“Duran Duran are awesomely clever.” So said Smash Hits on the release of Skin Trade in February 1987, referencing the leap made from the sound of Notorious. Here we are 34 years later, and they are it again, confounding expectations and developing their sound and legacy with More Joy.
Late last night (Wednesday 4th August), your Cherry Lipstick team gathered again to consider the latest release from Future Past. None of us knew what the other thought of More Joy before we started the conversation.
Your snap-review team: Adam Wilson (CL Tsar); Ruth Galvin (CL Dominatrix); Chris Shortell (CL Revolutionary); and Ben Rawson-Jones (CL Virgin).
Adam: Ben, welcome to Cherry Lipstick! Perhaps you would like to start us off with your views of More Joy?
Ben: Right now my right foot is rather sore because it has been tapping away which says it all. My first reaction was that I didn’t like it much, but after a few listens, the bits that didn’t connect for me are the bits I really love. This track has evolved with every listen – from listening through a lap top to decent quality ear phones, which put it up a level, it’s great that Duran are experimenting in terms of structure, composition. It sounds fresh – I love it now. At first it sounded insubstantial and didn’t connect with me like Invisible did, on an emotional level, but it is a joyous track – it gives me more joy!
Adam: Chris - Thumbs up or down?
Chris: Thumbs up! I like it. The structure is interesting to me. They don’t return to the chorus in the refrain. It makes sense as a late album track. For a band that wants to be the one to party to when the bomb drops, they don’t really have a lot of danceable songs in their catalogue. Finally, there’s a beat!
Adam: Ruth, hit or miss?
Ruth: It’s a hit, but not in its entirety. I love the intro – it’s a kitchen disco anthem! It has that real 1970s disco vibe. It reminds of Roxy Music’s Angel Eyes and I love the way it builds up the chorus. The issue of structure is interesting as there really is no second verse. Similarly, to Give It All Up where there was no standard song progression, this goes from a verse, bridge to chorus, chorus, then a bridge out of the chorus, and after about 2 minutes 10 seconds the song starts to lose a bit of interest. It’s interesting to see them experiment with that structure, but it becomes a little bit repetitive. It’s totally catchy, but you could get sick of it very fast.
Adam: Well, I really like it. I think it will surprise a few people who have been ragging on it for the last three weeks. It must have been one of the most anticipated tracks in Duran’s career given the hysteria around the announcement of Chai. And then there they are chirping low in the mix in the chorus.
Ruth: Now that is my bug bear there. The burning question here is ‘who is doing what?’ There’s been comments about ‘oh, big relief, they are just in the background.’ I don’t think so. The drumming in this track is fantastic. Some of Roger’s recent drumming has been wooden. But here I can’t help but feel that Chai has contributed musically. They have not been brought in to warble and create some background. More Joy is bass led – which a lot of their music is as well. It doesn’t sound like a Chai track – because what does a Chai track sound like as they are all so different? They are musically diverse. They’ve either had a huge influence on Duran who have rediscovered their mojo – or they are playing on the track. I wonder if some people will never give these women credit for anything. This “relief” they can’t be heard, celebration they are “invisible”…. It’s not good. I understand that it’s a jump for people to become fans of Chai, but I think it harks back to the unpleasant undercurrent of racism and sexism we saw in the pre-release predictions. Whether or not they have songwriting credits I am completely assuming they are playing here.
Adam: Interestingly the available song credit does not list them as song writers. It seems to be Taylor-Taylor-Rhodes-LeBon-Coxon-Alkan*.
Chris: They’ve got to be playing on it, though. There’s two synth parts – the opening part which I think is Nick, and another underneath which is more complicated.
*UPDATE 5th August: Nick has stated today that Duran+Coxon+Alkan were jamming and Simon then suggested bringing in Chai.
Ben: More Joy reminds me of Tricked Out at times which the way the rhythm section comes together in quite an anarchic way. My initial reaction was about my expectations, which was down to me not the track itself. There are so many sounds clashing in the second half which I am enjoying more and more.
Ruth: Yes, I’m enjoying the guitars which come out of the second chorus. It sounds dirty and there are elements that maybe I haven’t appreciated or explored. I could hear Graham Coxon in the track. I was hearing later Blur stuff, like Trimm Trabb or I’m Just a Killer For Your Love. Also, I didn’t particularly like Simon’s vocal style on Invisible or Give It All Up. He sounded forced. On More Joy he is mid-range and the instrumentation gets to fill the climax, it’s not the vocal. So he gets to be in a comfort zone the whole way through. But musically it keeps developing to the extended outro.
