Music: Pop for Dummies

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Music: Pop for Dummies

Even as pop groups go, Duran Duran was always fluffy. Remember the seductively silly synth-rock of "Rio"? Or the empty-headed erotica of "Girls on Film"? Back when greed was good, these British lads from Birmingham fit the zeitgeist like a sleek leather glove, delivering exactly what the decade demanded—namely, suspect style over substance. The original quintet rose to pinup status on the strength of their flashy videos and trashy tunes, then split in 1985, shortly after the patchy "Seven and the Ragged Tiger" hit the record racks.

Now that bands like Franz Ferdinand and the Killers have reheated Reagan-era rock for a fresh batch of hipsters—and Duran Duran, in absentia, has become the epitome of 1980s retro cool—they've decided to make a long-awaited comeback. But can the reunited popsters update their dim-witted dance music for 21st-century ears? Yes, if their new album "Astronaut," is anything to go by. Although times have changed, Duran Duran's signature cocktail of craft and daft remains intoxicating. On the aptly titled "Finest Hour," Simon LeBon, who turns 46 on Oct. 27, wraps his lithe, somehow youthful vocals around the group's most indelible melody yet. And the disc's first single, "(Reach Up for the) Sunrise" is just the sort of stadium-ready stomper that made these guys famous. "Astronaut" has its fair share of crash landings—"Bedroom Toys," a limp rap, is abysmal —but when LeBon & Co. stick to glittering, up-tempo pop, they soar. We're with stupid.

—Andrew Romano

Courtesy Newsweek International