For the past year or so, I’ve been listening to Duran Duran pretty much exclusively. I occasionally make exceptions, like playing John Taylor’s three solo albums! (I’m exaggerating, but not much. DD/JT is on heavy rotation in my head, and I keep finding new things to love.)
These albums weren’t easy to come by. I think the second two were only released in Japan, so I had to order them from there. (Thank you, third party Amazon sellers!) This was his third solo album, released in 2001, and it has become my favorite. It has been interesting to see his evolution as a solo artist on these albums.
1995’s “Feelings Are Good And Other Lies” shows his punk roots—Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols even played guitar on that one. It’s very raw, in the DIY punk style, and he sounds like a man with many demons. I don’t know exactly what year he went to rehab, but it was probably around this time.
His second album, eponymously titled and released in 1999, seems much calmer and more introspective. Maybe I’m just putting my own notions onto it, but he seems more at peace.
In “Techno For Two,” he seems to have found a nice balance between all of these elements, including his love for a killer bass groove. It is not a techno album, but there are definitely some danceable tracks on this one. As part of Duran Duran’s rhythm section, his bass sets the tone for so many of their songs. It is fascinating to me to see not just his evolution as a solo artist (he doesn’t have the vocal chops of Simon Le Bon, but you can clearly hear his improvement as a vocalist over the three albums, and there are moments where he sounds very much like David Bowie) but to also recognize the part he plays in the band. I never paid that much attention to the bass in various songs but JT has changed that for me. Listening to his solo albums made me realize exactly what he brings to the band and how they all work together to make such fantastic music.
The other thing that strikes me about his album is how personal it is. A casual listener probably wouldn’t pick up on it, but knowing some of his story and reading his autobiography makes me think that certain songs are about certain people, and his lyrics seem to touch on many things in his personal life. Whether it’s about finding a lasting love with his wife Gela or his struggles with addiction, he truly seems to write songs from his heart. (Is the song “Mansman” about Simon? “You’re the king of the band.” Hmm, maybe!) Again, because I’ve never read anything about what inspired him to write these songs, this is only speculation on my part. But “You’re gonna fuck your life away” in the song “Mister J” certainly sounds autobiographical, as does “He was a child of the eighties...he flew too close to the sun” in the song “Nagel Baby.” (JT’s full name is Nigel John Taylor.)
I think this is a really solid album with plenty of well-crafted pop songs and some tasty bass grooves. It has given me a deeper appreciation of his talent and of what he brings to the band. Here are a few of my favorite tracks. Sadly, I couldn’t find “Mister J” anywhere, and it is one of my favorites on the album!
Turn it up!
The opening track is “Love Is Bondage.” I love how it builds slowly with the keyboards and a quiet riff, then kicks in with the riff louder and some great guitar.
“Tight” is another favorite. This one has a definite techno vibe and it’s got sexyfuntimes written all over it.
“The Other Side of the Sun” has one of those killer bass grooves that he does so well. Play that fuckin’ bass, John!
“Gabe” is a little more mellow, just a real pleasant vibe to it. It also has one of the most infectious choruses I’ve ever heard. I could sing “Gabe you’ll see a side of me” all damn day. I love when everything but the drums stop and we get to hear all the harmonies in the chorus.