Rio – Duran Duran

Rio

Duran Duran

EMI

1982

Ah, Duran Duran.  The band scientifically proven to induce hysteria and popularity during the 1980’s.  The band behind such infectious ear-worm songs as “Is There Something I Should Know?,” “Rio,” and “Electric Barbarella.”  (Sidenote: This last single was named after the 1968 movie Barbarella – a psychedelic mishmash of nothing that I can remember.  Seriously, all I recall is a scantily clad woman walking around glowing lights.  Somehow, I doubt that there’s more to that movie than the half-naked woman.)  (Side-sidenote:  Apparently, the sex kitten was Jane Fonda.  Even more relevant: hey, apparently they took the name of the band from this movie.  Thanks, Wikipedia!) 

Yes, I am reviewing Duran Duran.  Specifically, the album Rio.  But does anyone actually listen to their albums?  This was a band that seemed to focus more on singles and MTV music videos than actual records.  But believe it or not, I do actually like Duran Duran – and this album. 

Most likely, it’s because I have a soft spot for the band.  The cassette of their Greatest was one of the many that I was subjected to as a child (others range from the great to the horrid.  On the great side: The Beatles (of course), Fleetwood Mac, and Van Halen.  On the horrid: Neil Diamond, Tom Jones, and Van Hagar.  This unfortunately means that a good portion of my memory is devoted to the lyrics of “It’s Not Unusual.”).  So, yes, Duran Duran triggers a certain kind of nostalgia in me.  Not the kind of nostalgia that I’m very fond of admitting to, but a nostalgia nonetheless.

Why is it that Duran Duran (at the time of this album, was composed of: Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Andy Taylor, and Roger Taylor) is a so-called “guilty pleasure?”  In fact, I could probably go so far as to say, they are the epitome of being a guilty pleasure.  Remember, a guilty pleasure is a band that you know you shouldn’t like, but you can’t help it.

Well, let’s explore the first part of the phrase.  As I’ve previously mentioned, this band is a scientific breakthrough for the music scene.  They were at one time called “the prettiest boys in rock” – which is a phrase that I had to type slowly so I wouldn’t throw up in my mouth.  Working with fashion designers (another phrase that I cringe while typing), the band built an appearance to make an impact.  This was a brilliant marketing scheme at the time.  With the advent on MTV in 1981, Duran Duran took advantage of this television channel devoted solely to music (oh, how the times have changed).  Using their music videos, the band was able to sell their image pretty prosperously. 

And this wasn’t just to the girls – although, let’s be honest, that is the majority of their fan base.  But no, even guys started listening to the band (for one’s actual confession, I urge you to seek out John Sellers’ hysterical book Perfect from Now On: How Indie Rock Saved My Life).  And look at their videos!  This is why!  Look at their music video for “Rio.”  The video is nothing more than an excuse to show half-naked women every ten seconds (time it, I dare you).  The entire plot is that the band cavorts on the beach while meeting pretty girls, and then to wear suits on a yacht.  Of course guys started liking this band.  They wanted to be Duran Duran.  Who wouldn’t want to meet pretty girls and wear a suit on a yacht? 

But the pleasure part has to play in as well to complete this phrase.  And while, yes, the band’s music reeks of ’80’s synthesisers, the band displays great rock and pop sensibilities.  Even just take “Rio” again.  The bass line is great, the guitar displays a crisp distortion, the keyboards are dominant, melody is phenomenal.  Being one of the most popular bands of the time, they were treated to a great production value, and it shows.  What’s impressive is that the band wrote all of the songs on this album.  The lyrics, the melodies, the instruments were all composed by them.  Yes, they played to their popularity.  Out of nine songs, four were released as singles.  But they’re all at least decent songs.  Even non-single “Hold Back the Rain” is still instantly recognizable, maybe because the chorus is excessively catchy with its harmonies.  The band knows how to play.

A perfect example of talent meeting celebrity is “Hungry Like the Wolf,” one of the most famous songs on Rio.  Using the clever simile of being “hungry like the wolf,” the lyrics are little more than being about sex (Fan service, anyone?).  The pre-chorus is just “Doo doo dodoo do dodoo.”  But the music shows real character.  One of my favorite aspects is the bass-playing.  It nonstop pushes the song forward, while still being entertainingly melodic.

At only forty-two minutes long, the album is a quick listen to.  No doubt, this was because of two reasons.  Of course, this was a standard back then, to have short albums.  However, compare that to their 2007 album Red Carpet Massacre.  This last album ran a total of forty-nine minutes and thirteen seconds.  Despite being over twenty years later, the album is still only five minutes longer.  This leads to my conjectured reason: the band, I’m sure, wouldn’t have wanted a long album because the general mass probably wouldn’t have sat through it.  As it is, most of the nine songs on the album are well-known.  So, the public would probably only listen to those songs and change albums.

Of course, that’s just me assuming.  Anyone who actually listened to the whole album must’ve been happy with the outcome.  The songs are well-written and arranged, pop hooks abound all over the place, and the band members were talented players.  Rio is definitely worth a few listens.  It’s quick and pleasing to get through.  If one can push aside the notions of cheesy ’80’s popularity and a played-up handsome image, the songs are instantly gratifying.  Even better, they’ll easily be able to get “What’s New Pussycat?” unstuck from your mind after accidentally hearing Tom Jones on the radio.

Buy This Album

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