As a result of a jamming session in a barn in Sussex, “My Antarctica” was released in 1990 on the Liberty album. Simon is quoted as having said that the band was “rather self-conscious” at the time, given the way things had been going for the band from 1986-onward.
Let’s get into it!
There is a short list of truly gorgeous Duran Duran songs that very few outside of the fan community know of, and My Antarctica is near the top of that list. From the very beginning of the song, it feels like we’re standing outside, allowing the view to come into focus. There’s a fluttering effect that sounds like a bird flying overhead, and then the soft ballad begins. I love the way the band is able to create a mood.
While I could wax poetic about Simon’s vocals all day long, I think the music is just as worthy of mention. Piano and keyboards intertwine and dance with very soft bass, as the synthesizer sets the mood. Some incredibly subtle guitar chording reminds you that yes, Duran Duran does have a guitarist, along with just enough drums to keep it all together.
This is just one example of the type of experimenting Warren did while in Duran Duran. The result is a song that doesn’t rely on guitar for the melody, instead using it like one might use synthesizer to layer sound. This certainly marks a change in the way Duran Duran recorded with Warren at the guitar helm. Consider that in many of the previous albums, the band would use the guitar and synthesizer as almost type of call and response. On Liberty and albums following, the guitar lapses into almost a background instrument used to experiment with sound as opposed to a main melody-maker, at least on a good number of songs. I suspect that whether or not a fan is “Team Warren” or not highly depends on the type of guitar most appreciated by said fan.
As for vocals, they just don’t get any smoother. Soft and lush, smooth and deep, the vocals lull the listener into acquiescence. The lyrics are as as much a metaphor for the demands of real life as they are the explanation of relationship requirements. This is the type of song writing I’ve come to expect from Duran Duran, and thoroughly enjoy. “My Antarctica” is one of the gems from an album that went ignored or panned by many.
This is one of those songs that lead me to utter a one word response in thinking about it and that word is beautiful. Where exactly do I start? Musically, the best place to begin is with the keyboards and piano. Talk about creating a mood of something almost magical. Of course, there is the foundation of bass with other instruments that really fill up the song without being too much. Sometimes, when a song tends to focus on one type of instrumentation, I tend to think of it as boring, uninteresting. Not this one, though. In this case, the instrumentation just fits. The other instruments, including guitar, work to enhance those synthesizers rather than overpower them, which I appreciate. Musically, I could not ask for better.
Then, there are Simon’s vocals. Generally, like the musicality, they work really, really well. Most importantly, they also work to create, enhance, reinforcement the mood of the song. By the way, I’m not even sure how to describe the feeling, the emotion that is connected with this song, which I actually really love. Too often, songs rely on a standard, straight-forward, simple emotion like sadness or depression or joy. This song isn’t that. No, the feeling is one of beauty but I cannot totally tell the exact mood because it definitely is more complex than that. It almost feels like those times in life that are full of mixed emotions with a little bit of multiple feelings going on.
The lyrics, which are truly some of my favorite, showcase this mixed emotion well. Take the song title itself. “My Antarctica” implies cold, isolated, lonely. Many lyrics match this, such as “For a thousand vows, Oh a thousand promises, We forgot.” Is this a situation in which a relationship is struggling for the warmth of the past? Is there a big distance between people, the “two beats” that are described? Yet, there are moments that bring up joy with lines like, “We’ll keep the rhythm going, And we’ll remember, We’ll keep the laughter flowing, And we’ll remember, We let the music jangle, And we’ll remember.” Are they trying to hold on or remember the good times? The joy they used to experience? These lines make me feel like all is not lost. So, there is a sense of hope within despair.
Overall, I think this is a song is a real hidden gem. People, even Duranies, tend to overlook it but they definitely shouldn’t. It is truly a beautiful song on every level.