The Designer’s Drugs: Duran Duran/Dredg

Medium: Album

Stimulus: Duran Duran – All You Need Is Now

Anno: 2011

 

Following up on the band’s drastic flirtation with Timbaland electro-pop on Red Carpet Massacre, Duran Duran seems to have realized that, well, it’s Duran Duran.  The band’s newest album isn’t a note for note rehash of the songs of its heyday, but All You Need Is Now is nothing if not familiar.

The album is a bit top-heavy, with most of the exciting songs (“Blame the Machines,” “Being Followed,” “Safe,” and “Girl Panic!”) being found in the opening half.  Each of these songs is pure steroid dance pop.  In comparison, the second half tends to feel languid.  It’s not that the album runs out of steam, but most of the songs just don’t match the openers’ swagger.  The two exceptions are the classic Duran of “Other People’s Lives” – which wonderfully references a “glory hole confessional” – and the stately quiet of the album’s closer, “Before the Rain.”

Some bands just don’t need to experiment to constantly deliver good songs.  Duran Duran is one of these bands.

 

Medium: Album

Stimulus: Dredg – Chuckles and Mr. Squeezy

Anno: 2011

 

Any Dredg listener who equates the power of a song with decibel level is going to be sorely disappointed with Chuckles and Mr. Squeezy, an album that is far less rock than it is a brooding shade of R&B and world music tinged pop.  The upside of this is that any Dredg listener who equates the power of a song with sincerity and a willingness to take big risks is going to come away from this album greatly rewarded.

The only real point of dissonance offered here is in the occasionally bursts of distorted guitars in “Upon Returning,” and even here the fuzz isn’t equal to the cleanness of the rest of the instrumentation.  The same rule applies to the static beats in “Down without a Fight,” which sounds lo-fi yet is washed clean by very soft-spoken vocals.  A few other tracks are up-tempo, but nothing else could be described as hard or angry.

The album’s best work comes in its beginning and end.  “Another Tribe” is a track mixing R&B beats with wistful rock vocals resulting in a pop song with something to say.  At the other pole waits the gloomy French jazz of “Before It Began,” a fable of a song driven by pure and pointed basslines and filled out with spaced out guitars.

Resulting from all this rejection of formula and expectation is a bold album without a shred of complacency.  Chuckles and Mr. Squeezy may not be an album one can listen to in the same stretch as the rest of the Dredg catalogue, but it is excellent listening on its own.

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