Yesterday’s winner: Seven and the Ragged Tiger
Which album do you like better: Big Thing or Liberty?
Yesterday’s winner: Seven and the Ragged Tiger
Which album do you like better: Big Thing or Liberty?
Welcome to Monday. It is my first day back after a nearly a week of festivities, and so I’m going to start slow…by doing my own ranking of albums.
In full disclosure, I read diffuser.fm’s take on Duran’s career, as well as Amanda’s, prior to making my own choices. Both gave me a little more to think about, but neither swayed my decisions. I know we’ve done this before, but as Amanda mentioned, I haven’t even considered it since Paper Gods came out. Why not revisit?
My own countdown is devised so that I mention the album and the reasons for where it sits. Some albums may have a paragraph, others might have a sentence or two. I left Arena off of my list completely as it only has one studio song on it and if I were to rank live albums I would do them all.
I’ve learned that I cannot hem and haw around while I am ranking things or picking favorites. I feel a little like I’m mowing down the field of Duran Duran albums as I go through the process, quickly deciding what should go where and why – but I go with my first instinct, my gut, and don’t look back. I do fine as I begin, but somewhere around #8 I start worrying, but remind myself to go with my gut. I look back over the list as I’m finishing and realize that for now – today even – it’s how I feel. Tomorrow? Who knows. That’s kind of how it’s always been for me as a fan.
Perhaps it’s really gotten to the point that I identify so closely with their career – each album marking a particular point in my own life – that it’s difficult to be objective anymore. I don’t know, but I tried. I’m sure I’m not the first fan to be stumped by ranking albums or picking favorite songs. In fact, I know I’m not!
I just never felt they hit their stride here. While some songs, such as Perfect Day or Lay Lady Lay are so silky smooth you can’t help but enjoy them, others, such as 911 is a Joke, make no sense at all. Then there’s White Lines, which is great live, but on the album it tends to fall flat. I can’t fault the band too much for trying something few other bands of their calibre have done, but it just does not rank high on my list of favorites.
Anyone who knows me probably saw this coming, and I’m sorry for being predictable. I don’t think this album can or should be swept under the proverbial carpet and forgotten – because it is how we got here, to this place we all currently occupy. I can certainly see and hear the parallels between this album and Paper Gods. I’m glad they tried out some of the things they learned from RCM over again to get them right.
I would characterize Pop Trash as the fast food of Duran Duran’s career. Perhaps fitting? While the album is nowhere near “bad”, I never felt that there was a lot for me to sink my teeth into and devour. It lacks the depth of some of their other work, which is why it ended up in this place on my list.
Ah, Medazzaland. If there were any album that had changed for me over the years since it’s release – it would be this one. I just didn’t get it when it first came out. In fact, I listened to the album in full one time before shelving it for many years. Lately though, I’ve listened to it, and I’m finally starting to get it. No, I’m still not a fan of the title track (sorry Nick), or Silva Halo, but I do really like Big Bang Generation, Who Do You Think You Are, and Midnight Sun. There’s a lot hiding amongst the shadows on this album, and I think it’s worth a revisit.
How can I rank this above Pop Trash or Medazzaland? 2am drives from Hollywood, that’s how. Our personal experiences shape our listening choices, and for me – that’s why Liberty works. It kept me awake many times during college and beyond, so I’m going with it.
I have to admit that I agree with Amanda – while there are two songs on this album that are iconic for Duran Duran, the album as a whole isn’t nearly as impressive as others (which I recognize is tough to do when you’re Duran Duran and have had so many successes). So it’s not that I think the album is bad – it’s that the band has too many great ones!
Oh yes I did rank this one about The Wedding Album. Please see the line about personal experiences. For me, this album is all about the Fab Five. I can’t ignore it, I can’t get past that, and it was a dream come true for me. Yes, it’s pop. Sure, there are songs on it that I didn’t love and I still take it personally that they didn’t include Beautiful Colors, Salt in the Rainbow and Virus on it. Even so, I’ll take it.
I am pretty sure that at one point or another, I ranked this lower on my list. Again, I didn’t get it. But just a week ago, I pulled the album out and gave it a good listen. What is most remarkable to me about Notorious, is that it came after Rio and Seven and the Ragged Tiger. Those albums were hugely successful. Then they had two band members leave, and rather than sticking with what they knew, they took the opportunity to blaze new territory. It was like deciding to take a giant left turn out of nowhere. As a child, I had little respect for that sort of thing. In fact, I don’t think I really understood. Even as an adult I sometimes get caught up in what I think DD should be or should sound like – but I’m working on it.
