‘Harry Styles’- Harry Styles

With the inevitable end of One Direction, the question that remained to be answered (although the answer was assumed by anyone with a shred of insight) was which member of the group was going to go on to become the biggest solo star? Well, anyone who had been paying attention to the fabric of popular music even a little bit over the past few years knew that it was obviously going to be Harry Styles. He proves this true on his 2017 debut solo record. Right off the bat, he proves that he holds a level of maturity that his past group had never had and that he is light-years ahead of any of his old bandmates.

The opening track on the record is “Meet Me in the Hallway”, which showcases that Styles isn’t afraid in the least to let his influences shine through. It’s such a cliché to call something Beatles-esque, but hey, that shoe certainly fits with this track. It’s also worth the noting that the influence of Britpop is quite evident throughout this track and many of the following tracks on this record. The big hit single off the record, and the following track, is “Sign of the times”. This track, arguably more so than any other track on the record, illustrates Styles’ smooth transition from boyband heartthrob to mature singer-songwriter. This track hopefully had Ed Sheeran thinking twice about his motives (Seriously, am I the only who thinks there’s too much flannel floating around popular music right now?). Onto a completely different aspect of this record’s powers, believe it or not, it rocks. It really does. “Kiwi” is something off an off-brand Oasis-style hard rocker that features a dangerous level of strut and attitude. Styles has got just enough self-assurance to make a go at this whole rock star thing, should he consciously choose to go this direction fully in the future. This record’s got songs, no doubt about it. It’s got diversity. Just enough of it, in fact, to keep things mostly fresh right through to the end of it.

So, the big question has been answered going into this record’s release. Styles is without question going to be the superstar of the One Direction alumni. That’s out of the way and no longer an issue. The next question would be just how much does Styles have to offer? Can he build upon the successes of this debut record in order to make something truly magical in the future? Time can only tell. In the meantime, there is plenty to like about this record. The standout tracks represent some of the best of the year and this is without a doubt one of the year’s strongest records. This just misses being a flawless record, because the self-assuredness of “Kiwi” unfortunately isn’t persistent throughout the record’s duration. Styles’ nerves are apparent at certain points on the record, but who can blame him? You’d be a little nervous, too, if you were up against the odds that he was going into the recording of this record. He was in a race against his former bandmates to prove that he is the one who is going to carry the torch into the future. He won that race and did it relatively impressively. Get off his back. There will definitely be more good coming from him in the future. Beware, Ed Sheeran.

4/5

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‘War of Words’- Fight

A project of Rob Halford’s after departing from Judas Priest, Fight released their debut record ‘War of Words’ in 1993. This new project of Halford’s represented a shift in musical dynamics from the legendary Priest. Sounding much more modern and possessing far less classical, overarching bombast than that band, Fight were a deliberate attempt on Halford’s part to put a stamp on the down and dirty, gritty sound of ’90s metal. Perhaps oddly enough, Halford’s soaring vocals are able to maintain a level of believability inside of this context. No matter how well things may or may not have worked on this record is an interesting debate, but no matter the verdict, this short-lived project would ultimately become just a little showing on Halford’s resume.

The opening track on the record is “Into the Pit” and seemingly exists as a greeting card to Halford’s newest excursion. Does it work? Well, the monstrosities of its urgency certainly want you to believe so. Halford sounds just as vibrant as at any previous time in his career, as if this was ever in question. The band show off the fact that they were quite diverse on “Life in Black”, which ultimately serves to show that the band were looking to be something more than just a one-off Halford project. The undisputed highlight of the record, though, is “Immortal Sin”, a song that is full of the typically gothic vibes that were present throughout the early-’90s musical scene as a whole, popular culture as a whole. This song, with its metallic inhibition, easily creates an image of the neo-noir, German expressionism-influenced works that were so persistent throughout this time period (films like ‘Batman’ and ‘The Crow’, for example). Fortunately for the overall strength of this record, Halford is clearly quite aware of the unique position that he maintains in the lore of heavy metal. He knows his strengths and he knows exactly how to articulate them every outing in order to keep things fresh and luscious for the listeners. The Metal God does indeed invoke God-like imagery with every shriek and howl he unleashes into this record’s musical offering.

