Duran Duran / All You Need Is Now / Review

Duran Duran All You Need Is Now

In 1987 Elvis Costello persuaded Paul McCartney to get out  his old Hoffner ‘violin’ bass out for the first time in decades, and encouraged him to use it for recordings that would end up on 1989’s Flowers in the Dirt. Elvis thought this would channel some Beatle vibes into the recordings and indeed, one of the resulting tracks, My Brave Face – which he co-wrote with McCartney – does have a very Beatles-y feel to it.

In the same way producer Mark Ronson has encouraged Duran Duran to ‘sound like Duran Duran’ again while working with them on their new album All You Need Is Now. They’ve dusted down their old analogue synths and dug deep into the Duran Duran Sample Library™ to produce a record that spends much time flirting with their past.

It’s a spooky experience – Girl Panic! starts off with the same percussion, guitar sound and groove as 1982’s Rio, Man who stole a Leopard deploys a To The Shore (from their 1981 debut) synth sound and Before The Rain virtually IS The Chauffeur (from the Rio album). Incidentally, Duran Duran obviously LOVE The Chauffeur – not only are they referencing it heavily here, they also reworked it on their ill-fated 1995 Thank You covers album, retitled as Driveby.

So it does ‘sound’ like Duran Duran. That’s essentially a good thing. Certainly a big improvement on the Timbaland-produced Red Carpet Massacre from 2007, but are the songs any good?

This reviewer should admit to really wanting to love this album. All the talk was of the ‘best since Rio’ but after a few listens what stands out most is that nothing stands out. Duran Duran used to be all about ‘big hits’ but All You Need is Now does not contain an Ordinary World or Save a Prayer or even anything as commercial as (Reach Up) For The Sunrise.

Because they know that ‘radio’ does not really play new Duran Duran singles any more it’s almost as if the band can’t be bothered trying to write hits anymore. If it’s true, it’s understandable. In 1993 Ordinary World was all over the US airwaves helping it get to No.3 on the US Billboard Hot 100, but Falling Down from 2007, which was a great song, disappeared without a trace. Writing a big commercial hit is no easy task – if no one is interested in helping Duran Duran have another big hit single (Radio, TV, Record Labels) then why bother? They may as well free themselves of the burden and produce an album full of great album tracks.

But even if this was the intention, Duran Duran have fallen short. The problem is that while the band and producer seem to be on-form, lyricist and singer, Simon Le Bon, appears to be letting the side down.

Lyrically this album is quite weak. Okay, Le Bon’s lyrics have never really been about much – but at their best they’ve had what you might describe as ‘heart’. Lyrics that have appeared meaningless quite often just ‘work’ by connecting with people at some base, emotional level. Last Chance on the Stairway, Save a Prayer, New Religion, Come Undone to name but a few. However, on All You Need is Now we get a lot of annoying, quirky or mundane lyrics which fail to connect in a similar way. Culprits include Blame the Machines, Too Bad You’re So Beautiful, Runway Runaway and Other People’s Lives. In fact, Other People’s Lives is one of the worst Duran Duran tracks to ever make it on to one of their albums. It’s a tedious, tune-free tale of OK magazine celebrity culture. How they thought this was good enough beggars belief?

Tunes are the other issue. Or lack of them. Many of the songs don’t have anything close to a memorable melody. Particularly on the verses. Mediterranea has a superb chorus melody and chord progression but is let down by a horrible verse. Too Bad You’re So Beautiful is forgettable, as is Networker Nation, which is a bonus track on the Deluxe CD. The real ‘bonus’ would have been to leave that one off altogether. Le Bon also has a rather un attractive ‘shouty’ delivery style on this record and sounds almost off-key on Safe (in the heat of the moment).

There are good things. Being Followed has a lovely early Duran Duran feel to it, with a John Barry-style guitar line and Girl Panic! is the best track on the album mainly because it sounds like a Rio outtake. But overall the album is very disappointing. The songs are just not nearly good enough. The ‘get-back-together’ album Astronaut from 2005 is far superior, and remains their best output since 1993’s ‘Wedding Album’.

A buyers guide to All You Need Is Now

Below is the tracklisting to the standard edition of the album on CD (UK and US). What’s interesting is that this CD edition is an expanded version of an already-released iTunes digital album which was issued in December 2010.The tracks that are new are highlighted in bold

  • 1. All You Need Is Now
  • 2. Blame The Machines
  • 3. Being Followed
  • 4. Leave A Light On
  • 5. Safe (in the heat of the moment)
  • 6. Girl Panic!
  • 7. Diamond In The Mind
  • 8. The Man Who Stole A Leopard
  • 9. Other Peoples Lives
  • 10. Mediterranea
  • 11. Too Bad You’re So Beautiful
  • 12. Runway Runaway
  • 13. Return To Now
  • 14. Before The Rain

Two of these tracks are brief ‘arty’ instrumentals less than 2 minutes long (A Diamond in the Mind, Return to Now). Which leaves three proper songs of which only Mediterranea is any good. One suspects in December 2010 Duran Duran had the 9 track album they wanted but having taken the decision to release it exclusively via iTunes, they forced themselves into a corner and then had to offer something ‘extra’ to CD-buyers. In doing so they have lowered their quality control threshold to the detriment of the album.

