Duran Duran ‘All You Need Is Now’

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Duran Duran 'All You Need Is Now'

BY DOUGWALLEN ON MAR 27 2011, 12:00AM

Duran Duran
All You Need is Now
(Shock)

How does a once-mighty band go about reconnecting with the world at large? There are countless routes, but few as foolproof as the one Duran Duran takes here. The iconic new wave quartet envisioned its 13th album as a sort of spiritual follow-up to 1982’s Rio, which contained the signature hit ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ and another in the swooning title track. And so the band enlisted co-producer and unabashed fan Mark Ronson and co-wrote most of the album with their own fill-in guitarist Dominic Brown, also a successful writer-for-hire. Keyboardist Nick Rhodes also opted for analogue synths over digital ones. The result, unsurprisingly, is a solid rebirth.

It’s only natural that Duran Duran should want to wrest some synth-pop glory back from descendants like Cut Copy, Friendly Fires, The Killers, and even Yeasayer. Helping its chances are Simon Le Bon’s resilient vocals – still with that slick edge of desperation – and catchy music that’s light on its feet against an often spare backdrop. These are pop anthems pitched to the dancefloor, propulsive and uncomplicated.

That said, the album’s first half is content to be retro and not much more. While the opening title track does lodge in one’s head, it’s broad and slightly annoying. Then ‘Blame the Machines’ and ‘Being Followed’ harken safely back to themes rampant in the band’s ’80s heyday. Chic-style funk gets worked into ‘Safe (In the Heat of the Moment)’, with a guest spot by Scissor Sisters’ Ana Matronic recalling Blondie’s ‘Rapture’. While fun, ‘Girl Panic!’ and ‘Leave a Light On’ are also all too familiar.

What makes All You Need is Now truly appealing is the way its second half graduates from such easy formula to looser, smarter, near-experimental terrain. Forecasting the shift midway is the interlude ‘Diamond In the Mind’, reprising the title track and thickening it with studious strings. Then comes the standout ‘The Man Who Stole a Leopard’, a reference to both the 1965 film The Collector and Rio closer ‘The Chauffeur’. It’s open, searching, and slow, with a couched vocal cameo from Kelis and the album’s second appearance from British newsreader Nina Hossain. At six haunting minutes, it’s a world away from those earlier, by-the-numbers tracks.

While things are never quite so daring again, the remaining songs are decidedly winsome. ‘Other People’s Lives’ is classically Duran Duran, ‘Mediterranea’ exudes smarmy seaside charm, and ‘Runway Runaway’ zips along appropriately. A co-write with Kaiser Chiefs’ Nick Hodgson, ‘Too Bad, You’re So Beautiful’ flirts with both rubbery funk and dance music, whilst ‘Return to Now’ is another brief interlude/reprisal with strings, now lending an air of old-school weight to the album. The closing ‘Before the Rain’ sets off into slow-motion delirium, with darker lyrics, strings, and electronics.

If All You Need is Now first plays like a micromanaged addition to the oeuvre, it soon regains the sense of possibility that’s crucial to pop, whether new or old. It may be laden with echoes of a much earlier Duran Duran, but it has a life of its own too.

Doug Wallen

Courtesy the Vine
http://www.thevine.com.au/music/album-reviews/duran-duran-'all-you-need-is-now'20110327.aspx

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