Saturday, January 02, 2010

And she dances on the sand

Back in my teenage days, when I was mostly listening to a mix of classic rock and the hard rock that was popular at the time, and exploring a lot of other stuff, but I had a guilty pleasure listening to Duran Duran, at the peak of their popularity. I even saw them in concert once. Even then, though, if you'd asked, I would have said they were just a flash in the pan, some pretty-boy musicians doing something fun and light, style over substance. I would have guessed that, if I still listened to them ten or twenty years later, it would be out of nostalgia only, and probably the embarassing kind.

And I do still listen to them (though I must admit most of what they did after that time I don't like as much... though maybe that's just because I didn't give it enough of a chance). But it occurred to me today that when I listen closely, it really holds up remarkably well. Musically, it might be a little dated to its period (though is that really so bad? You can tell Mozart's music by its period too!), but it's well-constructed, and more musically sophisticated than I realized at the time. Don't get me wrong, Rush is in no danger, but I was surprised at how rich and tight and in some cases even sophisticated it is. The harmonies in "New Religion", for instance, are really complex. They often use layered rhythms, even syncopated ones, and there's a lot of stuff going on in any of their songs. The lyrics are not exactly gems of poetry but they're not awful either; worse things have been vaunted before.

It's just, in a way, Duran Duran's misfortune that they were very pretty and very bubbly at a time when the new medium of MTV started to favor flash-in-the-pan bands that happened to be very pretty and very bubbly, regardless of any actual musicianship. So it was easy to assume they were one of those, and I did then, and still did decades later. Plenty of their contemporaries were all-style-no-substance. Why not assume the same about them?

I guess they probably are irked to be dismissed that way. But then again, I bet their contemporaries are, even the ones with no meaningful amount of musical talent.

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