Duran Duran all over again
Original quintet of '80s in Cleveland Tuesday. New CD also on charts
Malcolm X Abram
The '80s are back. Everywhere you look it seems the decade that gave us yuppies, Reaganomics and AIDS is already being revived and swallowed by pop culture.
Many of the decade's fashion accoutrements such as leg warmers, ridiculously bright colors and bold stripes have reappeared and a revival of acid wash may be just around the corner -- a frightening concept that would necessitate an immediate police action.
Musically, many of today's hottest young bands such as the Killers, Franz Ferdinand and Interpol have looked back past grunge and settled on '80s-era post-punk and synth pop for their blueprint, adding contemporary textures to familiar sounds and grooves.
And then there's Duran Duran.
The Birmingham, England quintet ruled the first half of the decade churning out hit after hit, being pop music fashionistas, pioneering the splashy super sexy videos that have become a necessity for today's young pop stars and generally sending teenage girls into the kind of hormonal frenzy that turned the Beatles into a studio band.
After its heyday, the group never really went away and even had a renaissance in the early '90s with the hits Ordinary World and Come Undone,but by that time the original five, Simon LeBon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes, guitarist Andy Taylor, bassist John Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor, had splintered and the Duran Duran that limped through much of the late '90s featured only LeBon, Rhodes and John Taylor. In 1996, Taylor exited to start a solo career and take up acting.
This left LeBon and Rhodes to carry on the Duran Duran name with periodic club dates and to begin the 21st century with Pop Trash, an album that left fans and critics cold.
But just as the decade has been reborn, so has Duran Duran as the original five members gathered together in late 2001 and set about returning to active duty. Other reformed bands, such as the Pixies, the re-reformed Eagles, ``Van Hagar'' and Motley Crue have taken the easy way and simply sent out a press release stating their reunification and intent on touring with little or no new material.
``Yeah, that's what I would've done,'' John Taylor said from a tour stop in Minneapolis. ``Nick was really the one who drove the idea of a new album. I just thought we could have a really good time on the road, but we're a democracy so one idea gets floated and another idea gets floated and Roger and Andy, it had been a long time since they had made any new music so they were very keen to do some writing.''
What they wrote was Astronaut, the first new Duran Duran record with all five members since 1986's Notorious.
True to form, it's a contemporary pop record with danceable rhythms, buoyed by catchy tunes such as the lead single (Reach up for the) Sunrise and Nice (both part of the band's set list) and weighted down by less successful tracks including Bedroom Toys and the plodding midtempo Still Breathing, which at least sports a decent bass line throughout its six-minute length.
The record hasn't charged up the charts, but it has given the band members a focus they might not have had were they simply out playing all your favorite Duran Duran hits the way you remember them.
Duran Duran is bringing its tour on Tuesday to Cleveland State University Convocation Center.
``We're talking about this as the `no stone unturned' project. We want to be able to look back on this album and say we did everything possible to bring it to the public.
``If we're doing our job right, some of the new songs go by and they sound like old hits,'' Taylor said. ``It's a strange situation. We're selling a lot more tickets than we are albums, so part of the job is to have these people leaving the arenas saying `Why haven't I gotten the album? I love that song Nice they played.' ''
Taylor said he's also proud that Duran Duran 2005 is the smoking live band that Duran Duran 1985 didn't really get the chance to be because of the frenzy.
``The concerts are really rewarding, more fun than should be legal in a way. We have a fantastic audience and our reward is really in those live shows,'' he said. ``I like the live performance because you have this script that is getting added to annually. You're getting new songs that you're adding to it but it's still your canon, you still want Planet Earth and Girls on Film to be relevant, so you have to be committed to playing those songs.
As for the '80s revival, Taylor said he hears bits and pieces of Duran Duran in the music of some of the aforementioned youngsters and is glad that grunge and '70s punk are waning as the major influence.
Taylor added that the days of music videos making stars out of bands like his is largely over, leaving single artists who excel at marketing and image control such as Jennifer Lopez to flourish despite having never spent significant time on the road.
``There's always been artists like that, but it moves too quickly now. I don't think I'm even in the same business as Jennifer Lopez now. To me she's an actress and when she makes records they're like movies,'' he said. ``I like her as an actress, but I'm not interested in anything she has to say musically.''
Concert: Duran Duran
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday,
Where: Cleveland State University Convocation Center, 2000 Prospect Ave.
Tickets: $38.50, $55
Information: 216-687-5555 and Ticketmaster.com at 330-945-9400
Courtesy Beacon Journal