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Looking For Quacks In The Pavement

3WA 2018 #27: Duran Duran – Astronaut

I made some mistakes while selecting the album list. That’s fine, mistakes happen. Two of the mistakes boil down to, “but I’ve already written about this one!” Ha ha, too late, I made a big sampler mix late last year and everything. I’m committed.

Here’s the first of those mistakes. I’m standing by the selection because first time around, I was unkind to a perfectly cromulent record. This time, maybe, I can do justice to the thing.

What is it?

Astronaut is the late-2004 studio record released by Duran Duran, who were busy trying not to fall off the pop-culture radar entirely.

How does it sound?

Mix up for the sampler:

Why this pick?

It’s the last album by the band that I actually like. Duran Duran are very, very hit-or-miss for me, which is weird because their sound didn’t change much over the first couple decades. Rio and Notorious? Great! Seven and the Ragged Tiger and The Wedding Album (yes that’s not its real name but whatever, everyone calls it that)? Meh. Liberty and Red Carpet Massacre? No thank you. I couldn’t tell you why one record works and another doesn’t, not in this instance.

Astronaut is almost on the “meh” part of the spectrum, and upon first listen that was my overall impression. Now, though, I really love a half dozen of the songs and am okay with most of the rest. Only a couple of the tracks still put me off.

So here we are. It’s a good record. Don’t trust what 2004’s version of Karel had to say about it! (I’m not linking that post. You can search for it if you want.) He was kind of a self-absorbed jerk with delusions that his opinions mattered!

…Hmm. Maybe things haven’t changed terribly much, eh?

Which songs are the highlights?

“(Reach Up For The) Sunrise,” the lead single and first track on the album, is a fully competent radio-friendly piece of work and holds up just fine, fourteen years later.

The real standouts, though, show up once the first couple of songs are out of the way. “What Happens Tomorrow” is marvelous in the same way that “Come Undone” was on The Wedding Album, “Nice” may not be terribly deep but it is outstandingly upbeat, “Taste The Summer” is almost good enough to make me think fondly upon my least-favorite of the seasons, and “Finest Hour” is surprisingly uplifting.

Along the way we also get “Want You More” and the title track “Astronaut,” both solid bits of pop songcraft.

Which songs don’t work so well?

I still don’t like “Bedroom Toys” or “Still Breathing” very much. Some things didn’t change from 2004 to now, I suppose.

“One Of Those Days” needed an overhaul; there’s a germ of a good song in there somewhere that should’ve had the chance to come to fruition.

Which album did you almost pick in favor of this one?

Had I been thinking clearly enough I’d have remembered I’d written about Astronaut already. Twice. Okay, the second time it was only a couple of paragraphs, but the point stands. I goofed up.

My obvious choice should’ve been Notorious. I love that record to bits. There’s not a song on there that I can’t enjoy on some level. I will play it through and not skip a thing. It contains several of my all-time favorite DD tunes, such as “Skin Trade,” “Winter Marches On,” and “Proposition.”

Maybe, if I revisit this album-write-up idea later, I’ll rectify this egregious oversight.

Any final thoughts?

I received this album from the radio station outfit I used to work for. It was the big promotional package and everything. I gave it away to a friend (after ripping it to my library) because my first impression was so underwhelming.

I… kind of wish I hadn’t done that. D’oh.

The version of “(Reach Up For The) Sunrise” they released as a promo is a better mix than what’s on the album. So of course I don’t have a copy of that either! Go, me!

Oh, hey! We’re past the halfway mark on this year’s project. I haven’t missed a deadline in a year and a half so far. Let’s hear it for six more months of reliable content production!

3 Comments

  1. What, you didn’t choose “Thank You”??? I’m crushed with disappointment.

    “Notorious” would be a good choice, yes. I’m more of a “Rio” fan m’self… anything with The Chauffeur and Save A Prayer on it is automatically okay in my book. Besides, it causes me to have intense flashbacks to Rio Rainbow Gate.

    • Oh heck yeah, Rio would’ve been the obvious choice were Notorious not an option. It’s their big breakthrough superstar turn, to be sure, but one can get lost in the hoopla and overlook just how good those songs really are.

  2. I haven’t heard this album but clearly I should check it out. (Also, I too loved “Winter Marches On”! I didn’t realize anyone else was particularly fond of it — I thought that was just my weird taste.) 🙂

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