I have to admit that when I first heard that Duran Duran was working with Owen Pallet (Arcade Fire) on some of the songs, I was intrigued. I really don’t know much about Arcade Fire, but I have heard several of their songs and while they are a completely different genre of music than what I typically enjoy, it’s very difficult not to feel blown away by their music. My own musical background comes from classical training, and I played in an orchestra for several years, so I know what depth and warmth strings can bring to a piece of music. I couldn’t wait to hear what Owen would do for Duran Duran.
To begin with, I was somewhat disappointed (but not surprised) that both of the pieces are rather short. I have to remind myself that Duran’s fans aren’t interested in hearing a classical piece of music on a Duran album, and they had to create a space for the music that wouldn’t overpower the rest of the album, but would blend in nicely. Diamond in the Mind is the first such piece on the album, and musically, it’s beautifully done. In some ways the song is reminiscent of what was done with A View To a Kill (Fatal Kiss), where the strings bring a very lush environment. My only real complaint with the song is that the vocals completely overpower the moment. I just feel that they should have left Simon’s vocals completely off of the track and kept the piece purely instrumental as a true interlude. His vocals add nothing to the emotion of the moment, and are pretty distracting from the beauty of the strings. Harsh criticism for the vocalist I suppose, but it has nothing to do with Simon’s voice. It’s just that when you listen to the song, the mood that is created when the music begins is completely broken when Simon’s vocals begin. It would have provided a much better continuum to leave it as an instrumental.
I know many fans have complained about these pieces of music, not completely understanding their place on the album, and saying that they should have been left off completely since the band doesn’t really play on them. I can understand that sentiment to some degree because it’s true – the band doesn’t really lend itself to either piece, except that the original song was written by the band. These arrangements are simply that: arrangements. I would also agree that had both pieces been left off the album completely, I don’t think the fans would have necessarily missed them. Neither one creates a mood or theme that is continued (as though the album would have been separated into “acts”). They just seem to be short breaks, and on a 14, 15 or 17 track album – they might be welcomed. However, those little breaks do give the listener a chance to absorb what they’ve heard, and I kind of feel that these two instrumentals take the album to a completely different level in general. They give the album a little bit more texture, there’s another layer of sound to enjoy, and in some ways – they almost make the album as a whole a little bit more “grown up” or adult like in a playful way. I can’t argue that the album wouldn’t have been complete without them; but on the same token, I can argue that the songs make the album a little more “whole” and rounded out.
My favorite out of the two instrumentals is Return to Now. The musical composition soars and it’s just long enough to create a bit of a mood – and I’ll admit that my favorite part of this song is that there are no vocals. No distractions, just pure beauty. Owen Pallet did a gorgeous job with this particular arrangement, and it’s enough to make me wish the band had him arrange the entire song (All You Need is Now) and have it on another single or a remix album.
Diamond in the Mind
Return to Now
My thoughts, in many ways, echo Rhonda’s thoughts here. Like her, I noticed that the songs were very short. They seemed to be placed after more upbeat songs and before more serious, more somber music. Diamond in the Mind is after Girl Panic! and before The Man Who Stole a Leopard and Return to Now is after Runway Runaway and before Before the Rain. I really like the idea of having brief interludes to separate these songs. It does force the listener to acknowledge that there will be a shift of music and allows for a smoother transition. I am also not opposed to music in a more classical form for an interlude. Obviously, I wouldn’t want this type for the whole album, but, for this type of purpose, it makes sense. Of course, it makes sense if the songs are right and fit.
I really like how Diamond in the Mind begins and I can definitely hear That Fatal Kiss reference of Rhonda’s. It feels fairly upbeat with an underlying dark beauty that seems fitting to introduce Leopard and then Simon begins to sing. Rhonda mentions that the vocals overpower the beauty of the song and I agree completely. I also think that the particular lyrics he chose to sing were deterimental to the quality. Yes, I realize that this is an arrangement from All You Need is Now. If the lyrics weren’t there and the song title was different, I’m not sure how many fans would know this fact. Therefore, I understand why the choice was made to sing, “Stay with the music. Let it play. All you need is now.” It captures the feel of AYNIN but that gets in my head and I have a hard time transitioning to Leopard. All you need is now is to say goodbye to an obsession? It jars me a bit, especially the last line of “all you need is now.”
The second instrumental interlude, Return to Now, is much more fitting, in my opinion. The music and the mood that it creates completely complements Before the Rain. The music is simply wonderful and transitions well to the next song. Like Rhonda, I was glad that there were not any vocals in the song. The music spoke for itself. This one is a much better song because of it.
Overall, I like the idea of interludes as a means of calling attention to specific tracks and I absolutely agree that the tracks of Leopard and Before the Rain need to be showcased. Return to Now does a better job both in showing its quality and in fitting its location on the album.
Diamond in the Mind
Return to Now