In 1985 after three incredibly successful studio albums and an extensive world tour that pushed their popularity into the exosphere, Duran Duran did the unthinkable – they took a break to theoretically work out some musical differences and come back in full force. Singer Simon Lebon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes and drummer Roger Taylor formed Arcadia while bassist John Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor signed up with Robert Palmer’s supergroup Power Station. Other than briefly coming together to record the theme song for the James Bond film A View To A Kill (scoring the veteran film franchise its first and only number one hit in the US) the band would never be the same again. When it came time to record the follow up to 1983′s Seven and the Ragged Tiger, Roger Taylor was on a one-year sabbatical that eventually last nearly twenty years and Andy Taylor would eventually leave the recording sessions and band after many clashes with LeBon, Rhodes and the remaining Taylor. The resulting album, Notorious, bore a different sound than what the band had on their initial albums.
Their next six albums would see the band broadening and stretching their musical horizons, leaving behind the new Wave, New Romantics sound that had been a large part of their initial fame. A large influence for the band in the ’90s was Missing Persons virtuoso Warren Cuccurullo who would become a full-fledged member before being dismissed at the dawn of the 21st Century to make way for a reunion of all five original members (at least the five that were present on the first three albums. There had been other personnel previous to that). The six albums produced from 1988 through 2000 always seemed to be in direct contrast to their original sound and even the reunion album, Astronaut, seemed to be another direction entirely. A. Taylor subsequently left the band again and 2007′s Red Carpet Massacre proved to be a jumbled mess, much like an experiment gone awry. Which leads us to 2010 and All You Need is Now.
All You Need is Now is not only Duran Duran’s best album to date, but sounds as if it could easily be a lost album from 1985, recorded as if the band had never taken a break and had instead gone right into the studio following the Arena tour. It also happens to be the best record released in 2010 (yes, it was an iTunes digital-only release in December and won’t be in stores until February. It’s still a 2010 release.). The sound of all nine songs on this album hearkens firmly back to the New Romantics era while managing to sound fresh and unique. Retro yet progressive at the same time? Yes, indeed. The band has finally managed to capture the best of their roots and bring it forward into a new musical era, due in no small part to the captain of the album, the producer.
Mark Ronson may just be the first producer to “get” Duran Duran and what their sound ought to be since Seven and the Ragged Tiger‘s Alex Sadkin. We get nine very strong tracks minus the fluff and filler. The title track starts things off in fine fashion by strongly announcing the presence of Lebon, Rhodes, J. Taylor and R. Taylor and sets the tone properly with its heady mix of old and new. “Blame the Machines” could almost be a Blondie song, it’s that retro and wonderful. “Being Followed” could have musically and lyrically easily fit on Duran Duran’s very first album and I found myself replaying it several times before continuing on. “Leave A Light On” could possibly be the band’s new “Save A Prayer” and I see it quickly becoming a favorite in the hopefully inevitable live tour. “Safe (In the Heat of the Moment)” with guest-star Ana Matronic is an infectious little disco-esque number that will get you on your feet quickly and keep you there. Whether intentional or not, “Girl Panic!” is an obvious sequel to “Girls on Film” and just as provocative as the earlier song. The album’s longest track, “The Man Who Stole A Leopard” begins by invoking Rio‘s “The Chauffeur” before floating to loftier heights. This is currently my favorite track on the album. “Runway Runaway” is one of those songs that if anyone but Duran Duran recorded it, it would be unlistenable and silly. Of course D squared makes it awesome and sparkly, in all the right ways. “Before the Rain” closes out the record in a stylishly droning fashion and is again a terrific blend of old and new.
It’s sort of weird to declare that a band is back when they never went away, but this feels like a return to their roots and the return of that new wave band fro the early ’80s while also being a rebirth. They have spent a long time trying not to sound like Duran Duran, while making some great albums, but this resurrects the musical spirit of what was and infuses it with what is to be. There are three additional tracks that will be included in the physical release that hits stores in February and I have high hopes for them. I will append this article once I get to listen to them, but I’m expecting they will be more excellent audio trips down memory lane coupled with a heavy dose of the future. As it stands, All You Need is Now is terrific in its present form and musically it is simple all you need and you need it now.