This next entry may be cheating, slightly. Does a box set count as an “album?” Let’s ask the judges if they’ll allow it. Oh, right. I’m the judge, so … yeah, I’m allowing it. My next pick is Duran Duran‘s collection, The Singles 81-85.
I’ll be honest, Duran Duran didn’t win me over initially with their consistently catchy songs. They didn’t win me over with John Taylor’s damned decent bass playing. It wasn’t the slick album art, nor Andy Taylor’s tasteful lead guitar playing. Nope, it was definitely the scantily clad women in the “Girls on Film” video. In my defense, I was 12 or 13, and scantily clad women were very relevant to my interests.
Turns out, after the novelty of the video wore off, I actually really liked Duran Duran. Let’s take “Girls on Film” as an example. The song is tight, the Taylors (no relation) actually have chops. The music is poppy new wave that is instantly accessible but also with just a tiny edge to it that pulls it out of the safe zone.
You’ve also got the band’s first hit “Planet Earth,” which has an insanely engaging bass hook and chorus. The video, looking back, is a bit cringy, but it was the early 80s.
This set captures the best of Duran Duran, from their (first) self-titled album to “The Wild Boys” off Arena. This is the band’s most productive era, before the endless side projects and revolving door of members in and out.
You also get a good slice of B-sides and remixes that were hard to come by in the 80s – especially if you were a youngster in the music desert of a small town in Missouri. Good luck finding, or affording, a 12″ with the “monster mix” of “Is There Something I Should Know?”
“Union of the Snake” remains one of my favorite cuts from the 80s. The icy keyboard flourishes, the saxophone (again, what happened to saxes after the 80s?), and the tidy but excellent guitar bits. To this day, I’ve got no damn idea what the lyrics are about, but they sound deep. Simon Le Bon is putting everything he’s got on ’em, that’s for sure.
“New Moon on Monday,” “The Reflex,” “Rio” and the rest of the bunch are pure ear candy. I still thoroughly enjoy each and every one of these songs.