Duran Duran

Duran Duran

Capitol Records, 1981


REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


Move over Beatles, there’s a new British boy band in town to fawn over. That was the general sentiment of record execs and teenyboppers alike when Duran Duran was unleashed on an unsuspecting public back in 1981. The pin-up potential of this quintet was undeniable, but did they have the talent to pull off a long-term career? The answer since those loud and proud early days has been a resounding YES. Despite numerous label and lineup changes, at one point whittling down to a trio, the band has soldiered on with over 12 studio albums to their credit. The thought of breaking up, even with gradually diminishing sales, has never even crossed their minds. One thing can be said for Duran Duran, they have had remarkable staying power.

So what about that first album? Like most fans, I didn’t pick up this self-titled release until much later, opting for their second album Rio instead. That was the real breakthrough for Duran Duran, with radio-ready hits like “Hungry Like The Wolf” and “Save A Prayer,” not to mention all those exotic music videos that were all the rage on the fledgling MTV network at the time. Conversely, the debut album opens with the one-two punch of “Planet Earth” and the too-hot-for-MTV “Girls On Film,” though they have only recently been mentioned as Duran classics. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

As overshadowed by Rio this album may have been, there are still some real treasures to be found. My personal favorites on Duran Duran are “Careless Memories,” “Friends Of Mine” and the all too short “Sound Of Thunder,” which is reminiscent of another Rio standout, “Hold Back The Rain.” Jabbing guitars and swirling synths abound on “Anyone Out There,” demonstrating what Andy Taylor, John Taylor (they and the third Taylor, drummer Roger, are not related) and Nick Rhodes can do. There’s a sickly, unsteady tone on “To The Shore,” which is undoubtedly deliberate, though it may leave you with a queasy feeling. Never a good thing to make your listeners nauseous, fellas. Is it any wonder they would replace the song with the far superior single “Is There Something I Should Know” on some subsequent pressings?

Can we address the amazing and downright cryptic lyrics for a second? Though credited to the entire band, lead singer Simon Le Bon has always been the chief songwriter. He’s the one who has to sing these crazy lines, after all: “The dry fight and the dusty shout, see you crawling on the floor and diamond stars shine glitter bright, gorging your sanhedralite.” I tried Googling “sanhedralite” but came up with zip, so there you have it: Duran Duran has created their own language to stymie even the most ardent of intellectuals. And dare I say, they likely had a swell time and a good laugh doing it. Oh, those clever Brits. As if Monty Python sketches don’t get lost in translation enough. Don’t even try to decipher Duran Duran lyrics, it will drive you to drink or distraction or both. Still, when it comes to pure creativity, this group has no peer.

The atmospheric synth thing does become a tad redundant after a while, making “Night Boat” and the closer “Tel Aviv” not much more than filler afterthoughts. So while there are some solid moments on Duran’s debut, it’s not enough to compete with albums that would come later, including the one that is closest to my heart, the appropriately titled Big Thing from 1988.

Rating: B+

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© 2014 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.