Roger Taylor bowed out after the recording of "A View To A Kill," citing "burnout." Andy Taylor stayed, but strung along his band mates as he completed a solo LP in Los Angeles. With session drummer Steve Ferrone and Zappa/Missing Persons guitarist Warren Cuccurillo brought in to facilitate the recording of wreck-hard number four, the Duran Duran that fans knew and smothered with maniacal obsessive love essentially vanished from the planet, vamoosed the caboose, and exited left of stage in apoplectic rage.
Fresh off the hells of two ill-fated side projects (and Simon LeBon's brush with death in a yachting mishap), stylistic whiplash was inevitable, and perhaps inevitably painful. The presence of band hero/one-time savior Nile Rodgers on the boards and on record helped to shrink the swelling somewhat. John Taylor yearned for funky horns all over Notorious like cheese on macaroni--Simon LeBon, not so much. In a violation of the standard rock-star rulebook, the singer did not overrule all here. Notorious is nothing if not brazenly brassy.
"Notorious"--A top 3 smash in the States (top 10 in their homeland), "Notorious" is perhaps best known these days as either Sparkle Motion's last-minute soundtrack in Donnie Darko or as Diddy's so-obvious-it-blocked-my-nasal-passages sample choice for yet another tribute to his long-deceased yet still-valid meal ticket, Notorious B.I.G.
Too bad. This is how you kick off an album, confidence and intelligence covering every inch. "Notorious" is a vigorously defiant "V"-up to any and all second-guessers and would-be underminers of the double D juggernaut: "Lay your seedy judgments/Who says they're part of our lives?" Their ex-band mate is also a target: "Who really gives a damn for a flaky bandit?" Damn, Simon, GET 'EM.
There's actually nothing to not love. The chicken-scratch guitar at 2:00, the horny embellishments to the chorus starting at 2:56, the way they sing the word "notorious," it's all filthy good. Back-against-wall is a good position for the boys.
"Girls will keep the secrets/As long as boys make a noise." That line is peach pie amazing. It can go in so many different directions.
"I'll leave you lonely/Don't monkey with my business."
I wish I didn't care about being factual and doing research, otherwise I'd love to sell you on the theory that this was a George Michael dis.
"American Science"--Oh shit, kid, drama is afoot. The band were going for dazzling here, but misspelled it with an extra "z."
"Skin Trade"--For a song whose purported concept is "There's a little hooker in each of us," this walks the streets far too leisurely. Taking inspiration from a well-drained writer's catalog (in this case, Dylan Thomas) does not give one license to underwhelm.
The Duran Duran of even two years prior would have made "Skin Trade" sexy and complex, as well as sultry, sensual, salacious, and many other words that begin with the letter "S" and all mean more or less the same thing. But times change, people change, and tastes change. Years under white-hot spotlight aged our heroes rapidly.
"A Matter of Feeling"--Oh, fame is alienating! Weep for the isolated rock god! Where hath his soul gone? Why is it such a chore to just feel anymore, damnit?!
Fuck that. Nick Rhodes bought a Picasso on his AmEx card. You think I can go to MOMA and throw down my fucking Visa and walk away with that Braque piece I love so much? Do you think they'll accept my generous offer of one million payments of five dollars spread out over 370,000 years? Will they HELL. New York assholes!
"Hold Me"--Oh man, I thought "In a Big Country" was starting up and got excited. Then the real song happened and I was crestfallen.
"Vertigo (Do the Demolition)"--Simon's stern and heartfelt lecture to John concerning the latter's worsening dependence on chemical comforts. In other words, a dabbler tut-tutting a full-blown.
The sounds conjured are a fit companion, leaving sleaze trails so positively of the decade that Crockett and Tubbs could trawl strip joints to them. Despite the title's promise, the proceedings remain steady...perhaps a lesson by example?
"So Misled"--A cornucopia of insignificant ideas. But enough about Rebecca.
"Meet El Presidente"--What a Prince-ly falsetto on display here, Mr. LeBon. Slower than it is simple, but harbor no query, it is simple. Thatcher? Reagan? Castro? Heroin? Is it heroin?! Throwing out a bait-less hook into the open waters, oh I don't approve of that at all.
They released "El Presidente" as a single and it tanked. But but, where was Nile Rodgers to shore up their hit potential? Oh, that's right--he was already there behind the boards. You're' telling me he never once thought to futz with the pitch or add kazoos?
"Winter Marches On"--"To drink from her breast of fortune." Because just coming out and saying "big tits" is anathema to masters of 80s pop music.
Faux-emoting doesn't derail the train, thankfully, free as it is of BIG DRAMATIC DRUM CAR, leaving orchestral elements to sink along the rails. Like so much of this album, "Winter Marches On" passes through my ears leaving little impact other than it wasn't an unpleasant listening experience to have.
"Proposition"--Nick's shuffle keeps distraction at bay, chiming insistently, a Morse Code missive reminding fans why they ever gave multiple bothers about the boys to begin with. Only problem, there's more sway than thrust apparent, and that's no way to reach satisfactory climax.