Friday 27th October 2023, London, UK
00:00 Danse Macabre released
02:22 Review written
08:21 Review published by Cherry Lipstick
It’s just gone midnight. I’ve lurched back into my humble dwellings after a cider-fuelled seven hour date. There’s a new Duran Duran album ready to play as soon as I can coordinate my fingers to press the right buttons.
I hesitate. All these many months of mounting excitement, intense speculation and an underlying dread have come down to this. Once it’s played, it’s over. It’s not new anymore. Do I prolong the hope that this album may deliver the ghoulish aural treats I want to hear? Compared to the first listens of recent DD albums, is there an underwhelming feeling that there’s now only one new original DD composition to hear, having incessantly overplayed the title track and Black Moonlight over previous weeks? Conversely, does that lead to a lesser burden of expectation than usual?
It’s time to go over the trenches and find out. In order to be consistent with the much-publicised very brief recording sessions for the album, this instant review will be very brief in nature also and not subject to any finessing and over production. No doubt future listenings will evolve (or devolve) my relationship with the material and I’ll look back at some of what I’ve written in horror. But hey ho, here’s a stream of consciousness snapshot of what is coming into my brain during my first listening…
I adored the reworked version of this that opened the recent UK tour - with all its added lush and creepy orchestrations, along with stunning visuals. The studio version captures the mood very well. Someone turn the bloody guitar up though - it feels too low in the mix. We want the returning Andy Taylor to let rip a bit more! That’s made me realise there is indeed a significant burden of expectation due to the personnel involved.
Great fun. What more needs to be said? It’s a funky Halloween banger that waves goodbye before you’ve barely had time to say hello. What’s that saying about always leaving the audience wanting more?
Ooh, this is interesting. Faithful to the wonderful original in many ways, yet significantly different vocal inflections from Le Bon and a funkier bassline make this song stand out in its own right rather than be a lazy retread. Very impressive, although I’d love Warren’s guitars to dominate proceedings. Tempted to go back and replay it but that’s not allowed in this context.
Bury A Friend
Crikey! This is new sonic territory for Duran Duran. It really reminds me of Sparks at times with its theatrical elements. The electro production works fantastically well and the bold move to cover and significantly alter this Billie Eilish song has paid off well. Super cool and fresh.
Pleasant enough BUT TURN UP THE BLOODY GUITAR. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THEM? GREAT GUITARISTS ARE BEING NEUTERED YET AGAIN. On a less shouty note, what I’m really noticing about this album so far is that the bass is king - and to be fair, the bass does deliver. Top work JT.
Anything that educates me as to the meaning of ‘Auto Da Fé’ and the ‘Hawsker Mad Bull’ gets my vote. I’ll win a pub quiz with that supernatural knowledge one day. A very interesting track that I still listen to regularly and will continue to do so for many years, if you don’t mind if you don’t mind. Bravo to the band for still being willing to explore quite unconventional paths with their new material and not playing it safe. The wonderful production here helps to ensure it pays off.
Secret Oktober 31st
Wait, is this the start of Falling Down? For a brief moment, it sounds like it. But alas no, it’s a beefed up reworking of the Union Of The Snake B-Side that makes a nice companion piece to the sparse original. I’m firmly in the camp that would have loved a studio version of the Warren-dominated live reworking from the late 90s, which was sublime. This version is cute, perhaps leaning a bit much into John Lewis Christmas ad territory though. It makes good use of Anna and Rachael’s vocals. Le Bon’s vocals also have a nice personal feel to them too.
Paint It Black
God, I love Le Bon’s vocal take on this - and I can finally hear Andy’s guitar without having to strain my ears! I’m not particularly attached to the original, so I don’t find it sacrilegious to cover such a renowned classic. Enjoyable.
Super Lonely Freak
The weird vocal opening reminds me of that squeaky beginning to Nice - but thankfully gives way to a smile-inducing old friend returning to the fray. Lonely In Your Nightmare doesn’t try to do too much new, but again is helped by the female backing voca-OH MY GOD WHAT’S THIS? MC HAMMER? Ah, it’s Super Freak not U Can’t Touch This. They’ve merged the songs in a more seamless way than the live version on the UK tour. It just about works, although the tonal shift from song to song doesn’t lead to an overall fulfilled experience. To go into footballing cliché territory, it’s a game of two halves. Both of them decent enough.
Bloody love it. This has the raw energy that we want from new Duran Duran material. I really hope they play this live again. The drumming and bass work well, but sadly seem to drown the guitar in the mix too often though.
Never really understood the love for the original, so it’s taken a few listens since the song was released ahead of the album to process it properly. Again, another bass dominant track that really thrives from it. The vocal parts are a bit hit and miss for me. It builds well throughout and finishes a lot stronger than it starts. Dare I say - better than the original?
Confession In The Afterlife
Wait, has my iPhone skipped to So Red The Rose by Arcadia? Hang on, it’s Frozen by Madonna! Whatever, this is quite epic. Yet also beautifully fragile. I just want to give this song a big hug.
Time will tell how this album holds up. I’m just glad it exists and look forward to exploring it more. The three new songs written for this by Duran Duran are the standouts, which bode well for whatever happens next for them creatively - and I hope that means more collaborations with Andy and Warren. They should only agree to work with the band again if their guitar work is more prominent in the mix though. Can you tell that was annoying me a bit throughout this first listening?
I also think the new compositions fit the whole fun Halloween concept album brief a bit better than some of the cover versions, conjuring up the right atmospherics. As would the late 90s Secret Oktober live version they missed a trick by not including in a studio version here.
Right, time to sleep and have nightmares about ghosts jiving in AC Cobras....