A Themed Duran Duran Album?
Well, not really, more of a combo of new and reeimagined Duran Duran tracks with some covers too. That could be worrying. And yet, it works fantastically well, melding sounds, making us dance and providing excellent atmosphere.
Credit; Planet Radio
Let The Danse Begin
Leading off with a tolling bell is exactly right for the Halloween season, drum machine percussion joins, Simon Le Bon doesn’t get demonstrative, the vocals are quiet and almost try to drag you in, until a big guitar jabs in, that’s a version of Duran Duran’s own ‘Nightboat‘.
Although they revisit their back catalogue in slightly renamed 1993 track ‘Voudou‘, the atmosphere is the big offer here, as are the spooky, but never spine-chilling, synths in the title track, the watery filter to the vocals and bigger soulful female backing vocals pushing the track in another direction.
There are also those shiny, sheeny, Duran Duran dance tracks. Nile Rodgers makes an appearance on ‘Black Moonlight‘, the bass a real feature, the whistling synths, the soully, big chorus; quite marvellous.
The bass drives ‘Supernature‘, such racing ’80’s pop with sinuous power and a dramatic Le Bon vocal, with a nice to hear tougher bridge and those female backing vocals adding heft.
It’s the main feature on this Duran Duran album. The drums seem like an afterthought, thin, almost not there or a percussive piece – if you hear the original tries of tracks like ‘The Reflex‘, John Taylor’s bass is all the song and that’s no issue when it has a snake-like, funky quality.
Yerrrssss. I used to think that covers should be approached one of 2 ways ;
1. Dismantle the track so it’s a completely different offer, but keep the kernel of the song
2. Do it faithfully but better than the original
I’ve softened my view slightly to add a 3rd dictum:
3. Add something perhaps small but certainly delicious which creates more excitement than the original had
I’m not sure Duran Duran managed number 2 with their faster but faithful version of The Specials/Special AKA ‘Ghost Town‘. The brass parps more threateningly due to modern production techniques perhaps, but it can sound a little rinky dinky at times, rather than having the swing inherent in Ska.
Georgia Moroder style driving synth bass is at the heart of a version of ‘Paint It Black‘, which then stops being interesting as it segues to reined-in Rock. Why would you bother? Le Bon doesn’t have the disconnected vocal style needed here, bombast has often been his basis.
And as for the cover of Rick James’ ‘Super Freak‘, it adds nothing at all and smacks of Duran Duran having fun. Mind you, what’s wrong with that? Well we’re listening too…
That griping all ends with their version of ‘Psycho Killer‘, the sparse and spiky Talking Head original has been replaced by a dancefloor Funk and Soul sheen, with ‘Psycho‘ style strings and that braggadocios bass work.A mixed bag with a very lovely clasp…
Not The Usual
This just seems different to what bands usually offer. The combo of new songs, old songs and other people’s old songs should seem like a makeweight, a hold-over until a proper Duran Duran album is released. But it doesn’t seem like that at all; it seems fun, different, it revels in its own audacity. As Emma Harrison says in Clash Magazine;
Every track can be listened to in isolation, but by listening to the album chronologically, you can see how the band are using music to achieve a balance between dark and light, seeking out light in the darkness and darkness in the light which is reflected throughout ‘Danse Macabre’.
Happy Halloween from Duran Duran, a band still full of surprises after all these years.