The exquisite standout of the Virus Meadow album and easily And Also the Trees's best song from its early years, "Gone�Like the Swallows" steers away from the sometimes frenetic vocal intensity found elsewhere on the record it comes from for a more reflective but still passionate approach. Simon Jones delivers his lyric with all the deep-voiced intensity of a student of Wordsworth and Shelley reciting on the hillside to nature (which in some respects is pretty much the point of the song). But Jones isn't explicitly anti-modern � consider the mention of the aeroplane in the sky at various points � while the music is equally ancient and up-to-date in feel. Digital delay on the guitars turns them into rolling, darkly chiming flows and waves of sound, dramatically crashing behind the steady rhythm section and Jones' increasingly intense words. Bass and drums alone wrap everything up on a brief, spare note.
Beneath the avant-garde lyrics and futuristic synth textures, there was always a pulsing dance music quality that drove the classic Duran Duran sound. As they progressed into the late '80s, they allowed that dance element to move up front and dominate their style. A good example of this tactic is "Skin Trade," a hit whose silky and funky style led to it being mistaken for a Prince song. The lyrics have a surprisingly direct, soul-searching feel to them as they lay out scenarios of people shortchanging their dreams to make money. These moments are followed with the dramatic proclamation that makes up the chorus: "Will someone please explain/The reasons for this strange behavior?/In exploitation's name/We must be working for the skin trade." The music lends contrast to the angry tone of the lyrics by creating a sultry, mellow melody that juxtaposes verses with a soft, hypnotic ebb and flow with an ever-ascending chorus that revs up the song's inherent drama. Duran Duran's recording is fuelled by funky but gently layered guitar textures and subtle drum work that push its groove along, plus some atmospheric synth textures on the chorus. Interestingly, Simon LeBon uses his normal tenor voice for the choruses but sings much of the verses in a lush, soulful falsetto that led many pop fans to initially mistake "Skin Trade" for a Prince ballad. The result was a perfect blend of slow-dance textures and adult social critique. It didn't do as well as "Notorious," just barely making the Top 40 in the U.S., but it got plenty of radio airplay and is fondly remembered by the group's fans as one of Duran Duran's most mature achievements of the late '80s.
from Notorious (Capitol C2-46415), available on CD
An even funkier hit single than "Sledgehammer" ? which had an epic groove but was too slow to actually dance to ? "Big Time" is a sardonic response to yuppie materialism with the funniest lyrics of Peter Gabriel's entire career. (The ending of the song, stopping just before the obvious punch line to all this discussion of how preternaturally huge everything in Gabriel's charmed life is, is a small moment of brilliance.) But the brilliance of the song is in the way it ties all that Gabriel had been learning about African percussion and Middle Eastern melodies ever since the days of his third solo album and ties them all into the service of a walloping great groove, making plain the connections between North Africa and Stax-Volt once and for all. The combination of talking drum and wah-wah guitar owes as much to Booker T and the MGs as it does to King Sunny Ade, which is both the key to "Big Time" and a clue as to why Gabriel's later, more explicitly world music focused albums just aren't as much fun.