Duran Duran's 'Massacre' displays band's funkier side

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Duran Duran's 'Massacre' displays band's funkier side

May 9, 2008 Recommend
By Alan Sculley Post-Tribune correspondent

The reunion of the original Duran Duran lineup -- the first time all five band members had played together since 1985 --didn't last as long as many of the band's fans undoubtedly hoped.

Guitarist Andy Taylor dropped out of the lineup two years ago, meaning the notable reunion would produce only one CD, the 2004 release "Astronaut," and a world tour.

But what most people may not know is that the group nearly released a second album before the guitarist split with the band.

"We did make another record that was potentially, which I should say was provisionally titled 'Reportage,' with Andy," keyboardist Nick Rhodes said in a recent phone interview. "There are about 12 or 14 tracks. It's a good record. But it's sitting there. It's cryogenically frozen for the moment. I hope it comes out one day."

What changed the plans for that album was a decision to come up with a couple of additional songs for the "Reportage." The group had wanted to work with hip-hop super-producer Timbaland and got that opportunity right at the time the decision was made that "Reportage" could use a couple of new songs.

"We came out with something very different," Rhodes said. "We liked the sound. We continued working, and at that time we started to realize that it sort of all had fallen apart with Andy again. The wheels had come off. So we just continued making that record and realized it was a completely different record than the 'Reportage' record, so we kept them separated."

Soon Andy Taylor had officially left Duran Duran, and the other band members -- Rhodes, singer Simon LeBon, bassist John Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor -- had decided to move on as a quartet.

"I don't think any of us knows exactly what really happened (with Andy Taylor)," Rhodes said. "It's like a relationship that sort of falls to bits, I guess."

'Red Carpet Massacre'

The CD that the four-person lineup of Duran Duran eventually finished -- "Red Carpet Massacre" -- includes three songs co-written and co-produced by Timbaland. One of those songs, "Nite-Runner," also includes contributions from pop superstar Justin Timberlake.

Timberlake also co-wrote and performs on a second track on "Red Carpet Massacre," "Falling Down." In addition, Timbaland's right-hand man, Nate "Danja" Hills, lent his production and writing skills to 11 of the12 songs on the CD.

Given the contrasting styles between Duran Duran's glossy, electronic-infused pop sound and the hip-hop of Timbaland and Hills, it's no surprise that "Red Carpet Massacre" offers some fresh stylistic twists, especially with the trio of songs involving Timbaland.

The hip-hop beats that inhabit "Nite-Runner" and "Skin Divers," -- along with some rap vocals on the latter track --immediately give these songs a funkier edge than one might associate with Duran Duran. On "Zoom In," the collaboration, perhaps surprisingly, produces a catchy, driving electro-rock track.

"The way that most of the songs were done is he (Timbaland) would come up with some beats and things with his machines, and then we'd all sort of jam together and see where it took us," Rhodes said. "So he'd literally be jamming with us."

The Timberlake collaborations had been in the works since 2003, when the pop star met Duran Duran at the MTV Video Music Awards. Once Timberlake heard that the band was in the studio with Timbaland, he wanted in and helped write "Nite Runner," while adding vocals to the song.

The collaboration on "Falling Down" came about at the end of the recording sessions after Timberlake said he felt like the CD needed a tempo ballad.

"We literally sat in a room with Justin and a piano and all the instruments and carved out that song within a 36-hour period when he had a day off in Manchester on his British tour," Rhodes said.

Rhodes noted that Duran Duran had never collaborated with producers or other artists to such a full degree at any other time in a career that began in 1980 and reached a fever pitch in the early 1980s. That's when a trio of albums --"Duran Duran" (1981), "Rio" (1982), and "Seven and the Ragged Tiger" (1983) -- became multiplatinum hits and pumped out a string of hit singles ("Hungry Like A Wolf," "Girls On Film," "The Reflex" and "The Wild Boys") accompanied by videos that made the band seem like jet-setting pop icons.

Back then, the group's concerts inspired excitement (complete with shrieking from girls) similar to the Beatles shows of the 1960s.

The Duran Duran concert experience has changed since then, Rhodes said.

"One (difference) is we can all hear ourselves play now, which back then, honestly that was a serious problem," he said. "It was insane."

What's also different is the quality of the band's performance itself.

"I think we're playing a lot better as a band," said Rhodes, who noted that the band still puts on a flashy, highly visual show with a song selection that changes a bit from night to night. "When you have the amount of experience over the years that we have had, you get better. … So yeah, I think we've finally crafted it now, and we know how to work the audience properly and get that participation where everybody wants to feel a part of it."

If you go

What: Duran Duran; Your Vegas opens

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Road, Rosemont, Ill.

Tickets: $49.50 to $125

Info: (847) 671-5100 or www.rosemont.com/theatre.html

Courtesy Post Tribune