Has it really been a year? Your Cherry Lipstick team gathered to discuss the first birthday of Future Past. What perspective we could bring to it following the excitement of 2021? Baranduin Briggs, Ruth Galvin, Chris Shortell and Ben Rawson-Jones gathered at CLHQ with CL’s editor, Adam Wilson, last week to chat about Duran’s most recent album.
Adam: So here we are one year on! As we all said and shared so much last year about the album, it seemed more interesting to consider what had changed for us about Future Past. It seems polite to come to CL’s newest member of these round-table discussions first – Baranduin! What stands out for you as different about Future Past?
Baranduin: After hearing Invisible and all the things Nick was doing, I’d heard people say that the album wasn’t going to be as accessible. The anxiety that I had of ‘am I going to like this? Is it going to be something I can listen to?’ has been replaced with an ability to listen to as an album and on its own without trying to compare it to previous albums. I didn’t want to be embarrassed about saying ‘well, there’s this new Duran Duran album…’ but I can say what I’m listening to friends and recommend it and think they’ll enjoy it.
Adam: Is this about the baggage of being Duran fans so that any new album comes loaded with excessive expectations?
Baranduin: Oh yeah. Hearing Tonight United live [at Birmingham in September 2021] before the album affected my feelings about that song. How I heard the album affects how I feel about it. There was the Covid factor as well – I think there was a lot of anxiety for me. I DO really like it. I love every song on it, and it feels good to just enjoy it!
Ruth: We do come to a lot of Duran’s offerings with expectations and wanting to be proud of them. There have been those moments when it’s been cringy. And when you spend your time defending them you don’t want to be back in that place again. And Future Past has moments to be proud of!
Chris: I like the album. But one year on I only seek out about half of it. The songs I like I really like. I do like all the songs – but, Hammerhead is not going on a playlist. That matters because for the last two albums I listened to the whole thing, even the cringe songs. I moved on from half of Future Past a while ago. I always liked Invisible, and I love it more now – and it’s out for what seems like 20 years – because all the elements are there. Nothing is overbearing. The guitars are there, a little bit buried in production, but not significantly. The bass is great. John didn’t need to do a bass solo to have a strong bass. Roger’s drumming. I love the lyrics. Nick is targeted in Invisible. It’s what I wanted the whole album to be. Frankly, I think half the album is. It all works for me. It reminds me of the first album.
Adam: I would add a shout out to the video for Invisible, which I think enhances it even more.
Chris: Yes, it’s sufficiently creepy, and I get a kick out of seeing John try to sing!
Ben: I’ll try to be the marrow to Chris’s bone! I’ve thought about this a lot with some recent re-listens. It’s a matter of acceptance. It’s about Duran Duran being, for me, two different bands. I like both of those two bands, but often not at the same time. There’s the disposable pop of Tonight United and Sunrise, Anniversary, and Give It All Up to an extent. And there’s the brooding, introspective, personal work by the band who does Wing, Nothing Less and Falling. Yesterday I’d rather have had a dog vomit on me than hear the title track and Tonight United, but then the guitar of Wing came in and it was beautiful. Today I bloody loved the title track, and Tonight United took me back that Commonwealth Games performance. At various stages over the last year I’ve liked every single track, but never at the same time. And Invisible is the place where those two different bands converge and create something very special. That is what I want Duran Duran to sound like, what I want my friends to hear. It’s a song I’m extremely proud of. It’s hard at times to get past that song when I play the album because I want to hear it again! It’s perfect for me.
Adam: And it’s 3 and half minutes long!
Chris: The Adam Wilson standard!
Adam: I have recognised that the contrast in the track list of pairing Tonight United with Wing, is only surpassed by the pairing of My Antarctica and First Impression on Liberty – the high and then the crashing low.
Chris: There’s also Too Late Marlene to Drug!
Baranduin: I found that the link from Hammerhead to More Joy made me not like More Joy. The transition for me did not work – but once I heard Invocation separating them, I liked it a lot better. I was so surprised, especially as I liked More Joy, but coming out of Hammerhead I couldn’t listen to it.
