Duran Duran rises again
The band's new album, Astronaut, is its first in 21 years to feature all five original members.
MARY DICKIE, Special to The Free Press
It has been two decades since the original five-man Duran Duran lineup last made an album together, but surprisingly little seems to have changed in the music world since then. The charts are largely ruled by teenage girls; the sound of synth-pop is all the rage; Madonna has a new incarnation; American punks are trying to unseat their president; and Morrissey's feeling sorry for himself.
Yes, it's deja vu all over again for the five dapper Englishmen who once ruled the world with massive video hits such as Girls on Film, Rio, The Reflex and Hungry Like the Wolf. And despite being family men in their 40s, they're casually, charmingly confident about their ability to extend Duran Duran's remarkable reach even further with their new album, Astronaut, which hit stores this week, and its prophetic single, (Reach Up for the) Sunrise.
And why shouldn't they be? Astronaut encompasses all the musical elements that helped the band sell more than 70 million albums over the years -- catchy pop choruses, funky bass lines, driving beats, synthesizers and breezy vocals.
"People ask why we did this, but I mean, what else would we do?" guitarist Andy Taylor says. "The whole premise of what we do is based on teenage dreams -- I want to do this, I want to play that, I want to be like this. And that part of you is the bit that you don't want to lose."
Singer Simon Le Bon picks up the thought. "There's this little voice you occasionally tune into that's saying, 'What are you doing? Isn't it time to grow up?' " he says. "But the answer is, 'I don't think so.' "
Adds Taylor, "And you know, there were lots of other projects, but we only did three studio albums together, so there's a feeling this thing is not finished."
The original lineup splintered when drummer Roger Taylor and Andy Taylor (who are not related to each other, or to bassist John Taylor) left the band in 1985 after recording the Bond theme A View to a Kill and playing Live Aid. John Taylor left in 1996. Le Bon and keyboardist Nick Rhodes continued on as Duran Duran with guitarist Warren Cuccurullo, and also formed the side project Arcadia, while John and Andy joined Robert Palmer and Bernard Edwards in the funkier Power Station.
But around the turn of the millennium the side projects had all more or less run their course, and the band members found themselves restless and available. One phone call led to another and in 2001 the five of them met up and quickly realized that the chemistry they once had was still there.
"We found it when we walked into the room to meet after 15 years," Le Bon recalls. "To have the five of us together -- there was just a lot of joy and good feelings."
"And after a couple of hours, we decided to revive our creative relationship and start writing a new record," says Andy Taylor. "We didn't want the easy option of just touring. I mean, frankly, the fact that we could make some money doing that was in the back of our minds. But Nick said he wanted to make an album, and I thought, 'Thank God you said that!' It was easy to fit in, because no one had any responsibilities other than family. And luckily nobody turned up with a sitar or anything -- everyone brought their regular instruments."
"It could have been completely different," Le Bon says. "But though it was hard to admit, we knew the best music we'd ever made was as Duran Duran in the '80s and that's where we wanted to start. We knew the power of the band of five, and what we created the first time and that's what we wanted to do again. We didn't want to start with '90s dance music or anything."
Thanks to their large bank accounts, the band members had the luxury of recording Astronaut on their own terms, which meant taking three years to finish it.
"We've been really patient getting it right and it's been worth the whole resurrection process to hear that it really sounds like our fourth album," Andy Taylor said. "There's a strong individual presence of everyone. And the collision of everyone's directions when they come together just . . . works.
Courtesy London Ontario Free Press