The Reflex — The Daily Duranie Review

Yes, you all read that title right.  We are moving on to Seven and the Ragged Tiger.  I know.  We need to get working if we are ever going to get through the entire catalog.  It is true.  We do and we will get through it.  We promise!  Anyway, this song, obviously, was a huge hit and was their first number one hit here in the United States.  It is also the song that Amanda blames for turning her into a Duranie.  It is important to know that we are reviewing the ALBUM version of this song.  We know that there are, obviously, different versions out there, which may be significantly different (better) but we are going with the album versions, first.  On that note, let’s dive into the first song off Duran’s third album.

Rhonda:

Musicality/Instrumentation: This is a song where I tend to think about the production first – because on this one, it seems to be all about the effects…so I need to retrain myself to actually listen to the real instrumentation.  To begin with, the style of this song is completely different from anything we’ve heard from the band before.  There’s quite a bit more “funk” in this one than say, Rio….or Save a Prayer for that matter. There’s some syncopation with the rhythms, and many many many tracks of every instrument in the band, layered one on top of another. The “simple”, “raw” style of albums past is long gone, and this is where you really start to hear the tension between the varying instruments, because everybody wants to be the star, and yet nobody really owns that space yet. One of my favorite parts of the song is during the chorus where you hear Andy’s guitar deep in the track layers – it’s one of the few parts of the song where you can really hear him – which I think becomes the downfall of this band (but I’m getting ahead of myself).  No longer is the music really the star, it’s the innovation of the effects, the production, and yes – even the frontman.

Vocals: I have to say, Simon sounds smooth on this one…many thanks to the production in order to make it that way, because if you really listen, there are plenty of places where I can hear at least the potential for vocal strain, but they are completely smoothed over and perfected. Even the style of Simon’s vocals have changed. He’s not afraid to add in glottal stops in various places for interest – which I suppose work well on this song, and the added effects on his voice also help to create a much different style of “voice” for the band. I am sure I wasn’t the only kid to wonder how he made his voice sound so distinctive during the melody (this was of course before I realized that they actually have effects to help that sort of thing) This is a long way from the likes of To the Shore, that is certain. 

Lyrics: What in the hell is this song really about? I’ve heard every possible explanation from it being about John (I don’t even want to know…) to being about sex.  Maybe it’s both!  Some of my very favorite lyric lines come from this song “I’m on a ride and I wanna get off but they won’t slow down the roundabout”….”I’m dancing on the valentine”….”I’m watching over lucky clover, isn’t that bizarre?”  Not a single clue.  I always felt like Simon was describing a game of hide and seek at the park, but of course in my then 13 year old head, I had nothing but the most innocent of thoughts.  (I dropped my halo again somewhere around here…) No matter, I have no idea what these lyrics mean, and I can honestly say it’s the ONE song in their catalog that I’ve never been able to figure out.  That means that while I will willingly sing along at a show, I have absolutely no connection to the lyrics whatsoever.  I don’t sit around saying “Yeah, the band really gets it with this one.”, because let’s face it – I don’t get them.

Production: In my opinion, this is the point when production begins to get ugly. This song is so smooth for everything that’s going on – I just find myself wishing they’d left just a little bit more well-alone.  You can’t really discern one instrument for another, and it ends up just hitting me with a wall of effects and sound. That said, when I think back to the year this came out – 1984 – and I must give credit for innovation.  Songs just did not sound like this back then, and I can remember all of my friends being enamored with the “why-yie-yie-yie” sounds during the chorus. The band was right to shoot for this being a single, and it was one of the first songs of this period where a white band was allowed to cross the R & B lines and draw from other styles of music.  About time, really.   On the other hand, it’s amazing how clear you can see the train getting off the rails here. No longer is the band about the band, but it’s become it’s own monster – and as Amanda aptly puts it, individuals are getting lost in the machine. This song is directly evident.