Ruth: Falling remains my favourite. When I look at Wing now I adore the lyrics and the composition is just beautiful. I find the vocals in the chorus shows the effort Simon is making. It feels quite forced. This is a theme that tends to dominate a lot of our conversations. That’s why I wouldn’t want to hear it live. I’ve warmed to Anniversary and understand why they play it live. I’ve come to accept that the tracks I like wouldn’t be appropriate live. Just to say that Simon’s vocal on Falling is just superb. It was very redemptive for me to hear. It’s been a very immersive experience listening to it. Nothing Less remains a favourite, with beautiful guitar work! I probably ruined that for myself on a personal level because I had a very difficult November last year with a family bereavement and played it on a loop, so it’s hard to disentangle that now from that experience.
Chris: I can relate to that. I played What Are The Chances on the day my mother died.
Ben: I was listening to Laughing Boy when I heard about my father’s death, so that has weird associations.
Ruth: I remember thinking when I was listening to Nothing Less, ‘I should be listening to Future Past’. But I remember thinking in my head, “I’m not memorialising my sister with this cheese! I can’t do it!”
Ben: Yes, the next time there’s a bereavement, I’m going straight to Tonight United to kill that song! It’s so I can fit in and conform as I seem to be the only one who likes it!
Ruth: Maybe you should go for Can You Deal With It? or something really inappropriate!
Chris: Yo Bad Azizi!
Ben: Or when something really good happens, put on Bedroom Toys! It would be synonymous with the fall of the Conservative government!
Baranduin: Hey, I’m well on record for liking Bedroom Toys! And yet I find Tonight United and Bedroom Toys to be very similar in the way they make me feel – they make me happy. When I play them I bounce around
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Adam: How are you all listening to Future Past? Has the 15-track deluxe version affected things for you?
Ben: I was considering track transitions today. On the deluxe version, the four-track run of Anniversary-Future Past-Velvet Newton-Beautiful Lies messes things up for me. There’s a case to be made for Velvet Newton being the lead track, but it would bore people. Not much happens in it. It doesn’t belong on the album.
Ruth: I’d long heard the 12-track version before hearing the deluxe version so those added 3 tracks made no impact on me.
Adam: I’ve only got the deluxe edition and so the added 3 tracks make perfect sense to me. I’d feel their loss if I heard the standard version. I find Side 2 of the 10-track LP is unlistenable, as there are these very limited Moroder tracks and then a mad dash to the end of the album.
Ben: I have time for the Moroder tracks, especially when I’m in the right mood.
Baranduin: Velvet Newton seems unfinished to me. It goes ‘This is how it starts’ in the middle of the album, which doesn’t make sense to me. Even at the concert I don’t like it. I love Invisible as the opening song.
Ruth: I actually really like Velvet Newton (Adam: Of course you do). It’s like a more developed version of As Seen From A Distance*. It’s got that really early electronic vibe going.
*the bonus bonus track of the deluxe deluxe vinyl edition of Paper Gods.
Ben: Velvet Newton sounds to me like a failed Dr Who theme tune.
Ruth: It builds anticipation, at the beginning of the gig it’s about getting ready for lift off.
Baranduin: It feels like it never goes anywhere. I remember standing there waiting for the band, and the music starts, and the smoke goes off, and you’re waiting, and you’re waiting …
Adam: You should have been there when they started with God (This Is How A Road Gets Made)! Velvet Newton is a banger compared to that.
Chris: There was the 45 minute art film that John did for the All You Need Is Now tour. Pure crowd killer.
Baranduin: Paper Gods started with that slow beginning, but then it went somewhere. But Velvet Newton just went on too long before we got going.
Ruth: Simon can stand there for a bit too long looking for adulation.
Ben: I’ve mentioned before in a Cherry Lipstick gig review, that they came on stage and the momentum had completely died in the crowd by the time they come into Invisible. But they seem to be coming onto stage during Velvet Newton much later now.
