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The Mag: Play: Back to the future; DURAN DURAN Astronaut (Epic).


IT'S been all of 21 years since the original Duran Duran line-up recorded a studio album - but now they're back with a set of mixed emotions and musical fortunes.

They say you should never go back - but Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Andy Taylor and Roger Taylor reckon that the reunion set is their finest hour.

Here's the track-by-track verdict. (Reach Up For The) Sunrise 'After the cloud cast by 9/11 we wanted something anti-dark and uplifting,' says Nick. 'Something that says 'Wake up and enjoy the day!' It's a bit like George Harrison's Here Comes The Sun.'

VERDICT: No, Nick, it's nothing like the Beatles classic. Although it sounds as if you could have recorded it back in your heyday, it's stranded in no-man's bland - an entirely forgettable piece of pop pap.

Want You More! 'This is a song that veers between dark and light,' says Nick. 'It's at the Brandenburg Gate ...'

VERDICT: Sounds more like it's at the Rum Runner with a classic Duran chorus and chart beat that used to go down well in the concert halls and on dancefloors back in the 1980s. Decidedly dated but diehard Duranies will love it. ll What Happens Tomorrow 'This is another song expressing the uncertainty everyone was feeling after 9/11,' says Nick.

VERDICT: Musically more mature, there are hints of The Beatles - or is that Oasis? - here. The chorus lodges in your brain and stubbornly refuses to budge. It's a slowie that's one of the album's best cuts. llll Astronaut 'Something for the body and something for the brain,' says Simon. 'It's that Duran balance of light and dark, upbeat and heavy - pop to make you dance and think. It's about getting back together.'

VERDICT: Been listening to your Pet Shop Boys albums, Simon? This is cheesy pop that'll be a big hit if released as a single but, I suspect, not the one you'd like as your epitaph.

Bedroom Toys 'This is a cheeky song about sex toys,' says Nick. 'It's pure Duran frivolity, very tongue-in-cheek.'

VERDICT: This'll remind you of those wonderfully witty songs that 10cc used to write, but without the wonderful wit. It's a silly filler of a song, Nick, and does you scant justice. Bet the video will be fun, though. Been to Ann Summers? Nice 'A relationship song that says it doesn't have to be complicated,' says Nick. 'It was written before 9/11, when we were all back together, the sun was shining and we were incredibly positive.'

VERDICT: Another song that sounds as if it could have been recorded way back when and mines the classic Duran vein. It's hardly Hungry Like The Wolf but it'll appeal to new-generation fans. ll Taste The Summer 'This was the first song to emerge,' says John. 'We'd all been out dancing in St Tropez for Nick's birthday and next day we just hit this groove. It's a complete Duran disco!'

VERDICT: No argument there, John. It's Duran and it's disco as only you do it. If you happen to like both then you'll be headover heels in love. If you're nota fan of either, then you'll be appalled.

Finest Hour 'Within months of us getting back together, 9/11 happened,' says Simon. 'It inspired us to write this song, which refers to the famous Winston Churchill speech about how we're all under attack.'

VERDICT: Good song and great vocal that breaks from formula and recalls the more fulfilling work the Durans did after the original line-up split. If you liked Ordinary World, you'll love this. llll Chains 'A little ditty about love and death,' says Nick. 'Woody Allen would be pleased!'

VERDICT: A haunting song that has much in common with Save A Prayer but that sounds credibly up-to-date. Clearly you can teach an old dog new tricks. Even the Coldplay crowd may be impressed. llll One Of Those Days 'A little postcard that says no matter how difficult things get, it's worth battling through because there's always tomorrow,' says Nick. 'That's the theme of the album - how precious it is that we're here.'

VERDICT: Another song that suggests the Durans have been catching up on the likes of Keane and The South. The falsetto falters but it's one of those songs that'll haunt you. lll Point Of No Return '9/11 made you realise how unsafe our society is,' says Nick. 'I saw a young boy being interviewed on TV, expressing his fears for the future - and I felt no different. I was stunned.'

VERDICT: Thoughtful lyrics and a stretching of musical muscle show that youcan still cut it, guys. Nice guitar from Andy and restrained keyboards add to the mood, although the fade's brutal. lll Still Breathing 'This goes deep into the dark side,' says Nick. 'It's about recovery, going through something that nearly destroys you and coming out the other side.'

VERDICT: Saving the best 'til last is a dangerous strategy. If you've been discouraged early you'll have missed one of the finest songs they've ever recorded. A slowburner success. lllll
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Sep 19, 2004
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