Album Review: ‘All You Need Is Now’ by Duran Duran

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Album Review: 'All You Need Is Now' by Duran Duran

Since their early to mid-eighties heyday, New Romantic godfathers Duran Duran have continually and courageously attempted to walk a delicate line between Reagan-era nostalgia and the pop music zeitgeist. From Medazzaland to Timbaland, the Fab Five (currently minus one) have strived album after album to remain current while still winking and nudging us into remembering that yes, they’re still the same fellas that recorded “Rio” and “The Reflex”. Ironically--with analogue synths and disco beats making their (possibly second or third) comeback--, the boys have finally managed to do both with All You Need Is Now (available on iTunes tomorrow), their highly anticipated collaboration with calculatedly hip DJ/producer Mark Ronson. Comparable to Rick Rubin’s drill sergeant classicism approach with Metallica, Ronson manages to lull--not force--the group back into their sonic glory days. Everything from Nick Rhodes’ Casio arpeggiator to the refreshingly punchy nine-song track listing screams 1983, with Simon Le Bon sounding like a hungrier wolf than he has in years. Calculated in every way? You bet your spandex-covered ass. Should you care? Absolutely not! All You Need Is Now should have longtime fans dusting off their old issues of Tiger Beat, remembering everything exciting about those beautiful boys from Birmingham.

ick Rhodes, (former guitarist) Andy Taylor, and Roger Taylor

The titular first single sets the tone: carpe diem, live for tonight schmaltz over John’s slinky basslines and Nick’s retro keyboard textures. Avoiding many of the stylistic throwback clichés that tainted much of 2005’s Astronaut, Simon sings fondly of “swaying in the moon, the way you did when you were younger” over a subtly anthemic chorus filled out with his own overpowered, passionate background vocals. The insular paranoia that informed the best moments of their first two records is ever present throughout the sex-drenched Autobahn nightscape of “Blame The Machines” (complete with a swaggering New Wave chorus and tinny electric guitar riffing) and on “Being Followed”’s tremolo disco strut. “I’m in the shadows, I dream things I don’t want you to know,” Simon sings, snapping his fingers to and fro in our mind's eye. While the necessary ballad “Leave A Light On” feels much too “modern” (i.e. Madonna’s Ray Of Light), the minimalist disco of “Safe (In The Heat Of The Moment)” steals all the sex from Blondie’s “Atomic” and slips in a warm keyboard-drenched chorus via Mr. Nick Rhodes at his understated best.

The deceptive slide guitar intro of “Girl Panic” segues quickly into a classically slinky electric funk number, with Roger Taylor’s tribal drumming carrying the band into the jungle once again in search of that elusive ragged tiger. It’s easily the most “Duran Duran” the band has sounded since at least Notorious— the song captures everything carefree, sexy, and fun about those first couple albums. With the opening flanged keyboard chords of “The Man Who Stole A Leopard”, we stumble upon this record’s “The Chauffeur”; a paranoid, synth-drenched sideways glance into the darkness, with Le Bon’s processed vocals clashing beautifully with guest star Kelis and the unexpected orchestral flourishes meets propulsive Euro dance beat. Sounding a bit like the procession at Kylie Minogue’s funeral, the tune reminds us that when they tried their damndest, Duran Duran could make stupid dance music sound artistic as hell.

Overly optimistic electric guitar power chords open the sunshine breaking through pop of “Runway Runaway”, sounding a bit too bubbly for its own good. The electronic chamber pop of album closer “Before The Rain” continues to betray the “It’s 1983, right?” illusion, though the mock choral keyboard sounds are a welcome throwback. We appreciate canned hip-hop beats and syrupy melancholy strings as much as the next teenage girl, but it’s a decidedly un-eighties end to one of the most deliriously backwards-facing pop records of the year. All You Need Is Now connects in every way that Ronson’s own Record Collection missed— its sonic dedication to a specific time and place in our pop music memories is not a desperate retreat, but an arms open embrace of what made the group so popular in the first place.

Sum-ology: Mark Ronson wins super extra bonus points by bringing Duran Duran back full circle to the chic, sexy, paranoid New Wave sound that they created thirty years ago. In 1985, All You Need Is Now would be the biggest selling pop album of the year. In 2010, it’s just simply our favorite.