Baranduin: They started with Wild Boys at the shows I went to. It was fine, because they are playing to crowd that doesn’t go, like us, to four shows in one tour. And the band shouldn’t play to that section of the audience, even though that is most of the people reading this article! I was sat with Erin in a bar in the Bay area and heard two guys saying excitedly, “Oh yeah, we saw Duran Duran last night! And I loved everything they played but not so much the new music.” And I said, “Have you heard the new album?” and of course they said, “Well, no.” But he was very happy they started with Wild Boys and thought it was so awesome they played A View To A Kill.
Adam: I’m happy to defer to our Duranie historian, Chris, but off the top of my head, I think that they usually start with a new one.
Chris: As a weird trivia stat, I think Silva Halo on the Up Close tour in 2001 was the last time they started with a non-new song. Which, by the way, was amazing live. I think on the 2003 reunion shows they started with Friends of Mine, but by the Astronaut tour it was Sunrise.
Ben: Sunrise actually opened in 2004 before Astronaut was released. Quite a bold move in retrospect, to hit the crowd on a reunion tour and no new album, but it was absolutely banging and interactive. But that’s the two Durans again – and Invisible is the other Duran.
Baranduin: They did do New Religion recently at some US shows as the Paper Gods tour was winding down.
Ben: I can honestly say that on the various shows I saw at the end of last year and then this, the Velvet Newton-Invisible combination was killing the atmosphere. I recommended in my CL Ibiza review to front load some well-known tracks, just to get the audience in the mood.
Adam: It’s a bit strange to need to point this out to a band that’s been doing this for 40 years.
Ruth: As someone who is less of a fan of Invisible, I needed to be warmed up to it before hearing it.
Baranduin: Tonight United is so great live, and it sounded great at the Commonwealth Games. I love seeing Dom at the back and it’s just FUN.
Ruth: There is a great chorus in that track. It’s very well fleshed out.
Baranduin: And they didn’t play it in Las Vegas and I was disappointed. So I was happy when they did play it the next day in San Fransisco.
Ruth: Is a post-Covid thing? Did Covid change the way the type of music that you seek out
Baranduin: The first time I saw Tonight United was in Birmingham, and that was not a good fan experience. The music helped me hold to a decent memory on the way home.
Chris: Just to confirm: Baranduin says that she likes Tonight United, and Ruth replies, ‘The chorus is OK but do you think it was a once a century pandemic that made you like it?’!!! That’s what just happened here!
Ruth: OK! But I would say that my appetite for introspective songs has lessened. I really wanted dance music all the way through the pandemic, I don’t think there’s a huge appetite out there for sitting in appreciation.
Ben: I do think Anniversary has dropped out of the set list as it is very hard to sing. I noticed at Hyde Park that the backing singers were doing a lot more of the heavy lifting to support Simon. I think that’s smart. But I don’t know why they did three nights in a row at the Hollywood Bowl, though. It looked like they were cutting songs by the end and it was supposed to be a Future Past weekender. They ended up playing fewer Future Past songs than at the previous gigs. They sound-checked Falling with Mike Garson, which they ended up not playing. I have to wonder if it just was putting too much strain on Simon.
Ben: I would love to hear Wing and Nothing Less, but who wants to be in a crowd that has just been killed?
Chris: I want to hear Land – but, good Lord, can you imagine?
Adam: Chris, you haven’t been to any of the shows, have you?
Chris: No, I sold my MSG ticket. I’d been on vacation, I was tired and it was just me. I really wanted to go with my family and take my kids to their first show. I also didn’t love the set list I was reading.
Adam: I liked the set list. We’ve discussed the constraints the band are under in terms of setlists. I’ve been happy with the 4 or 5 songs from Future Past, the expected 10 big hits, and then 3 or 4 extra ones to mix things up – this time Union of the Snake, Friends of Mine and Hold Back The Rain. I could not complain.
Chris: I would have been going to MSG for Hold Back The Rain, Invisible and All Of You. All Of You is my favourite on the album, and has been since I first heard it, and it got dropped. From my shows in the 90s, I’ve heard most of the first album live. And there’s not a lot of songs on Future Past that I would want to hear live.