Overall: For as much as this song has been a number one hit in America, I can say that it’s never been a favorite of mine. I realize it’s a beloved song, and whenever I listen I can remember exactly what it felt like in 1984 – and for that it is a beloved song in MY musical history as well, but I feel as though there are just so many other songs in the band’s back catalog that have gone almost completely unnoticed in comparison – I find it sad.  I knew I was a Duranie well-before this song ever came out, and yet I remember that time in my life so well, I can remember sitting outside the band room in school talking about this song, and what’s funnier – I can remember the photo shoots that went along with this album and single. For that reason, it does hold a special place for me in my memory.  Even today as I listen though, I find myself wishing for a little less effect and production. I like the rawness of the earlier songs, I don’t like all of the gloss and perfection here as much.

Cocktail Rating:  3 cocktails!



Amanda:

Musicality/Instrumentation:  This is one of those songs in which the instrumentation is not the first thing that pops into my head.  Instead, of course, I think about the lyrics.  Nonetheless, I did my duty and listened to the song a few times in order to focus on the instrumentation.  (It is a rough job, but, somebody has to do it!)  Immediately, you are hit with upbeat, repeated notes.  There is no real lead-in except a note from the bass and, of course, no ta-na-na on this version.  The upbeat nature as well as the repetition definitely makes you want to dance.  This continues through the song, except that it is slightly different for the chorus.  The instrumentation for the chorus has a greater tempo but also has more going on–more sounds, more layers, more tension between the vocals and the instrumentation.  Of course, there is the real big build-up in sound leading to the main part of the chorus.  Everyone could tell when the chorus came in.  The instrumentation worked to showcase the vocals here.  This song has less obvious individual instrumentation, which is very different than their first album or even Rio.  Probably, the only time that any specific instrument could be picked out would be the very beginning and the bridge about 3 and a half minutes into it.  Around those points, they really blend together.

Vocals:  These are the vocals that I grew up with.  This has a very smooth sounding Simon.  He is comfortable with the range.  Perhaps, this is why the vocals seem to be emphasized for this song.  Maybe, the vocals seemed to be the focus because the lyrics were so interesting.  Yet, the vocals, like other parts, seem almost too perfect, almost unnatural.  I am not surprised, in some ways, when I listen to this song to realize how critics began thinking that they were a contrived act.

Lyrics:  There is much that can be said and has been said about these lyrics.  There is lots of speculation about what the song means without any real statements from Simon or even the rest of the band.  No matter the meaning behind the lyrics or the cryptic nature, they still capture my attention.  Maybe they do because I don’t really get them.  Maybe they do because I look for the little hints that would reinforce my idea about what the song is about.  Perhaps, the lyrics don’t really matter that much.  I do adore, though, the reference to Renoir, which reminds me of the reference to Voltaire in Last Chance on the Stairway.  It shows a continuity.  It shows an appreciation of the arts.  Beyond the art reference, I remember how the rest of the lyrics caught my attention as a kid.  What was the situation?  It sounded scary and dangerous but exciting.  There is a roundabout.  There is a park.  Someone is hiding cards in what seems like some sort of high stakes game.  It made me wonder.  The lyrics seemed like something that a whole story could be inspired by.  Plus, he used the word “bizarre”.  How cool is that, or so I thought?!?  I have no emotional connection to the lyrics, but they will always fascinate me.  I remember watching an interview once where John mentioned about how people have been trying to deconstruct this songs for years and how that was like poetry.  True.  Yet, I have to wonder if there was too much of a push to be “creative” with these lyrics.

Production:  I found it interesting that when I really stopped to pay attention, I noticed that the instrumentation would be almost quiet at the beginning of every line of lyrics.  The mix clearly seems to emphasis the vocals, which might be why I don’t think about the instrumentation when this song is mentioned.  I also noted that the instruments seem far more blended than what they were in the first two albums.  It isn’t as easy to separate one instrument from another.  Now, it seems smooth, but almost too smooth.  Here is where I think the overproduction of this album and era begins to be felt.  It is almost too perfect.  Perhaps, this is a sign about life was like in the Duran world at that time.  Individuals were getting lost in the giant monster that was Duran Duran.  Nonetheless, I prefer my Duran with less production, a little more individualistic.

