Artist: Duran Duran
Album: All You Need is Now
Genre: Alternative, New Wave, Pop Rock
Reviewer: Joshua Heinrich
On their thirteenth studio album, 80s MTV staples and new wave legends Duran Duran return with a glass unexpectedly filled to the brim. The past two decades have found Duran Duran experimenting sonically, from the more guitar-based rock/pop sound of their 1993 eponymous "comeback", the so-called "wedding album", to the more experimental electronica/pop of Medazzaland, and the unlikely modern pop pairings with Timbaland and Justin Timberlake on 2007's Red Carpet Massacre, alternately bringing aboard new and old fans and proving divisive. However, All You Need is Now is a triumphant return to form, not just in songwriting but also sound. Pushed by producer Mark Ronson to dig out their old equipment and create music together in more of a live studio setting, the band (consisting of original members Simon LeBon, John Taylor, Nick Rhodes, and Roger Taylor, sans Andy Taylor) once again found the heart of their early sound and breathed new life into their work. The resulting album, one a lot of long-time fans have been awaiting since the 2001 reunion of the band's original lineup if not since the 80s, could pass for the long-lost finale in a trilogy including their debut and Rio.
Simon Le Bon, now in his 50s, sounds eerily untouched by the hands of time. Funky basslines and bouncy analog synths abound, the album jumps from highlight to highlight, from guitar lines snaking around pulsating electronics on "Being Followed" to the early 80's Blondie-esque new wave funk of "Safe", featuring Scissor Sisters vocalist Ana Matronic The album is very well-produced and polished, yet not overly so, retaining an endearing organic quality that has been lacking in some of their other recent output. The upbeat pop tracks are energetic and catchy, each having something memorable, whether it's the infectious synth riffs of "Blame the Machines" or "Runway Runaway’s” squealing new wave rhythm guitar. The ballads are heart-felt and touching, the lovely, meandering string-drenched "Before the Rain" proving captivating, and the moody, lyrically powerful "Leave a Light On" being one of the album's crowning achievements.
For those of you familiar with the 9-track itunes version released in December, the 5 bonus tracks on the standard CD are certainly worth the upgrade. "Girl Panic!", the disc's new single, is a great pop track with its huge synth string hits and killer bass riffs, while "Mediterranea" rounds out the album's lighter side with another beautiful ballad, and "Other People's Lives" is a great upbeat throwback to the band's earlier days with a big sing-along chorus. The other two aren't so much songs in themselves as short string reprises of the title track, but they are both lovely and help to tie the album together and add a sense of cohesion to what is already a solid collection of songs.
While one could easily criticize the band for releasing an early abbreviated 9-song I-tunes version of the album (arguably hastily thrown together and pushed out the door in time for the holidays) followed months later by a single CD, two separate deluxe editions with varying track listings, and an expensive upcoming deluxe box version, the fact is that all versions are excellent. Even the whopping 17 song deluxe edition, exclusive to Best Buy, is solid and void of any tracks that could even remotely be called bad. All 3 bonus tracks are strong, especially "Too Close to the Sun", which finds Le Bon refreshingly letting go and soaring into falsetto freestyle with reckless abandon in near Bono-esque fashion.
In the end, All You Need Is Now is easily one of the most consistent, refreshing, appealing, and infectious albums the band has released during their lengthy three decade career. Whether the beginning of a new era or a swan song that recaptures their youth and vitality in one last gift to fans, it's a must-have for long-time devotees, even those disillusioned by their work over the last decade, and an album worth delving into for fans of the countless modern bands they've inspired.
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