Ruth: I didn’t really like All Of You, but it took on new life after Erol Alkan’s remix. That’s been a missed opportunity there, to do that with other tracks, because you listen to different aspects of a song to appreciate it in different ways.
Adam: That is a very interesting point. You will remember how, in 2021, Future Past was trailed for months by the release of four songs pre-release, plus three videos. Apart from the All Of You remix, have they released anything in 2022?
Ben: This topic of marketing really winds me up. I work in that industry, and Duran just think short-term monetisation. They look at something and think, ‘how can I make money from this now?’ Yet look at Come Undone’s numbers on You Tube.
Ruth: That is a gorgeous video.
Ben: It is, and people are finding it. But there’s no video for Give It All Up. They released Pressure Off late. I think they think that they can’t make money off a video on the short term, so it’s not worth the money. This misses out the medium to long term gain of people discovering it later. That is how a lot of music is found. Give It All Up came out late 2021 with a radio edit that was different from the album track, and it’s still not available anywhere. Erol Alkan is playing a remixed version of Give It All Up.
Ruth: Give It All Up is one of the most successful tracks on the album. That is a song that is modern in its own right, with elements and threads of old Duran pulled forwards into it. The Moroder tracks are fundamentally an 80's sound trying to play at today's. It has that grandaddy feel to it. It just sounds dated, whereas Give It All Up sounds fresh. When you hear modern day bands who say they have been influenced by Duran Duran, they don’t sound exactly like Duran Duran from the 1980s, they sound like a contemporary band but you can hear the element puled forward. That’s how I want Duran Duran to sound. I don’t want them to sound like a parody of themselves. And that’s why Give It All Up for me is really superb.
Adam: I’ve been amazed that the only sign of Future Past during the live shows is the small album cover on one of Roger’s drums. Simon never introduces the songs. I know saying ‘This is a new one’ is a bit of a killer – but he could big up the 40th anniversary.
Ben: If they spend two minutes re-appropriating Ordinary World to any circumstance at all, it would be nice to see them spend a bit of time connecting people to the new songs. It feels functional, like they are saying, ‘yeah we have to do 3 or 4 new songs.’
Ruth: It’s like they are trying to get the medicine to go down. When we were making our set list, we kept trying to buffer the new songs with the songs that people actually like!
Ben: Simon could talk about having gone into the studio with Graham Coxon and Erol Alkan, and say, here is something we came up with.
Ruth: I have a question for everyone. The collaborations on Paper Gods sounded phoned in. It’s unclear how much of an impact they had on the final version. Future Past had a lot more active participation. How much has that influenced you opinion or appreciation of it? Does it still feel like ‘Duran Duran’ with all of these collaborators on it?
Baranduin: Oh, it definitely feels like Duran Duran! Anniversary pulls on past Duran Duran. I love that they work together so well.
Ruth: Do you think that you can give them the credit for the sound?
Adam: Duran Duran have always have contributors, going back to at least Notorious. Since Astronaut, most of the songs have been co-written with non-members, so I don’t think this is anything new.
Baranduin: Future Past has various contributors that are different – like Tove Lo and Ivorian Doll – but the album works as a whole.
Adam: It depends how much you want Duran Duran or any act to be a self-contained unit that does it all themselves.
Ruth: I think it’s good that it allows them to grow and create and be fresh and different. Future Past is their brand, but there needs to be acknowledgement that outside influences have supported them. Duran Duran now is the four members plus a whole pile of visitors coming in and out.
Adam: That honestly does not matter to me.
Ben: For me it’s acceptance. The last time they tried to do something on their own it was Reportage , and look how that turned out.
Chris: My friend heard it!*
Ben: It seems a shame not to have used the collaborators more to use their names in the media to cash in on their fame and cultural kudos. Tove Lo could have been used more to promote Give It All Up more effectively.
Chris: The Graham Coxon collaboration was great, so was Garson. But More Joy and Hammerhead seemed to be more targeted to get those acts to pick up those songs. To me Invocation is like Silent Icy River which was played live before Astronaut as part of What Happens Tomorrow. It then got dumped as a shitty b-side. But we’d already heard it and knew where it came from. I think Invocation is the end of Hammerhead the way it was written before Ivorian Doll was there. Artistically this means they were not true to themselves, they wanted to latch on to someone who is popular. And More Joy has grown on me, but you did not need Chai.
