This week, we’re on to track 10 off of the Liberty album – Venice Drowning. A little trivia we found online about this song – it’s apparently only been played live once! Prior to the album’s release, it was played in 1989 at the Scandeborg Festival in Denmark. If you are reading this and saying, “No, I was at a gig where it was played!”, let us know! For now, let’s get on with it!
This has to be in the top five most sensuous Duran Duran songs, don’t you think? Clearly, they wanted to portray a certain mood with this one! It’s not just the very suggestive lyrics, but the sexy bass groove, with lingering guitar riffs. The chorus has some keyboard sparingly laced on the very top of it all, like icing on a cake. There’s very little in the way of noticeable percussion in the song, more felt than heard. Musically, the song differs quite a bit from the rest of the album. Venice Drowning animatedly exclaims to anyone who will listen that this is a very different, and grown-up Duran Duran, from anything you may have heard prior.
Whereas on earlier albums, the lyrics may have merely suggested sex, this one pretty much puts it all out there on the line. Why use imagery, when you can be blunt and still a bit poetic all at once? For me, that’s the biggest change I hear in Duran Duran’s lyrics during this period of time – Simon is far more blunt with his lyrics. While a lot of his early work was taken from poetry he’d written prior to joining the band, these words seem to come from a different place or intention. Some of that, I would suspect, comes from lyrics being written at the time songs are composed, as opposed to having a notebook filled with poetry that are then manipulated to fit songs. I’m also sure that life experience had everything to do with lyrics, but there is a part of me that misses the poetry.
I know that Simon loves Venice Drowning, and calls it his “sexy vampire zombie” song. For me, it isn’t as though it misses the mark, as much as it just doesn’t quite appeal to me as much as others do. Perhaps I can’t connect with it, and perhaps it is that when I listen, I hear a band that is struggling to find themselves. Bands mature and grow. This isn’t truly the same band that wrote “Hungry Like the Wolf”, and I suppose when I think about both songs – I can see how one band grew from another, but I think at this point, they were still in transition. They didn’t quite know how to be Duran Duran and remain relevant. Yes, at that period of time, I think relevancy mattered quite a bit to them. After all, this was a band who, not four years prior, was at the top of the world. Can you imagine? As Simon mentioned, this album was indeed a point in time for them, and when I listen, I can certainly hear where they were. The benefit of hindsight though, is that I also know where they were going.
This is one of those Liberty tracks that offers a lot to listeners. Musically, the instrumentation is strong. There is definitely a groove throughout it all with guitars that one cannot miss. Of course, there are moments when the keyboards rise to the surface before the guitars come back strong. It almost feels like waves of instrumentation creating a strong sense of sensuality. Simon’s vocals match to a great extent. I cannot remember a time when Simon seems to go out of his way to have a sultry voice. If the music wasn’t seducing you then Simon’s vocals would. They are smooth and sexy, especially in that first verse. If that was not enough, the lyrics are such clearly all about the sexy. My goodness there is no hiding it anymore or using an analogy, metaphor or poetry to disguise it. It definitely creates a much more mature Duran Duran.
Now, there are elements that I’m less sure of. Someone please explain to me why the song lasts beyond the 3:30 mark? There is not much going on after that. Yes, obviously, the instrumentation continues. Yes, there is some sung lines in what I assume is Italian. While I appreciate when the band brings in extra vocals or extra vocal effects like Breath After Breath’s Portuguese or the chorus in The Universe Alone, I am just not sure that it adds a lot here. Maybe if had been done earlier in song? Maybe if it was repeated? Maybe if it was louder in the mix? Not sure. I just don’t get it. Why the need to make a five minute plus song? Would that create greater accolades by critics? Would it be deemed a more respectable song? That last minute and a half just did nothing to enhance it at all.
Overall, the song has a lot that I like about it. The instrumentation is strong and I love Simon’s vocals. I’m not sure about the very obvious lyrics but I can accept that for the sake of the song. It just feels too long to me for no reason.