CD reviews, Evansville Courier & Press
October 14, 2004
Duran Duran have almost reinvented themselves more times than David Bowie. Well, maybe not that many times, but even at their most lightweight the one thing these British pop-rockers can't be accused of is making the same record over and over. "Astronaut," which was released Tuesday, is no exception. The record is stylistically diverse and well-crafted, but it isn't just the music that has hardcore fans excited. "Astronaut" is the first new studio album featuring the band's original lineup since 1983's multiplatinum "Seven & the Ragged Tiger."
The last time singer Simon LeBon, guitarist Andy Taylor, keyboardist Nick Rhodes, drummer Roger Taylor and bassist John Taylor recorded together was for the anticlimatic 1985 James Bond movie theme, "A View to a Kill."
So, while LeBon and Rhodes have kept the band alive and recording in various forms since then, it is a relief to find the original band not only back but refusing to retread the synthesized dance pop of their heyday in a play to score with the new wave-loving, hipster fans on the current rock scene. Instead, the band opted to work with proven alternative rock producer Don Gilmour (Linkin Park, Pearl Jam, Sugar Ray, Good Charlotte) to craft an album that does make a strong case for them in the here and now. "Sunrise," the first single, is an electrifying, uptempo dance-rock track with a great big easy to love chorus, while other songs such as "Finest Hour" and the poignant "What Happens Tomorrow" meld that approach to the band's anthemic pop sensibility and Rhode's sweeping keyboard landscapes. Still other tracks here such as "Point of No Return," "Nice" and especially "Still Breathing," experiment with varying degrees of electronica to good effect, while "One of These Days" rocks out convincingly.
That is not to say that "Astronaut" is perfect. The title track, catchy as it is, does skirt that old well-traveled synth-pop galaxy pretty closely. "Bedroom Toys," featuring Chic's Nile Rodgers (producer of the band's 1986 album "Notorious"), attempts to return the band to its funk excursions but ends up sounding like an Adam Ant parody.
But with the new album firing on more songs than not, Duran Duran at least show they aren't ready for those '80s package tours yet. Like their early highwater mark, "Rio," this is the kind of album that will make you dream of summer this winter and that you'll want to keep playing when the warm weather finally comes back around. It's pop for any season.