Riding New Wave of Pop Success, Duran Duran Might Finally get Respect it Deserves

All press / news

Riding new wave of pop success

Duran Duran might finally get respect it deserves


Oct 14, 2004

Duran Duran

• Title: "Astronaut"
• Label: Epic Records
• Highlights: "Want You More," "Astronaut," "Nice"
• Grade: B

Forget the late, great Rodney Dangerfield. If you want to talk about no respect, look no further than the quintet from Birmingham, England, that created a New Wave revolution in the'80s yet is still reviled by many simply because, well, they wear makeup and look great in suits.

It's been 21 years since the original lineup of Duran Duran entered a studio, and its return isn't of interest merely to now-thirtysomething females who spent their adolescence drooling over John Taylor's frosted bangs and Simon LeBon's hip thrusts. Witness this week's spate of high-profile press, from the New York Times to Entertainment Weekly, heaped on Duran since its heralded return.

It would have been easy to ride the'80s pop-culture resurgence that has been bubbling the past couple of years, but what most Duran detractors tend to forget is that this was never a prefabricated song-and-dance troupe. This is a band, with one of pop's meatiest rhythm sections in bassist John Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor. Rounded out by stylish keyboard wizard Nick Rhodes, guitarist Andy Taylor (none of the Taylors are related) and charismatic singer LeBon, Duran Duran clearly isn't interested in nostalgia.

By seeking production assistance from knob-twiddlers as diverse as Dallas Austin (Janet Jackson, Pink) and Don Gilmore (Linkin Park, Good Charlotte), the band ensured itself a fresh sound. Some of it, like the flitting guitar and buzzing keyboards of "Want You More," is as contemporary as anything No Doubt has tossed to radio in recent years, yet its chorus will sit comfortably with longtime fans.

John Taylor's sprightly bass line anchors the album's first single, "(Reach Up For the) Sunrise," as well as the title track both which sport a giddy, danceable chorus. One of the most surprising elements of the album, particularly on the slinky, Euro-trash "Nice," is the unusual smoothness of LeBon's voice. When a version of Duran Duran returned to the charts in the early'90s with "Ordinary World" and "Come Undone," his vocals were uncharacteristically unwhiny then, too. But those were ballads, on which LeBon has always soared (see "Save a Prayer" for reference). These aren't. Credit a vocal coach or some expensive studio tricks for pulling this one off.

The band members sound most content with one another musically when the tempo remains up, but even then there are some missteps, such as the misguided funk of "Bedroom Toys." When the pace drags ("Finest Hour," "What Happens Tomorrow"), so does interest because it also usually means a heaping pile of LeBon's huh? lyrics. But cut the guy a break there's nothing here as mind-bendingly stupid as "shake up the picture, the lizard mixture."

Don't know what we're talking about? Then you'll probably never understand Duran Duran's impact on pop culture, which more than deserves a little respect.

Courtesy Times-Dispatch (VA)