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A real gem of an album,
This review is from: Big Thing (Audio CD)
One thing Duran Duran have always excelled themselves at is crafting innovative sounds into instantly appealing pop songs and on Big Thing this skill is showcased to perfection. Delving into house music, swifty cutting out its position in the musical climate of 1988, Big Thing sounds fresh and modern and still stands up remarkably well to this day. Building on the crisp, funk vibes of previous album Notorious, guitar largely takes a back seat on this album, replaced by infectious beats and the trademark Duran Duran synths courtesy of Nick Rhodes.
Album opener and title track 'Big Thing' packs an almost industrial beat backed up by chanting vocals. The next track is 'I Don't Want Your Love' - now, i'm a massive fan of this track, it sees the band at their most catchy and instant and taken with later track Drug highlights the danciest moments on the album. These tracks were made for the dancefloor, and if you're a fan of early house music, these two will go down a treat.
'All She Wants Is' presents another slant on this, a sinister synth bassline driving this track and providing the foundations for the contrast that drives 'Big Thing' as an album. On one hand you have the all-out dance tracks like this, but then, as next track 'Too Late Marlene' showcases, some of the band's most subtle material.
'Too Late Marlene' features a soulful vocal from Simon (who's vocals are largely some of his best ever on this album) over a jazzy piano hook. It's got that hint of the melancholy Duran Duran have always managed to capture so well in their ballads. It is these tracks that reward repeat listens and as the sax solo rolls in on this track you could just completely lose yourself in the music - perfect to chill-out to.
'Do You Believe In Shame?' hints at the adult-pop/rock angle the band would further develop in tracks like 'Ordinary World'. You then get 'Palomino' which summed up in one word is simply 'breathtaking'. Whispered, deliciously sensual vocals against a lush musical backdrop and lyrics of 'the scent of burnt sugar', this is poeticism realised - beautiful.
'Land' and 'Edge of America' continue this theme of atmospheric ballads which lead nicely into album closer 'Lake Shore Driving', a rough and ready instrumental track which is the most guitar heavy song on the album. The band have always had a knack at creating fantastic instrumentals like this one and it rounds the overall sound of the album off nicely. And don't worry, the sudden end on this track isn't a problem on your CD, this really is how the track ends - the band's quirky sense of humour shining through as the tape they were recording on apparently ran out and they just decided to leave the track like that.
So, all in all, I'll confess, i didn't fully 'get' this album the first time i listened to it. While the catchiness of 'I Don't Want Your Love' is undeniable i wasn't sure what to think of the laid back grooves of many of the other tracks. However, when i listened a second time the intricate soundscapes of these tracks began to click into place and i realised what a masterpiece this album really is.
Serving as a perfect bridge between the sounds of Notorious and Liberty, Big Thing is a lost treasure in Duran Duran's expansive back catalogue. A phenomenal piece, it's an extremely consistent album and is well worth a listen.