Another album I didn’t really get until adulthood. The first half is as dance music as I’d expect from DD, and the latter is the culmination of some of their finest songwriting moments. The emotion that comes across threw the B side of this album is astounding, and in my opinion, it is the best DD album that no one has really heard.
Here’s the thing about Paper Gods for me – I like it. I don’t know that I love it, although I’ve tried. It ticks a lot of the boxes for plenty of people, but it is also an album that I really needed to come to terms with. I didn’t fall in instant love, but I would say I’ve grown to respect each song and the work that went into making the album overall. I can’t fault an album that hit top ten, if only for a brief, shining moment.
This goes bad to personal experiences for me. This album is my seventh grade wrapped in vinyl. Awkward, sometimes overdone, but still well-loved. Sure, it might not be their best songwriting, but I love it all the same, and that’s why it is near the top of my list. All I have to do is hear the opening notes to Union of the Snake and I’m back on the lawn with my friends at recess, gawking at the latest edition of Tiger Beat. For me, those memories are priceless, and that is what makes music so powerful.
I know what you all are thinking. Yes, I really did put Rio third. The trouble is, it could easily be second. Or first. The final three on my list here are probably interchangeable, if not completely tied. I cannot think about Duran Duran without thinking about Rio. If there were ever a reason why Hungry Like the Wolf is played at every single DD show – it is because of Rio. Try as we might, we simply cannot separate Rio (the album) from the band, in the same way that we cannot separate HLTW from them either. I get it. I may not always like it, but I get it. And I respect it.
It pains me that the band left this song, and many songs from this album, off of their set list this past year. For me personally, this album is easily as iconic as Rio. It describes the band, and their relationship with their audience, to a T. To think that Duran Duran wrote this album during their third decade together simply blows me away. It is an album that never got it’s justice, and it is still one of my very favorite.
I really don’t think it is all that surprising that one of my favorite albums is the one that started it all for them, and for me. I love the rawness, the lack of expectation, and the realness of the music. There is no ego here, no trying to outdo what has already been done. It is simply music from a band ready to take it’s place in the world. This is an album from Duran Duran before they were DURAN DURAN, and it is the most real we’ve ever gotten from them. that is why it remains number one for me.
My choices weren’t all that surprising, but the exercise was fun. I don’t anticipate others to agree with me – in fact, you shouldn’t. We all have had our own journey, and that is what makes it all fun. I’m no music expert, and I only have my own taste to rely on, so by all means make your own list and have fun with it.
Yesterday’s winner: Burning the Ground
Which song would you rather have ADDED to the setlist: Violence of Summer or Liberty?
It is that time again, isn’t it?
Today is June 8th, which means it is a very special date on the calendar, and we allow ourselves to take a moment to celebrate National Best Friends Day!!!
Ok, I’m kidding. It’s Nick’s birthday!! Happy birthday Nicholas. I suspect you’re spending it well in Verona Italy, where I hear it is very hot today. (Actually, I read that from a friend who visiting there from Finland, and I suspect that her idea of “hot” and mine may be quite different. But just in case, I hope you’re enjoying the lovely weather.)
I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems as though with each passing year, we are celebrating these dates at a far more accelerated pace. I would swear I just wrote one of these blogs – and I think I completely missed Roger’s birthday altogether!! (thanks to our writing schedule)
So, since we are celebrating, I decided I would share a few of my favorite Nick videos today, so here we go!
A very happy birthday to you, Nick with many wonderful and healthy years ahead! See you in July!
Based on yesterday’s poll, there are not many people who have seen songs from the Liberty album performed live in concert. In fact, the only songs that people indicated that they have seen live from that included Serious, Violence of Summer, Liberty and All Along the Water.
Today, we wonder how many songs from the Wedding Album people have seen live.
Yesterday’s poll showed that most songs from Big Thing have not been heard live by very many people. For example, no one who participated has heard Interlude One live in concert. In fact, the only songs that many people have seen live in concert from that era are I Don’t Want Your Love, All She Wants Is and Do You Believe in Shame.
On that note, which songs off of Liberty have you seen live in concert?
It’s time for another confessional, Daily Duranie-style!
