This Duran Duran article was written by Ian Bourne, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Gavin Wells
It’s a far cry from the Lyceum, when support act Duran Duran performed ‘Planet Earth’ to confused post-punk teenagers. John Peel played them on the radio before the term ‘New Romantic’ caught on. Yet Duran Duran’s 14th studio album, their first in five years, isn’t disappointing.
To argue with FFS’s lyrics, but to agree with their critical success, collaborations do work. The songs on this album that are most like the best of Duran Duran are those with outside help. Mr Hudson is involved in none of the unmemorable fillers ‘Face For Today’, ‘Change The Skyline’ and ‘Butterfly Girl’.
Jonas Bjerre guests on ‘Change The Skyline’, and makes Duran Duran sound more like themselves. The same is true with other featured musicians. ‘Pressure Off’ has Mark Ronson producing, and Janelle Monae and Nile Rogers contributing. It’s designed for the pop charts and is closest in sound to the group’s glory days. Ronson produces funky guitar on ‘Only In Dreams’, a classically decadent bit of Duran Duran sounding like film music with lyrics to match: “There’s a vampire in the limousine”.
Mr Hudson’s most telling contribution is on opener ‘Paper Gods’. The lyrics are a throwback to Squeeze, with rhymes to match. Like a Paul McCartney song, it’s long and winding. It builds, with good bass, and then fades. Another post-Beatles moment is ‘You Kill Me With Silence’, which could have been done by McCartney’s very own ‘Wings‘ or by ‘ELO‘. It misses meat on the synthesisers; it’s too nice, not heavy enough.
Some collaborators add less; others more. Kiesza on ‘Last Night In The City’ is at some times used well, but at others is just on backing vocals to Simon Le Bon. Who really sings better? Regardless, it’s aimed at stadiums and massive Ibiza clubs, where it might get dropped into the mix. It’s more satisfying when Kiesza sings lead over the quiet synth pop than when her and Le Bon are singing over EDM.
‘Danceophobia’ sounds like another bog standard Duran Duran song. It may be formulaic, but as they don’t take themselves seriously, that’s fine. And Lindsay Lohan steps up to rescue the track, with some doctor’s advice.
‘What Are The Chances’ is slower; an attempt at a good ol’ fashioned rock ballad. Would you know it was Duran Duran on a first listen? Does that matter? The same applies to final number ‘The Universe Alone’. It features lead guitar from John Frusciante of Red Hot Chilli Peppers fame. Are Nick Rhodes, John Taylor and Roger Taylor serious? Or are the disruptive white heat and angelic chorus frivolous? Is it epic or a laff, naff? That’s the Duran Duran question. The answer lies in ‘Sunset Garage’, which is close to the sound of old rivals Wham! and declares, “Hey we’re still alive”.