For Duran Duran, ‘Now’ is time to shine
By Jed Gottlieb
After a decade full of sweet bottom-end grooves — War’s “Low Rider,” Parliament’s “Flash Light,” Chic’s “Good Times” — fat, funky bass lines began to dry up in ’80s.
Megabands from U2 to R.E.M. to Bon Jovi didn’t care a lick about the bass guitar. But Duran Duran — which plays the Citi Wang Theatre on Friday — kept the funk flames burning.
“When all I was into was angry white rock, Chic spoke to me,” Duran -Duran bassist John Taylor said from a gig in Chicago. “They were dressed in suits and velvet, but there was a rebellious spirit to the band. That’s what spoke to me, man. My punk-rock mind heard a bass line like ‘Good Times’ and said, ‘I can do that.’ ”
Taylor was right, he could do that. Listen to “Rio” and you’ll hear his gloriously thick, thumping bass snaking through the perfect pop song.
And he can still do it. Duran Duran’s latest album, the Mark Ronson produced “All You Need is Now,” mixes ’70s disco glitter with modern European discotheque glam. It’s a successful Duran Duran album.
“Mark really wanted me to play like I played in 1982,” Taylor said. “He wanted to hear classic bass lines like ‘Rio’ or ‘My Own Way.’ He wanted Nick (Rhodes) to only use the analog snyths he used to use. He wanted Simon (Le Bon) to harmonize just like he did when we began.”
Best known for producing Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black,” Ronson turned out to be a longtime Duran Duran fan. His respect for and understanding of the band’s “classic sound” fueled the return to form.
On 2007’s “Red Carpet Massacre,” producers/co-writers Timbaland and Danja erased the funk and fun from Duran -Duran. What remained were second-rate Justin Timberlake beats — JT guested and also helped with production — and wannabe Top 40 that sounded dumb and desperate.
“I knew I was there as a writer, but I couldn’t hear the sweat of my own playing,” Taylor said. “Neither could the fans.”
The album was a bomb. It’s the band’s second-worst-selling disc, and critics generally hated it.
But the band is back. While not a runaway hit, “All You Need is Now” has reached the Duran -Duran faithful. The boys’ 13th studio album, initially an iTunes exclusive, debuted at No. 1 on the iTunes Album Chart in 15 countries.
The title track is also the fattest, funkiest Duran jam since the ’80s.
“ ‘All You Need is Now’ speaks to our crowd,” Taylor said. “I know it’s one of those real bargain-basement, self-help T-shirt slogans. But, but, it’s still a phrase that actually isn’t bad to say to yourself. There’s some psychology in there that fans picked up on. There’s a hook, sure, but there’s something bigger there, too.”
Duran Duran, with Neon Trees, at the Citi Wang Theatre, Friday. Tickets: $47.50-$125; citicenter.org.
Courtesy Boston Herald