My cohort Jesse and I figured it was only right, as certified Durannies, that we both tackle the physical release of All You Need is Now, the latest effort from Birmingham’s Fab
Five Four Three Five Four. Of course, it didn’t surprise me that JOB and I (and contributor Carlos Halston, who was totally an ace when it came to our definitive guide to their discography pretty much have the same opinion: All You Need is Now is the band’s best effort in years. To my ears, it’s the most cohesive and consistently solid listen of theirs since 1993’s self-titled effort, the one that brought them back to the top of the charts with smashes like “Ordinary World” and “Come Undone”.
I wasn’t totally sure what kind of effect producer Mark Ronson would have on the band’s music. After all, Ronson’s sound has alternated between DJ-friendly hip-hop and retro soul a la Amy Winehouse. Was he gonna turn Duran into some weird version of the Dap Kings? As it turns out, all Ronson needed to do was get behind the board and say “guys, it’s time to make a Duran Duran album that sounds like FUCKING DURAN DURAN”. More than any album since 2004’s Astronaut reunited the band’s most beloved lineup, All You Need is Now sounds like an effort that was recorded by the same band that gave us Rio, and it does so without sounding like an obvious retread.
Duran’s last effort, 2007’s Red Carpet Massacre, felt a little forced and desperate. As much as I liked Justin Timberlake’s songwriting contributions to the album, the production (courtesy of Timbaland and his associate Danja) was canned and too reliant on modern studio tricks. It’s no secret that the majority of the band (to say nothing of it’s fans) didn’t think very highly of the album. All You Need is Now should rid a lot of us of that mildly funky taste in our mouths. Simon LeBon sounds more vibrant than he has in decades, John Taylor’s bass pops with renewed vigor, Nick Rhodes’ synthesizer sounds are exceptionally bright, and session guitarist Dom Brown (who gets songwriting credit on almost every song on the album) is a more than serviceable substitute for Andy Taylor.
The title tracks gets the proceedings off to a suitably anthemic start, and the fist-pumping boat-cruising antics continue “Blame the Machines” and “Being Followed”, an early highlight. Things simmer down with “Leave a Light On” before John Taylor’s bass takes center stage on the disco-tastic “Safe (In the Heat of the Moment)”, which features a vocal from Scissor Sisters’ Ana Matronic. She’s not the only diva to pass through-as Kelis makes an appearance on the sublimely silly (but about two minutes too long) “The Man Who Stole a Leopard”. There’s another certified dance floor filler in “Girl Panic!”, (my favorite album track) and it’s also quite amazing that Simon’s lyrics have gotten no less obtuse over the past thirty years.
All You Need is Now was initially made available online at the very end of last year. The version I bought contains 15 full length tracks (six more than the digital version), and they are far from bottom-of-the-barrel scrapings. Ranging from the lighter-waving “Meditteranea” to the social commentary of “Other People’s Lives”, all of the extra songs fit perfectly onto the album and in fact, make it more of a complete effort than the originally released version.
Who’d have thought that nearly three decades after their debut, Duran Duran would still be capable of making great music? All You Need is Now not only re-establishes the fact that the boys are still capable of replicating their signature sound, it proves that that sound is still relevant, timely and completely of-the-moment. Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductors, take note: it’s about time to honor these guys and all you need…is to hear this album and seal the deal.
Read Jesse’s review of All You Need is Now here.
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