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Double Vinyl, Remastered
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Duran Duran's eponymous debut artfully coalesced the sonic and stylistic elements of the burgeoning new romantic movement they were soon to spearhead: pumping synths, glossy production, and seemingly impossible haircuts. Ultra-smart singles like "Girls on Film" and "Planet Earth" became instant smash hits both in the U.K. and America, and other fine pop gems such as "Anyone Out There" and "Careless Memories" rounded out the album's stellar first side.
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Well, sometimes the critics are wrong - and sometimes that's a good thing. Because now, some 35 years after this LP was first released, it still sounds as good as it did when I first gave it a listen back in 1983. And if that isn't staying power, then what is?
I remember that 'tidal wave' of success this band rode in the 1980's; I remember because I was there, I witnessed it and experienced it along with them. I was one of those 'Durannies' - those (supposedly) silly-minded, empty-headed adolescent girls coming of age in a world dominated by three letters: MTV. I remember the videos, the interviews, the glossy magazine articles; I remember the concert footage, the staying up 'late' (10pm!) for the world premier videos, the sneaking out of the house so I could join my girlfriends for a smoke while we talked about them. I remember bits and pieces of all this, but truthfully I can't remember the specifics; I just remember it all in a general way. But I do remember the music, and how it made me feel as I was going through 'silliness' (aka puberty). Some of the magic, the excitement of this album in particular (along with their 2nd album, Rio) may have been induced by the age we were at the time - but it's more like the music blended into the fabric of who we were and who we were becoming. I will never forget those times, and what music like this meant to me; in many ways adolescence was an awkward, difficult time, but we had records like this to help us get through those difficulties. And no matter how much time goes by, you can never put a price on that.
As time continues moving forward, bringing rapid changes to our world, sometimes now I look back wistfully and the past seems almost dreamlike. The 1980's - everything was so different back then, almost like it never happened at all. Some days are easier than others, but some days now I can almost feel Father Time pulling at me, one day closer to my next birthday (and the cake just isn't as exciting to me now as it was when I first heard this album!), drawing me into a void. Some days I can feel the laws of gravity weighing me down; some days I seem to wake up to a new wrinkle, another strand of grayish hair, a cramp in the hand or the foot, a need to reach for the reading glasses. It's during times like these that I turn to 'my magic elixir' - the younger, 'sillier' girl that I once was whose emotions were affected by musical mentors like Duran Duran. Sometimes I can use a little of her youthful magic... and it doesn't take a lot of time or money, all I have to do is pop in a CD like this one and relive those happy memories. It's music like this, bands like this that not only took the music world by storm as 'pretty boys' (which they still are, sort of, and I mean that in a good way), but also left a sizable imprint on a whole generation of fans. Of which I was one, am still, and forever will be... proudly.
All these songs are tightly constructed but flatly recorded. "Girls on Film" has a cryptic, indifferent vibe, but it's catchy as all get-out. In fact, the first several songs on this CD are catchy, but might have benefitted from a bit more of a rock-oriented spunk. Not until the great fifth song, "Is There Something I Should Know" (a 1983 song tacked on to this 1981 release when it came out in America), do things get a little more vibrant. "Is There..." is a tremendous song, vintage Duran Duran: desperate lyrics, a hooky synth and a big, arena-ready chorus. To its credit, much of this album features a mystical synth sound, a direction the band would take on the classic "Rio" album just one year later.
Musically, the guys in Duran Duran seemed wise and mature beyond their years when they put this out, perhaps even prematurely bored with what they were doing. Though "Night Boat" and "Tel Aviv" are more than a bit drab, the band wrote premier dance tunes -- mixed with sing-along pop -- in "Sound of Thunder" and "Friends of Mine," both of which indicated a special harbinger of things to come.
It's probably worth the money to get the remastered version of this disc, as this version comes off as flat.