Today was the last day of learning center for my kids before a much deserved winter break. Two weeks of not having to get up before it’s light outside, two glorious weeks of not dealing with traffic, having to listen to talk-radio (it’s all that my son will tolerate the first thing in the morning) or begging my youngest to please get up out of bed and get dressed, well after her alarm has gone off (and she’s shut it off only to go back to bed!).
As my two grabbed their backpacks and gifts for their teachers out of my car and made their way past the new guard gate to their classrooms, I pulled out of the parking lot – I hit “shuffle” on my phone so that I could listen to music on the way home. I really do like having that little bit of time to just listen to my own music as I’m driving back home – while the drive to school takes about an hour most days, the drive home only takes about a half-hour, but it’s enough time to clear my head. One of the songs that came up today was “All Along the Water” off of Liberty. I know many of our readers would have quickly hit “next”. I didn’t. In fact, and this is where the “confessional” comes in, I actually LIKE the song. A lot.
Yes, I know what the song is supposedly about. I can hear the lyrics and it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to decipher them. I don’t really care. In fact, I don’t really care in the same way that I don’t really care that any time he’s asked about his lyrics, he likes to fall back on the whole “it’s about SEX” thing as an answer. The thing is, the song usually wakes me up, gets me moving, and I like that it’s especially cheeky, too. Who cares??
I know many fans don’t like Liberty, and count it among their least favorite albums. Personally, I like it, and I’m totally OK with being an outsider on that one. I love “Serious”. I like “Violence of Summer”, particularly when I’m belting it at the top of my lungs while driving home at 2am (long story). “All Along the Water” is one of my favorites on the album. It’s fun, and there are times, this morning included, when I need a little frivolity to start the day! No, maybe it’s not the most serious piece of music the band has ever written. I guess it’s probably not going to be one of their masterpieces in the same way I would venture to guess “Paper Gods” or “The Universe Alone” will become. It doesn’t matter. Sometimes, music is just supposed to be FUN. For me, that song fits the description! I’d love to see them do it live. Can you imagine?? (No, you probably can’t…but I sure can!)
For me, this holiday season has not been especially easy. I’ve had to start being a little more creative in finding some enjoyment. It has been the small moments – things I overlooked in past years I think, that have put a smile on my face and made me appreciate the season and life in general. Things like watching The Polar Express with my youngest (and keeping her up WAY past her bedtime to do it!), listening to her sing “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”, or listening to her sing her solo part in “What Does the Fox Say” over and over and over…and over…again (because of course she’d get a solo part in that song!), taking my son to see the college of his dreams and witnessing him practically beam over being there, playing “Uno” late at night with the two older kids, seeing tweets from band members about shows they’ve done or are going to do next year, and yes…hearing songs like “All Along the Water” come up on shuffle. It has been the little things that have kept me going lately.
Dear readers: name your guiltiest (DD song) pleasures! What song do you find yourself bopping your head to, even though you’re sure it would be met with scorn by the rest of the community? I’ll be interested to read your responses!
Listening to Paper Gods, I am struck by how strongly the album ends. Has any Duran Duran album closed with a stronger trio of songs than Butterfly Girl, Only in Dreams, and The Universe Alone? Very few, when I actually sat down and thought about it. Why does it matter? Duran Duran album sequencing provides insight into how the band views their own material. Sure, Simon will say he can no more compare the songs to his children and avoid picking favorites, but the running order does not lie. A band is not going to bury their favorite song in the middle of an album.
Let’s look at Duran Duran album sequencing through the back catalog and see where Paper Gods stacks up. As usual, these rankings reflect my opinion and not those of Daily Duranie, Simon Willescroft, Rob Sheffield, Georgie Davies, or the man who stole a leopard (is he still in prison? Maybe he got out for good behavior?)
The gold standard. Admittedly, these songs don’t just end the album, they represent nearly half of it since there were only 9 tracks to begin with. But I’m going to stick with my 3 song criteria to be consistent. Tel Aviv is my favorite “instrumental” in the band’s catalogue, even though it does have vocals. Friends of Mine and Sound of Thunder are classic Duran songs that have stood the test of time.
