Duran Duran, "Red Carpet Massacre" (Epic Records)
As far back as 1981's "Planet Earth," much of Duran Duran's music has naturally found a home on the dance floor.
For its latest album, "Red Carpet Massacre," the British veterans enlisted the aid of contemporary pop-dance heavyweights, bringing in Timbaland, the prolific rapper-producer; his protege, Nate "Danja" Hills; and even pop music's reigning king, Justin Timberlake.
The result makes much of "Red Carpet Massacre" dance club-worthy, but often at the expense of losing the band's signature sound for more generic-sounding fare.
Still, there are a few gems, including the album's title track. And, remarkably, frontman Simon LeBon's vocal range and melodic flair remain undiminished. He is the most prominent instrument here, second only to Rhodes' synth work.
The album is the band's follow-up to 2004's "Astronaut," which marked the reunion of the group's original lineup — frontman Simon LeBon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes, guitarist Andy Taylor, drummer Roger Taylor and bassist John Taylor — since the mid 1980s.
The reunion proved to be short-lived, however. Andy Taylor left the band last year and is not credited with having made any contributions to "Red Carpet Massacre."
From the get-go, the album's opener, "The Valley," gets the dance mood going, with a pounding beat and pulsing synth rhythm as LeBon sings in high register: "And I feel it/I can see it/Yes I need it/I believe it."
The song, which eventually spirals into a lengthy instrumental break, works, but for a band that has been mining the dance music space through its career, its hard to find anything really new here.
Another dance-floor-designed track, "Tempted," also bears an off-the-shelf, generic remix feel. Strip out LeBon's distinctive vocals, and it could be anybody.
Timbaland and Timberlake's influence on "Nite-Runner," is hard to miss. The mid-tempo, funky track's groove sounds more contemporary, but also more disposable. The results are better on "Skin Divers," which features vocals by Timbaland.
One of the album's highlights, "Falling Down" — a mid-tempo groove about a motorcycle spill LeBon suffered — boasts Timberlake's production and songwriting.
In another standout, "Box Full O'Honey," the band dumps most of the electronic effects in favor of a clean sound led by acoustic guitar, piano and LeBon, with some of his best melody-craft in effect.
CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: "Red Carpet Massacre," features pile-driver drumming from Roger Taylor and an industrial rock-style heavy synth. The vocals recall the soaring melodies of the band's 1984 hit "Wild Boys," when LeBon belts "Red carpet massacre/Don't want to hassle ya/Red carpet massacre/Death squad paparazzi ah!"
Courtesy Associated Press