Full disclosure: I love Duran Duran. Have for 27 years. There is nothing that has been more constant in my life than Simon Le Bon’s bonkers lyrics, Nick’s eyeliner, Roger’s rugged looks, my distaste for Andy’s fickleness and my undying love for the one, the only Nigel John Taylor. Hell, even my last name now reflects my love and loyalty for Duran Duran.
And so today brings us to the release of the 13th studio album by Brum’s finest. Produced by Mark Ronson, and meant to be a reclaim of the band’s Rio years, All You Need Is Now is now out on the devil iTunes.
But I’m not a deaf Durannie. The band has made some absolutely shit songs during its history. Let’s be fair. But I won’t trash them unecessarily. Still….
….Duran’s also annoyed me with its old-school marketing tactics (overpriced VIP access and lotteries to meet the band, designed to pray on monied 30- and 40-somethings) and awkward forays into social media. While I applaud the 50-somethings finally taking good advice that they need to drive their fancy cars up the information highway and engage blogs, not just fading red carpets, it’s REALLY irritated me that Duran Duran’s marketing team still don’t quite get that social media is a DIALOG (ie, please reply, don’t just RT positive only comments or layer on the PR bullshit). Nobody buys it when a MONTH before album’s launch Simon Le Bon and John Taylor start tweeting in a sort of “well, well, well, what have we here, then?” sort of way without any instruction on how best to speak to us canny and dedicated bunch.
Simon’s tweets always seem slightly wine-sozzled, which is fine. Yesterday’s offering included a musing on his own new piratey facial hair: “Fave beard saying from the 70s: just coz you got hair all round yer gob, no need to talk like a ****!” Oh Simon, oh Simon. Bless you.
John Taylor’s tweets, meanwhile, are generally promotional rubbish. Considering JT has oft talked about technology and social media as if he’s 800 years old, I’m finding this a bit of a strong-arm-“hey, JT, the ladies love you, you gotta be THERE!” sort of thing. Nevermind. I continue to tweet him in the hope that I will one day get 140 characters worth of love from Him, even though he’s kissed me twice. [Note/update, Dec. 23: JT actually did a fairly entertaining FB “chat” of sorts on the 22nd. And it appears that in one day, Simon has learned how to “@” people on Twitter…influence of the BSR? Ha. Still, credit where’s credit’s due, etc]
But I digress, as I am wont to do on this topic. I do love Duran Duran. I will always love Duran Duran. I kinda wish this was a cast-back to the debut more so than the poppier Rio, but hey, I’m perpetually frozen as a gothy new-wave kid.
So that brings me to the new album. Thanks for your patience. Here’s my breakdown of All You Need Is Now. Please note that I’ve been recovering from surgery and wrote this whilst high on codeine. Which just makes it better, right?
1. All You Need Is Now The first single. Starts with a wee-ooo-wee-ooo vocal synth treatment and Simon growling. It feels like a Frankensong – actually two songs glued together with hairspray. But then the chorus! So unmistakably Duran. “And you sway in the moon/the way you did/when you were younger” Simon sings as he thinks about ye olden days. Last week I asked Nick Rhodes’ ex-wife Julie Anne what she made of the track. She said it didn’t grab her at first, but thought it was a grower. I have to concur. It doesn’t scream Rio to me. Is it supposed to? There are references to a “VIP section”…okay, phew. More I listen, more I like.
2. Blame The Machines A 1986 synth opening, not particularly new-wavey Duran, just ’80s in general. But then it happens: Simon’s opening salvo: “I’m driving up/the autobahn” which enrages me because it reminds me of SLB’s recent Twitter “chat” in which he joked about what he wanted for Christmas. Along with the “usual” (socks, underwear), he said he wanted a Ferarri. Further reminding us of Duran’s inability to shift away from making us think they really are those dickheads on the yacht. But to the song:
The guitars are definitely “My Own Way”, the chorus is divine…this is deffo single potential. “Woah-oh!” is the punctuation here. The synth totally spits up Vancouver band Images in Vogue’s 80s track “In the House”. (Apologies, I have fallen into the Music Critic Trap of comparing one song to another really obscure other song. But, well, fuck it.) Nice to hear English newscaster Nina Hossain’s arch London-sounding accent (though she’s from Huddersfield) and girlvoice at the end. She’s on two tracks on this album and it works. I like hearing England again on Duran songs, after the whole Timberlake/land dalliance with America on the last album. “I should have known when I bought into the dream” goes the chorus…great pop lyrics from Simon. Which is saying something for a guy who wrote “The Reflex”.