Yes, after going through the entire catalogue, I think we have the 2nd best ending to a Duran album. Butterfly Girl could be a single; it’s fast-paced, funky fun. If Notorious and Runway Runaway had a child, it would be Butterfly Girl. Then, we get the two funk ballads to close things out. (I don’t know what else to call them). I am a fan of the power ballads like What are the Chances, but I can only handle so many of those. I think Duran struck the right balance with Only in Dreams and The Universe Alone, building the synths and orchestral beginnings around the funky core of each song. It’s a really powerful way to end the album.
Blasphemy, to rank this album’s ending so high! What can I say? I love all three songs. Undergoing Treatment has one of the more clever Duran lyrics and its funky acoustic vibe is a nice contrast to the mournful Midnight Sun (yes, the demo version is better, but the album cut is still great) and the driving rock ballad So Long Suicide.
Runway Runaway is still my favorite song off of AYNIN, five years later. It’s beautiful in its simplicity and subversive at the same time; an upbeat song evoking images of child leaving home, moving on to adulthood. And if Runway Runaway is #1 for me off AYNIN, than Too Bad You’re So Beautiful is a close second. Another bitingly clever lyric about dating while musically harkening back to Hold Back the Rain. Speaking of rain…Before the Rain really grew on me after hearing it live. All in all, an extremely strong ending sequence. (Note: I am not counting instrumentals in this analysis, thus the exclusion of “Return to Now,” which, truth be told, I am largely indifferent to.)
I am not a fan of The Chauffeur, but I recognize it’s a great and classic Duran song, and a fitting ending to Rio. Last Chance was my favorite song off the album growing up, and obviously Save a Prayer is classic. This would be top-tier (and probably is for most of you reading) but for my feelings about The Chauffeur.
This is a strong way to end an album. I’ve always felt Shelter could have been a single, and I enjoy the guitar driven songs like Sin of the City and To Whom It May Concern. But…I’ve never particularly liked the lyrics to To Whom It May Concern (I get it, it’s about a lawyer they fired). I’ve always felt like that music was wasted with those lyrics…and similarly, I wish Sin of the City was shorter and all of the extraneous non-musical parts were stripped out. Again, I realize that it’s Duran Duran, they’re an art band, but sometimes those extra sounds work (e.g. fireworks in New Moon) and sometimes they don’t.
The weak link here, for me, is Tiger Tiger. Otherwise, I might rank this as highly as the debut album’s ending sequence. The Seventh Stranger is one of my all time favorite Duran ballads (and would probably rank as my favorite album-closing song), and Shadows on Your Side might be my favorite song off the entire album. Tiger Tiger is fine, but I think its appeal for me is more one of sentiment (it takes me back to 1983! It’s the opening to As the Lights Go Down!) than of actual musical quality, as compared to the rest of the catalogue. That being said, I still put the ending sequence to SATRT in the upper half of Duran albums.
I don’t dislike any of these songs, but if I’m comparing them to the rest of the catalogue, they don’t hold up. I do think the ending works in context of the Big Thing album. Lake Shore Driving is as explosive an ending to a Duran album there is, as if all of the pent-up energy from the acoustic/mellow b-side of the album finally finds its release. Again, nothing bad here, but I’m not going to rank these songs, as a group, ahead of many of the other aforementioned album closing trios.
These three songs are emblematic of the entire album. They are not necessarily bad (especially when you listen to John Taylor’s version of Can You Deal With It), but something went horribly wrong in production. They would probably sound good live. Venice Drowning’s lyrics are especially tough (I think it was the Rolling Stone review that called out this song and I was hard-pressed to disagree).
The problem here is that we have the closest Duran has ever come to a country song wedged between an excellent ballad and one of the best, most guitar-driven and edgiest songs the band has ever written. I’m just not a fan of The Sun Doesn’t Shine Forever, the minute-long guitar solo at the end notwithstanding. I also think Kiss Goodbye/Last Day on Earth would have worked better as the album’s opening track, not the closer, with Lady Xanax closing out the proceedings.
The highlight here is She’s Too Much, one of the more underappreciated cuts off RCM. I don’t necessarily dislike the other two songs, but I don’t think they are especially memorable, either. I did think Last Man Standing was cool to see live, as each member left the stage as the song wound down to just the drums (similar to what U2 did when they would close a set with “40.”) If Cry Baby Cry were an actual album track and not an extra, then RCM would rank higher.
