So here we are, at the beginning of the Liberty album. Violence of Summer [Love’s Taking Over] was the 21st single from Duran Duran, and the first off of Liberty. Curiously, this song was originally titled “Live-in Lover”, using the same musical track but different lyrics. A demo of this song (which we always find fascinating to hear), is included on an unofficial compilation Didn’t Anybody Tell You? if you can find it!
The album itself, or at least the band image, seemed to change dramatically between Big Thing and Liberty. Shorter haircuts, paler skin…and a serious muscular increase in guitarist Warren Cuccurullo, along with the addition of drummer Sterling Campbell. It was very clear this was a very different Duran Duran at the beginning of the 1990s. With that, let’s get started!
I don’t know how one can listen to this song and sit still. It is incredibly pop – I mean, there’s absolutely no hiding that fact with this one. Nick doesn’t even try with his semi-funhouse sounding keyboards. The other thing I notice about the song, almost immediately, is that the sound is incredibly top heavy. There isn’t much of a bottom (bass) to it, although it is there deep in the mix! Drums are there, but again- not obvious. The result is a song that doesn’t feel balanced. Fun, yes! Balanced? No.
Guitar is barely discernible as well – enough to where I have to wonder if it’s there at all! I do love the piano both at the beginning and end, and it is only then (at the end) that I hear the high hat cymbal, along with a ton of background “bubbling” as though they’ve poured (yep, you guessed it!) soda pop into a glass!
Yep, this is 100% pure, shamelessly fun, pop.
I don’t know what in the hell was going on in Simon’s life at this time, but his vocals sound like he took a rake, swallowed it, and dragged it back out. They’re incredibly rough sounding. I don’t know if they made him sing the song 5,000 times in succession or if he had a nasty sore throat. He still hits the notes, but the ones at the top of his range suffer. Oddly, it isn’t off-putting and adds to the style of the song.
The themes are decidedly Duran, but presented far differently. Fleeting love, flirtation, and a bit of the female/male push and pull – nothing we haven’t seen before. What IS different, however, is the way the themes are portrayed. Rather than the somewhat romantic, poetic imagery as in previous albums, Violence of Summer is rather blatant. Girl with boy meets another boy and decides to go with him instead, causing what I can only assume is a fight later on. It’s a bit, well, pedestrian, really – and seems to be such a huge departure from songs like “Edge of America” or even “Palomino”. This is a very different Duran Duran in 1990.
Violence of Summer is a fun song. It is the song I blast in my car at 2am when I’m driving somewhere and need to stay awake. It is a carefree, sing-a-long without a worry song. The song isn’t deep, definitely not introspective, and not really the Duran Duran that I am used to. When critics speak of how pop driven Duran Duran has been during their career, my mind automatically drifts to this song.
The song still sounds incredibly top-heavy to me, as though I have my stereo turned all the way to treble without any bass. I fault the mixing here, as well as the production, because it does feel very overdone. Additionally, Simon’s raspiness – it’s distracting only because I know what he normally sounded like, and this wasn’t it. I can remember hearing this song when it was released, and while it had many of the hallmarks of a typical Duran Duran song – something was indeed different. The unbalanced sound, the lyrics about girls and bikers, and the naming of Warren as an official member of Duran Duran (1989 at the end of the Big Thing tour), along with Sterling Campbell were all things that changed the band’s sound. It would be unfair to review this song without fairly considering those major changes. I enjoy the song, but it has never been one that I take seriously. It has merit for those occasions when I need those carefree moments.
It hard for me to imagine, off the top of my head, another Duran song that is so focused on piano. It grabs you right away. Now, of course, this isn’t your serious piano recital kind of piano but one that it is designed to be fun and pop-focused, which I don’t mind. I like that Duran mixes it up a bit like that. Of course, other instruments chime in but it really feels like I have to really concentrate to notice them, especially guitar for the most part. As with many other Duran songs, there is some effects going on as well giving an almost underwater sort of sound through the verses. Rhonda called it “bubbling” in her review above, which is a good word for it! One final note on the musicality of this song that I have noticed is how little difference there really is between verse and chorus until the end. I have to really to listen to there lyrics to tell when the song switches from one to the other, which doesn’t feel like typical Duran to me.
I’m not exactly sure what to think about Simon’s vocals here. One thing that amazes me about Simon’s voice is how it helps to create a mood, a feeling. In this case, his vocals works to create a fun mood, forcing each listener to sing along even if you try to resist. I tend to think that is the only thing that was the focus when recording and mixing this one. All that was wanted was for Simon to add to the pop nature and feel of the song. That’s it. Nothing more and nothing less. One thing that intrigues me is how the band never played this album live and from what I know this song has never been played live much despite it being a single. Did the vocals play a role in that?
The lyrics to this song are different than a lot of Duran lyrics up until this point. Usually, they have been either poetic or vague enough that a story is not created. These lyrics, on the other hand, feel exactly like a story where this woman is flirting hardcore with a “biker” who is a “metalhead.” Then, of course, the context is summer when “love takes over.” I am not a huge fan of the whole storyline thing as I much prefer to give my own interpretation unless the story could/does act as a metaphor to something else. That said, there are some lines that I just cannot help but sing, including, “Don’t give me drink, I don’t wanna get too stoned.” Who hasn’t said the exact same thing at some point or another?!
I cannot say that this is best quality Duran Duran song ever made. While I appreciate the fact that this song makes me want to sing along no matter what, I miss some more typical Duran elements. I wish that the lyrics weren’t so obvious, for example. On top of that, I missed the balanced instrumentation. It feels to me that the band worked really hard to create a feeling rather than just letting the process go where it may. What interests me is the fact that there are SO many remixes of this song on various releases. Why? Did they think that the remixes would help it sell? Yet, they did not tour the album. It all just makes me wonder what they were all thinking about.