Outside Simon Le Bon’s vocals you might not initially recognize Duran Duran on Future Past, the band’s 15th album (out Oct. 22) that embraces a somewhat pensive sound bridging some of the band’s recent work with a current musical approach that succeeds on some tracks but leaves others a bit wanting.
Don’t expect the immediate results that propelled Duran Duran into existence 40 years ago for their debut album with songs like “Girls on Film” and “Planet Earth” on Future Past. Instead, first enjoy the handful of songs that require just a few spins to appreciate while letting the rest marinate for however long it takes.
Like on previous albums, mostly since the whole gang reunited more than 15 years ago for Astronaut, Duran Duran collaborates with a number of mostly younger artists on Future Past whether to try and remain relevant, introduce themselves to a different audience or merely an outside the box reach for inspiration, or all three, some of the pairings work while others were better left as brief thoughts.
Though Duran Duran remained active on tour (at least up until 2020), Future Past is the band’s first in six years the longest drought between albums. The core of the band remains, now playing together for longer than they ever did in their 80s heyday before multiple fractures. Le Bon and keyboardist Nick Rhodes never left, but bassist John Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor returned to the fold in 2001, John Taylor only out of the band a few years but Roger Taylor absent since 1985. Guitarist Andy Taylor left in 1986, came back for the reunion and left again in 2006 replaced by Dom Brown, who by all accounts remains with the band, though Graham Coxon of Blur handles the fretboard on Future Past.
Duran Duran Future Past Review
“Invisible” the first single released in May opens Future Past with John Taylor’s punchy bass, strong keyboards and a hard-nosed tempo in a song hinting at early Duran Duran with less radiance. “All of You” sounds like a late 80s pop song underscored by a generic melody. “Give It All Up” features Swedish singer Tove Lo in this drum machine heavy track that mostly flatlines with little crescendo in the melody.
Taylor plays his funky bass for “Anniversary” with Rhodes contributing plenty on the keyboards for this danceable pop song dropping in a contrasting disposition from the rest of the album. But, the dark and moody title track sounds like a Twin Peaks contribution in perhaps one of the Duran Duran’s most solemn songs. “Beautiful Lies” bursts open with a synth heavy opening you’d think the Pet Shop Boys penned and despite the stepped up beat, Rhodes contributions adds some warmth to obvious lyrical pessimism.
The dance club beats that rose to prominence on 2015’s Paper Gods continue with “Tonight United” which follows in the footsteps of “Last Night In the City” but not nearly as well-crafted. Le Bon directs the slow and sensuous “Wing” fusing “The Man Who Stole a Leopard” off 2011” All You Need Is Now” with Paper Gods’ “What Are the Chances?” and could be a banger live.
Coxon breaks through on guitar for the meditative “Nothing Less” though the song lacks a well-defined melody. Composed and deliberate, “Hammerhead” was sooooo good, until… Ivorian Doll starts rapping. Strike 2 on the collaborations. Would be great to get a version of this with that completely unnecessary section cut out.
But Duran Duran finally makes it work with Japanese band Chai on the fun pop song “More Joy!” filled with all sorts of Rhodes’ contributions, that upends the realization that hits about now that Future Past posits a rather bleak undercurrent, an aspect not so descriptive of Duran Duran’s music. And if you need any more proof of that insinuation, the album closes with another successful collaboration bringing pianist Mike Garson on-board for “Falling” in this atypical effort given over to an impassioned Le Bon who proves age is just a number when it comes to his vocal range.
Duran Duran wrote most of the 12 songs for the 51-minute Future Past before the pandemic and Taylor described the album as “a very emotionally, deep album” featuring songs about “emotional crises, or long term intimacy issues” something very apropos once lockdown was lifted. The band uses more guitar than prior records but nothing hard rock and don’t expect emotional lifts like “Reach Up (For the Sunrise).”
Though hardly dour, subtle nuances cast an odd pall over the album not fully realized until the final song’s ending notes.
Duran Duran Future Past Songs:
- All of You
- Give It All Up
- Future Past
- Beautiful Lies
- Tonight United
- Nothing Less
- More Joy!