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Duran Duran
All You Need Is Now Iain Moffat , April 27th, 2011 10:18

What you do in the long term once you've invented the future has always been one of pop's great dilemmas: for every Kraftwerkian (or Beastie Boyish, for that matter) masterclass in profile management, there's a Presleyan wilderness or Lydon-like meander into parody. Duran Duran, meanwhile, have taken such a blurry approach that it's become difficult to pin down exactly what the consensus take on them is at any given point, even to the degree that, while the performers mentioned above have long been able to take their rarefied reckoning for granted, theirs is a constantly controversial inclusion in the canon.

Of course, this is probably partly down to the fact that in their magnificent pomp they tended to be seen as the cutting edge by that element of the music press readership that tended more towards posters than philosophy. Nevertheless, their stated endeavour to be equal parts the Pistols and Chic still finds considerable echoes today (witness, if you will, the prevalence of present-day hip-hop incorporating far rockier elements, with results that range from 'Written In The Stars' right down to 'Magic'), while their conversion of new romanticism from transitory localised concern to international electronic lingua franca has been repeatedly mirrored in subsequent disparate upswings. Even their penchant for conspicuous consumption has shifted from debatable ideology to mainstream staple. Surely, then, all they need to is make A N Other Duran Album, and they'll be as contemporary as it gets, won't they?

Thankfully, they seem to be thoroughly aware of that from the title onwards, since All You Need Is Now, for all the modernist concession of its original download-only release, is, on the whole, so utterly Duran that it might as well be champagne-scented and come with an aloofly alluring body-painted supermodel draped across it. The bookends alone should be proof enough of this – the opening title track lyrically recalls a youth spent swaying in the moon while sonically harking back to 'New Moon On Monday', while 'Before The Rain' is nothing if not aiming for 'The Chauffeur'dom, which is a courageous call – but there are no shortage of moments elsewhere that both allude wistfully to their heyday and yet, crucially, wouldn't have sounded out of place during it. The autobahn reference in 'Blame The Machines', the declaration that there's a place for them in Mediterranea (involving a yacht, presumably), the glamorous and funk-strewn stridency of 'Girl Panic!'... frankly, it's astonishing to think they've ever gone through spells of thinking that that wasn't exactly what they ought to be doing.

There's also the issue of the personnel to consider here, which has been something of a deciding factor in, well, everything they've done post-the great Arcadia/Power Station imbroglio, and it's encouraging to report that they seem to have bounced back rather well from releasing possibly the worst-selling Timberlake-incorporating album ever. This time around, four of the famous five are still on board, and, while the presence of Ana Matronic isn't the coup these days that it was when New Order did it (though 'Safe (In The Heat Of The Moment)' makes far better use of her than 'Jetstream' did, landing somewhere unlikely between 'Barbarism Begins At Home' and the astonishing Modern Romance/Techno Twins collaboration 'Queen Of The Rapping Scene'), but the presence of both Owen Pallett and Kelis on the same track bodes stunningly well. Indeed, the fact that the album takes a preposterous turn for the Mansun around that point – not such an anachronistic move, as it happens, what with Mr Draper himself re-emerging via the medium of You Animals around now - is something to celebrate: 'A Diamond In The Mind' is more classily orchestral and minimalistic than they're used to, while 'The Man Who Stole A Leopard' is cheeringly propulsive, markedly sinister, and, with its faux-BBC broadcasting, wickedly odd.

Not that it's the only bit of stylistic cherry-picking here, but, wisely, they've kept it almost clunker-free in this instance – 'Leave A Light On' would've benefited from being a Belinda Carlisle cover instead of the overlong and overly lachrymose ponder that it is, but that's about it on the downside front. 'Being Followed', for instance, isn't the only Cure-happy offering doing the rounds right now (for example, see Digitalism's also-'The Forest'-inspired 'Circles' or the whole of the new Thomas Tantrum album for further Smithery), it brings a remarkable degree of urgency to proceedings here, and 'Other People's Lives' is better still, casting an admonishing eye over some of the more perverse cultural turns taken in their lifetime with the ruthlessly Other disconnection of Quiet Life-era Japan while being bathed in purest HIT!.

No, this album's not going to deter anyone with prior Duran disdain, and accusations that Le Bon remains rather more braying than, say, anyone liable to get four yeses in the X Factor certainly still have substance. Still, what a wonderful reminder that partying like it's 1982's supposed to sound this vital.

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