This will get me some hate mail, I’m sure. Let me be positive: I love One of Those Days, it’s one of my favorites on Astronaut. And if I’m in the right mood, I do enjoy Still Breathing, even though I’ve always interpreted it as Simon’s credo about the 90’s lineup. Which is difficult for me because I love that era of Duran, even though it had to end. Overall, Duran has set the bar very high with their ballads, and I don’t think the two that end Astronaut hold up well. Just an opinion…now, had some of the discarded tracks been used, we’d have a different story (e.g. “TV vs. Radio” has closing track written all over it and would have been an amazing way to end Astronaut).
Meet El Presidente is my least favorite song on the album, so for as much as I love Proposition, that’s hard to overcome. I am lukewarm on Winter Marches On, but it at least feels like an album-ending song.
I don’t even like including Thank You in these types of rankings, since they aren’t Duran Duran songs. Except for Drive By. See my comments above about The Chauffeur.
So what do you think of my rankings? Are they paper-thin? What did I get right? And more importantly, where did I go wrong? (I know, I know: I must have a case of Chauffeurophobia…!)
Yesterday’s winner: New Moon on Monday
Which song would make the better 2nd track on the ultimate Duran Duran album? It would follow the song, Rio.
Daily Duranie welcomes new opinions and we wish to give all fans a voice. Today we feature a brand new guest blogger to Daily Duranie. Enjoy!!
By Jason Lent
Understanding the impact of Duran Duran is near impossible if you did not experience it firsthand. They were pioneers of the New Romantic movement (which pulled its artistic aspirations from the likes of David Bowie and Roxy Music) and almost singlehandedly turned the music video into art. As a young kid discovering music, it was hard not to be lured into a world of exotic locations and mostly naked models set to exciting synth pop music.
Over the last thirty years, I’ve taken my share of jokes for sticking by Duran Duran through their musical highs and lows and I understand that the band will always be divisive amongst serious music fans. However, there is more depth and substance to their career than the majority of what passes for popular music in 2014. With that in mind, I dusted off every studio Duran Duran album they’ve recorded and ranked them from the most essential to the, um, best forgotten. I decided to skip the live album Arena (it’s a pleasant reminder of an epic tour but offers little to listeners) and the covers album Thank You which was disappointing but not quite as bad as most remember.
The point at which New Romantic music crossed into the mainstream and simultaneously established the fledgling MTV as a creative outlet that would shape the future of music. The impact of videos such as “Rio” and “Hungry Like The Wolf” are so culturally significant that the music gets slightly overlooked, which is criminal. As a band, Duran Duran hit on all cylinders throughout the record with John Taylor’s exquisite bass lines serving as the glue that holds the synths and electric guitar together to form one of the finest records of the decade. The album artwork also captured the decade perfectly adding to the overall aesthetic of a young band rising to the top of the world to define a generation. Quite simply, there are no weak songs on Rio making it the band’s preeminent album. At the time, “Hold Back the Rain” was just a kick-ass pop-rock tune but it takes on more meaning now knowing it was Simon’s plea to John to get control of his substance abuse, something that wouldn’t happen for another decade. The ballad “Save A Prayer” will always be the band’s most delicate moment while “The Chauffeur” closes the album on an artistic road that kept the band’s pop success balanced with their more artistic interests. This Duran Duran album is essential to any music collection.
The perfect example of the New Romantic movement in music, Duran Duran’s debut sounded fresh and exciting even before the artfully conceived videos took the band to larger audiences. While “Planet Earth” and “Girls On Film” remain some of the band’s most notable songs, the album has a whole captures the essence of Duran Duran. The second side of this Duran Duran album edged into darker, moodier territory that revealed a depth to the music that critics have often overlooked. The opening two minutes of “Night Boat” strike a sinister mood while “Friends Of Mine” and “Careless Memories” are spirited punk songs filtered through the New Romantic prism. When released as the second single, “Careless Memories” faired poorly and the accompanying video remains one of the few misfires in the band’s catalogue. Listening now, that song was far from disappointing and, like the rest of the record, has aged quite well. When the album was re-released in 1983, the hit single “Is There Something I Should Know?” replaced “To The Shore” which made sense for the band and record company though it doesn’t fit the flow of the album.
How do you make a Duran Duran album that almost matches the greatness of the band’s early work? You dust off the old instruments and allow the talented Mark Ronson to guide the recording process. From the title single on, the band recreates the magic of their first three records while updating it for 2010. The hook of “All You Need Is Now” recalls the sway of “New Moon Monday” and there are plenty of other sonic touchstones that harken back to the biggest days of Duran. The opening synth of “The Man Who Stole The Leopard” recall the band’s instrumental track “Tel Aviv” from their debut album while the opening drums of “Girl Panic” are “Girls On Film” redux. Who gives a shit?! It’s shimmering pop-rock beauty that the band once did better than anyone on planet earth.
