What can I say about this band that I have been listening to for over 28 years?
They are a Warhol painting come to life. They are a creative expression wherein what you are saying is not nearly as important as how you are saying it. They have described a few of their efforts as "just wanting to have fun," though I'm not sure that totally describes it.
Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran once said that they were "the band you want to be dancing to when the bomb drops." I find that to be very apt. In that statement you get the idea of how fun and danceable many of their songs are, but there is that hint of something sinister. And that is not a bad thing.
While the band definitely had influences from disco and electronica, they took more than a little bit from punk. They came about in the 80s when the threat of nuclear war was very real. "Why don't they drop the bomb?" is a line from "Friends of Mine." "Look now, look all around, there's no sign of life," from "Planet Earth." Reflections of the prevailing memes of the day and very punk. Many of their other songs tend towards the more indigo side of the spectrum. "Cracks in the Pavement" and "Is There Anyone Out There?" are melancholy bleats that were the theme songs for my teen angst. "The Chauffeur" and "Night Boat" are most unambiguously goth songs, moody and dark backdrops for a creepy thriller to play out against. Beautiful. While not one of my favorite records of theirs, the title of their last album, Red Carpet Massacre, sums them up perfectly. Bright, glamorous, but dangerous.
So yes, they had pop hits and fun songs that made the teen girls (and this boy) dance...but they were also subversive. Just try imagining Justin Beiber or The New Kids On The Block trying anything like the video to "Girls On Film."
In their own way, Duran Duran have also been forward-thinking futurists. In fact their very name is taken from the villain of the science fiction farce, Barbarella. They were among the first bands to get involved with Second Life and also to have their music available for download. Their music was technologically driven with influences heard still to this day. I don't know how many times I've heard a contemporary pop song with Nick Rhodes-style layered sounds or especially a distinctive John Taylor bass riff. The video for "Wild Boys" featured a Mad Max, cyberpunk dystopia, Russell Mulcahy at his best. "Electrica Barbarella" alludes to manufacturing a companion out of "ultra chrome latex and steel," something I blatantly ripped off for On Gossamer Wings (If you're going to steal, why not steal from the best?) The band even had robots making out in their film, Arena.
For the bulk of their career, Duran Duran have had to unjustly battle a "pretty boys with synthesizers and tape back-up" persona and likewise the stigma of an "80s band." By definition, I suppose that they are the latter. If you recorded music in the 80s, then therefore you are an 80s band. That includes U2, REM, The Smiths, and The Cure. Want to try taking knocks at any of them?
What keeps Duran Duran from being a nostalgia act is that they have been steadily releasing new records ever since the 1980s came to a close. As a matter of fact, they have a new one to be released this month.
But it's the 80s once more. From what I've read and heard of the new record, All You Need Is Now, it's 1984 all over again...and that is by no means a detriment. Duran Duran have never made the same record twice. This time, the album is what Rio part II would have sounded like...and I for one couldn't be happier. I see it as a tribute to fans who have stayed with them throughout their long and accomplished career. This is the sound that first captivated us. This is the often imitated but never accurately cloned, authentic Duran Duran sound that made the world fall love. This is the sound of an arty punk in a narrow-cut, white jacket, leaning up against a sleek and silver Aston Martin, crooking his finger and beckoning over a blonde girl in a leopard print mini, blood red lipstick, and pink high heel pumps. This is the sound of feeling good inside the cigarette smoke of a club, excited at the prospect of who might be out there, but a bit apprehensive of the dangers that lurk. After all, all good art has a hint of danger to it.
Find something to hang on to folks. I have a feeling this could be the best Duran Duran record yet....and it's going to be fun.
You can hear snippets from All You Need Is Now at Duran Duran.com
Here is the first single to be released, the album's title track:
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