For Judas Priest fans, there is much to cherish on this record. For newcomers to the metal scene, who may not be quite as in tune with the classical underlying of the genre’s illustrious past, there might still be something attractive within these unholy musical passages. There is quite a heavy dosage of dystopic, neo-noir imagery here, which is something that is intrinsically in sync with the context of the ’90s by which it exists. This record doesn’t quite sound like a Judas Priest record, because it isn’t quite a Judas Priest record. The main downside to this record is that the second half of the record tends to drag on a bit. What’s unclear about this unfortunate fact is whether this is due to Halford’s recognizing that he might be out of his element or whether the band just played it too safely and dropped the ball. For my money, it isn’t due to any conception of Halford’s. Nevertheless, the first half of this record provides some real gem moments from the early-’90s heavy metal scene. Many people were of (and still are) the opinion that heavy metal suffered a death in the ’90s and, although there many be certain areas in which there is slight truth to this, it’s certainly far from an absolute truth. Take a ride with the Metal God as he shows you. Well, at least on the first half of the record. Even a God can’t be perfect all the time, right?

3.5/5

‘Definitely Maybe’- Oasis

In the summer of 1994, Oasis exploded on the rock n’ roll scene with ‘Definitely Maybe’, a record that challenged the current flow of rock music at that time. Purposefully old fashioned, blissfully optimistic, and sporting enough edgy coolness to make the rock bands from Seattle think twice about the amount of flannel they were wearing, Oasis represented a direct shift in the popular music narrative back to status that U2 had left it. There was nothing that could’ve stopped this band at this point in time. Brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher represented a certain longing for something that was so missing at this point in popular culture and they were obviously acutely aware of this fact. What resulted from their ambition was something that changed the course of popular music for the better for years to come.

The opening track on this record is “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star”, a song that carries itself with enough charisma and strut that it hardly needs to even justify its own intentions. This is rock music at its coolest and the band know it. Noel, who wrote all of the record’s lyrics, has always had an untamable tint to his songs and his personality. His indelible charm and flawless execution of his own ascensions are second to none and the self-awareness that accompanies all of this is simply the icing on the cake. All of these qualities carry right over into the following track, “Shakermaker”. An interesting component to this record lies within its cocky strut. Knowing what we know about the relationship between the Brothers Gallagher today, isn’t it quite so that you can sense those conditions in this music? Isn’t this record just a little too cocky to maintain? The band prove that they can rock right alongside the grunge bands on “Up in the Sky”, even if they don’t take themselves as seriously. Truthfully, this attribute has always been one of the band’s strongest elements. When analyzed thoroughly, it becomes quite clear that the cocky strut of the band was never something that they took all that seriously. These guys always believed that they were destined to become the biggest band in the world and with songs like “Slide Away”, it’s difficult to come up with a sound argument as to why they wouldn’t have been so confident. This is the kind of ballad that gets stuck in your head and stays there for the rest of the day. The fact of the matter is, regardless of your opinion of grunge, Oasis was precisely the band the world needed at this time.

This debut record from the band that, as Noel once put it, were “the last and the greatest”, is definitely one of the greatest. These snotty, working class boys came along and restored the greatness of what rock n’ roll had always meant in a more traditional sense. There is absolutely nothing negative you can knock this record on. Filler free, this record is just too damn confident and cocky to get much of a contrary opinion in edgewise. The infectious spirit and attitude of this record is one of the most powerful, potent statements that the power of pure rock n’ roll music has ever unleashed upon the world. You’d have to be one miserable sap not to get behind this record? This is a shining example of that most wonderful of moments, a band captured on record at the peak of their abilities, truly unhindered, hungry, and out for blood. Is this the best rock n’ roll record of the ’90s? Maybe. Were Oasis the greatest rock n’ roll band of the ’90s? Maybe. (Probably, in fact.)

