All You Need Is Now by Duran Duran
All You Need is Now is a worthy addition to Duran Duran’s discography. Fans, and not just fans that have followed them through their whole career, are almost guaranteed to enjoy the record. The band has consistently released records since their self-titled release in 1981. However, these releases haven’t always been consistently good. Duran Duran were never really one of the best new wave bands, but they were certainly one of the most popular for a little while. The argument is always made that Duran Duran’s style was a bigger factor in their success than their actual music. Though a fairly valid argument, especially when thinking of their music videos, the band still turned out some solid records and some even better singles.
After the band’s three initial albums there were frequent lineup changes. Though they never really went anywhere, in 2004, Duran Duran reunited their original lineup for a comeback album of sorts. Yet, even though the original members had returned, the band didn’t really sound like its former self. The production can partly be blamed, as the band aimed for a newer sound. The following album Red Carpet Massacre, though no longer containing all five original members (Andy Taylor once again left), continued the desire to sound “new,” as Duran Duran enlisted the help of producer Timbaland along with Justin Timberlake. The result wasn’t that great. The album had its moments, but as a whole, this new Duran Duran was as hit or miss as their catalogue had become since 1985.
This time, with All You Need Is Now, the band has called on producer Mark Ronson. The album takes the band to familiar territory, sounding like early Duran Duran. The band and Ronson even reportedly envisioned this album as a sequel to Rio. In many ways they succeeded. Though Seven and the Ragged Tiger (the band’s third album) was possibly the strongest post Rio record, ignoring Seven and everything that followed is possibly the best thing Duran Duran could have done. With a clean slate, the band can move forward without worrying about all the bad things they’ve done since then. Sure there was some good in there, but it was never as good as the early years. This almost gimmicky return to the past is also a great way to get their old fans back on their side. For the most part, the band delivers on its promise. If they had released this album in the 80s, the band could have easily enjoyed a longer period of success than they did.
With such a scattered output, it’s surprising how strong this new album is. The band surely has Ronson to thank, but there is more to it than just the production. The songwriting is stronger than it has been for years. Duran Duran seems to have summoned whatever energy they lost after the early 80s. Dom Brown, the only non-original member, handles his guitar work perfectly. If one didn’t know better they could probably be convinced that this album was done by all the original members. Not to mention you could probably convince even more people that this album was actually a lost record from 1983.
Even if this album doesn’t completely follow through on its intention as a sequel to Rio for all listeners, at the very least this is a true “comeback” album, much more so than Astronaut. And really, the only thing holding this record back from topping either Rio or Duran Duran are the individual tracks. It’s not easy to compete with tracks like “Girls On Film,” “Planet Earth,” “Hungry Like the Wolf,” or “Rio.” And nearly thirty years later, it’s hard to admit that any of the new tracks are actually better than their predecessors, though the case could certainly be made for a few of the songs.
A much more sound argument would be for All You Need Is Now as a stronger album than either of its predecessors. Though once again, it’s hard to argue a 2011 album’s worth compared to a couple classic albums from the early '80s, if for no other reason than the band is playing the part of their former selves (with Ronson and Brown playing imagined roles). But trying to match up All You Need with these other records is probably not worth the time it would take to come to a truly informed decision. As the title of the album claims, all you need is now. The band is ignoring their faulty past and they are asking their listeners to do the same. With one of the strongest albums in the band’s catalogue, it’s fairly easy to do just that.