23 December 2010

Duran Duran: "All You Need Is Now"

My apologies for having been away, but I have a few more posts before the close of the year. This post here goes out to two of my friends: Dizzy (I miss you!) and TheCandyMan.

I may not have been writing lately, but I have been listening to tons music. Around my birthday I got the perfect gift, the new Duran Duran single, “All You Need Is Now.” An early Christmas gift came about this week, when the band released their thirteenth studio album, also titled “All You Need Is Now” (21 December 2010 as download, physical copies set for February 2011). With the lackluster reception of “Red Carpet Massacre” (13 November 2007), I think many people, like myself, were a bit weary about this release. In my second post on this blog (link), I made reference to “Red Carpet Massacre,” but also got into the idea of veterans in music: “When musicians become established and household names, the misconception that their name alone will carry them becomes prevalent. Musicians have no choice but to be whores if they want to sustain a career of descent record sales and relevance to the music scene. This includes playing festivals, doing appearances on talk shows, and radio interviews. This includes humility and remembering that the music scene is fickle (at best) and constantly changing. Last year's hot track is a fading memory, and depending on past monuments as a model for future albums is a mistake. Music needs to continue to be new and fresh…” And in that continuation, the two most important factors to keep in mind is the ability of musicians to be strong songwriters and amazing performers. And it is almost funny to say that one must keep “new and fresh” in the midst of an 80s revival, but what better time is there for Duran Duran to use something old to make something new and prove that they are not just sitting on their laurels?

Like all the other veterans that are like religion to me (The Cure, Depeche Mode, Annie Lennox, etc…), the other obstacle that veterans have to surmount is their history. Old time fans want “Rio,” “Hungry Like the Wolf,” and “The Reflex” (Can anyone please explain what they meant by, “The reflex is an only child, he’s waiting in the park. The reflex is in charge of finding treasure in the dark and watching over lucky clover isn’t that bizarre”?). But unlike countless of late 70s and early 80s veterans that continue to make music, Duran Duran refuses to become complacent. Sure, past experimentations may have failed, but “All You Need Is Now” sways clear of frivolous experiments and obtuse musical references. Actually, they go back to the one reference that they know better than anyone else: themselves!

You cannot listen to this album not think of Duran Duran’s 80s catalogue. No, they are not rehashing the same melodies or hooks, sounds or arrangements, but they are obviously intent on showing everyone crazed in the 80s revival just how music in the 80s was put together, without sounding dated. Furthermore, the sense of urgency has returned to their music. “Girl Panic!” is the perfect example of this. With its near Caribbean-beats, big keyboard arrangement, and the perfect matter-of-fact posturing in Simon Le Bon’s voice, it is that archetypical Duran Duran song that has you on the edge of your seat. Though you may think “Ordinary World” when you listen to “Leave a Light On,” go listen to “Save a Prayer” again. Much more sophisticated than its mold, “Leave a Light On” has the same formula: ambient keyboards carrying the melody with a subtle acoustic guitar in the background. Of course, the lead single can throw anyone off. On the surface, it is close to “Red Carpet Massacre” than anything else, but scratch the surface. That savvy switch from verse to chorus is very “New Moon on Monday.” That odd rhythm / keyboard interplay is “Union of the Snake.” “Being Followed” has that great Duran Duran ostinato like “Rio” and “Hungry Like The Wolf” (no one does ostinato better than them!). And of course, any Duran Duran album must have the I’m-Nick-Rhodes-the-keyboard-king moment, and that comes in the final track, “Before the Rain.” Not as obviously steeped in the 80s mentality of Duran Duran, but it is time for some reflection. More so than their American contemporaries, the Brits of the post-punk, new wave, and New Romanticism(!) were continuously reminded of one thing: the Cold War. And perhaps this near Russian waltz, this chilling ending, is a subtle reminder of those days.

Add a few guest appearances (Kelis and Ana Matronic of the Scissor Sisters) and an amazing assortment of backing musicians (including Mancunian Dominic Brown) you get an album that proves that Duran Duran still has it in them. Urgent and relevant and stylish as they are, “All You Need Is Now” easily flutters through each track with ease, inspiring foot tapping and dancing. This is the archetypical Duran Duran album: fun, innovative, and memorable – and the first album in a while that I am looking forward to seeing the new music live, though they best play “New Moon on Monday”! Check this one out.

Track Listing:
1. All You Need Is Now
2. Blame the Machines
3. Being Followed
4. Leave A Light On
5. Safe (In the Heat of the Moment)
6. Girl Panic!
7. The Man Who Stole a Leopard
8. Runaway Runway
9. Before the Rain

Keep up with Duran Duran at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here is the video for “All You Need Is Now” from their YouTube Channel: 07DuranDuran.

1 comment:

  1. Three cheers for Duran Duran! You nailed this review--I couldn't agree with you more. I listened to this CD and found myself tapping to every song!