After a New Album, Duran Duran Returns to Its Roots
Duran Duran's latest album revives memories of the group at its best.
Photo by Stephanie Pistel
You have to hand it to Duran Duran. Nearly 38 years since the group formed, it's still going strong, adapting to changing times and forging its own path forward. Once dismissed by critics as poseurs of Britain's so-called New Romantic movement — replete with those multitiered haircuts and garish fashions — the members of Duran Duran went on to create an impressive body of work over the course of 14 albums and countless hit singles. Still, those naysayers haven't always been kind, chalking up the band's early victories to hype and gimmickry. Various breakups and shifts in direction have caused a certain consternation as well, but ultimately, the group has maintained legions of devotees.
Yet reaching the top in the music industry means one has only that much farther to fall, and indeed, by the mid-'80s, internal fission tore the band apart. After a steady succession of outside projects (Power Station with Robert Palmer being the most successful) and changes in membership, four of the original members (guitarist Andy Taylor being the sole holdout) reconvened at the dawn of the new millennium and attempted to carry on where they had left off. This new Duran Duran was moderately successful, but where it was once a group with a decidedly sharp edge and a knack for clever hooks, it was now relegated to the role of synth-pop pretenders ready to embrace whatever was in vogue. The Duran Duran that produced those early brilliant hits was clearly no more.
That said, it's a welcome relief to find the band's latest album, 2015's Paper Gods, reversing course to a certain extent and offering songs that revive memories of the group at its best.
"We worked at it," bassist John Taylor insists. "Every time we go back in the studio, we work at reinvention. We look at our classic sound and we reboot it for the here and now, whether now is 2015 or 2010 or 2020."
This group is clearly different from the original quintet, the five dashing lads heading off to exotic lands to make videos while outrunning hordes of teenage admirers and somehow finding time to make records that inevitably ended up at the top of the charts. Four of the five from the band's golden era — Taylor, singer Simon Le Bon, drummer Roger Taylor, and keyboardist Nick Rhodes — are still on the front line, but now they're in their mid-50s and far removed from those 20-somethings who found themselves engulfed in that first flush of success.
"When we came out, we were all very much in the pop-star vein," Taylor admits. "But now we've all become parents and homeowners, and so much experience has gone into our lives individually in addition to our career. Those three or four years, from 1980 to 1984, encompassed a massive amount of time for this 20-year-old, and what we achieved in those four years was extraordinary. But it's very different now in the way time passes. This last album took two years to record because we're not full-time musicians anymore. We had to fit it in with our lives, with our responsibilities to our families."
But Taylor points out that when it comes to the music, he and his bandmates are still as enthusiastic as ever.
"When we finished the Paper Gods album, we were all really pleased with the results. We know how challenging it is to get an album finished, but then we get to take it to the stage. For me, there's always something so magical about the moment when the lights go down and there's this suspension of time. It doesn't matter if you're going to see Wicked or Arcade Fire. If it's any good, you don't look at your watch again until the lights go up."
Duran Duran with special guest Chic, featuring Nile Rogers. 8 p.m. Friday, April 1, at Bayfront Park Amphitheatre, 301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-358-7550; bayfrontparkmiami.com. Tickets cost $20 to $140 plus fees via livenation.com.