2011 ➤ Despite sniffy critics, ultimately Duran’s best album since their glory years

❚ UNBELIEVABLE! Not one of the nine amateur vidz posted on YouTube of Duran Duran’s pre-tour warm-ups in the US this week captures tunes from the new album — all are oldies, durrrr. No vidz at all have yet been posted from the tour’s opening night in Thackerville, Oklahoma. Though the band played two gigs at the SXSW media festival in Texas and included five tracks from the new album All You Need Is Now, there’s no sign of any of them on video by close of play Friday. Hence the choice of HoraceScope’s performance vid, above, in excellent HD: the lubricious new tune Being Followed was shot in London at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire recording for Radio 2 earlier this month (Dom Brown on guitar).

Duran Duran, US tour, Winstar Casino, 2011, Simon Le Bon, John Taylor

Update March 20: first US tour vid of a new Duran tune on YT shows Mediterranea at Winstar Casino, Oklahoma, posted by alyciabear72 — http://tinyurl.com/4gvnkmo

Let’s not forget the big 30th anniversary party: next week is the very same in 1981 when Duran’s debut single Planet Earth entered the UK Top 20 where it was to reach No 12. What better way to celebrate than with the next date on their US tour — the much vaunted concert directed by film-maker David Lynch in LA on Wednesday night US time, so all the more reason to catch its live YouTube webcast at 2am UTC Thursday (repeated 8pm for the UK).

As an eye witness at this week’s Stubbs gig at SXSW, Kitty Amsbry of the American fansite Gimmeawristband reports: “Le Bon’s vocals were top-notch, from the highest notes of Ordinary World to the spiteful snarls of Friends of Mine. The band even managed to look cool while calling themselves to a halt, and taking it from the top again on Safe; showing a serious commitment to quality while still remaining playful. [Echoes here of the nervous Hadley and Kemp on the first night of Spandau’s reunion tour.] Yet for that one misstep, each and every other song, old or new, had the unmistakable charge of being right there in the moment.”

Of SXSW, Time Out North America reported: “Impressively—astonishingly, even—the band still looks cool. Besides immaculately fitted black suits, part of the reason for this is that for all their playboy behavior in the 80s, Duran Duran could actually play and write songs… and still can.”

➢ Listen to Duran Duran’s richly layered standout
♫ Girl Panic!

After the taster-reviews of the nine tracks released digitally before Christmas, a second wave of reviews is now trickling out, though it’s hard to tell whether the additional numbers being released on the 14-track CD next week have been considered. Verdicts are largely favourable, despite some sniffy reservations over three seemingly dud tunes, praise being directed principally to the same seven tracks, the four standouts being Safe, Too Bad You’re So Beautiful, The Man Who Stole a Leopard and Girl Panic!

all you need is now: excerpts from
verdicts published so far…

Duran Duran, 2011, All you need is now ➢ The musical DNA of the British group’s early sound is hard to miss — Alex Veiga, Associated Press, syndicated across the US
“The album overflows with Duran Duran’s sonic staples: lush synths layered over driving, dance-floor ready bass lines; disco-inspired percussion, frequently accented with Latin beats; and, the high-flying, moody vocals and harmonies. On the funky Girl Panic! the percussion recalls the group’s classic The Reflex. On the title track, a whirring synth drone builds to a sing-along friendly chorus: And you sway in the moon the way you did when you were younger/And we told everybody all you need is now. The Man Who Stole a Leopard might be the album’s standout cut, somewhat evocative of the band’s dark and sexy classic The Chauffeur.”

➢ Not everything is worth making the journey
— Mikael Wood, LA Times

“It’s hard to know why the band bothered adding five new songs to the superior nine-track version of All You Need Is Now that Duran Duran released through iTunes late last year. But with their sleek keyboard lines, trebly guitar chatter and frontman Simon Le Bon’s swooping vocal melodies, taut neo-New Wave gems like Being Followed and Girl Panic! make a strong argument for the lasting utility of these hitmakers’ original formula.”

➢ Will appal their detractors but delight true believers
— Dan Cairns, Sunday Times Culture

“[Producer Mark] Ronson brings out Duran’s 1960s-tinged melodiousness  and avant-garde leanings. Their best album for decades.”

