Music Preview: Duran Duran

Press

Every teenage girl in the '80s was in love with Duran Duran.

Countless young females around the world had an imaginary love affair with singer Simon LeBon, initially drawn to his aching wailing and snappy two-step. Those with more mature tastes focused their love on bassist John Taylor's perfect cutting bass lines and equally sharp jaw, or instead settled on keyboardist Nick Rhodes, whose androgynous style inspired both women and men. And, as if proof of the band's coolness was necessary, they were friends with Andy Warhol.

No matter which member of Duran Duran was the object of affection, any true fan certainly had a band poster thumb-tacked to their bedroom wall and the group's chart-topping second album Rio (1982) on the tape deck.

"Rio was everyone's favorite album," Taylor tells The Prague Post. "It is the one masterpiece I would claim."

Thirty years have passed, and Duran Duran are still making music for an adoring audience of die-hard fans. The band's appropriately titled 13th studio album, All You Need Is Now, was produced by Grammy winner Mark Ronson, who has worked with Amy Winehouse, Adele, Robbie Williams, Macy Gray and Ghostface Killah, among others, and features most of the original band members, including Taylor, Rhodes, Le Bon and drummer Roger Taylor. Ronson has called it "the album that should have followed Rio."

"Mark is a classy guy," Taylor says. "And he was a fan in the '80s, which was terrific criteria for us, proving that he has great taste."

The new album has been well received by fans and critics alike, and many tracks have been hailed as a return to the group's original sound and energy. Tracks such as "Girl Panic" and "All You Need Is Now" climbed to the top of pop and dance charts, and the video for "Girl Panic" is a shining example of the band's taste for narrative videos and scantily clad supermodels and their penchant for high production costs.

Naomi Campbell, Helena Christensen, Cindy Crawford and Eva Herzigova play the various band members in the video, acting out debaucherous party scenes while talking ironically about being famous rock stars. Is this an accurate depiction of the lives of aging musical heartthrobs? Actually, not, according to Taylor, who says he's been on a health kick of late, which may surprise audiences who saw the band in their hedonistic heyday.

"I really like yoga," Taylor says, adding, "I'm not very good at it, but I really like it."

Taylor, who helped compose many of the songs on the new album, including standouts "Girl Panic" and "Blame the Machines," says the process of writing music for this album was very "high energy."

"We get into a room together with our instruments and just offer ideas. It is very raw," he adds. "Simon is a great lyricist, and when he is on, I think his songs are some of the best in pop music."

But Taylor says the group's writing process is more democratic than ever, with each band member contributing to each song.

"If Simon's words aren't working for a song, we all contribute what we know, what we feel is right," he says. "Like when we were writing 'Girl Panic,' Simon offered some lyrics that seemed like they were out of 'Ordinary World' or something and Mark said, 'This isn't a song about finding your place in the world; this is a song about girls.' "

The band has had a revolving-door policy on its members, and has seen the arrival and departure of various guitarists and drummers over the years. Taylor calls this "a good thing and a bad thing."

"It means we are forced to change up our sound, to adjust. Andy nailed the sound on Rio, and then Warren [Cuccurullo] came along and we got Notorious. Everyone brought something fresh," he says.

That mix of styles is evident in Duran Duran's current set list, which has what Taylor calls "accents on the new album," but largely consists of the band's biggest hits from the past 30 years.

"We are going through a renaissance with those songs that we had gotten tired of playing," he says. "Maybe that just comes with age. They are all quite different tunes, and they are actually really great fucking songs."

Having just completed tours in Asia, South America and parts of Europe, Taylor says the band "can always find an audience," even though "we might have 6,000 people at a show instead of 60,000."

"They say that gratitude is a prayer," he adds. "Everyone always wants more. But I have found that it's important to really love what you are doing at the moment, and we love playing right now. That kind of pleasure is what maintains the vivaciousness of our performances."

So what about all those screaming teens and pleading young female fans?

"I never set out to have such control over women," Taylor says. "I suppose it's just the result of having that piece of wood in your hands, and being onstage. Or maybe it was an unconscious result of having a domineering mother. Either way, it certainly hasn't helped me in my 15 years of marriage."

Perhaps Duran Duran hasn't changed that much after all. Tickets are selling fast for their concert at O2 Arena, and while the band has continued to progress musically, they still have the energy - and the physical appeal - to get any fan's heart racing.

Amy Huck can be reached at
features@praguepost.com

Duran Duran
When: Wednesday, June 27, at 8
Where: O2 Arena
Tickets: 890 Kč, available through Sazka Ticket

Courtesy Prague Post

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