Adam: Now that I know there’s not going to be another chorus, I’m enjoying the outro more. I’ve been reminded of two other Duran songs with extended outros – Too Much Information and Playing With Uranium. I found that PWU stalled with its outro after a soaring first two minutes. More Joy is shorter than both of those and that may make a difference.
Adam: As this is a sequel to our previous snap-review, I would like to hark back to a phrase from the original by saying that More Joy is a great pair with Give It All Up. (Ruth laughs) After all, what has happened to Give It All Up? Gone!
Chris: It gave up!
Adam: Right! It was shown on TV once and then never mentioned again. So listened to it again today, to that sharp fade out, and then played More Joy straight afterwards – and I for one hope they are back-to-back on Future Past.
Ben: I heard GIAU today as well. There are interesting lyrical similarities. They are references to the bigger picture: “Knowing that the world will keep on turning on and on.” Then on More Joy we “lightening strikes a kiss between this world and yours.” I think that is fantastic writing, and I hear Simon going into that abstract world, like on Face For Today: “the whole world is an ink spot on a plastic spoon.” He conjures up these images without being hackneyed. The musical structure is similar between the tracks, with minimal music before they build.
Adam: I found Invisible and GIAU were a coherent couple, and I find More Joy takes our Future Past unfolding experience to another level. It makes me even more excited for the album.
Ben: From a marketing perspective it has been disappointing no one has been able to buy anything yet – a 7” single of Invisible would have sold. Presumably the strongest track will be ready for release slightly ahead of Future Past – when people can actually click and buy something.
Adam: Is the phrase ‘Moroder banger’ heading its way to our conversation?
Ruth: Was this the banger? (laughs) Well why not? Our fear is we’re heading towards Last Night In The City with the word ‘banger’, but maybe it was this track?
Ben: I wonder if Give It All Up was put out there in a shortened form knowing it’s not going to get amplified globally beyond the fan base – maybe that is being held back for a big release? Thinking back, the idea in the past was push the lead single and album at once. Falling Down was a week or two before RCM, and then that was the end of the album campaign. With this, every track is feeling fresh, gets shared, and then there is a sustained interest. We are here talking about the third song from the album – back with Astronaut and RCM we got all of the tracks at once. With Paper Gods they dropped 4 or 5 songs on You Tube, but this has more of a chance of sustained interest, including from casual fans.
Adam: I thought the intro reminded me of Valentine Stones. Any other thoughts of ‘what does this sound like’?
Chris: Hothead meets Nightboat; Palomino meets Yo Bad Azizi – no, I certainly heard Valentine Stones as well. And I heard some Hallucinating Elvis at the end with the distorted voices.
Ruth: I heard Blur and Roxy Music in it. Lyrically quite Seven and the Ragged Tiger being intentionally mysterious.
Adam: I also heard a New Wave vibe from the drums and synths, halfway through I thought it could kick on to a Depeche Mode track.
Ben: Early Eurythmics, Secret Garden / Sweet Dreams era.
Adam: I’m interested that it has been leaked to be track 11, on a 12-track album. On hearing this, I’d naturally assume it would be track 2 or 3 to get the album moving. Thinking of other penultimate tracks (forgetting various bonus additions), I’m thinking Winter Marches On, Venice Drowning…
Ben: Point of no Return.
Adam: There’s a theme here – Save A Prayer.
Chris: Sun Doesn’t Shine Forever.
Ruth: Maybe this is the album we are not supposed to listen to in order!
Chris: Dirty Great Monster has a huge outro.
Ruth: More Joy is more upbeat. I’d place it at 3 or 4. Definitely not past 6.
Ben: I’d put it at no. 3 – a real energy booster. That said, Tracked Out is track 8.
Chris: I think it sounds fine as track 11 as it so unconventional.
Ben: We can’t know until we hear the rest of the album. We’ve only heard Alkan tracks so far. We can make links between them because of that sound. How will the album play out with a couple of Ronson and Moroder tracks. They are both, apparently, producing a couple each. Maybe they will begin and end the album?*
*UPDATE 5th August: While there has previously been press stating Ronson will produce two tracks, there is a now a query as to whether he has produced any on Future Past.
Chris: I was thinking about the pre-release Paper Gods drops in the weeks leading up to the album. I wondered what those songs told us about the album. I feel that in as lot of cases some of them were nothing like the rest of the album. They dropped Paper Gods, You Kill Me With Silence, Last Night In The City, What Are The Chances and Pressure Off. Were those indicative of the final album? Maybe the title track, but the album was so weird as there were several different albums in one. There were different producers on that album as well.
