Duran Duran – All You Need Is Now | 2011 – 4
[continued from previous post]
So, after opening with a track that sounded like the bridge between “Red Carpet Massacre” and classic Duran Duran ala “Rio,” this album could have gone anywhere. “Blame The Machines” was another tune which vacillated between New Wave bop and a big money Classic Duran chorus. The intriguing hook here, was a Farfisa patch that strongly recalled the one Ferry played on “In Every Dreamhome A Heartache.” I love how the sinister minor key hook at the end of the first verse led into the sunshine of the chorus. The cards were played close enough to their vest for the chorus to make me think of the chord sequence in “Hold Back The Rain,” still my go-to Duran Duran dazzler of a song.
The next track began with a deceptively slow intro before the pace quickened as an adroit mashup of Duane Eddy/Giorgio Moroder with a John Barry chaser for good measure made this the first Duran Duran “spy theme song” since their theme song for “The Saint” surfaced in 1997 with “Out Of My Mind.” But this tune easily trumps that effort. “A View To A Kill” too, for that matter! LeBon’s vocals were especially strong here. Why can’t he sing in his register all the time? Rhythmically, the tattoos of drum fills that Roger Taylor adds like spice to the mix makes me think “I’m home.”
The rock disco sound of the chorus showed that producer Ronson was keeping a tight rein on the band; always eager to leave their strengths by the wayside for the sake of experimentation. After decades of vacillation, it was enjoyable to hear them work their strengths for a change. The middle eight was so good, it’s a sin that only Pet Shop Boys should be the only ones to use it. The heaviest dollop of John Barry Sauce wrapped the bridge up and signalled the outro, which had an unusual cold ending for this band.
Three songs in, it was time for a change of pace and the first of two excellent Mid-Tempo Ballads® on this disc. “Leave A Light On” began with subtle glitch elements in the mix at an almost imperceptible level amid the acoustic guitars and string patches in the otherwise smooth as glass intro. I’ve long since given up wondering how and why the band do it; I can only state that they have a near-mystical facility with the type of material that, in the hands of any other band I like [see: OMD, Spandau Ballet] would only serve to make me angry with their squandering of songwriting resources with pointless and unworthy chart-pandering. For whatever reason; and I haven’t twigged it yet, Double Duran have no trouble crafting memorable and yes, damnit, enjoyable – nay, dignified Lighter-Waving Ballads® that I have come to actually look forward to over the years! I guess it must come down to their strong melodic chops, which they sometimes see fit to ignore.
It was time for a tempo change and “Safe [In The Heat Of The Moment]” had no compunctions about dallying with stripped down Latin disco. This song had a fever… and the prescription was… more cowbell! The syncopation of John Taylor’s seductive bass line and Roger Taylor’s drums let us know that Duran Duran were coming home again. Dom Brown managed to ably channel the funky rhythm guitar of Nile Rogers here.
I was thunderstruck when the intro showed that not everyone had forgotten Cindy Ecstacy! Actually, Ana Matronic of Scissor Sisters contributed deadpan rap on this number but anyone who’s heard what Ms. Ecstacy achieved on the remix of “Memorabilia” on “Non-Stop Ecstatic Dancing” will know exactly which hip Ms. Matronic [please!] was shooting from here.
By now we had our defenses lowered as DD had made a disc with only a variety of winners on it. It was time to get serious and stick the knife in deep for the killing blow. The roto-toms, bass, and synths of the intro to “Girl Panic!” herald nothing less than the return of the prodigal sons! Ladies and gentlemen; what you were hearing here could only be Duran Duran! Their distilled essence here had been specifically concentrated to a 200 proof sound that was nothing less that their signature style; polished to an astonishing degree. Hearing it, I could only capitulate like a puppy, my belly topside in submission.
Taut rhythm guitar licks from guitarist Dom Brown traded space with what I’ll call the eau d’Duran. The liquid bass of John Taylor. The muscular drums of Roger Taylor. The synthetic sheen of Nick Rhodes. Follow these men in battle to the ends of the earth, if you can. And count yourself lucky that they can still embody this sound so successfully. Roger Taylor’s roto-tom/timbale orgy during the breakdown in the middle eight can’t help but make us think of “Girls On Film,” with the exception that it’s been put to use in the service of a much better song here. That said, it’s still an example of what Matt Gorney once derisively called “music for modeling.” Your mileage may vary, but if you’ve read this far, your likely to join us in celebration.
What was especially shocking here was that I’ve had the “Girl Panic!” 7″ ever since that fateful day in 2012 when it was the first Record Store Day release that I ever bought. I got it for the remix by David Lynch and had digitized that years ago. I can’t say it was in any way memorable, though. So for one reason for another, I never got around to playing the unadulterated A-side of the disc. Mea culpa! I’d been sitting on gold for over three years now! Had I heard this song in its pristine form, I would have likely ran out and bought a copy of this album as quickly as possible!
“A Diamond In The Mind” acted as a coda to the first successful phase of this album. Here, string arranger Owen Pallett proffered a re-arrangement of the hook from the title track for strings only that ended up giving strong whiffs of Arcadia’s “Rose Arcana” in what we’ll call an orchestral dub mix. Simon LeBon’s vocals turned up for a phrase or two just as the brief vignette was on its way out. A palate cleanser, if you will, before the second act of this album got underway.
Next: …Yet More Peaks