Friday, 20th July 2018. 3:00:09am ET
Reviews CD Reviews Alternative, Indie Rock Duran Duran- Astronaut


Artist: Duran Duran
CD Title: Astronaut
Label: Sony
Reviewer: Joshua Heinrich
Date: 12/6/04

It's finally here. After a 25th anniversary tour featuring the band's reunited lineup and on-and-off studio sessions, Duran Duran, to the delight of Duranies worldwide, have finally emerged with a brand new studio album, Astronaut. To call Astronaut a comeback album would be a bit of an overstatement, but perhaps an appropriate one. The core of the band never really went anywhere and continued to release exceptionally strong material throughout much of the 90s, including the excellent "wedding album" and spectacular Medazzaland in addition to the critically obliterated but quite formidable cover album Thank You. However, that all changed on their last album, 2000's appropriately titled Pop Trash, a disappointing outing that practically defined the term "unexceptional". Hence, in a fairly smart move on their parts, the band's original lineup subsequently reunited, creating a huge commercial stir and allowing them license to reinvent themselves (or at least attempt to recapture their early chemistry).

In a lot of ways, Astronaut is something of a blast from the past. After experimenting stylistically and releasing a fair amount of more guitar-oriented material over the last decade and a half, Astronaut showcases something of a return to early form. While there are certainly modern flourishes and elements of their 90s releases here (including more prominent guitar), the reunited lineup's sound has largely devolved into the funky bass-driven electronic pop that defined their work in the 80s. Unlike most of his aging peers, Simon Le Bon's vocals here often literally sound as though they could have been recorded in 1985. The band is also, remarkably, as tight as ever, perhaps sounding even more polished now than in the past. Overall, it's a strong blend of the past and the present recorded by a revitalized band.

From the toe-tapping funk of "Bedroom Toys" to the groovy disco of "Nice", complete with modern vocoded chorus vocals, the album delivers an exceptional set that's more or less void of clunkers. "(Reach Up for the) Sunrise", the album's lead single, is a strong opener with a nice anthem-like chorus, while the danceable synth grooves and infectious chorus of "Want You More!" practically scream "standout". "What Happens Tomorrow" is a very strong guitar/bass-driven mid-paced rock track with a nicely written chorus compete with falsetto vocals, followed by the album's title track, a hook-laden, punchy new wave rocker.

"One of Those Days" puts an interesting twist on the band's sound, entering guitar-oriented modern alt rock territory with a song so fresh it sounds as if it was recorded by a current 20-something alt rock band, complete with an excellent melodic rock vocal performance by the versatile Le Bon. "Finest Hour" and "Still Breathing", on the other hand, serve up beautifully moody rock balladry and certainly provide highlights rather than lulls. The funky "Taste the Summer", complete with "do do do"s, is certainly respectable, while the less memorable but still rather good mid-tempo numbers "Chains" and "Point of No Return" round out the set.

While there's not much here that rivals the band's impressive singles catalog (nothing as immediately catchy as "Planet Earth" or quite as memorable as "Come Undone"), Duran Duran's Astronaut is an exceptionally solid outing that's more consistent than a large chunk of their discography. With the hype surrounding the lineup's reunion and the current popularity of new wave infused alt rock, Astronaut could spell a fairly big return for the group. At the very least, it's sure to please Duranies across the board.

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