All I Need is You: The Sequel to Rio that Never Was (until now)

Duran Duran comes back with a vengeance with All You Need Is Now (released in full on March 22, 2011 and earlier as a 9-track I-Tunes exclusive in December 2010).  But did they ever really go anywhere?  All You Need is Now is DD’s best record since The Wedding Album, and possibly since Rio.  In fact, it sounds a lot like Duran Duran combined with Rio. Some critics are railing them for it – so, if they get Timbaland to produce their record and go for an edgier, more modern sound, they’re trying too hard, and if they harken back to their own original sound, it’s bad too?  I guess the boys can’t win.  
The record is a welcome follow-up to the flop Red Carpet Massacre, too indulgent for its own good.  In his book Talking to Girls About Duran Duran, Rob Sheffield notes that the band has remained successful because they’ve honored their female fan base. They never tried to be a guy’s band.  Well, in Massacre, they went from honoring to mocking women – choosing to exalt and criticize fallen women of Hollywood (the Paris Hiltons, Lindsay Lohans, etc), carictuarized as models in smeared lipstick and sprawled on the floor as part of the album photo shoot. Come on, guess what? Tsk, tsk. The fans didn’t like it. Make no mistake: I love DD, because they love me.  They don’t even need to know me to love me.  They worship women.  “A single random meeting with your eyes
and now I am beaten. And now I’m going nowhere, I know I’m going nowhere.” Say it, Simon.  Say it.
Anyways.  Like many others, I thought this album deserved a real review instead of the short, think-I’m-so-smart paragraph Rolling Stone gave it.   All You Need is Now takes us into the dark, lush, icy soundscapes Duran Duran does so well thanks to Nick Rhodes. The title track returns to fine form by paying homage to Duran Duran’s female devotees: “You come on delicate and fine. Like a diamond in the mind.” It provides us with a dark sequel to ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ (more specifically, the video) with ‘The Man Who Stole a Leopard,’ an odd beauty and the beast tale of obsessive, misunderstood desire.  Then there’s the soul-train worthy, disco (forget neo) ‘Safe (In the Heat of the Night). ‘Girl Panic!’ is probably the best song on this album and most similar to DD of old, along with a couple of  ‘Chauffer’-like croon tunes, ‘Leave a Light On’ and ‘Before the Rain.’ ‘Blame the Machines’ and ‘Being Followed’ recapture ‘Careless Memories.’  The themes parallel Rio: paranoia, voyeurism, but sexual panic more than frustration (that’s long gone) — so it does end up missing that vocal desperation.
Simon LeBon’s idiosyncratic, disaffected monotone is smooth as a 2005 Bordeaux, ironic as ever. Duran Duran’s staying power works in large part because of his voice and the fact that they can still write great songs.  Yet even after three decades, DD keeps a few mysteries from us.  Like who’s Rio anyways?

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