Duran Duran | All You Need Is Now (Tapemodern)

Such a clever, classic approach; I appreciate it anew with every listen.

 

 

First, before giving you the review, I’m going to make two pronouncements:

1. All You Need Is Now is Duran Duran’s best effort since Rio.
2. All You Need Is Now may very well be the best release of 2011.
Before you decry my remarks, let me prove my point.
The self-released (!) All You Need Is Now was heralded as a “return to form” for the former teen heartthrobs; with it, the band was supposed to be revisiting its 1980s roots. And you know what? Both proclamations are true.
Lead single and title track “All You Need Is Now” is catchy from the get-go, a brilliant way to start an otherwise brilliant album. Singer Simon LeBon’s voice is in perhaps the best form of his career; he stretches and soars and moans better than anyone in the business. The song’s a classic, sounding old while simultaneously sounding new. (Believe me; it just works). With lyrics such as “Everybody’s gunning for the VIP section/ but you’re better off in running in another direction,” it recalls a similar sentiment set forth by the band on “Too Much Information” from 1993’s Duran Duran (the Wedding Album): “Destroyed by MTV/ you hate to bite the hand that feeds.”
Next up, “Blame the Machines” hearkens back to Rio’s “Hold Back the Rain.” Soaring “whoa”s and a strong synthesizer undertone draw a listener in almost immediately. Soaring vocals on the refrain coupled with “Hungry Like the Wolf”-style guitars fill the fast-moving “Being Followed” with all that is good about these Birmingham lads—er, gents. (Can you believe the band formed in 1978?)

With “Leave the Light On,” the band proves it can go mellow without going home. Think Rio’s “Save a Prayer”: it may be slow, but it’s nonetheless fully engaging and, well, awesome. “Safe (in the Heat of the Moment)” is a down-and-dirty dance tune. The female voice monotonously reciting lines (“Scratch my surface, dig in deep/ there’s always secrets that you keep”), amazingly, never gets old; rather, it’s fun to let loose with this one. Go ahead: sing, talk, dance, shake your head. This song was meant for you. Before you hang up those boogie shoes, give a listen to “Girl Panic!” The song kicks off with a drum beat before adding Duran Duran-styled guitars and LeBon’s rich vocals. One of the album’s interludes, “A Diamond in the Mind,” comes next. It’s a brief string reprisal of “All You Need Is Now,” similar to Thank You’s “Drive By,” which was a reimagining of Rio’s “The Chauffeur.”
The stark intro to “The Man Who Stole a Leopard” reminds me of the dark overtures of “Night Boat,” from the band’s self-titled 1981 debut. Lyrically, this one’s a classic double entendre, comparing an untamable woman to a leopard (“Hungry Like the Wolf,” anyone?). Again, we have a female voice, at first providing backing vocals, then reading a news report over the final minute and a half of the song. It should get old—but again, it doesn’t. Such a clever, classic approach; I appreciate it anew with every listen.
As you might expect, a song called “Runway Runaway” gets you moving again with its upbeat pop energy. Next up, the space-y and haunting “Before the Rain” is this album’s “The Chauffer.” It’s so aching and gorgeous: no aphids this time, just rain. Put on the headphones and dim the lights; you can lose yourself in this one. Also maintaining the mellow mood is “Mediterranea,” one of the “bonus” tracks on the physical release.
We’re back to the upbeat with “Other People’s Lives”; also new in 2011 is the galloping “Too Bad You’re so Beautiful.” There’s something refreshing about a song that defies its age: It could be the 1980s, it could be 30 years hence. Does it really matter? Good is good, no matter when it came out.
Fittingly, the album’s closer is yet another reflection of its opener. The strings-only “Return to Now” is lyricless, a perfectly understated cherry atop a truly satisfying treat.
In 2004, the original lineup of Duran Duran got back together for Astronaut; though by no means bad, Astronaut was a mellow pop album at its core, not a New Wave release. The dance-pop Red Carpet Massacre followed in 2007, and with it the departure of guitarist Andy Taylor (“creative differences,” or something like that; read Taylor’s autobiography if you want the dirt). These days, Duran Duran remain Simon LeBon, John Taylor, Nick Rhodes, and Roger Taylor—plus some unnamed guy on lead guitar. (Really, does it even matter who?)
The album was released first in 2010 as digital-only; this year saw its physical release, complete with four additional tracks. (And yes, the wait was worth it; though two are reprises/instrumentals, none of the four is a throwaway.) Truly, with All You Need Is Now, Duran Duran has obliterated any talk about “has-beens.” There’s no other way to say it: Duran Duran is back, and they’re on fire. A+ | Laura Hamlett

Also by Laura Hamlett:

Duran Duran’s Andy Taylor | Wild Boy, Indeed

Andy Taylor |  Wild Boy: My Life in Duran Duran

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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