This week, let’s listen to Can You Deal With It – another track off of Liberty, also produced by (you guessed it), Chris Kimsey and the band. One interesting bit of trivia about this song is that on the unofficial Liberty Sessions album, there’s a demo version of this song with John Taylor on vocals, and if you search on YouTube, you can also find the cover version John did of this song with his band Terroristen.
Initially, the tune seems as “Duran Duran” as a song gets during this period, at least musically. The synthesizer is prominent, complete with luscious chords and fantastic loops; you can feel the bass and drums; and then there is the guitar. On this track, if not in plenty of other places on this album, the guitar seems to take on a far more metallic tone. While not really a criticism, it is also not quite the Duran Duran we’ve always known, either. The tune is danceable, and I find myself getting into the groove. Some of the effects are firmly on the overdone side, enough so to remind me that this album suffered from a serious case of being overproduced. While musically it may seem like Duran, some of it just seems so forced on this album – the effects, the grinding metal guitar – honestly at times I wonder who is truly driving the sound on this album. Was it the newest band members? The outside producer? It just sounds like a band who doesn’t quite know what or who they want to be. I think it must have been very difficult to write as a five-piece again, particularly if you have more than one person who wants to lead. Clearly, they were in a moment of reinvention, perhaps without realizing it, or even completing the process.
Then, there are the vocals. A holdover from what I think had to have been the same vocal session as Violence of Summer, Simon’s voice is almost gravely, and certainly a bit on the “shouty” side, particularly during the chorus. For me, the vocals are jarring, and perhaps that was the point, I’m just not sure. The point of the song is particularly blunt, and smacks of desperation in a way that seems most “un” Duran Duran like in many ways. Although, I’m sure many could point to other songs in their catalog that seem similar. However, on “Can You Deal With It”, the desperation comes through loud and clear, there’s no cheek about it. In more recent years, Simon has mentioned there wasn’t as much “heart” on this record, and as I listen to this song (along with a few others), I must concur. My ears recognize a band who were trying their best to reinvent themselves without having to do a complete “tear down”. They knew they were Duran Duran, but perhaps they were trying to start over. I’m not sure that this particular song made the grade.
Can You Deal With It is definitely a Liberty track as it fits right in with so many other songs on this album. Musically speaking, once again the guitars often take center stage while occasionally giving the spotlight over to the keyboards, which is a common theme for the album. Likewise, there is a solid foundation of bass and drums that fill out the sound along with added effects. As I listen closely to the track, I have to wonder a bit about mixing as it definitely feels like the guitar and keyboards are front and center while bass and drums are pushed to the back, sound wise. I have to admit that I’m good with the music of this track up until about the two and a half minute mark then there is a bridge of sorts and never really gains its footing afterwards. In fact, it feels to me that they couldn’t figure out what else to do so they just tried to keep it going somehow, someway. It was like they realized it would be too short to end it so they had to do something but I just don’t think the ending works. For me, my attention starts to waiver and the groove that I was enjoying is just lost.
Interestingly enough, I feel like something similar happens with the lyrics as well. They start out just there, out in the open. We all know what Simon is singing about. There is no mystery. There is no poetry or interpretation. It is honest and straightforward. Now, some fans and listeners might appreciate that, especially over the more poetic lyrics of Simon’s. Generally, I prefer the ones that allow for some interpretation rather than ones like these which are so clear cut that you cannot even really give an alternative idea about them. That said, I admire the way he is just putting out this thought and feeling but I would be more impressed if he had more to say. Much like the music, I feel like the lyrics just run out of steam. He doesn’t have more to say than that so all he can do, at the end, is repeat the “can you deal with it” line. That is disappointing to me.
Overall, I feel like this song had promise but they just couldn’t keep it going despite their efforts. I think the song would have been better served if they just embraced as a super short, in-your-face, unapologetic track. Instead, they tried to make it more “respectable” in terms of length, but it detracts. Here is another fun fact. As a result, I actually prefer John Taylor’s version. I’m not just saying that because I am a John fan because it is rare for me to like his version of Duran’s songs over the originals but, in this case, I do.