As one of the few bands to survive the 1980s, Duran Duran comes
the stone pillars of a lost generation -- a bit worn but with enough
to remind us of the best moments of those years. On its latest
Medazzaland, the band -- now down to two of its original
members -- shows that although its bright New Romantic colors
have faded, it's still capable of occasional brilliance.
Founding bassist John Taylor sidestepped Duran Duran during
production of Medazzaland. In his absence, former Missing
Persons member Warren Cuccurullo stepped in to pull double
on bass and guitars. Simon LeBon's voice is heavily treated at
times, and his lyrics don't penetrate like they used to, but he's still
capable. Nick Rhodes' layered keyboard work, combined with
Cuccurullo's production, creates a richly faceted sound
with clever samples, industrial touches, and enough hooks to
(mostly) pull it off.
The album kicks off with a series of clinchers, from the ga-ga pop
Bang Generation" and the modern rock radio hit "Electric
Barbarella" to the plush balladry of
My Mind." Songs like these introduce Duran Duran's recent
traditional Indian sounds, from the ragaesque riffs on "Generation"
otherworldly tabla and santoor on "Mind."
Unfortunately, from there the album moves into a series of
such as "Who Do You Think You Are?" and "Silva Halo," a poor
refrain compared with 1982's "sing blue silver" from "The
Chauffeur." "Be My Icon" is probably the most unlistenable tune,
with its pager samples, droning instrumentation and awkward
vocals. Although "Michael, You've Got a Lot to Answer For" uplifts
the record with its acoustic themes, "Midnight Sun" and "So Long
Suicide" drag it down again.
Medazzaland is an album that has some gorgeous, fun
moments but that, ultimately, suffers from its attempts to move
beyond the confines of Duran
Duran's traditional sound. Still, it's good to see this band refusing
up the ghost.