Ruth: I agree, it felt very chauvinistic to take four talented musicians and drop them in as backing singers.
Baranduin: Hammerhead is one of my favourite songs – I like all the weird ones, what can I say! And I do have some inside information that states that the song did not change much from the initial track.
Ben: For the deluxe version, I wish there had been no pause between Hammerhead and Invocation.
Baranduin: On the new double LP they are on two different sides! You have to turn the vinyl over to go into Invocation.
Ben: I really want to support Future Past, but I also feel that the marketing is now about getting as much money as possible out of a small group of fans, with as little as possible in return. This continues the short-term planning, as now people are seeing they may end up with 5, 6, 7 versions of the album*, purchased over an 18-month period.
*Runing total of FP releases to date: 6 (or 7?) different colour 10-track LPs**, 12-track CD**, 15-track deluxe CD**, 12-track download, 15-track deluxe download, 16-track deluxe LP
**plus signed versions with ‘art prints’ (by one of the band, so you need to buy four to collect the set)***
***plus exclusive ‘test pressing’ LP cover (signed by the whole band)
Adam: Moving to the end of the conversation and Any Other Business, I wondered if you could now rank where Future Past sits in your Duran-album lists. Does it make your top 5?
Baranduin: I don’t like to rank albums as it depends on my mood. I do know that Future Past is one of the few albums that I listen to the whole way through. I am more of shuffle listener, but this one I listen to start to finish, which I’m not doing with any other Duran album right now, so that’s says something about how I rate it. It feels like a really mature album, Rio is fun, but it’s younger. It also doesn’t feel like a swan song. It feels like they still have something to say about life and relationship, and I like that about it.
Chris: I’ve been struggling to rank Future Past. It’s not better than the last two, for me [All You Need Is Now and Paper Gods]. It might be better than RCM and Astronaut. There’s no way it’s top 5, more bottom half. But to be clear I’m happy with it, I like it. I love the 7 songs I like. But I don’t play half the album – I only skip two from Paper Gods.
Ruth: As ever with Duran Duran, it’s all very glossy and stylised, even the existential angst. As a whole, I really like the songs. It’s in my top 5 or 6 Duran albums – it’s quite inconsistent. I do think Hammerhead is quite a problematic track for women – still! And I cannot make it through the title track or the Moroder tracks, particularly Beautiful Lies. But I’ve been very impressed with what Erol Alkan has done to bring their sound forwards and fresh.
Baranduin: To me, the glamour is part of who Duran Duran is* and what they do.
Ruth: Oh, yes, but at times I’m looking for substance, and it falls short when I want something with a bit more meat on its bones.
Baranduin: I totally understand that, but I see those things there when they talk about love and loss even though the people in this band don’t live the lives we do.
Ben: They tried to go universal with Tonight United with these universal sentiment attempts, but then this comes across as impersonal and contrived. They nailed it with Ordinary World.
Adam: Ben, where do you rank Future Past?
Ben: After a weekend of constant ranking, I am in no doubt it is in my top 5 Duran Duran albums of all time. I couldn’t have wanted or expected anything better from a Duran Duran album. It’s only a year, but I love listening to it.
Baranduin: And what about you, Adam?
Adam: For me, it’s their best since Big Thing. It has surpassed expectations. It is certainly in my top 5 Duran albums.
Ruth: It’s a very joyful album.
Adam: To finish: a pop quiz for you all. According to the credits on Future Past, which is the only song of the 15 that is just by Taylor-Talyor-Rhodes-LeBon?
Ben: Future Past?
Ruth: Velvet Newton, I reckon.
Baranduin: I was going to go with Velvet Newton too.
Chris: I’m going to say Falling. No, More Joy.
Adam: It is Falling! It just says, ‘piano by Mike Garson’ but the credits say it is by the four of them.
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