Review: Duran Duran hungrier, sexier than ever in 'All You Need is Now'
By Sean Daly, Times Pop Music Critic
The laddies may not be as pretty or as popular anymore, but rest assured Duran Duran is a far more impressive band today than in those New Wave '80s. I'm not talking about hits; Simon Le Bon and the boys haven't had one of those for a few presidents now. But 30 years after inception, the dashing Brits, birthed during a silly time of ephemeral haircuts and MTV sheen, have cultivated both an aura and a critical rep that extend far beyond their ability to make twice-divorced women shiver. In other words: Duran Duran still matters.
The smirky rakes behind Girls on Film and Is There Something I Should Know? have aged well, not just their mugs but their catalog and stature. Eat your heart out, a Flock of Seagulls. There's something about DD that still titillates, allows people to consider their vain poses seriously. That includes superfan Mark Ronson, the hippest producer in music, who helms the band's retrofitted new album All You Need Is Now.
The new nine-track CD is refreshingly stuck in that jungle bar from the Hungry Like the Wolf video. And the group is distancing itself from 2007's Red Carpet Massacre, which was produced by hip-hop beatmaker Timabaland (with an assist from Justin Timberlake). That creative union was a mess. Everyone involved seemed to forget that Duran Duran is, first and foremost, a great rock band.
Ronson keeps DD's true talents in mind throughout All You Need Is Now, which slickly balances wild-boy "whoa-ohs," studly guitar riffs and Nick Rhodes' insistent robo-sexual synths. It sounds sublime. Listen to the song Blame the Machines — which makes all the (non)sense of The Reflex — and it's back-to-the-future shock, tripping synapses that hadn't been fired since the Reagan administration. And why not? The Rolling Stones never changed their sound, so why should Duran Duran?
Le Bon hasn't come off so blissfully cocky in a long time, and it's great to have music's 007 back where he belongs. The exceptionally silly but awesome Being Followed, in which Ronson frames the 52-year-old's voice in an assortment of keyboard burbles, might be one of Le Bon's best performances. And he flat-out smolders on Leave a Light On, a reminder that DD always made stellar makeout music.
It's not all business as usual: Ronson gets the modern notion to pair the loverboys, so adept at flirting one-sided from behind their awesome hair, with a pair of femme fatales: Scissor Sister Ana Matronic and hip-hopper Kelis. Breaking up the testosterone factory works well, especially on The Man Who Stole a Leopard, which features Le Bon stalking Kelis all via John Taylor's groinal bassline. It's both overheated and contained, a seductive DD specialty. Has there ever been a band so good at being on the prowl? Happy hunting, boys.
Courrtesy St. Petersburg Times
Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at tampabay.com/blogs/poplife.