We’ve arrived at Playing With Uranium, the “not quite, but was supposed to be a single in Italy” third track off of Pop Trash. Instead, the only release of this song worldwide was a German 1-track 5” promotion CD single, issued for radio play only…in Germany, of course. This marked the final release of a Duran Duran song on Hollywood Records. *We are sure the band is still crying about that.
*not even remotely.
I’ll just begin by saying that this is probably my favorite track off of Pop Trash. So there you have it. Pure, unadulterated, bias. Let that truth wash over you, and then feel free to complain about it on Twitter.
I like the hard-edged, almost crunchy guitar riffs, the soaring keyboards, and lush synth chords. It is the type of song that I can put on and feel completely enveloped by the music. The joy of not having to think, instead just letting the music take over, really works for me with this one. The production of the song isn’t particularly quiet or even careful, instead it has one heck of a noisy background with plenty of background hiss that I would normally pan. However, on this song, for whatever reason – it works.
To me, Playing With Uranium is all about frenetic energy. It is about living in a world that is out of control. It is a planet fraught with anxiety, filled with next door neighbors who are just as easily planning the next terrorist attack, as they are willing to host the monthly dinner party. It is a noisy, confusing world out there, and the song plays into that theme very well. The layers of guitar entangled with a basic, but driving drum beat, and a bass that hovers just low enough in the mix to make one swear they feel it before they hear it are what move the song forward, while the keyboards keep the song melodic, if not necessarily completely focused. For me, it is a major bright spot on this album, and assuredly one of my favorites if not *the* favorite of this album.
There is a lot to like about this song. Every time I listen to the song, I am struck by how it feels smooth to me. Let me explain what I mean by that. The beginning of the song is pretty jarring and quickly moves into a pretty significant guitar. Yet, it has the feel that this is how it is supposed to go. It doesn’t feel like they developed the majority of the song then added the beginning to it. It feels somehow natural to me, despite all the noise that the song has. It feels like it settles into itself by the time Simon begins his vocals. At first, his vocals feel just like he is telling a story rather than singing a song but by the time the chorus begins, again, the vocals settle in to feel smooth and natural.
I wonder how much of that feel was intentional. After all, the story of someone literally “playing with uranium” should be jarring. It should be shocking. It should freak people out. Yet, it also feels like this is no big deal to the neighbors. People go about living their normal lives. That is exactly what the song does, too. It has moments that should be attention-getting but quickly settles into a normal song feeling. In that way, I give them big props as that is cool. The subject matter from what I know from watching Storytellers is that this song is based on a true story of a kid who build some sort of nuclear device at his house. While I appreciate that a story like this influenced a song, I am a little disappointed in the lyrics. If you take a look at them, there is not much to them. The song is mostly the chorus with two super small verses.
Musically, I think this song really works. It definitely conveys the feeling of the true story but I think they could have done more with the lyrics to really bring this song to the next level.