Don’t ever assume we’re done…even when years go by in between reviews! Yes, it is true that approximately three years and eleven months have gone by in between the review of “Edge of America” and “Lakeshore Driving”, nevertheless, we are BACK and the reviews will continue until we’re done!! Be on the lookout for them twice a month, on the second and fourth Fridays!
To those who have not previously had the pleasure, an introduction is necessary. Basically, we challenged ourselves to review the entire Duran Duran catalog. (we don’t know what we were thinking. It is in line with agreeing to write daily, we suppose…) Granted, neither of us are music critics (but isn’t everyone a critic?), neither of us have been trained in music journalism….but that’s never stopped us before. Why now? We’re also not unbiased. (Hey, that’s a double negative, isn’t it? Damn.) That said, we try to be hard on the band, but we’re unabashed Duranies. Say whatever you will.
A couple of extra things, just to be clear:
1. We are not employees of Duran Duran. They aren’t holding us in duress, nor are they telling us what to say and write. (We’d bet that sometimes though, they wish they could…or at least, could shut us up!)
2. We pay for our own music. That said, anytime they want to send us music, we’re all for it. We can be bought. (Ok, ok…Just kidding about the being bought part!)
We review each song using the same guidelines of musicality/instrumentation, vocals, lyrics, and all of that put together – or overall. Then, at the end, we assign it a cocktail rating. Why cocktails? Have you not met Amanda or I yet???
1 cocktail : It’s really not our thing and honestly at this point, the band should be sending US cocktails just to keep listening.
2 cocktails: It could really use work. There are problems in most, if not all, areas of the song/album. It’s not making our ears bleed, but it’s close.
3 cocktails: It’s not bad, but it’s not great either. We aren’t going to turn it off, but we might not actively listen either.
4 cocktails: We’re liking what we hear! It reminds us as to why we’re still fans after all of this time!
5 cocktails: AMAZING! Can this band really get much better?!? This is the Duran we know and love!
Of course, we may even do half cocktails when necessary!
As you may have guessed, this week we press on to finish Big Thing by taking a good look (and listen) at Lakeshore Driving. As the final song on the album, it takes over from where Edge of America leaves off, quite literally. Does it pack a punch, or leave the listener dazed and confused? Read on and see just how many cocktails this one earns!
Obviously, the most forward-sounding instrument is the guitar, which for me is a breath of fresh air. I love the hard-driving, rock guitar as the track starts out. It contrasts beautifully against the far lighter, almost playful, keyboards. It reminds me of the way it used to be when the guitar and keyboards would have a sort of tug-o-war quality about them, and I admit I had to remind myself that this was actually Warren playing. It’s not like the rest of the music he plays with Duran, that is for sure. Then as you keep listening, you get this wonderful second track of guitar that comes out. It is very Nile Rodgers-esque, similar to the style heard on Notorious. It is a jam session that comes to life, without being overly indulgent. I don’t hear a lot of bass or drums, unfortunately. The guitar tracks are so forward that it’s difficult to hear anything else as the song continues on. I’m not really sure I’d call it balanced, but by the same token – I don’t know that it really needs to be. In fact, perhaps the unbalance is what really works for the track.
Obviously there are no vocals or lyrics for this one, so we’ll move on….
I do love the track. It isn’t crazily long, but I like the fact that we’re hearing what this band can really do if left to their own devices. I enjoy that Duran Duran doesn’t always play by the rules. Sometimes, in hindsight, I think they’ve forgotten how to just play. I miss that. I love the feeling that this song just sort of “happened”, and it is a great placement at the end of the record. The tension and sound just continues to build and build, which is a great effect, because I just feel like I’m being swallowed into this whirlpool of sound – it’s an excellent song to listen to when you just need to stop thinking! Towards the end, the sound is full, and it’s easy to think it will never end, until it does. The effect of it just abruptly cutting out is crazy – it’s like you’re floating along grooving away and then there’s just, nothing. You drop like a 50 pound brick back into the harsh reality. This album quits, genuinely leaving you wanting more! So rude, but so good, too.
Four and a half cocktails!
Before I dive into specifics, I have to acknowledge the pairing of this song with Edge of America. It is truly rare for me (and I’m guessing countless other Duranies) to listen to this song by itself despite having its own unique track number. After all, there is little time in between the two on the album and when they played the two tracks live, it felt like a brief pause rather than a complete change in song. I’m sure that it was done deliberately even though the two have very different feelings. After all, Edge of America is more introspective and softer while Lake Shore Driving is an instrumental and one driven by guitar. While I didn’t see this song performed live, I have seen clips in which Warren would come to the center stage by himself to play, clearly giving the guitar the spotlight. That isn’t to say that it is the only instrumentation present but it definitely overshadows the rest. You have to listen closely to hear the bass, for example. So the question is – is Warren’s guitar and its prominence something appreciated or not? While it is different, I’m not sure I’m a fan. When I think of the best Duran material, it is that fight for balance between the instruments in which some instruments rise to the surface for a few notes before another takes over. That isn’t this. It could have been but it feels like so much guitar to me when I would have preferred more rhythm section, for example.
One aspect of doing reviews that I missed was taking the time to really listen closely to a song. In many cases, I learn to appreciate a song more. As I began to type this review, I starting pondering where this song is located on the album and how it is connected to the song, Edge of America. I never really thought that much about it before now, but in writing this review, I think I get it. The Edge of America gives listeners a sense of despair, of hopeless. It leaves you with the idea that the country is not meeting the needs of its people and the emotion that is left, the emotion that can be expressed is anger. “Learn to love your anger now. Anger here is all you possess.
Welcome to the edge.” That song has always reminded me of many of my students who face an incredibly uphill battle. One student, in particular, pops in my head. This kids was the youngest of a bunch of boys. All of his siblings have ended up in prison as his single mother had struggled with substance abuse and making enough money to provide for her kids. This student was bright and he soon realized that so much was going against him. As he recognized this, his anger grew. Eventually, it became his only emotion. Why share this story? I feel like Lake Shore Driving is the anger, the anger that follows the sadness, the despair. I saw it with that particular student and many others. What does this mean in terms of my review? Simple. When I listen to the song on its own, I think of it as this overbearing guitar driven track. When I place it in context, it means more. I can appreciate it more.