Thursday, October 4, 2012

Glamour Boys: Duran Duran in the 1980s (Pt. 6--Sometimes You Kick)


It's not Duran Duran, you see, it's Duranduran.  Oh the mega-filthy life of inexhaustible luxury!  You sounded so damned pant-worthy on the earlier records; now you just sound pants.  Could be the permanent introduction of the Linn drum machine into the family.  That's the same poisonous breach of the citadel that doomed Devo, you know.

"Big Thing"--1988 was the year INXS released their sixth album, KICK, and saw their standing in the States catapult from cute white-boy funk-pop group from Koalaland that a lot of people knew about to one that everyone knew about.  While INXS at their best fell well short of DD at their apex, it was clear by the time Big Thing and Kick were allowed out in public, MTV and their millions of impressionable viewers had a new band of catchy, flashy bastions of groove to obsess over.  The likes of "Need You Tonight" and "New Sensation" were vivacious if not exactly vital, and honestly, Michael Hutchence was more shaggable at that point than Simon LeBon.

The song "Big Thing" reminds me precisely of Kick's introductory "Guns In the Sky."  Both are calls-to-arms, but while INXS concocted a riff that is positively Lenny-esque in its dunder-headed charm, "Big Thing" is majorly sloppy, an ostensible populace pleaser that peters out pathetically before the midway point is reached.  It also features the worst chorus of any song in the Duran oeuvre. 

"Hang it up hanging out hanging on a big thing….Bang it up bang it out banging on a big thing."

That's anti-sexual.  That's ANTI-DURAN DURAN!

"Shake it up shake it out shake it all the time."

Oh how I loathe the ambiguous IT of the faux pop anthem!

"I Don't Want Your Love"--Phony-ass techno, move along, nothing to dance to here.  I mean it could be worse, it could be phony-ass reggae (or even genuine-ass reggae).  Hey, you could have lost your whole arm instead of just the one finger!  

I give "Love" credit for a punchy, staccato verse and fluid chorus, but I always need to be reminded of them.

"All She Wants Is"--Compares unfavorably to Wham's "Everything She Wants."  Cut from the same cloth Martin Gore sold at a premium back in the 80s but the boys unfortunately spilled cheap champagne all down the length of it.

"Too Late Marlene"--The piano-heavy soundtrack to that Ed Hooper painting that isn't an exterior view into a diner.  The shading is slight and the lack of real danger rather dispiriting.  All these people must have stories, but they must not be very interesting, 'cause damned if I wanna take my time out to hear them.

"Drug (It's Just a State of Mind)"--A cause of internecine dissent:  John Taylor wanted the original mix to make the final product, but was outvoted, and nearly quit in protest.

What the majority ruled on is basically oatmeal for the dance floor.  No charisma, no thrill, and honestly now, those horns should be broken up and melted down.  All in all, even worse than their lubeless ass-fuck of Grandmaster Flash's "White Lines."

"Do You Believe In Shame?"--The first in an eventual trilogy of heartfelt and thoughtful songs dedicated to LeBon's doomed childhood friend David Miles.  ("Ordinary World" and "Out of My Mind" were to follow.)  "Shame" is easily the highlight of Big Thing.  A full-body lament from an utterly helpless friend trying not to become utterly hopeless, it brings out the best in LeBon lyrically and especially vocally, his voice a smoke-enhanced curl that seems wary of coming across too strongly and is all the more unfortunate and relatable for it.  

"Do you believe in love?
Do you believe in shame?
And if love can conquer all
Then why do we only feel the pain?"

"Shame" seemed incredibly familiar to me from the very beginning, and after a bit of time, I figured out why.  

"Palomino"--Welcome to the blue edge of the record.  I simply do not care about this Palomino woman.  She has not a thing on our beloved Rio.  If Rio represented the United States, Palomino represents Canada.  

"Interlude One"--Wow, it's "Honey Pie" and the ending of "Baba O'Reilly," together at last!  A grander union cannot be imagined!

"Land"--"Baby, I'm really sorry to break your dream."  Simon, are you getting analogous again?  Pardon me while I fetch the alagesic.  

No more pioneers, no more heroes, the wolf's stomach is full and aching, and Duran Duran are now putting out records that Chris DeBurgh could feel smug listening to.

"Flute Interlude"--Should be sampled by Clams Casino for eventual misuse by Li'l B.

"The Edge of America"--DD can talk crap on the States 'cause at least they've spent considerable time within these borders.  They're not the type who are convinced that reading The Guardian online and watching the BBC makes them worldly people.  Snide, sarcastic, cultural hermits who have such a distorted view of the land they loathe that they express genuine disbelief when presented with the reality that there are millions of avowed American atheists, 'cause, I mean, not believing in God is illegal over there or summat, innit?  

"The Edge" isn't precisely intellectual, but it's a tolerably observant cautionary tale of entrenched military complex culture driven by another familiar melody.  The drums are virtually absent and the song shivers all the more for that.

"Lake Shore Driving"--A medley with a tremendous ending--it just stops.  This was not a purposeful dramatic gesture; the tape in the studio just ran out.  Duran Duran are the Kool G. Raps of European pop music!  

I haven't spoken much on Warren C.'s contributions here, and there's a reason for that, he's bland as baby babble throughout, but here he actually unveils some personality, gliding nice figure-eights over the ice.  Still waiting for T'Pau to come in and sing.

At least Big Thing ends better than it began, but that's a small victory, seeing as how it began with rubbing away rheum for three or so minutes.  Duran Duran's prior records aroused grunts, whoops and shouts.  You were asked politely, loudly, and sometimes cryptically to buy into the emotional healing power of motion, and the reward exceeded the effort almost always.  Here?  An indifferent murmur is all I can muster.  Duran Duran said goodbye to the decade they owned sounding as useful as a burned out neon tube.

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