This week, we’re listening to So Long Suicide, the 11th track off of Medazzaland. The song was written in response to Kurt Cobain’s death, and features some of the last of John’s bass work with the band until Astronaut.
So Long Suicide is not a song I have spent a ton of time with over the years, so the opportunity to spend time getting to know it a bit better is welcomed. One thing I appreciate is how the band chose to weave the gentle nature of a ballad in the verses with the more raucous texture of rock in the chorus. For all counts, the vocals are fantastic, and show Simon’s versatility.
The song begins almost dreamily, showcasing guitar along with vocals that seem like they’re floating from the clouds. Just as I settle in though, the chorus kicks in with a vengeance. A driving rhythm along with industrious guitar completely fractures the continuity of the song—in a good way. The song gives its fair share of synthesizer, just so that one doesn’t forget this is a Duran Duran tune. I particularly like what I can only characterize as the “jet plane” effect that occurs during the last verse of the song – it reminds me of New Order, oddly enough.
The real question, is whether I really like the song or not, isn’t it? As we’ve gone back and listened to the music from this album in particular, I’ve challenged myself to answer the question – why is it that I never got into the album when it was released? I suppose in part is that it sounded very little like the Duran Duran I had embraced in the previous decade. That’s neither a good or bad thing, in hindsight. It is simply what “was” at the time. I can’t blame the band for stretching their musical muscles, exploring the outer limits of what was “experimental”, at least at the time. It was one of the moments where, as a fan, I had to decide what I was and was not comfortable with. Duran Duran, for much of their career, has challenged their fans to listen to new music with an open mind.
That’s something I’ve struggled with, as I know others have as well. We want to keep them in the same symphonic “box” where they first began. I think this was a particularly tough challenge for Medazzaland, and absolutely for me as a fan. My ears immediately discounted many of the songs on this album without giving them a fair shot, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find it necessary to admit the same with other songs/albums to come. Naturally now, some thirty years on, I listen to this song with the ability to recognize that it was neither blasphemous (to Duran Duran’s history), nor the best song ever written by the band. It was simply one good song written at a particular point in their history. A snapshot in time.
Before I write any review, I take the time to really listen to the song. In this case, I noticed right away the initial back and forth, between the two sides of the speakers, which is a technique that always appeals to me. Before I got too into the weeds with that, I need to acknowledge the back and forth between more of a ballad and a rock song. I don’t think I thought of it like that before. I guess, in my head, the part that always caught my attention was the rock part with more of the chorus. I always liked that part as it felt like some solid instrumentation. Did I like more of the ballad part, now that I have really heard it, really listened to it? Indeed, I do. In fact, I really like the intro or first minute of the song. Again, I recommend really paying attention. The last minute of the track in super interesting, too. With many of the songs on this album, I have commented that I feel that they often lasted too long. As soon as I realized that this song had more of a slower, quieter ending, I feared that this pattern would continue. Yet, I liked this ending. It definitely was different than the intro and had a lot of effects but didn’t feel too much, or that it lacked a purpose. I think it helped the song really sit with me, including the vocals and lyrics.
Speaking of vocals, they fit so well with the music. When Simon needed to fit the ballad part, he did. When he needed to be more for the rock part, he did. I definitely do not have complaints there. That being said, the song does not really allow much in terms of lyric analysis. It is not a song in which the lyrics will get in my head and I will want to sing it over and over again. I wonder if that was not intentional due to the meaning of the song or to create a stronger feel. The lyrics are definitely thought-provoking with many that caught my attention, including, “I steal the beauty and I taste the hurt” to “And I’m scared of being ordinary.”
In thinking about this song as a whole, it is a good song with quality instrumentation and vocals. I probably would have preferred those lyrics to be more pronounced but that’s a small thing. The experimentation within the song feels like it fits both the purpose of the song as well as the album. Do I like it as much as I could? I don’t know. Maybe the subject matter or lack of earworm quality keeps it in just the like category for me.