While we’re on the subject of tracklistings let’s clear up the various editions. As mentioned above, the December 2010 iTunes release was a 9-track release and the standard CD edition is 14-tracks ending with Before The Rain.

UK Deluxe
The UK Deluxe Edition is 16-track adding Networker Nation (track 15) and All You Need Is Now (Youth Kills Mix) (track 16). However if you buy the Deluxe Edition at UK retailer HMV you also get a 3-track remix CD which contains the following remixes of All You Need Is Now; Tom Middleton Cosmos Remix, Pablo La Rosa Remix, R2V2 Remix

US Deluxe
The US standard Deluxe Edition is 15-track, adding Networker Nation to the standard 14 track album but not bothering with the Youth Kills Mix of All You Need Is Now.

The exclusive Best Buy US Deluxe editon is 17-track adding Too Close to the Sun (track 15) and Early Summer Nerves (track 16). Networker Nation still ends the album as track 17.

Both US Deluxe versions include a DVD which UK buyers do not get. This includes some unseen footage and the video for All You Need Is Now

All You Need Is Now Photo Gallery

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17 responses to Duran Duran / All You Need Is Now / Review

  1. DuranChic says:

    I’m baffled by this review. I think this is the best DD album since Notorious. This is the album I’ve been waiting for since Notorious. It’s got the old DD vibe, Roger Taylor’s drum loops, the Andy Taylor-ish guitar sound, Simon’s singing is as good as ever and the synths are both modern and retro. Most importantly, the album is full of those typical DD hooks. For me it was the album of the year. every DD release has been a disappointment (more or less) since Notorious (except for the Wedding Album). I feared the worst but this is simply and outstanding album. So I couldn’t disagree more with this reviewer.

  2. Neil Kelly says:

    Wow. Couldn’t disagree more. Love this album to death. It’s my fav Duran album. Also love Astronaut and thought RCM was pretty poor!

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  5. Aubrey says:

    Like Glenn, I do find the production on Astronaut rather homogenised (I think it has a touch of the Liberty’s in that respect…). Nonetheless, “Nice’, ‘Astronaut’ and ‘Chains’ were all contenders for the ‘keepable’ list, which would have given Astronaut a more respectable presence. But…
    … I listened to the album again last night and, to me, all three lose their way a bit en route to not-quite-right choruses (plus NIce and Astronaut suffer – like much of AYNIN – from some of Simon’s least appealing lyrics…)
    On a separate point – listened to Big Thing again too last night, with the original ‘Drug’ clicked back into it’s rightful place… now, that’s a proper Duran album – ambitious, widescreen production, evocative, diverse but coherent, an astute running order that protects the songs… bliss!

  6. Aubrey says:

    I think the focus on Mark Ronson’s production is a bit misleading (as was the focus on Timbaland last time round).
    The production stuff is just a hook for the media to have something to write about. Truth is, apart from Chris Kimsey’s awful production on Liberty, Duran have always sounded fairly… Duran-like, analogue synths or not. The real ‘problem’, such as it is, is that – fun though it is getting to know a new Duran album, when the dust settles you’re always left with more filler than great songs.
    In this respect, ALL YOU NEED IS NOW is consistent with every Duran album post Big Thing, i.e.; it doesn’t really hold up as an album, but it has some good tracks worth keeping.

    In case you’re curious, these would be my ‘keepable’ post-Big Thing tracks:

    Being Followed
    Girl Panic
    Leave A Light On
    Before The Rain
    Mediterranea (I think the verses are fine!)

    Falling Down
    Box Full O’Honey
    She’s Too Much
    Nite Runner

    Finest Hour
    Still Breathing

    Starting To Remember
    Lady Xanax

    Out Of My Mind
    Undergoing Treatment

    Ordinary World
    Come Undone
    Breath After Breath
    Too Much Information

    My Antarctica

    Salt In The Rainbow

    • superdeluxeedition says:

      The trouble is the albums are getting longer. AYNIN is 17 tracks on the US Best Buy Edition – that’s 12 tracks of filler if you put to one side your ‘keepers’. Bring back short albums I say.

      You have also rated Red Carpet Massacre (4 tracks) above Astronaut (3 tracks) which is shocking! What about ‘Nice’ and ‘Astronaut’?!

