There must be somebody
I butted into a Twitter conversation this morning about “getting it”. How many times do you need to listen to an album before you connect, or “get it”? Is it a case of, “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again?” Or, do you figure that if the ears don’t like it, you’re done?
Naturally, we brought the topic right around to the band at hand. I will confess that there have been a few albums where it’s taken me plenty more than one listen to really get there. Paper Gods is one of them.
When I first listened to Paper Gods, I really don’t know what I was hoping to hear. I’d already heard several songs by the time I’d had the full album in my hands. My love for “Pressure Off” began with the first listen. I still contend it to be the best hook the band has written in years. That feeling still stands and one needs to look no further than their live show to see how the entire audience comes alive when they play it. (Sure, the confetti helps.) That said, much of the album was still a mystery. So, when I finally played the entire thing from start to finish, I came away with it not sure of how I felt.
Blow the rules away
On one hand, it sounded similar to Red Carpet Massacre, with the beats and slightly electronic feel. I didn’t hate it, but I also wasn’t sure I loved it. Amanda and I called it RCM-lite for a while, because it did feel very much like the halfway point between the urban sounds of Red Carpet Massacre and the more mainstream, slightly retro-sound of All You Need is Now. Even so, I have to be honest and admit that I really had a hard time deciding that I liked the sound.
Anyone can go back and read my blogs on Paper Gods to see what I mean. I’m not exactly proud of the fact that I didn’t jump in with both feet and say I loved it. It just took me a long time to come to terms with Paper Gods I had friends – patient, kind and very well-meaning friends – come to me and explain that I reviewed it way too early after far too few listens, and that my feelings about the album may have tainted other fans from supporting it. I felt terrible because A. the last thing I want to do is ruin someone else’s listening experience; and B. I didn’t want to upset the band, either. They’d worked hard on the album, and here I was – a long time fan with a fairly big mouthpiece, even if at the time I didn’t realize. I was souring the water without really meaning to do so. I did what any other fan might do (in silence!) – I kept listening.
Working up to something
I can remember the day when my feelings began to turn around. Mop in hand, I’d been cleaning my house. I had the album on, earbuds in, listening to each and every word and note. I noticed the lyrics during “Last Night in the City” were things with which I could directly identify. In fact, I was pretty sure Amanda and I had actually said some of those lines in the song ourselves! “Pressure Off” was and is (to us, anyway) the story of Amanda and I. We feel every note of that song and then some. “Butterfly Girl”, “What are the Chances”, and even :Only in Dreams” all had lyrics that meant something to me personally.
Musically, the album started to work for me too. I enjoy the depth and meaning of the lyrics. Yet the music is light and fun. I use the word “juxtapose” fairly often when I describe DD’s music – but it works here. Even that though, there is music depth on that album. “The Universe Alone” uses a multitude of electronic effects, but it is also one of the toughest songs I’ve ever had to come to terms with as far as content.
Can you handle it?
So how many times did it really take for me to get it? I don’t know for sure, but it took many listens. I just knew in my heart that I wasn’t a “one time” fan of Duran Duran, and that I was probably going to have to work for it in order to really feel the album get under my skin. Some people will tell you that if you really love an album or really love an artist that it doesn’t work that way. Love should be instantaneous. Is there really a point where you should just give up? How many times do you listen before you shelve it and move on?