5/5

 

‘Third’- Soft Machine

Perhaps the leaders of the progressive rock scene out of Canterbury, England in the ’70s, Soft Machine’s stamp on the scene was far from accessible. In fact, the rules that the band played by weren’t really rules at all. Progressive rock and rules have always had a testy relationship, but Soft Machine were able to take that concept to a whole other level. Where was all of this coming from? Well, the outfit was essentially the brain child of Robert Wyatt. Listed as an influence by many artists over the years, including, not insignificantly, Roland Orzabal of Tears for Fears, Wyatt’s mind at the center of the band was able to further the intricacies of their overall center, their reason for existence.

The opening track on their third record, appropriately titled ‘Third’, released in 1970 is “Facelift” and immediately it becomes clear just why these guys were considered by many to be one of the foundations of jazz-fusion. The title of the track isn’t at all insignificant or misleading. You do indeed feel as if you’re receiving a facelift while listening to it. The sonic tonality of Soft Machine’s onslaught very much possesses the sensation of melting. Quite possibly, the reason for this is the fact that the band purposely thrusts this sensation upon the listener. On their first two records, though, the band would only hint at the full-bodied sensationalism that was to come on this third outing. Perhaps an appropriate way of viewing this record is to treat each of the four tracks as part of a much larger phenomena. Each one builds to the inevitable conclusion. Before you reach orgasm, as most of you well know, there are many sensations that pop up along the way. Like an eccentric orgasm, Soft Machine doesn’t go straight for the jugular. “Slightly All the Time”, at least initially, backs off on pace pushed ahead in the previous track. Like the sensation this record is being compared to, though, it doesn’t forget its central theme or purpose. The calculations and mathematical precision of this record are of such an astute profundity that it’s often difficult to fully intellectualize what it is you’re experiencing, much like… well, you get it. By the time the band break into “Moon in June”, it’s clear that they aren’t planning on slipping up on this record. Let your eyes not be mistaken, this is truly an example of what music is capable at the peaks of its power. Existence of God found in each carefully executed arrangement. Never fear, the moment you’ve all been waiting for happens during the final track “Out-Bloody-Rageous”, the record’s undisputed highlight and, of course, this isn’t surprising giving what this record sets out to do.

This is a flawless record of carefully crafted, well executed, not-of-this-world proportion. Soft Machine manage to make Yes sound like the Monkees on this record and you know what? Thank God for that. Many find Soft Machine to be too much. This is poorly-thought out judgment. What this band was, at the peak of their powers, was something truly extraordinary; something that didn’t understand or even care about the idea of conventional musicality. The jazz and classical sensibilities ring true throughout the full duration of this record and are, at the end of the day, certainly more telling to the band’s center of gravity than good ole rock n’ roll music. So, sit back, relax, and take your time with this one. This record is sure to be a slow-burner for most everyone, especially those unfamiliar with the Canterbury scene or progressive rock music as a whole. If you stick it out, though, you just might find a little something about yourself that you didn’t before spinning this one. Perfection.

5/5

‘Crowded House’- Crowded House

When Neil Finn put Split Enz on hold for the much more straight-ahead pop sound of Crowded House, it shouldn’t have been as much of a surprise as it probably was. The frantic experimentation of Split Enz certainly differs from the simplistic sentimentality of this self-titled record from 1986. That’s a given. As time wore on, though, Split Enz did become noticeably more pop-oriented. Crowded House, if anything, served as the end product of Finn’s more accessible tendencies within his artistic capabilities. You can hear the transition from “History Never Repeats” to anything on this record as easily as you understand the flow of this record’s ambition.

