Forgotten Horrors #6: Say The Word
Some mistakes cost you dearly. An example in point being my drunkenly mislaid phone after a boozy Cherry Lipstick AGM. As Mr. Lipstick rifled through the lost property in Stansted airport (think musty layers of month-old sports kits), yours truly promised in return to write a Forgotten Horror. Trying to pin logic on gut feeling is no easy task and several tortuous listens to Arcadia’s Say the Word later, I’m thinking I wasn’t that attached to my iPhone anyway. So now I’m pissed, and you my dear reader are getting the full force of my vengeance in reviewing this nails-on-chalkboard aberration. The opening beats briefly nod to the world music origins of its parent album, So Red The Rose, before the drum machine barges in, highlighting the absence of Roger Taylor from the writing team. In fact its stripped down talent pool is immediately evident. A single chord characterizes much of the guitar line whilst the bass (this can’t be Mark Egan?) is so muted as to be absent. Nick tries to compensate with chaotic stabs at every sound-effect button at his fingertips (note the bizzare inclusion of sleigh bells in the bridge), and whilst he could successfully pull this off in a supporting role to Carlos Alomar and Masami Tsuchiya on the main album, here it sounds juvenile and over indulgent. Perhaps the most tedious example is the middle 8 (another 40 seconds per listen of my life I won’t get back). In a cliché-laden elocution lesson, Simon enunciates each syllable a rhyming scheme straight out of the Gruffalo. This detached vocal style is only successful when there is contrast, and the listener expectantly waits for that luxuriant resonance in the bridge that never comes. This disappointment is compounded by the fact that Simon was vocally at his career-best on the parent album. To add insult to injury, the lyrical content of its progeny is up there with their worst - a faceless call to action without a cause to fight for. "Money thrives as corruption's president Waste the life of the young and innocent" Christ almighty, is this the same band? I’ve previously likened what is one of my most admired albums, So Red The Rose, as an exploration of contrasts which illustrate life as a purgatorial existence. Say The Word, however, is simply hell, with no chance of redemption. There is no quest for beauty or spiritual transformation in the sexless shallows of this song. Lyrically, if I’m feeling generous / delusional, it captures the absolutist nature of youth, the enthusiasm of revolutionaries before jaded life experience takes hold. Or perhaps it explores the subtle nuances of sexual power and existential pain carefully packaged in a game of buzzword bingo. Yes, folks, this pointless blight on the landscape of musical history has absolutely sweet FA to say. The video stays true to the stab-in-the-dark attitude towards the song’s conception. I can entirely dig the videos on SRTR which are humorously playful. But whoever cut the video for Say The Word should be shot, if not made listen to the extended remix of this song (with extra wankery and sleigh bells) for 24 hours straight. Cut to lazy footage of Simon forearm bumping to Nick’s stabbing synths. Meanwhile the soundscaper himself becomes clearly upset by his pitiful end creation, spending much of his time staring mournfully at his once talented hands and hoping the fairy dust will do the trick. The moody shots of our carefully coiffed duo as kings of the underworld are haphazardly juxtaposed with those from the Harvey Weinstein film Playing For Keeps, as denim-clad teens roll off roofs, play pool, and get into numerous chases involving a clapped out transit van. So why the fan love for this song? Well, So Red The Rose is an album I have previously described as the yardstick by which the musicianship of Duran (WITH, and only with...the right session musicians) is measured. To this end, Say The Word has sacred cow status as one of its offspring. However, the finished product tastes like teenage jungle juice, drunk out of necessity and desperation when the real thing can’t be legitimately served. Our malevolent looking duo have siphoned off high calibre snippets of musical spirit from So Red The Rose, hastily mixed and smothered them in the musical equivalent of cheap orange juice acidic enough to clean public toilets. Those familiar elements, such as the punctuated synth line of Goodbye Is Forever, the wintery subterranean feel, Simon’s tendency to sing each verse like he’s engaging in some dominatrix-fueled fantasy, will undoubtedly keep a few flames alight within the fan base.
Say the Word exposes the Arcadia project for what it is. Simon and Nick are conductors without an orchestra, devoid of inspiration or motivation to even effectively peddle this horsewank of a song. "But if it blows we'll be the ones they victimize" Quite boys. Say The Word sucks.