In the “marriage made in heaven”category, the teaming of glampop- disco mainstays Duran Duran with producer Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen, Robbie Williams) surely places near the top of the list. Ronson is peaking as we speak, his place as the current “it boy” of pop production secure enough to afford him some personal indulgences. A self-proclaimed Duran Duran fanatic since his teen years—which would be right around the time the British band was peaking with “Rio” and “Seven and the Ragged Tiger” and its poster on the wall of every self-respecting, mildly hip teen girl on both sides of the pond—Ronson is fulfilling a long-held fantasy with “All You Need Is Now,” the Duran lads’ 13th studio album. Happily, this is not some mere vanity project. Duran Duran hasn’t sounded this vital and contemporary since the release of the white soul/pop masterpiece “Notorious” in 1986.
Why? Principally because the band has stopped trying to sound hip and contemporary, which may sound paradoxical, but is no less true for that fact. Ever since “Notorious,” Duran Duran has been chasing trends and trying to retain the veneer of being a group that matters. Now that it has seemingly given up on that idea, out pops a record that genuinely belongs on the contemporary pop landscape.
The best Duran Duran songs have been danceable bits of pop with heavy undertones of the far more ambitious and consequential British band Japan—a group that only a small cult audience is aware of outside of the United Kingdom. Duran ripped everything it could from Japan, from David Sylvian’s androgynous glam look to the white-funk bass lines and post-modern synth sounds, but didn’t delve into that band’s experimentalism, instead favoring a “pure pop for now people” acumen. It worked, and well. So it makes sensethat, aquartercenturyon, a hipster likeRonsoncouldreintroduce the band to itself—his fandom surely flattered Simon LeBon, John Taylor, Nick Rhodes and Co., and simultaneously urged them to produce work that measured up to the smashing success of, say, “Rio.”
From the ominous synth burbles and blend of electronic and acoustic drums that herald “Being Followed,” through to the well-orchestrated outer-space pop of “The Man Who Stole A Leopard,” the sound of Duran Duran coming to terms with what it has always done best is more than evident. Several of the album’s tracks stack up nicely against the finest bits of Duran-squared’s past.
No weak links, no shameless pandering to current trends, and happily, no Timbaland or Justin Timberlake, both of whom helped make 2007’s “Red Carpet Massacre” sound and feel a bit desperate. Just killer hooks strutting above eminently danceable rhythms. Both hard-core, longtime fans and newcomers who dig, say, Scissor Sisters or Daft Punk, should rejoice in this musical candy.
—Jeff Miers, Buffalo News