The opening track on the record is “Mean to Me”, which serves as the icing on the cake as far as Finn’s complete transition from art rocker to pop star. It’s also important to note that he sounds as if he’s been freed on this song and this record. You can feel the relief of being the part of a much simpler project in every note that he utters throughout this record. There is a freedom, a simplistic freedom that carries this record’s strongest moments. Keep in mind that there is an emphasis here on ‘strongest’. There is a certain amount of filler scattered throughout this record. Fortunately, this record houses “Something So Strong”, which is without question one of the most blissful pop songs of the ’80s. This is track is only to be outdone on the record by “I Walk Away”, a pretty similar track that just happens to do it a little better. Obviously, you can’t talk about this record without mentioning “Don’t Dream It’s Over”. This track, though loved by many less-than-demanding pop radio listeners of the decade, just seems to be a little off the mark. It’s an okay song, but it doesn’t share the sense of freedom that the two prior mentioned tracks do. There’s nothing wrong with the track, but this fact remains apparent. Is it the worst romantic ballad of the decade? Certainly not. Is it the best? Far from it.

At the end of its duration, this record leaves a mostly positive impression on the senses. It’s pretty good. It’s far from perfect, though, and one of the reasons for this is that Finn seems to have left his knack for quirk and adventure behind. Yes, there is plenty of bliss on this record, but too often the songs sacrifice any sense of adventure just to squeeze in a few more guaranteed spots on the radio. Some of the charisma is missing. It’s unfortunate to say, there are a couple of particular tracks that really shine. Another component of this criticism, though, is the fact that it’s difficult to feel too strongly for any kind of derision of the product. The uninspired moments aren’t usually too painful. For this reason, many of the record is easy to forgive. Finn and the band were looking to create a crafty ’80s pop master formula with this release and, ultimately, they don’t succeed. At all. These guys aren’t Marshall Crenshaw. What they are is a mostly solid band that, when they’re at their best, are pretty good at what they do. For many, this will be enough. It’s easy to be cynical with bands like Crowded House, but the ends rarely justify the means in this pursuit. What crime have they committed? If nothing else, you at least have to commend the two standout tracks mentioned above. You could do worse than this.

3.5/5

‘Lost Themes II’- John Carpenter

Horror film director, often identified as the “master of modern horror”, John Carpenter, released ‘Lost Themes II’ in 2016. The sequel to ‘Lost Themes’, released the year prior, the record is just what it says it is. Carpenter has famously composed many of the soundtracks that accompany his films. In this art, he’s long been one of the best in the business. The theme from his film ‘Halloween’ has become one of the most popular and recognizable themes in the history of cinema. Not to mention, one of the most spine-chilling and nerve-wracking. Carpenter manages to be an accomplished film score composer mainly because of his keen grasp of his own subject matter and an ability to transfer that into a musical setting. Carpenter balances being both a great director and a great composer, he’s an artist in the truest sense of its meaning.

The record opens with a piece called “Distant Dream”, which feels like a piece that could have easily fit in on any of Carpenter’s ’80s films. This track is full of all of the hideous wonder perpetrated in many of Carpenter’s films. Wonder is the correct word here. One of the things that made ‘Halloween’ such a frightening film was the fact that the overall violence of Michael Myers’ killings was understated. The film was much more enveloped in what Myers represented; a force of pure evil, a lifeform without conscious, understanding, or reason. Within the context of ‘Halloween’, which is what most aspects of his legacy end up leading back to, this sense of dread, wonder, and refinement is precisely the way this record presents itself. The following track, “White Pulse”, has an opening that will almost certainly go down as one of Carpenter’s creepiest pieces. One does begin to wonder at about this point in the record, what does this release mean for Carpenter’s overall career? Why has he chosen to deliver the ‘Lost Themes’ series to us now? Is his career as a filmmaker over? Or is this just something cool that he thought of to do? Aside from the bigger questions, though, one can’t deny the potency as vibrancy of this record. One other moment of interest and intrigue on this record is the track “Virtual Survivor”. With a seeming basis in the world of science fiction and a touching upon a robotic synthesis, images of Isaac Asimov and the Alan Parsons Project with their respective tellings of ‘I Robot’ wouldn’t seem too far off of what Carpenter appears to be aiming for here.

