All You Need is Now has no business being lumped in with those lumps. Duran Duran's latest is a solid album released by a band embracing its legacy and the impact it made in its heyday without sounding contrived or derivative.
In several interviews, Duran Duran and producer Mark Ronson have billed All You Need is Now as the long-forgotten follow-up to Rio. Them's brave talk to a large fan base who have been waiting for just that for over 25 years. But you know what? They're right. This is the most listenable and most consistent Duran Duran-sounding record in a long time.
Whether the credit goes to Ronson, LeBon, Rhodes or either Taylor remains to be seen, but what I hear on this album is Nick Rhodes reaching into his big bag of tricks, revealing some of his richest synthwork since the Rio/Ragged Tiger era. I also hear Simon LeBon having fun with lyrics again. These two things are combined with solid rhythm (but not overbearing) from John and Roger. Most importantly, I hear more of the band and less of outside contributors (I'm talking to you Messrs. Timbaland and Cuccurullo!)
Songs on this album stick in your head. In a good way.
Let's dive into the tracks (there are only nine of them, hearkening back to the days or shorter, tighter albums).
All You Need Is Now - The title track gets off to a shaky start, but gets funky quickly, leading up to a very New Moon On Monday-Duranesque chorus. Fans of both early Duran and Ordinary World-era Duran will love this song. Simon and Nick are the standouts on this one.
Blame the Machines - A song about paranoia with an almost Andy Taylor-like guitar hook. This is a fun, poppy song...think Careless Memories meets Take the Dice meets Electric Barbarella. Make no mistake, you're getting classic synths and some of Duran's best choruses on this album.
Being Followed - I suspect Mark Ronson brought his good mojo to this one. Like Blame the Machine, paranoia, plus guitar, plus solid hooks. Add Roger giving a dash of Planet Earth drumming and you have the song that stuck most with me. I found myself frequently humming this one. I also put this song into the "most likely to be covered by Franz Ferdinand" category.
Leave a Light On - Or what I call "the Motel 6" song. This may be the one dud on the record. Think My Antarctica meets Winter Marches On. When Duran Duran do ballads it's feast or famine. We have the latter hear. Yes, Duran is reaching back on their legacy with this album, but they reached back to the wrong part of their legacy here.
Safe - This is an interesting collaboration with Ana Matronic from Scissor Sisters. It's a good pairing combining Duran's post-disco heritage with the Sisters B-52's party all the time atmosphere. The only drawback is Ana Matronic's mid-song rap that falls somewhere between a rejected Pet Shop Boys riff and Imani Coppola's Legend of a Cowgirl. It could be worse...it almost feels like they wanted Fergie for this. It's best they didn't.
Girl Panic - If based on title alone you guessed that this hearkens to Girls on Film, you'd be right, especially on the drums and guitar front. In fact, if you had told me Andy played guitar on this, I wouldn't argue with you. There's a lot of fun at the heart of this song. If the band were to put out a Night Version of this, it wouldn't feel out of place as a Rio b-side.
The Man Who Stole a Leopard - This is, hands down, the crown jewel of the album. Think The Chauffeur meets a James Bond theme (something The Wild Boys know a thing or two about). Nick is at his best, Simon is at his darkest and there are even strings! Don't let the cheesy news bulletin at the end of this throw you off the scent, Leopard is the lovechild of several Rio tracks. When I read that Kelis sang backup on this, before hearing the song, I had disturbing images of Simon singing about his milkshake being better than yours...thankfully he doesn't (because no one wants that), but the creep factor (in a good way) is strong here.
Runway Runaway - You can tell this started as a driving Nick instrumental, but Simon delivers lyrics that make this a nice pocket of pop. Rio, with her cherry ice cream smile would approvingly dance on the sand to this one. And John, nice bass solo!
Before the Rain - My one fault with this record is the track order...Duran Duran would have been better served ending the album with Leopard. Before the Rain is a distant cousin of both The Chauffeur and To the Shore. It may be one of Duran's prettiest songs... I just would have put it in the middle of the record...but the again, does anyone still listen to music that way...an album beginning to end?
There you go...a very good Duran Duran album...track for track, it just may be their best...but as a cohesive recording, Rio and their first album still rate higher. Having said that, it does wonderfully deliver on the promise of picking up where Rio leaves off
All You Need is Now will be available on iTunes on December 21. If Duran Duran dropped off you radar around the tine Roger Moore stopped ordering shaken, not stirred martinis, you might enjoy a revisit.
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