3. Being Followed opens with unspooling film sounds (ooh, an homage to “Girls on Film”? Or am I totally overthinking this? YES I AM.) and a JT bassline then morphs into gay western synth new wave. It’s GREAT. “To the voyeur/seated in the darkened room/do you thrill when the green light starts pulsing?” Simon asks. Oh he’s such a dirty old man, wink wink. Chorus is catchy as fuck. There’s some “Hold Back The Rain” in this. And reeeee-dic whistling and sirens hidden towards the end. But this is a vast improvement on the “wikiwiki” scratch noises on Red Carpet Massacre‘s “Skin Divers” so I’ll take the effects and the song any day. Another single poss.
4. Leave A Light On The Casiotone “Save a Prayer” with “Ordinary World” earnestness. A little saccharine. Simon Le Bon is no longer having one-night stands but coming home late from the pub. A ballad for people who have summer houses in the Med. Movie theme song soundtracky. But pretty.
5. Safe Love this in all its disco-lite glory. It features the divine Ana Matronic of the Scissor Sisters – (check out what SS lead Jake Shears had to say to me about Duran). Opens with a signature Play That Funky Bass John bassline and brings a smile to this ageing Durannie’s face. THEN THERE’S COWBELL! Life is complete. No, really. Fab opening. The sexy Ana purrs “People say you’ve been around/how ’bout you and me get down,” and I’m already crafting scenarios of threesomes between me, her and JT. Simon pipes in and his first words rhyme “fame/vain/strange” but all 10 toes are tapping and headsabobbin’. Yeah, he throws in a typical cringer (“change my Karma train” is this album’s “Google dirty fingers”) and the chorus brings in generic background singers – musicians of the world, use your background singers sparingly – but then there’s MORE SYNTHY COWBELL. Ana’s singing about scratching her surface, diggin’ deep, inviting me to get down and I’m, like, totally there.
6. Girl Panic Slightly samba first 10 seconds gets replaced with (here it is again) “Hold Back the Rain/Girls on Film” bass and guitar. Thank Christ. Catchy. Simon casts his mind back to a time of teeming masses and screaming teens…then per usual sort of makes it about some experience with a non-descript lady. Having been at Duran shows recently, I’d say that it’s more “Career Woman Hormonal Explosion” than “Girl Panic”, but this is a good little pop song. Great drums and bass in here from the Taylors, but it’s a bit thick with Rhodes. Ease up on the Miami Vice synth, my friend.
7. The Man Who Stole A Leopard (featuring Kelis). First few seconds has Nick Rhodes reaching into his old Rum Runner DJ bag and snatching a bit from the very excellent Human League’s “Being Boiled”. And then wooooooooooosh (as Simon would say on Twitter) we’ve reinvented “The Chauffeur”! This is Duran’s most excellent cover of themselves. Kelis is barely recognizable, just sings a bit of harmony in the synthy chorus. This is an all back to mine, got wasted, surveying the wreckage song. Dig.
8. Runaway Runaway Least favourite track on the album. Actually sounds like a theme song to a TV show about photogenic teens with mild behavioural problems, set in California, sometime around 1989.
9. Before the Rain Sloggy synth churn at the beginning, with strings and images in my head of Simon lying on a blood red velvet Freudian couch in a silky blouse, wailing and waving his arms about. It’s the ’80s again (the 1880s) and there’s fine brandies and lament. It’s a slow and steady pretty, with a nice build at the end. It’s exactly a Duran Duran song….
…which is exactly what I wanted Duran Duran to offer up on this album. And they have. They’re not perfect, but they’re Duran Duran. And that’s all I need, now. \m/
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