This release is a solid one from Carpenter. Again, it would seem that his ability interpret full-length stories as instrumental pieces is something deeply instinctive in his personality. There are relatively few who have his level of competency in accomplishing this. Whether or not he will make another film and the bigger questions surrounding the implications of this release are totally irrelevant to the overall pictures that the pieces of this record pain in the mind. Other than a few moments, albeit quite brief moments, of sameness, this is about as good of a collection of instrumental pieces as you could possibly hope for. Carpenter does what he does best here. This is a hodgepodge of his imagination that is equal parts wondrous, horrifying, eerie, and inquisitive. For fans of his films, this is sure to be a real treat. Not only had Carpenter proven to be one of the absolute best, most imaginative filmmakers of the 20th century, but his powers aren’t limited to a single form of expression. This serves us all in a positive manner.

4/5

‘Altered Beast’- Matthew Sweet

Matthew Sweet’s 1993 release, ‘Altered Beast’, struts along with much of the same neurotic, off-kilter rock n’ roll attitude that had defined much of Sweet’s earlier output. Ever since the days of Buddy Holly, there have always been figures in rock n’ roll who aren’t, in any kind of traditional sense, cool. Most of these figures have, importantly, gone on to reinvent or adjust the meaning of cool in a rock context. Are Talking Heads cool? Well, yes. Elvis Costello? Duh. This sort of avenue of rock is exactly where Sweet fits in and thank God for this. Have you ever looked up at what is more traditionally accepted as rock God status and thought that, as cool as it can be at its most grandiose and otherworldly, that it just isn’t steeped in realism? Well, that’s because it’s often not. Generally, figures like Sweet are more understandable through the eyes of the typical listener (this is not meant to demean).

The opening track on this record is “Dinosaur Act” and it starts the record off on a typically high note within Sweet’s usual vein of power pop. The track that is the undisputed highlight of the record, though, as well as perpetrating a sense of blue-collar torture and everyman ‘lover beware’ kind of sentimental warning inside of its beautiful melody and infectious stylings. There were few pop songs in the ’90s that were better than this absolute gem. Another highlight is “Time Capsule”, which maintains its own center of gravity on a record that is full of center and gravity. It’s really no wonder why this record flows so easily. After all, with guests like Mick Fleetwood (Fleetwood Mac) and Richard Lloyd (Television) on a record, it’s fair to say that there’s an obligation to maintain some kind of head-above-water level of competency with your craft. One of the records more rocking moments is “Ugly Truth Rock”. In this track, you’ll hear more than a little bit of ‘Life’s Too Short’-era Marshall Crenshaw and there’s definitely no shame in that. Although Sweet doesn’t have the same level of magic with his craft that Crenshaw does, he does have enough of a pedigree to pull it off convincingly and without a shred of inauthenticity.

So overall, this is a good record. As is mentioned above, this record maintains a perfect center of gravity. This is quite an impressive feat when you account for some of the more neurotic songwriting and Sweet’s obviously ’90s aesthetic. The only real sin that this record commits is that it will throw some filler out at you from time to time. However, this is by no means prevalent or invasive on the overall standing of the record. Center of gravity, remember? The simple fact is that you could do a whole lot worse. There is an earnestness and a refinement to Sweet and his songs that make it difficult to not indulge. It would seem that he has found out and, even more importantly, not taken for granted the art of good ole simplistic rock music. You know, the stuff that made everything that came after it possible in the first place. He gets this, but of course puts his own unique ’90s touch on the formula. This is good stuff. You won’t make a cynic out of me on this one.