Three years is a long time in music. For Duran Duran, it meant one live album (Arena), a troubled live performance at Live Aid, and a breakdown in the line-up. “Who gives a damn for a flaky bandit” sang Simon Le Bon in the title track letting the world know how the remaining members viewed departed guitarist Andy Taylor. The album was a departure for the band as the age gap between them and their fans was suddenly felt in the music. For a thirteen year old, Nile Rodgers was just a name the band occasionally dropped as an influence. With little understanding of Chic and the other bands that shaped the band’s style, Notorious felt like a sudden shift away from the new wave glory of MTV that they did better than others. Over time, this Duran Duran album has matured well and reveals a talented group of musicians finding space to write smarter songs. The title track and “Skin Trade” are two of their tightest singles and the feisty “Meet El Presidente” finds a new groove for the Duran sound. The album’s strength lies in the quality of the songs throughout. “Vertigo (Do The Demolition)” and “American Science” are stylish pop tracks that hold their own with the singles. Closer “Proposition” (placed at the opposite end from the title track that takes a dig at him) gives us a final taste of the band with Andy Taylor (at least for a few decades) and it’s clear that the band’s sound needs his razor edge on guitar to compliment the synth explorations of Nick Rhodes. An album that has held up very well in the Duran Duran story.
To this day, I’m not sure why this Duran Duran album was such a disconnect for audiences. The singles didn’t make a lasting impact on the charts and the tour (at least at the Miami Arena, my first concert, finally!) played to less than full venues. After Notorious, I thought this was a bold step forward as the band pushed the music into new territory. “All She Wants Is” incorporates house music into the Duran sound to create a hypnotic tone and the accompanying video was one of the last great reasons to watch MTV. One of the band’s best ballads to this day, “Do You Believe In Shame?” opens a second half of the album which slides away from the dance floor towards the art house. The razor-sharp guitar the closes out “Lake Shore Driving” is the sort of six string showcase Andy Taylor would have eaten up had he not become a disillusioned guitar hero and left for a disappointing solo career (yes, I own Thunder on vinyl and yes, I’m still disappointed). Why the b-side “I Believe/All I Need To Know” failed to make Big Thing while the dreadful “Drug (It’s Just A State Of Mind)” secured a spot mystifies me. Swapping those tracks would move this further up my list.
A complicated album from inception to completion, Seven is a difficult album for me to view through a lens not colored by nostalgia. After the monumental Rio, the band could do know wrong in my eyes and this record held my fascination. The lead single “The Reflex” needed a snappy remix to really bring it alive (“Whyyy-y-y-y-y-y-y-y-y- -don’t you use it”) and the live video helped showcase a slightly disappointing hit single. “Union Of the Snake” remains my favorite moment on the album. Andy adds some excellent guitar to the synth melody, the kind of small touch that future records would often be missing. While all quite fine, the non-singles tend to run together in my brain. “I Take The Dice” and “Shadows On Your Side” are interchangeable Duran songs. Heavily produced and sometimes sounding like a challenge to write, the success of this Duran Duran album resided more on the band’s name at that point in music.
I remember exactly where I was when I first heard “Ordinary World” on the radio. I was returning from my girlfriend’s house and passing over Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach, FL. I pulled over after crossing the railroad tracks knowing Duran Duran was about to return to the charts. The song sat perfectly on the radio and remains a classic pop song. However, it’s not one of the better Duran Duran songs. It could have been recorded by just about any pop rock band at the time and lacked the unique Duran alchemy. “Come Undone” felt more like a classic Duran single and sounds beautiful with a slippery bass line and sexy rhythm. Opener “Too Much Information” still holds up as one of their better rock songs though the line “a cola manufacturer is sponsoring the war” feels a little uncomfortable coming from a band that Coca Cola sponsored in the 1980’s. The rest of this Duran Duran album falters and suffers from an indistinctive sameness. The disappointing Lou Reed cover (“Femme Fatale”) serves as a harbinger of the Thank You album that would follow. In the end, a stylish Duran Duran album with three excellent singles is hardly a disappointing trip.