Overall:  I still to this day have a hard time really being objective about this song.  It isn’t my favorite, by any stretch of the imagination but it will always have a special place in my heart.  It is the song that made me a Duranie.  While I liked a lot of the songs I had heard before, this one made me an addict.  Whenever it would come on the TV, I would run to the phone to call my best friend, at the time, and she would do the same.  To say that I was overexposed is an understatement of epic proportions.  While that might be a good reason that I don’t love it, I think it is safe to say that I don’t like the overproduction of it.  I miss the individual spotlights within a song of every individual band member.  It just feels too perfect from top to bottom.  It doesn’t feel as natural as it could have.

Cocktail Rating:  3 cocktails!

9 thoughts on “The Reflex — The Daily Duranie Review”

  1. Yeah, I remember that too – the album version really is nothing like Nile's remix, and it was that remix that I really do remember hearing on the radio in So Cal, much more so than the original album version. -R

  2. The lyrics seem simple to me but I may be heavily influenced by reruns of The Untouchables now showing on a local channel. In that old Prohibition-era series set mostly in Chicago during the early 1930s, there's plenty of angst from those dealing with organized crime. Sometimes the reaction to an unwanted development when an associate goes over the line is to cash in what they've got and take to the hills, hoping luck and doing the unexpected means they won't be followed by those who want revenge. And to me that reaction–not just in this TV series but in any sticky situation–is The Reflex. Unfortunately it usually doesn't work too well in The Untouchables as the gangster community appears to be very well connected. Eliot Ness and his squad of federal agents frequently arrive too late to intervene, instead finding one or more bodies of those for whom the only treasure The Reflex had in store was a hail of bullets.

    –Randy

  3. That is a very creative way of deciphering those lyrics, Randy. I wouldn't have come up with anything like that on my own, and what you mention does make sense….(and makes me want to check out the show you've been watching too. Funny…my dads family has mafia ties. Well, not MY part of the family, but being Sicilian, it does run thick in my extended extended lineage!). Anyway, your explanation gives me something to think about and start from when I listen again. Maybe it will feel like hearing a new song… Thanks! -R

  4. I'll make you an offer you can't refuse (but I guess that's usually your line!)–for The Untouchables, try a MeTV channel if you've got one in your area. It's probably on after midnight on the West Coast. I DVR it here in the DFW area.

    –Randy

  5. The album version of this song is horrible. I absolutely love the extended remix though. As everyone says, whatever else you say about The Reflex, it definitely does make you want to get up and dance. Combine that with the concert footage in the video and I can't help loving this song. Yes, there are better. But for a long, long time (until the reunion tour in fact, lol) seeing DD in concert was my #1 dream. The energy in this song, the bass lines, the crazy lyrics and the excitement of seeing DD live (albeit via music video) has pretty much ensured that this song will always be one of my favorites.

  6. Wonderful debut feedback on Seven and the ragged Tiger!!
    This is mine:
    MUSICALITY-INSTRUMENTATION: the guitars are a bit underestimated, but on the Dance mix, EMI kind of rescued them. I'd rather the clip version than the album version.
    VOCALS:this is one of those amazing Simon's roars… LOL
    LYRICS:Andy in his book mentioned the song is about Nick. I've studied the words of this song since I was a teen and … never figured out what's about. I gave up to figure out! The mystery on the meaning of the lyrics is one of the reasons why I love this song.
    PRODUCTION: One of Alex Sadkin's best memories.
    OVERALL:I got a Duranie thanks to the Reflex clip back in summer 1985, so to me this song is special, and it's one of my fave songs, To me 4 stars **** out of 5

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