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Duran Duran - Future Past (Album Review)

Monday, 01 November 2021 Written by Graeme Marsh


Photo: John Swannell

Forty years ago, Duran Duran reigned supreme in synth-pop land. With classic singles such as Hungry Like The Wolf, Save a Prayer and Planet Earth arriving in a relentless onslaught, everything they touched turned to gold. They then reached the summit of their popularity when Is There Something I Should Know? went straight in at number one in the UK, a rare event at the time, and solidified their status across the pond.

In truth, the next 40 years featured varying levels of success, as the heights of their early years became impossible to replicate despite the occasional highlight. Attempts were continuously made to reinvent themselves but, in truth, this shapeshifting could have been their downfall.

Studio album 15, however, feels different, and it’s much better across the board than its disappointing 2015 predecessor ‘Paper Gods’.

The presence of producer Erol Alkan helps immeasurably as he strove to recapture the band’s signature sound, also bringing in Blur’s Graham Coxon, whose guitars and limitless energy give the band a new lease of life.

Glitzy lead single Invisible is decent, but it’s not got the pulling power that demands an album pre-order. Featuring the Japanese rock band Chai, More Joy is better, with its basic keyboard sounds leading into a mesmerising, reedy hook. Unlike contributions on ‘Paper Gods’, though, the guests here largely enhance rather than overwhelm Duran Duran’s personality, and Coxon’s guitar playing, in particular, is exemplary.

The excellent Give It All Up’s bubbly synths combine with sublime guest vocals from Tove Lo, playing off Simon Le Bon’s in a modern take on the band that is exactly what they’ve been striving for. Giorgio Moroder also contributes to both Beautiful Lies and Tonight United, with the former representing a rare misstep as it comes off like a Moroder track with Le Bon on guest vocals. Unfortunately, this approach is more akin to ‘Paper Gods’. It didn’t work then and it doesn’t work brilliantly here, either.

A couple of songs—including the fantastic All Of You and the single Anniversary—are happy to recall the 1980s without giving in to pastiche, while Coxon provides darkly satisfying guitar on the superb Nothing Less. His ‘hands-on at a distance’ approach works beautifully, unlike the closer Falling, where David Bowie’s keyboardist Mike Garson pops up on a jazzy and incoherent cut. Similarly, a disastrous verse from Ivorian Doll ruins an otherwise decent effort in Hammerhead.

All in all, ‘Future Past’ does more than enough to strike the perfect balance between old and new, with an enticing level of collaboration taking place. For the first time in decades, Duran Duran have made a record that you need to hear.

Duran Duran Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sun June 12 2022 - DUBLIN St Annes Park
Fri July 01 2022 - LANCASHIRE Lytham Green
Sun July 10 2022 - LONDON Hyde Park

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