Can it really be 40 years since Duran Duran broke out of the Rum Runner club and released their first album? I feel old. So think how Simon Le Bon, John Taylor, Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor must feel with the release of Future Past.
They haven’t all been together at the same time over all those years of course. And this is their 15th album, so they haven’t exactly been overworked in creating new material.
Duran Duran have had a storied career: early success; tiredness with each other (two spin off bands, the more poppy Arcadia, the quite wonderful Funky Rock Powerstation).
The late ’80s and early ’90s were not good times for the band, particularly Big Thing and there are albums of theirs at the end of the 1990s that I haven’t even heard.
But suddenly they accessed some cool. Survivor cool. Pop cool. Since the dancefloor sheen of 2007’s Red Carpet Massacre. Their last album, 2015’s Paper Gods, had some flash and trash and wasn’t quite as special.
So there’s a bit of pressure.
Which they have dodged excellently. Firstly by having guests who can bring their own energy. And then by attempting to give us what many of us want.
Pop that we can recognise now.
Pop that was popular then.
Pop that adds darkness.
And so we begin with the big beat and claustrophobic feel of ‘Invisible’, Nick Rhodes’ stabbing synths, so often at the heart of a Duran Duran tune, adding starkness as a feeling of fear swirls around a rather simple chorus.
This is joined by a tough bassline and some odd synth sounds to make ‘Anniversary’ a bit special. And the surging Moroder feel (Giorgio has worked with them on this album) for ‘Beautiful Lie’ sounds like it’s been made for a very expensive disco.
All of this is clearly good stuff and touches Pop of another decade whilst showing us that synths can be dangerous too.
There’s more though. Guests add to the fun; the strings in ‘Give It Up’ seem to ascend before Tove Lo takes the mic. ‘Hammerhead’ has a very likeable rap from Ivorian Doll which works very well with the churning, tougher synths.
Seems to be going well this, doesn’t it? Well…
It doesn’t when they decide to make something a little reminiscent of the Pop of the moment which is reminiscent of the Pop of the ’80s.
Future Past isn’t really of that decade, it’s seen through the prism of that decade. And so Duran Duran, who don’t need a prism, are rather caught between two stools. Songs like ‘Tonight United’ and ‘Nothing Less’ are purer Pop and a little empty too.
When ‘All Of You’ shows a bass as tight as profit margins at an IT startup combined with a bouncy percussion though things seem so much better.
Nick Rhodes told CNN recently; “Our first album had dance songs on it…but it also had a six, seven minute instrumental with an orchestra and some darker songs.”
That’s part of their appeal. And their longevity. They’ve never been stuck in a narrow musical offer.
Rolling Stone sums it up; ‘Duran Duran have never gotten stuck in the past…If you heard Future Past in a blindfold test, you might guess it was some hot young hipster band out to conquer the planet. But it’s Duran Duran, who conquered it four decades years ago.’
And they don’t mind visiting that past to reclaim it as their own.
As the lyrics on this title track tell us, ‘Each moment in time we create. It’s all Future Past.’