ADRIAN THRILLS: Duran Duran are back with pop, art… and bit of a Blur
Duran Duran: Future Past (BMG)
Verdict: Wild Boys grow up (a little)
When they were flying high with hits such as Save A Prayer and Girls On Film, Duran Duran ticked all the boxes marked excess. They had supermodel girlfriends, sported designer suits and filmed their videos on luxury yachts. Even by the showy standards of the New Romantic 1980s, they were gloriously preposterous.
If the Birmingham band’s music was often overshadowed by their louche offstage antics, they are belatedly receiving recognition for their artistic legacy.
They have been cited as an influence by Killers singer Brandon Flowers — and superstar DJ Mark Ronson, who produced their 2010 comeback album All You Need Is Now, puts in another cameo on their 15th studio LP.
Future Past is a typical Duran Duran cocktail: three parts catchy pop; one part arty experimentation, the latter coming predominantly from keyboardist Nick Rhodes and guest guitarist Graham Coxon, on loan from Blur.
Originally intended as an EP, the release developed into a full album once recording began and the band discovered they had ’25-plus strong songs’, a number they eventually edited down to 12.
Future Past is a typical Duran Duran cocktail: three parts catchy pop; one part arty experimentation
If the Birmingham band’s music was often overshadowed by their louche offstage antics, they are belatedly receiving recognition for their artistic legacy
It was subsequently delayed by Covid, but still sounds like the work of a much younger band.
Four fifths of the group that once vied for chart supremacy with Spandau Ballet and Culture Club appear on Future Past, with Rhodes joined by singer Simon Le Bon and the rhythm section of bassist John and drummer Roger Taylor (no relation). A third Taylor, guitarist Andy (again unrelated), flew the coop in 2006.
Several tracks take the band back to 1980s basics. With the Taylor and Taylor rhythm section in their element, the Chic-like grooves of All Of You are in thrall to American funk and disco. ‘We are music lovers, this much we’ve learned,’ sings Le Bon, and it’s hard to argue.
Elsewhere, Anniversary is more heavy-handed rhythmically, but at least it has a rousing chorus.
Electronic guru Giorgio Moroder drops by to supervise two high-octane dance-pop numbers, Beautiful Lies and Tonight United, and East London rapper Ivorian Doll guests on Hammerhead.
The quartet’s bolder instincts get an airing on the dreamy Give It All Up, made with Swedish hit-maker Tove Lo, and the Ronson-produced Wing. There’s also a riotous collaboration with J-pop stars Chai, an all-girl indie-pop band from Nagoya, on the fast-paced More Joy!
Some of the old silliness also resurfaces, with Le Bon singing of ‘the outmode of the old order’ on Tonight United, and being eaten by ‘a hungry Demi-God that will not be denied’ on Wing.
With most of the band now in their 60s, there are even a few hints of age-appropriate maturity. Once famous for setting songs and videos in exotic locations, Duran Duran, on the title track at least, are now more at home in the National Trust enclave of Dorset’s Brownsea Island.
Pop’s former Wild Boys still know how to enjoy themselves but, rather surprisingly, they are growing older with dignity.
Self Esteem: Prioritise Pleasure (Fiction)
Verdict: Celebratory pop
Formerly half of Yorkshire indie-folk duo Slow Club, Rebecca Taylor set out to become a ‘hot pop star’, albeit on her own terms, when she launched a solo career four years ago.
After settling on the alias Self Esteem, to help her overcome her anxieties, she has become a musical whirlwind who specialises in big choruses, playground chants and rumbling synthetic beats.
Written during the pandemic, while Taylor was isolating at her parents’ house in Sheffield, Prioritise Pleasure tackles tough topics with unflinching honesty.
After settling on the alias Self Esteem, to help her overcome her anxieties, she has become a musical whirlwind who specialises in big choruses, playground chants and rumbling synthetic beats
Written during the pandemic, while Taylor was isolating at her parents’ house in Sheffield, Prioritise Pleasure tackles tough topics with unflinching honesty
Amid its tales of romantic failure and 30-something angst, there is also self-awareness and bittersweet humour.
Electronic pop number I’m Fine taps into some stage work that she did with The National Youth Theatre to address the fears of women walking home alone.
How Can I Help You is powerfully percussive, looking to Kanye West’s Black Skinhead for rhythmic inspiration while harking back to Taylor’s formative years in a Yorkshire punk band.
Helmed with the help of Swedish producer Johan Hugo Karlberg, of Afro-pop fusion duo The Very Best, the singer’s second album is a powerful and unapologetic statement of intent.
‘I’m not reinventing a bunch of wheels,’ she says. ‘My quest is to make music that’s widescreen and cinematic.’
This record does just that.