancement.
Interestingly enough, the lyrics to this song fascinates me and not just because Simon acknowledges teachers, but because the lyrics make me think. Is this “Presidente” a leader of a country? I don’t get the feeling that she is. Then, what do we know about her? She definitely seems like someone who seems to be objectified by men with lines like “she’s on the factory wall” which gives the impression that she is a centerfold of some sort and “She’s in demand at dinner time” which could imply an unequal division of household labor. Yet, she is really the one “who’s in control” by these exact same behaviors with lines like “You’ve never refused with she lies back” and that if the men “step out of line”, they will “be abused”. All of that would be interesting enough to me but then the line about “But hell has no fury like a young girl’s ego” almost reminds me a young fan, perhaps, a groupie. The implication then is that the rock star shouldn’t “step out of line” and that she, in fact, has a weapon at her disposal, which could be the rock star’s fame, reputation, etc. Then, I wonder if the song isn’t about a groupie breaking those stereotypes of how women should be. Of course, I could be totally off base by my interpretation but, overall, I really like that the lyrics make me think.
While I find the lyrics interesting and enjoy John’s bass along with a lot of the other instrumentation on this song, there are far too many things that don’t work. I dislike all of the backing vocals and I think that the vocals, in general, were overwhelming. I have to wonder if this song wasn’t an intentional attempt to seek out a different audience. After all, when this song was released as a single, the band went to a lot of “Latin” radio stations to try and convince them to air the single. I think the overall problem is that this song doesn’t feel like natural Duran to me. It feels force and contrived (no pun intended).
It is time for a review! As you know, we are reviewing the album, Notorious, track-by-track. This week, we take a look at the 6th song on the album, Vertigo. For many fans, this one seems to be a favorite off this album. Is it worthy? Pay attention, Duranies, because this week, we have finally found a song where Amanda and Rhonda disagree….
Musicality/Instrumentation of Vertigo:
From the first drumbeat, Vertigo has a sultry, slow, slinky feel that gives the song a very slight jazz touch, which is far different from other artists are doing during this period of time. The guitar, while present, takes on more of a rhythmic angle as opposed to lead. Even in the middle 8, you can hear the guitar but it is muted as an undertone to the synthesizer, making the synthesizer incredibly prominent. It’s a shame because you can hear real brilliance in the guitar track, but it’s not given a chance to shine whatsoever – it only serves as background texture to a much bolder synthesizer. For me, having the synthesizer and everything else muted gives a schmaltzy flavor to the song and disguises the potential for a much brighter and bolder song underneath.
Vocals on Vertigo:
The vocals for this song really don’t strike me one way or another, with the exception that in the chorus, Simon is almost completely lost in the background. The backup vocal track is very loud and nearly overtakes him. Another section where this happens is the “maybe maybe maybe!!” section before the second chorus, although in that instance, the effect works much better, providing forcefulness rather than just covering up the lead. Having the backup singers loud and present definitely goes along with R&B flavor of the record, but I think it is a bit of a miss for me overall because rather than support Simon, they really tend to overshadow, and I don’t think that’s necessarily good for the song.
Lyrics on Vertigo:
I think the lyrics here are very interesting. On one hand, you might assume they are sexual given the first verse, “Hey guys, turn it up to get sleazy. Twist it in a vice.” But keep listening…”Don’t you feel edgy? Bite your lips and bleed. Conversation is empty; abandoned in the freeze.” Or “Just need a little hit tonight”. I kind of think the song has far more to do about drug abuse or hiding one’s true self in order to deal with fame. “Do the dance, do the demolition. Don’t lose the chance to hear when you don’t listen.” Seems to me as though Simon is pleading with this person not to lose their real self completely. (I know you’re all probably saying the song is about John’s drug use. Perhaps…I don’t know) As lyrics go, their meaning is not entirely obvious to me, but I like some of the lines throughout the song.
Overall on Vertigo:
This is a song that feels produced to within inches of its original life and intention. I can hear a fabulous guitar riff that is so masked and/or muted in parts it’s criminal, and a very heavy-handed synthesizer that doesn’t even create tension with the guitar – it completely monopolizes. In many ways, I feel this album and song was the start of where the band really seems to be in near-constant identity crisis mode, however well-loved it may be by fans. The background singing was over the top in parts, making Simon sound more like just another voice than the lead singer which really took away from the song for me.
Musicality/Instrumentation on Vertigo:
I have to admit that this is my favorite song off of the album. It wasn’t always but over the years this song has really grown on me. My task here then is to figure out why. What do I like about this song? Like every other track on this album, it is instantly recognizable as being off the Notorious album. There isn’t quite the battle between instrumentation like the first album or the layers upon layers of sounds/instruments/extras like Seven and the Ragged Tiger. No, in this case, the instrumentation can be clearly heard. It isn’t so much a situation of battling as it is a situation of working together for the most part. For example, both keyboards and guitars are clearly heard and seem to be working together. When the song begins, keyboards take bit more of the spotlight but it doesn’t last long as guitars are very clear by the time the vocals begin. This isn’t to say that drums and bass aren’t present because they are. In many ways, it seems like this song is very standard as each of the instruments do what they are supposed to do and when the chorus comes on, the tempo increases. That said, there are some moments when one instrument is more obvious but it is way more subtle than what was done in say the first album. The one thing this song does not have, unlike many of the other tracks on the album, is horns.
Vocals on Vertigo:
I admit that I love Simon’s vocals on this song. They sound incredibly smooth and the moments that could bug me (“maybe maybe maybe”) don’t bother me as much as they could. The chorus obviously has some backing vocals, which work really well with Simon’s voice. It adds to the chorus rather than distracting from it. In fact, I would say that the chorus presents a strong feeling that matches very well with sort of desperation found in the lyrics. Both the vocals and the lyrics sound like they are pleading with whomever the song is directed towards.
Lyrics on Vertigo:
After doing these reviews of Duran Duran songs for so long, I have gotten to the point that I believe that all, or at least most,songs are about them, that they are all autobiographical in some way. I doubt that is true but it seems like so many songs have been about their experiences that I start with the assumption that it is about them. Does the assumption work for Vertigo? The thing about these lyrics that have always struck me is the chorus: “Where’s the real life in your illusion? On the dark side of power’s in confusion. Do the dance. Do the demolition. And lose the chance to hear when you don’t listen.” Is fame the illusion? Is being popular an illusion? Is someone hiding something else? Is the dancing, figurative or literal? If someone is hiding something, they might have to “dance” around various things, right? Does that lead to confusion to demolition? Of course, the song also makes reference to needing a “hit tonight”. Should I assume that is about John? My favorite line, though, definitely is the one about losing “the chance to hear when you don’t listen”. Don’t we all do that in our lives? We don’t really listen or we don’t really pay attention to what we should do when we should. Maybe it is about lying to ourselves. Clearly, these lyrics make me think. For that reason alone, I like them.
I know that this song works for me. Why is it? I love how the lyrics make me think and I love how Simon’s vocals sound on this one. More than that, though, I feel like what it seemed like they were trying to do on this album really worked here. They stripped down the extras to allow the real instrumentation to shine through. It wasn’t about cute little effects unless it enhanced the song. It was a more mature Duran. This song shows it. The instrumentation blends well. It feels more natural than some of the other tracks off the album. If you look at a song like Skin Trade, to me, it feels like they were checking off boxes of what to include rather than what felt right. This song just feels natural to me.
Cocktail Rating: 4 cocktails!
An outspoken examination and celebration of fandom!