Ruth: I think we’ve heard three less expected tracks, especially GIAU and More Joy. It’s hard to know if that’s an expected direction of the band, if the whole album is going to be full of surprises. So far there is cohesion between these three tracks – it’s hard to see the rest of the album sitting apart from them. Then again, you hear Pressure Off and Last Night In The City as pre-album drops and you think ‘oh. It’s party time here’.
Ben: What is really refreshing is that of the three songs, none of them has tried to ape the success of Ordinary World. (lots of laughs) They have done some strong songs in that vein like What Happens Tomorrow and Someone Else Not Me, but the marketing has focussed around that ‘new OW’ too many times in terms of lead or follow-up singles. This time they’ve all got a beat and that pumping bass.
Chris: I am dreading the ballad! I loathed What Are The Chances.
Ben: What Are The Chances killed the Paper Gods momentum after Pressure Off had had a good reception. They should have gone with Face For Today. (agreement from Chris).
Ruth: How about the image that has been released by the band for More Joy? Presumably that’s a woman with her hands covering her breasts and genitals. It’s the same artist that did the Invisible cover, Daisuke Yokata. It also apes the Roxy Music album cover Country Life with the two woman covering themselves. I remembered when I looked at Yokata’s website when Invisible came out, and here some beautiful solar landscapes and colours, and then also various seedy, weird shit – multi positioned individuals. I wondered which of these images Duran Duran would go with! So maybe we are still on for option number 2!
Adam: This adds to the mystery of the collaborations with Future Past. Chai are clearly not 60 year old men. Tove Lo has her own suggestive imagery in her videos, then there’s Yokata. Which sort of brings us back to the guitar, or apparent lack of. Thoughts on the use of Coxon?
Ben: It’s been subtle but effective, so far. There’s no compelling big riffs yet.
Adam: And there has been opportunities – some people have played along with the isolated guitar part and it sounds fantastic!
Ben: Give It All Up was like this – I could I hardly notice Coxon at all. Then in the play-along version it sounded beautiful. It’s not like Frusciante on Paper Gods where you can see his guitar part dropped in. Again we are looking for Coxon’s contributions. Maybe it’s a good thing it isn’t so overt. It took me listening to the play-along version, and then re-listening to GIAU, to appreciate it.
Ruth: Graham’s guitar weaves itself into the music far more here.
Chris: I don’t need every song to have a riff. Yes, I miss Warren, but I can’t hear the guitar in Face For Today and that’s a top 5 Duran song for me. There was too much, ‘Oh here’s the guitar’ on Paper Gods.
Adam: So what can we expect next? It’s the 4th August today and so there’s about 10 weeks until Future Past is released on 22nd October.
Ben: They’re due in the UK to play to festivals on 17th and 19th September. Around that time you’d expect publicity to be recorded, and something to tie in to that. Maybe there will another premiere with the BBC to generate more interest?
Ruth: We haven’t heard all of Give It All Up yet. Maybe there’ll be another single around the festival dates.
Adam: There’s time to release another song ahead of the festivals early September, and then another early October ahead of the album.
Ruth: You’d wonder if Anniversary, with its name, is the track to release nearer the album.
Ruth: Are we giving it scores?
Adam: Go on then!
Ruth: It’s better than Invisible. I give it a 7, 7 and a half.
Ben: As I give Invisible 9 and a half, this is 8 and a half.
Adam: I pick 7 and a half, and I’m very happy that I do like it.
Ruth: Every track has given me a lot more hope for the album.
Adam: Out of the three we’ve heard, which your favourite?
Ruth: Give It All Up.
Ben: Invisible. In capital letters.
Adam: I go for Invisible too.
Chris: More Joy, but I love Give It All Up.
Adam: Finally, I notice that we have all been quite happy-clappy families here, agreeing with each other and enjoying the new song. Do you all feel compromised joining this new, safe Cherry Lipstick?
Ruth: I’ve already had my say about Roger and the outro.
Ben: I’m happy to say that the cover art does not fill me with joy. It is bleak.
Chris: I think Cherry Lipstick is as cutting edge as ever. It’s not our fault if the band is putting out good stuff! If you stuck around during the 90s, you should be open to anything. It baffles me that people who jerk off to the 90s stuff – which is just a part of the evolution of Duran Duran – aren’t open. We waded through Silva Halo, Drowning Man, Drive By and all that other shit, so we can enjoy this.
clockwise from top left: Ben, Ruth, Adam, Chris
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