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DURAN DURAN/ASTRONAUT (Epic)
Think about Duran Duran and you think about half-naked models and baby oil, big white yachts and exotic beaches, ninjas in fedoras diving out of helicopters and E.T. shooting laser beams out of his behind. Has there ever been a more fun band on the face of the earth? Unlikely. And while it may have carried on making records after unrelated founding members Roger and Andy Taylor split (following Live Aid), it should be clear that that wasn't Duran Duran. This is Duran Duran -- after two decades of lawsuits and operating with leathery studio musicians, the original Fab Five (receiving MTV Video Awards last year, left) are properly back together for their first new studio album since 1983's "Seven and the Ragged Tiger." While they could have easily gone the way of one-time contemporaries Sting and George Michael and made a dignified comeback, full of grown-up lyrics and sophisticated ballads that would secure an easy adult-contemporary following, they didn't. Because this is Duran Duran, and because, frankly, they are flipping crazy. Instead, they've called on the services of producers like Dallas Austin (Nas, Gwen Stefani) and Don Gilmore (Avril Lavigne, Linkin Park) to modernize their disco- punk sound. That kind of nerve is reason enough to want "Astronaut" to be so much better than it actually is. No matter. There are enough fits of genius in songs like "Taste the Summer" and "Bedroom Toys" (with the great line "I've been around the world and seen a lot of things to make your chicken curl") to fully justify it. -- Aidin Vaziri--

Courtesy San Francisco Chronicle

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