Union of the Snake – The Daily Duranie Review (A)

If you read the blog last week, last Thursday, in fact, you would have learned of our new review process.  For now, each Thursday will be a review.  First, Rhonda will tackle the song; then, the following week, I will take my turn with the same song.  Last week, Rhonda started with Union of the Snake.  This week, it is my turn.  Will we agree or do we hear this song very differently?  If you want to review hers, go here.  Also, we decided to incorporate the production part of our review to the overall section.

Musicality/Instrumentation:  This is one of those Duran songs with the very distinct beginning.  As soon as we hear the opening notes, Duranies can all recognize the song.  I’m not sure if they intended it that way but it is that way now.  I know it certainly works to be instantaneously recognizable live as some of their bigger hits are that way (Rio and Girls on Film, in particular).  The beginning of the song really feels like the focus is on Nick and Andy.  I always enjoy those moments of musical conflict or musical back-and-forth between the two of them.  John’s bass is felt, at times, but isn’t a standout.  Neither is Roger, really.  Of course, as the songs moves closer to the chorus and through the chorus, Nick’s seems more dominant.  Even there, though, as with most songs of this album, there are always extra sounds, extra elements added.  It is multi-layered.  Likewise, the bridge of the song also holds some interest as there are definite extra percussion instruments included and very noticeable sax.  Truly, this is one thing that I have always admired about Duran.  They never shy away from using instruments outside of their standard guitars, drums, bass and keyboards.

Vocals:  Like a lot of this album, once the vocals begin, they certainly take center stage, seemingly mixed a bit louder than the already loud sounding instrumentation.  The vocals are a solid performance of Simon’s with some particularly interesting moments in which certain words are emphasized with the use of back-ups singers.  These words are obvious including “singers”, “radio”, “borderline”, and “climb”.  What could have been a cool way to add drama simply becomes over the top and too much.  I think it would have been fine if that had been done for a word or two but they used the back-up singers a lot here.  Too much.

Lyrics:  Ah, this song is one of those songs off Seven and the Ragged Tiger with very cryptic lyrics.  There have been many attempts to decipher what this song means or is about.  Is it about sin?  Is it something sexual?  Is it about losing it and having a nervous breakdown?  Is about the pressure of fame?  I have no idea.  I just know that I never connected to them.  I have had moments that the song seems to fit a situation, but those moments are short-lasting.  What do I think of the lyrics?  On one hand, I like that the lyrics aren’t clear and obvious.  I want lyrics that I either need to figure out or that I can create an interpretation that works for me.  On the other hand, I, sometimes, think that Simon tried TOO much to be clever.  He wanted to demonstrate that poetry.  In previous albums, he showed that creative side without it being or feeling forced.  In this song, it feels a bit forced to me.

Overall:  The song has a lot of potential.  I like the play between the keyboards and guitar during the verses.  The use of the saxophone and extra percussion sounds were a nice touch that showed that Duran wasn’t afraid to use other instruments beyond what the members traditionally brought to the table.  The lyrics could be interesting and the vocals could have been great without the overpowering backing vocals.  Likewise, the production seemed to really push the vocals over every other element of the song.  This enhances the two parts of the song that seem weaker to me (vocals and lyrics).  Also, when thinking about this song as a whole, I can’t help but to think about the more recent live performances of this song that I saw.  It seemed lifeless.  I’m not sure why that is.  The band didn’t seem all that into it and neither did the crowd, for some reason.  Perhaps, if the song was given a very long rest, there might be more appreciation for it.

Cocktail Rating:  3 cocktails!

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