The buzz: Although now recognized as a pioneer in music videos and as one of the best pop groups of the 20th century, the past decade hasn't been kind to Duran Duran musically. After 2007's failed attempt at relevancy, "Red Carpet Massacre" (the only album featuring Justin Timberlake and Timbaland that could be described as "mind-numbingly dull"), the British synth-poppers now consciously return to past glories, with the help of all-star producer Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen). [Note: The album will be a digital-only release on Dec. 21; an expanded physical version comes out in February.]
The verdict: Ronson's stated goal for this album was to create the worthy sequel to "Rio" (the group's early '80s high point). In that respect, the group falls short—while the album's mix of Casio beats, New Wave synths, disco and Simon Le Bon's nonsense lyrics certainly evokes 1982, there's no "Hungry Like the Wolf" or "Rio" on this record. But on its own? A surprisingly seductive mixture of keyboard pop and silky vocals, with some nice nods to the band's early influences ("Blame the Machines" plays like a warmer Kraftwerk, right down to the "Autobahn" reference) and the band's latter-day followers (the cowbell-infused disco-rock of "Safe" is pure Rapture).
Did you know? The band's association with Ronson started in 2008, when the band collaborated on a one-off concert with the producer/DJ in Paris; together, they performed radically reworked versions of the band's early hits.
3.5 Out of 4 stars