Friday, November 05, 2021

Duran Duran Lose None Of Their Magic On New Album ‘FUTURE PAST’

News of a forthcoming Duran Duran album is always exciting. Why? Because you know that with every new record, there’ll be an abundance of energy from one of the slickest pop-rock outfits around, and this fifteenth studio offering from the group is no exception. Four out of the five original members—singer Simon Le Bon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes, bassist John Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor—still remain today, and together they are playing as tightly as ever. 

What results is a sound that is unmistakably Duran Duran—with every element leaving a distinctive mark on the music—but that also looks forward as much as it looks back. This is a quality that is explicitly reflected in the album’s title, ‘FUTURE PAST’.

Its impact is swift, and you immediately find that the band’s ear for a catchy tune is such that even the tracks which are more subdued—such as the lead single and album opener ‘INVISIBLE’ —get you tapping along to the beat or humming the bassline. At the very least, you might find yourself absent-mindedly singing along, even to tracks which might not instantly strike you as typical Duran Duran disco classic (‘WING’, for example). 

Le Bon’s vocals have a habit of making any song captivating, and it has barely aged a day over the decades, being as powerful and emotive as it’s always been. In many ways, it’s the glue that connects the group’s future to their past. It spearheads some tracks that feel like they could have been featured on ‘Rio’ or ‘Seven and the Ragged Tiger’, and others that feel rooted firmly in the 21st Century, but still show Duran Duran at their very best (such as the euphoric celebratory single ‘ANNIVERSARY’).

It’s now 40 years since the release of their first single ‘Planet Earth’ and their self-titled debut album, but they’re still a band with huge cultural relevance and a significant following, including among musicians of all ages. 

FUTURE PAST’ continues a trend set by recent Duran Duran albums in featuring various collaborations—you can trace this habit all the way back to 2007, when Justin Timberlake made an appearance on ‘Red Carpet Massacre’. 2015’s ‘Paper Gods’ spawned the memorable single ‘Pressure Off’, featuring Janelle Monae, and this time around we are treated to contributions from Tove Lo (on ‘GIVE IT ALL UP’, a particular highlight), Ivorian Doll, CHAI, and Mike Garson (on the closing song ‘FALLING’). In addition, Graham Coxon of Britpop icons Blur provides guitar wizardry—his input was particularly praised by Rhodes, who told the Evening Standard that he fitted Duran Duran “like a glove”.The wide array of features conveys the bands ongoing willingness to embrace different genres. The song on which Ivorian Doll features, ‘HAMMERHEAD’, includes a rap verse, shortly before ex-David Bowie pianist Garson takes us in a very different direction by showcasing his versatile skills on ‘FALLING’. 

Many artists acknowledge that to move forward creatively, they have to evolve their music in some way, and Duran Duran are continually doing just that—while simultaneously retaining the sound that has kept them in such high esteem for so long. Make no mistake, ‘FUTURE PAST’ is a record with 2021 all over it, but if you close your eyes and let its beats and synthesiser swathes wash over you, you could well be transported back to 1981. It’s a real treat not quite knowing what the next track will bring, and I hope that unpredictability—and the meshing of yesterday with tomorrow—will continue for many years to come. Duran Duran are back with a bang, but at the same time, it very much feels as if they’ve never been away.

Mason Hawker


Image: Duran Duran, ‘FUTURE PAST’ Official Album Cover (PRESS)

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