Some comebacks are more welcome than others, as judged on the standardised Jesus>Smallpox Scale. Many bands rely on the comfort of an established audience to smooth their passage back into the nation's hearts and charts. However, Duran Duran, who have passed this way before, are taking a riskier route, trying to circumvent the noslatgia circuit with its attendant ageing groupies and growing realisation that you are, as a human being, obsolete. They've obviously spent a bit of time thinking about it too, as their return has been organised with a precision Alistair Campbell would trade his shrunken head collection for. What began with the teaser unveilings of new metarial at both the Concert For Diana and Live Earth, now culminates in an album recorded with the help of Justin Timberlake and Timbaland.
They have made a nominal effort to grow old gracefully; the best parts of the album ('Nite Runner', 'Skin Divers') sound more like vintage Cameo than hot-off-the-shovel Kanye. There are certainly a few tunes you'll delight in playing to your friends and asking them to guess who it is. The somewhat weaker 'Box Full O'Honey', meanwhile, has synthesized pan pipes, jangly acoustic chords and a rueful lyric which will appeal to the fans who've grown up, if not old, with the band, only its emphatically syncopated beat betraying the passing decades.
The hardest part of the job has been to make the band look young and relevant in an age when even Mark Owen's crows' feet are a commercial liability. Smartly, the lead single is also Justin's debut as a producer; the newsworthiness of this momentous occasion will surely rope in a few senior-curious Timberlake fans. The video, directed by Rhianna/Eminem/Killers man Anthony Mandler, also deals with the oh-so-now topic of models misbehaving in rehab rather than, say, slippers or euthanasia. Like much of the album, it's a savvy stab at the pop middle ground which is largely successful, if not, exactly inspiring.
Courtesy Time Out London