The first record review I ever wrote was for Duran Duran’s Rio. It was for an English class in high school where the assignment was to write a phony article that offered our opinion on something.
Our town didn’t have MTV at that point, so Duran Duran was not a household name. I felt it was my duty to inform my English teacher of the upcoming onslaught of “The Fab Five.” We had a brief acknowledgement of my critical worth after delivering a dubbed copy of Lou Reed’s Transformer, so occasionally the teacher would actually listen to a recommendation.
Rio had such an impact on me that I praised them as the second coming of Roxy Music and the fully realized package of the Thin White Duke with better teeth and no Ziggy baggage.
In short, I came off as a real double-D nutswinger.
As my teacher reviewed Rio, the video for “Hungry Like The Wolf” premiered on the syndicated Solid Gold music show. I referenced Duran’s “animalistic sexuality” in this song, hinting that the subject matter was too graphic to receive any realistic airplay in our conservative, Midwestern area.
Amused by my youthful rant on our “puritanical” society, he mentioned the Solid Gold performance in his notes on my paper and awarded me a solid “B.”
Aside from a few moments to wipe the jizz off the pages, I’d still award Rio a solid “A” and will scrap anyone who wants to dispute the merits of this pop gem.
It has been diminishing returns for everything since then. The band’s ego inflated with their video budget to the point where they became intolerable. It wasn’t until their mid-career comeback album that I even wondered what Duran Duran was up to, which means the notion of a late career comeback album is even more improbable.
So gone is the modern-infused attempt that was Red Carpet Massacre, and in comes producer Mark Ronson to announce that his work for D’s thirteenth album will be the true follow-up to Rio.
I know that comments like this are nothing more than hyperbole—Andy Taylor isn’t even in the band anymore, so how could it possibly sound like Rio at all?
But luck is on my side, or something, and Andy Taylor is a douchey Sunset Strip has-been, so I kick over a few bucks for an iTunes advance digital copy and wait for Nick Rhodes’ lip-gloss to raise the nostalgic hairs on the back of my neck.
And do you know what? All You Need Is Now comes remarkably close to tricking my brain into thinking that maybe that piece of shit Seven And The Ragged Tiger and everything beyond it didn’t really happened at all.
To be fair, the band’s first comeback, 1993’s The Wedding Album, isn’t bad. There were moments where the teaming with Missing Persons guitarist Warren Cuccurullo sounded promising, but they managed to fuck up a perfectly legitimate second wind immediately after with an awful covers record.
Duran Duran may secretly pine for another run for the charts with a few tracks on All You Need Is Now, but I’d like to think that their advancing age has brought them the smarts to stop pissing away exorbitant sums of money to try and sound relevant again.
What the new album sounds like instead is an intentionally crafted record that enables them to bank on a plethora of chicks from the class of ’85 who will come out in droves for their upcoming tour to hear the old hits.
You can hear the stage transitions between “Blame The Machines” into “Last Chance On The Stairway” or “Girl Panic!” into “Wild Boys,” and it’s at that point when you realize that they’ve done an impressive job of replicating the feel of their highpoints without pandering to them. This record will sound great live and those freshly lipo’ed ladies will not use the new material as an excuse to head for the bathroom.
At the same time, “The Man Who Stole A Leopard” sounds so suspiciously like a more notable moment from their past that I half expected a belt of “Sing blue silver!” instead of some nonsense about a dude that, you got it, stole a leopard.
I also felt the same way during the album closer “Before The Rain,” but whatever, at least it wasn’t “911 Is A Joke.”
Much of the credit obviously belongs to producer Mark Ronson, who seems to respect the band enough to know that their highpoint is and will always be Rio. He understands that his main goal is to merely make an album that, at the very least, doesn’t tarnish that revered record.
Mission accomplished: All You Need Is Now is a perfect nod towards the best of Duran Duran’s past while humbly avoiding the Botox-aided tools that are available today, packaging these middle aged men into facsimile pin-ups.
The band acknowledges their age, their limitations, and seems comfortable with the confines of pop, making their thirteenth album sound like a pretty good third album effort that only took a quarter-century to release.