Can you believe we are finally, blessedly, all the way up to the album Medazzaland? The ninth studio album, released in October of 1997, it also marks the first album without John Taylor (he left in January of the same year before the recording was finished). John’s work remains on three songs. This also heralds the beginning of Duran Duran as a trio, with Nick, Simon and Warren.
This week, we begin our trip down Medazzaland Lane by listening to the title track! The spoken word is done not by Simon, but by Nick Rhodes and is the first song in their catalog to feature The Controller on vocals. (but it’s not the last!)
So, here we are. In 1997 I bought this album, listened to it one time, declared the band “Finished” (With a capital “F”), and stashed the CD in a drawer, only to be discovered seventeen years later. Today I should probably be eating this album, as there have been many others released in the years since…along with many tours, shows, and blogs, for this writer. I’m curious as to how I’ll feel about this album now, over twenty years post-release.
Admittedly, listening to “Medazzaland” now, is nothing like it was in 1997. Hindsight really is 20/20, folks! Of course, now I understand that the song is about a drug – Midazolam – and Simon wrote the lyrics about a lovely visit to the dentist! With that in mind, it is no wonder that the song sounds, well, both delightfully creepy and wonderfully weird, and utterly nothing like the Duran Duran I’d expected (note to self: expectations are indeed future resentments!) If only I’d listened more carefully in 1997, I would hear the experimentalism and sheer genius that went into the music and lyrics! From the intricate percussion patterns, to the fantastic sound effects that make me feel like I’m being spun from this consciousness to another, the song I once said was nothing like Duran Duran, is actually very much so. Hindsight, am I right???
Granted, this song isn’t 1980-something Duran Duran. It is a much more mature, dialed-in, sort of songwriting and production. This song isn’t sun and fun. It’s drugs and a scalpel. For a song so effect driven, I’m surprised how raw and…well…simple… it sounds. The lyrics are of course, exactly as I would expect from someone writing about those moments of drifting in and out of consciousness. Having Nick be the one to do the spoken word for it only makes the song more interesting, in my opinion. He has exactly the right tone needed to sell it. I’m flabbergast at how much I really like the song. Perhaps Nick was right after all when he said he thought it would age well. Imagine that!
I was supposed to write my part of this review last week. My excuse, ironically enough, was that I was at the dentist and did not feel like doing much after I returned. I probably should have taken the time to really listen then, though. It might have added a additional perspective that a non-dentist visit me wouldn’t notice. Anyway, this is one of those songs that are challenging for me to review. Am I supposed to review on based on how much I like listening to the song or based on musical ability? What about creativeness? Ah. It feels like no simple solution to this dilemma.
Is Medazzaland a song that I often turn to listen to? No. Obviously, it is not your standard Duran Duran song. Let’s start with the obvious. Simon is not singing and instead is a spoken word of sorts from Nick. That’s weird. Then, the lyrics are not such that I want to sing along or even do much chatting with or whatever that might be called. That being said, I think the lyrics are super dang interesting with lines like, “I dream in pictures but the sound is muted” and “What are they saying about me? Do they really understand what’s wrong?” If I had no idea that the song was about a drug used by dentists when people go under for some sort of procedure, I would have thought it was about alien abduction. Look at those lyrics. They would work for that. Then, the musical landscape sounds like something science fiction like. It almost feels like Nick is a human who had been taken on a space ship and having experiments be done on him. (This feels especially true since the next song is about space in Big Bang Generation.) Am I right? Or am I the only one who views it like this?
Okay. So this isn’t a song that I listen to a lot. I cannot connect to the lyrics and it creates an unsettling picture. While all of that is true for me, I can also listen from a different perspective. What do I think of it, artistically? Obviously, this is not the pop Duran that so many of the public tend to view them as. This isn’t meant to be a fun little pop song that is easy to dance to. No, this is about being experimental. It is about pushing the envelope of what is music, what is Duran Duran music. Clearly, if you know anything about Nick’s other side projects, he likes to explore this level of experimentation. So, on top of really interesting lyrics, musically it matches to create a mood of unease, of a world separated from humanity. It feels like technology has taken over. The keyboards, of course, provide a lot of this but the drums and other percussion definitely add to it.
So, no, it is not a fun, happy Duran song but it sure the heck is interesting. It reminds each of us that Duran is an art school band at their heart who wants to experiment with sound, with technology, with even what is supposed to be the standard package known as a “song.” Super interesting.