We are beginning this week with a Big Bang as we listen to the second track off of Medazzaland – Big Bang Generation. One of the only true dance tracks off of this album, Warren Cuccurullo stated that most of the finished album was derived from reworked TV Mania material written by himself and Nick Rhodes. The producer for this song is listed as TV Mania.
It is difficult to believe that it was only early just this VERY YEAR that Medazzaland was finally released in the UK on digital platforms, due to a deal reached with BMG. The album wasn’t even included on Spotify until several weeks back. So, while fans might feel that much of the lack of success was due to a sea change in the band’s musical direction; we must be fair, and say it is just as likely due to the lack of availability.
The amount of sound layers in this song is striking. There’s not a single moment of space for anything to exist outside of the music and Simon’s vocals, and while it is certainly forward momentum…I admit to missing the more simpler days for this band. The track is very messy sounding, just barely managed chaos with effect and background noise. The guitar tracks range from crunchy to experimental, but nothing floats high enough above the synthesizer and keyboards to make it sound like melody – instead the guitar is relegated as another background track, mixed with everything else.
In my quest to understand who played what on this album, I took a look at the credits. The list of musicians is as long as my arm, and if you want to know what I really think of the album as a whole, not to mention this song – my biggest complaint is that it’s no longer just “Duran Duran” on the album, regardless of the lineup. There are so many musicians making guest appearances based on their relationship to Warren that it is this point in the band’s career where the music became more about Warren making a statement, and far less about the band who started the journey. It’s where the journey makes a sharp left, and if you’re not buying what I’m selling – just take a good look at the album cover, both front and back. It’ll tell you everything you need to know if you’re willing to actually see it.
Vocally, it is Simon that reconnects me to Duran Duran. He reminds me that yes, this is the same band, and this is only one point in their career, albeit not necessarily a harmonious or enjoyable one. It is his voice that, even twenty years later, gives me hope and lightens the load of this song. The sound of this particular track is the closest to the pop traditions Duran Duran once held dear, and that’s probably why it’s still palatable.
The problem is that in and of itself, Big Bang Generation isn’t a bad song. It would be far easier if I hated it. It’s actually the most danceable off of this album. I just feel like the overall execution, the production and definitely the mixing, worked against it. The song is far too frenetic, in my opinion. The bass is far too deep in the mix, hardly heard. I’m fascinated that they needed not just one, but two drummers for this song, and the sound is just so incredibly processed, it’s almost off-putting and dissonant. Even so, for some reason Big Bang Generation is one of the easier tunes on Medazzaland, at least for my ears. I take it far too much to heart that the band appeared to use this album to rebuild everything they’d created prior, choosing to be more experimental than what I was ready to accept at the time. It’s the one moment I wish I came in with no bias. Alas…here we are, but I am doing my best to acknowledge, admit, and review anyway! For me, this song represents the last vestige of the band I once knew. I am grappling over the number of cocktails to award. My head says perhaps three, my heart says two.
Big Bang Generation is an interesting track to review. It is one of those songs that there is a clear difference between whether or not it is technically good or has high quality and whether or not I like to listen to it. It is also interesting to judge the whole song versus the parts. Let me start there.
When I think of this song, the first words that come to mind are “fun” and “likable”. I think about it and it makes me smile. Now, in fairness, part of it is when I heard this song I was very much into the Roswell fandom and the subject of the song fit so nicely. I also think that it is also relative to the rest of the Medazzaland album that felt much more experimental and not like the Duran I was used to whereas this track as a whole felt like Duran. It is a song that I enjoy. I wouldn’t say I love it but I like it.
That being said, let’s break it down to its parts. Does it hold up when I think about instrumentation? Vocals? Lyrics? As I mentioned earlier, I really enjoyed the topic of space, aliens, etc. It feels very Duran. After all, this is the band whose first single was Planet Earth, who has referred the keyboard player as an “alien”, who has an album and song called Astronaut. It fits, right? So, the lyrics are a big plus for me. Vocally, I enjoy the song as well. Simon’s vocals, like the lyrics, feel like home. They feel right and normal, like we are used to. Okay. What about instrumentation? I don’t mind the song, musically, but I also don’t love it. In fact, if I take the time to really listen to just the instrumentation, it doesn’t make me want to listen to it over and over. First of all, it just feels messy and without a real direction. For example, at times, I feel like the guitars are about to go one way before they go a different way. I’m not sure if that is because they couldn’t decide exactly what they wanted or that was part of the way to be more experimental. On top of that, it just feels like too much. Instead of it being a lot that I can unpack, which could be fun, it feels overwhelming. Can I really pick out the drums? Not easily? Bass? Keyboards? Maybe it was designed that way but it doesn’t work for me. That being said, it isn’t a song that recoil from but it isn’t one that I seek a repeated play with either.
Overall, the song has some good elements, including the vocals and lyrics. I just think that there is too much going on, musically, without a direction, which is too bad. It had great potential.