Duran Duran: Faded Romanticism

As one of the few bands to survive the 1980s, Duran Duran comes

across like

the stone pillars of a lost generation -- a bit worn but with enough

gilt left

to remind us of the best moments of those years. On its latest

release,

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

the

production of Medazzaland. In his absence, former Missing

Persons member Warren Cuccurullo stepped in to pull double

duty

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

overflowing

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

of

"Big

Bang Generation" and the modern rock radio hit "Electric

Barbarella" to the plush balladry of

"Out of

My Mind." Songs like these introduce Duran Duran's recent

romance with

traditional Indian sounds, from the ragaesque riffs on "Generation"

to the

otherworldly tabla and santoor on "Mind."

Unfortunately, from there the album moves into a series of

lackluster tracks

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

to

give

up the ghost.