With the dismal performance of Pop Trash and no record label, it was a widely held assumption that Duran Duran were finished. The reunion nobody saw coming became reality (I figured Roger Taylor had retired from music forever and Andy always seemed like a loose cannon who resented his role in the band). To their credit, the band went into the studio instead of just filling arenas with the same reunion tour for a few summers. Opening track “(Reach Up For) The Sunrise” is a powerful reminder that, at its core, the rhythm section of Roger and John Taylor anchors Duran Duran. A driving chorus with Andy’s guitar jostling with Nick’s synths is Duran at their best. On the whole, the album proves a successful reunion of the Fab Five. “Nice” sounds like an updated Duran Duran, which is better than the slightly misguided band of the late 1990’s. This Duran Duran album suffers on the production side with just too much happening at once. It gives the record a cluttered atmosphere that they would sort out on their most recent work. At the time, any Duran Duran album from the original line-up would have been welcome but this album has aged well and remains sneaky good.
By 1997, Duran Duran had crumbled as the creative entity that launched so many memorable albums. After the hugely disappointing Thank You record, the band was down to Nick and Simon with guitarist Warren Cucurrullo. Nick and Warren were the creative force giving this and it’s follow-up, Pop Trash, a unique place within the Duran canon. “Out Of Mind” completed Simon’s trilogy for a lost friend (“Ordinary World” and “Do You Believe In Shame” were the others) and sounded like an extension of earlier albums. However, the rest of the music moves into electronic dance sounds that felt alien to where Duran Duran started as a live unit. On a whole, Cucurrullo’s contributions to Duran Duran are difficult to assess. A gifted guitarist, it feels like he pushed the band into creative areas they might have been best to not explore. With the release of him and Nick’s side project TV Mania in 2013, some of this experimentation does make a bit more sense but Medazzaland is lacking in memorable moments.
Album opener “Someone Else Not Me” hints at a return to form for Duran Duran but it was the only song written by Simon Le Bon for the album and it shows. With Warren Cuccurullo and Nick Rhodes in creative control of the music, this Duran Duran album feels like more of Medazzaland with a few less highlights. “Last Day On Earth” (written but rejected for a Bond film) gives the album a little more muscle and overall, the album does have a little more guitar pop than the more electronic Medazzaland. The acoustic driven “Starting To Remember” shows promise and is one of the better songs written during this period for the band but ultimately gets lost in a record of uninspired songs. At the end of the road with the record label, this was the first album I didn’t immediately buy from Duran Duran and I assumed (again, like I did after Liberty) that Duran Duran were at their creative end.
The momentum of Astronaut may have corrupted the direction of the band when they returned to the studio. The original five worked on an album titled Reportage, which eventually reached the record label only to be rejected until the band recorded an obvious lead single. In their search for that single, the band began working with Timbaland and Justin Timberlake minus Andy Taylor, who would not return. The result is a trend-chasing Duran Duran album of club music that simply doesn’t work. The drums are heavily processed and the band’s more rocking edges are smoothed over until they are gone. Without hearing Reportage, it’s still safe to say the band would have fared better with their original plans. For a Duran Duran album trying to be dark and sexy, the album sounds embarrassingly bland.
After Big Thing, I had high hopes for the slimmed down version of Duran Duran to remain relevant in popular music. Liberty seriously hampered my belief. For the first time, it sounded like the band was chasing trends and losing touch with who they were. Declining sales and success can do that to a band’s confidence. For the most part, this Duran Duran album attempts to capture the adult pop market in 1990, which was the least interesting direction the band could have pursued. The label eventually cut and run on the album’s poor sales and the album’s best track (“First Impressions”) never reached audiences. Even if it had, there’s not enough of Duran Duran in this album to ignite much interest. John Taylor, to this day under appreciated as a bass player, never found his groove with Sterling Campbell. It’s not a knock on Campbell, rhythm sections either click or they don’t. Without that, the band could not achieve the foundation for greatness that they had on earlier records. At the time, I remember thinking this was the end of the road for Duran Duran.
Jason Lent discovered Duran Duran on MTV 1983 and a lifelong musical love affair was born. In 2010, he left a job in Hawaii to tour with Cowboy Junkies as a music writer and his work has appeared in various online music outlets. He currently resides in Las Vegas managing a music venue while trying to learn John Taylor’s bass line from Rio.