4/5

‘Eat Me, Drink Me’- Marilyn Manson

The often overlooked (and underappreciated) 2007 effort from Marilyn Manson, ‘Eat Me, Drink Me’, showcases the first time the noted controversialist took listeners on a personal journey. This journey that Manson takes us on, though, isn’t a happy one. Not only does this record take a change of pace in Manson’s positioning of himself, but musically, this record represents a huge contrast from his previous record, 2003’s ‘The Golden Age of Grotesque’. Manson doesn’t go for the jugular as directly on this record as he has on preceding records. In fact, through Manson’s vulnerability, we’re opened to whole new windows that weren’t even offered to us on previous records.

The opening track on this record is “If I Was Your Vampire”, which paints the full picture of this record clearly. The idea of vampirism runs the course on this record, aiding in the weaponry that Manson equips to detail his complex state of suffering. Another of these weapons, as evidenced in the following track, “Putting Holes in Happiness”, is a sound that, perhaps unlike the subject matter of the record (or any Manson record, for that matter) is understated. This deliberately differs from past Manson records. Rather than his usual bluster and conglomeration of shock rock and industrial metal, Manson treats this record with a layer of a slightly conservative gothic rock sound (as conservative as that can be). Much of this lends itself to why many listeners didn’t warm to this record as much as Manson’s previous records, but, as can be the case with the general public’s view of artist’s branching out, this is a mistaken reaction. Moving further down the record, one of the undisputed highlights is “Evidence”. This is one of the grooviest tracks in Manson’s catalog and, lyrically, it should burn on contact. It’s the title track, though, that surpasses all other tracks on this record and will probably leave you sleeping with the lights on for the night. This shouldn’t be surprising. Anyone who is even vaguely familiar with Manson knows that he maintains an eccentric lifestyle and, one can imagine, this leads to some dark places. How romance mingles into this picture is something that is easier pondered than executed.

The critics got it wrong on this record (and many other Manson releases). This is an excellent record that has very few slipups. It should be noted, though, that if you can’t get on the level with the subject matter, this is probably going to fly way over your head. It can be an overwhelming record, but that’s a Manson trademark. It’s good for you. Consider yourself lucky enough that Manson decided to share this side of himself with you. If nothing else, that’s precisely what this record accomplished and, in that sense, this record represents a major turning point in Manson’s career. Since he released this record, much of his output has been more towards this vein. It’s been quite some time since Manson was capable of generating the kind of outrage that made him a household name and he’s clearly aware of the changes that time inevitably forces. There are those out there who will say that Manson is old news, that he peaked long ago. This isn’t the case. He simply has learned how to adjust with the changing times and alter his persona a bit, giving further credit to his longevity and powers as an artist. Besides, you’re smarter than “those out there”, aren’t you?

4.5/5

‘Earth and Sun and Moon’- Midnight Oil

Midnight Oil released ‘Earth and Sun and Moon’ in 1993 and by this time they had become one of the leading forces of righteous ideology-driven rock music. A title they’d worked pretty diligently to grasp for over the years preceding this record. Could you call them Australia’s answer to U2? Probably not. That’s far too lazy of a connection, even if they share a sense of left-leaning political and social ideology. This particular record from the band does seem to present a different set of ideas than some of their previous records on how to go about laying out their conditions for the listener. This record doesn’t appear to share the sense of urgency and occasional bouts of irritability that ‘Diesel and Dust’ did, it often opts for a more restrained emotional center and sensibility. Nevertheless, they remain remarkably similar records.

The opening track on this record is “Feeding Frenzy” which is essentially what had been established as the signature Midnight Oil Aussie-rockin’ track. After all, this track is essentially the “Beds Are Burning” of the record. The Aussie element can’t afford to be overlooked, as it serves a seminal purpose to the sound of the band. One listen to this band and you’re instantly transported to the outback. The following track, “My Country”, is filled with band leader, Peter Garrett’s, ideology-driven social critique. This is something that will probably rub some listeners the wrong way, but hey, if you’re a fan of Midnight Oil already, then you already know what you’re getting yourself into. Needless to say, this familiar motive runs its way throughout the full duration of this record and it’s stacked with excellent tracks. One of the other highlights is “Truganini”, referring to the indigenous Austrialian and his struggle with the incoming European settlers. Another undisputed highlight on the record is “In the Valley” and what becomes clear more than anything else about this record is that Midnight Oil seem to have reached a peaking level of comfort within their own format and know exactly how to execute that format with an impeccable ease. It’s very easy to continuously compare this record to ‘Diesel and Dust’, but it’s necessary. These two records cover seemingly the same path throughout their respective durations.