➢ Duran Duran embrace middle age — Ed Potton, The Times
“Mark Ronson as producer… understands what they do best — spacious pop songs with a bittersweet undertow. The title track, a thrilling blast of grandstanding choruses and wonky synths, will sit comfortably alongside The Reflex and Save a Prayer. It’s in the lyrics, never previously a Duran forte, that Le Bon and Co cast themselves gamely into the contemporary fray. The likeably eccentric The Man Who Stole a Leopard exudes an acceptance of vanishing youth. ‘You were once running wild,’ Le Bon sings (addressing Yasmin?). Now, however, ‘we’ve both been tamed’. Being Followed appears to curse the intrusion of stalkers and/or CCTV. ‘I’ve done things I don’t ever want you to know,’ Le Bon wails.”

➢ The best Duran Duran album for 18 years
— Tom Hocknell at BBC Music

“They have thankfully stopped seeking credibility, and it suits them. Their calling card here is the garage rock of the title-track (if you can imagine a garage band playing alongside Bentleys), which morphs into a soaring chorus reminiscent of Rio. Scissor Sister Ana Matronic slots perfectly into the disco-flecked Safe, an unashamed return to their original sound. They sound similarly well preserved on the slinky Being Followed, and Girl Panic! also mines their new-wave roots.”

➢ Duran Duran’s 13th album emerges as their best in years
— Thomas H Green, Daily Telegraph

“There are strong guest appearances from Kelis and Ana Matronic from Scissor Sisters, slowies to match their gem Ordinary World, and rip-roaring Chic-meets-Roxy pop-rockers such as Girl Panic! … Full of tunes and pizzazz, it’s unexpectedly good fun.”

➢ Duran Duran have unearthed their missing mojo
— Dave Simpson, Guardian online

“[Producer] Mark Ronson has sprinkled guests like Kelis and Ana Matronic over his postmodern sheen, but the surprise is the quality of the songwriting. The title track and groove-thrusting Too Bad You’re So Beautiful are once-heard, sing-the-chorus pop stonkers.”

➢ Still hungry after all these years — Adrian Thrills, Daily Mail
“The band’s 13th album is much better than most of us could have anticipated. The nine new songs benefit from a diverse cast of special guests. Ana Matronic of the Scissor Sisters adds a seductive rap on Safe (In the Heat of the Moment). New York soul diva Kelis impresses on The Man Who Stole A Leopard. But if Mark Ronson’s input provides a creative spark, the most impressive thing is Duran Duran’s return to form as songwriters. The frontman, to his credit, also supplies some wonderful, multi-tracked vocal harmonies, superbly augmented by Rhodes’ clever electronic prompts and the urgent grooves of the rhythm section.”

➢ Nine songs full of the promise and thrill of 1981-83
— Crispin Kott at Pop Matters

“All You Need Is Now isn’t Son of Rio, but it’s the best album Duran Duran has released since then, a collection that manages what their best material always has, blending art with grand gestures and popcraft. It’s nine songs full of the promise and thrill of 1981-83… This is the sound of time stood still, of a feeling of reckless and sophisticated abandon launched decades forward without skipping a beat.”

➢ Listen to Duran Duran’s discreet and flawless epic
♫ The Man Who Stole a Leopard (featuring Kelis)

➢ Nick Rhodes and Simon Le Bon are incredibly adept pop songwriters — Forest at TRT
“My favourite song so far, Girl Panic!, is the best of all worlds. It’s got that optimistic pomp I’ve always loved about Duran Duran’s brightest tracks, with a chorus that I would love to buy property in. For me, this song is the ultimate cross between Rio and Electric Barbarella.”

➢ A success on many levels — Möhammad Choudhery at Consequence of Sound
“Certainly a commendable effort if for no reason other than it’s the band’s most relevant and listenable record in almost two decades. And though it’s not quite Rio 2.0, Duran Duran’s 13th album does possess many of the qualities that put the synth-pop legends on the map in the first place.”

➢ A return to roots for a band that’s all implants
— Jon Dolan, Rolling Stone

“Being Followed and the tawdry Runway Runaway are every bit the chic Riviera rock of Duran’s 1980s classics. A hoot.”

Duran Duran, US tour, 2011, SXSW, interview, video

➢ VIEW the Facebook Live chat with John Taylor & Nick Rhodes at SXSW in Texas, March 16. Rhodes claims to have 100,000 photos in his personal archive he’d like to get published somehow


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