This record is just solid enough that it might be able to win over the as of yet unconverted masses. Aside from the possibility of conflicting social and political views, there really isn’t a whole lot about this band that is blatantly unlikable. They definitely have a broad range of appeal and aren’t shy about this fact. Though this record exists in sharp contrast to the early days of the band, which were dominated by a pub rock sound, the tough Aussie roots of the band still remain intact. The difference between their earliest records and this record is that, by this point in time, their polishing of their own material was hitting a very high stride. There was definitely a Midnight Oil formula that had to, at the very least, be hinted at or accessed in some form on any of their records. Generally speaking, this is tried and true reality for many established bands and artists. However, it could be argued that there aren’t many bands who have been able to continuously pump out fresh, inspired material within the confines of such a format as Midnight Oil. No, this record isn’t quite as good as ‘Diesel and Dust’, but what is? As for those who don’t share that sentiment, there’s really no need to be so bullheaded.

4/5

‘All You Need Is Now’- Duran Duran

New wave stalwarts, Duran Duran, were back to their bag of tricks on this 2011 physical release (a truncated downloadable version was released in late 2010), ‘All You Need Is Now’. If you know anything about these guys, then you know that they’re pretty reliable and often predictable with their format. If the question of whether or not the band was capable of carrying their infectious brand of new wave pomp into middle age with any kind of vigor or believable zest remained at the time of this release, the band doesn’t care too much to solidly answer the question. Rather, they gleefully dance around the question while giving the listener multiple answers to be applied.

The opening track on the record is the title track, which also happens to be one of its absolute highlights. In a musical climate that has seen more than its fair share of “boy bands” since the band’s glory days, it’s easy to overlook the fact that these guys pulled off that silly concept far better and far earlier than many other artists would willingly lay claim to. From the Backstreet Boys through One Direction and every other group in between, none of the so called “boy bands” ever wrote a song as charming and groovy as the title track of this record. Fortunately for the band, tracks like “Leave a Light On” actually showcase much of the maturity that these guys have employed since the release of ‘Duran Duran (The Wedding Album)’ back in 1993. Without this maturity, of course, the band wouldn’t have been able to survive the changing musical tides that took place in the early-’90s, which were obviously carrying a much more cynical tone than the peppy nature of a band like Duran Duran. However, this was 2010, and “Girl Panic!” makes it quite clear that the band is fully aware of what their legacy is going to end up being. Rather than shying away from this, as many former “boy band” musicians have (George Michael), Duran Duran choose to embrace it with an acceptance that isn’t the least bit apprehensive or reluctant. Even though this is true, the best track on this record is “Mediterranea”, leaning, of course, towards the more mature tendencies of the band’s later work.

Will all listeners like this record? Probably not. Then again, Duran Duran are probably considered to cutesy by many. The problem with that assessment lies in its decidedly nay-saying ambition. We may as well go ahead and face it: Duran Duran are stalwarts for a reason. With that said, this record is far from a perfect record and definitely far from the band’s best outing. Some of this material is tired and recycled from other outings. It’s refreshing, though, to hear the band sound this fresh on the record’s better moments many, many years after their career peaked. Logically and realistically, there is no reason why Duran Duran should still be putting out quality records that are popular. Perhaps it’s even true that popular music would be better off without the band’s legacy. That’s a pondering worth considering and maybe even granting a fair amount of truth to, but that misses the point. These guys have always been about fun and flash; the energy of the party zips through the night sky as it shouts out the band’s name. You might as well do yourself a favor and roll with it. It’s not likely to ever change.

3.5/5