  7. Battler says:

    Because there’s almost nothing something between Girl Panic and Rio. And what bothers me even more is that you showed up on a Duran Duran forum with a link to this review so you could throw the fans into a tizzy and get them all to visit your blog.

    Well, it worked. Congratulations.

    • superdeluxeedition says:

      Can you be a Duran Duran fan and not automatically like everything they put out? It seems not.

      Read my review of Big Thing on the blog – it’s very positive. Astronaut is a great album – much better than All You Need Is Now, as is ‘The Wedding Album’, as is ‘Notorious’, as is the Arcadia album.

      What is all this ‘best thing since Rio’ nonsense I keep reading!!

  8. Laís F. says:

    I really do think that this is their best album since ‘Rio’.
    U can’t say that AYNIN don’t have any tracks for radio or to be singles cause the public opinion has surprendeed to many times before. Nobody was waiting for an album so good and so trully Duran Duran, even cause some fans are discovering now… Ok, we’re not on the 80’s anymore but the music in evidence now a days is really bad, to don’t say other thing. I respect your opinion but totaly disagree :D.
    The critics are just saying the obvious and 4 of 5 stars (brilliant) is a fear classification. Better than an artist that have to change style to be “good” is one that reinvent himselve, that mean he have his own identity. Oppositing some singers that just seems like a midia’s product.
    And about the ranks… well, the wikipedia shows nice positions around the world. An album on the top of rank don’t say too much today…

    I would to say more things but i’m brazilian and my english is not good :)

  9. Glenn says:

    “Dad at the disco”! HA! I laughed at loud at that one.

    Fair enuff, sir. Your points are well-talen. I agree that those are top-notch tracks from Astronaut. I think some of the production on “Astronaut” feels a little too paranoid and homogenized for my tastes – like they were really afraid of failing – but I agree those are top-notch tracks.

    We shall agree to disagree!

    Thanks for checking out my review!


  10. Glenn says:

    Actually, “Girl Panic!” sounds like “Girls on Film,” while “Too Bad” and “Runway, Runaway” mimic “Rio.”

    I understand what you’re saying about some of Simon’s vocals – and I am certainly no DD apologist – but I actually like “Too Bad” and “Other People’s Lives,” quite a bit. I’ve never heard a song with the chords in “Too Bad” – A flat major – F major – C major – G major. (And E flat to C in the verse is also rare.) In additon, I find the melody hooky and infectious. So what you’re saying about it being “forgettable” is clearly a matter of opinion… as is mine that it’s quite memorable.

    “Before the Rain” other than sharing the mood and minor-key feel, is unequivocally NOT a re-write of “The Chaueffer,” references to rain duly noted. Sing or play them back to back and you can see this is the case.

    The whole re-write argument is weak, anyway – blues guys re-write the same song with the same 12 bars over and over and no one says anything. Tons of songs use I- V – vi- IV or I – vi- ii – V. However, every DD song has to be 50,000 percent original? That’s bogus, in my mind.

    You can check out my review, if you’re curious, here:

    • superdeluxeedition says:

      Hey Glenn – thanks for checking out my review. I read your review and while you obviously like the album more than me I think we agree on quite a few things. Being Followed, Girl Panic! and Before the Rain are all great tracks.

      I was exaggerating to make a point regarding Before the Rain/The Chauffeur. Obviously I know it’s not a rewrite as such but they do lay it on quite thick with references to The Chauffeur including the exact same beatbox/drum machine thingy kicking in at one point!

      Blame the Machines is very whiny and annoying in an ‘Electric Barbarella’ kind of a way, and as you point out ‘Safe (In The Heat of the Moment’ isn’t great – Simon doing his embarassing Dad at the disco routine.

      The music and production is great and gives the record a lot of positive energy but my main point which I stand by is that the lyrics are very average and there are not that many memorable melodies. Runway Runaway, Networker Nation, Other People’s Lives and Too Bad You’re So Beautiful are all examples of this for me. At that’s before you talk about ‘Early Summer Nerves’ or ‘Too Close to the Sun’ from the Best Buy Edition which are just not good enough to be on the album.

      Astronaut,Nice, Want You More, Chains, Finest Hour, and Still Breathing are great album tracks all from the Astronaut album which to me are in a different class from the ones mentioned above.

      Because Mark Ronson has brought back the ‘classic’ Duran sound the critics are falling over themselves to say what a brilliant return to form this is but the songs are just not there for me. 4 or 5 good songs do not make a great album. Probably 2.5 stars out of 5 for me. cheers, Paul

  11. Blue Silver says:

    Really? What a way to knock DD for having the best record in about 15 yrs! …I won’t waste my time dissecting your unfair review and will simply say that the masses can’t be wrong! If only radio had the balls to take a chance on DD again, these guys could very well be a force to reckon with!…AGAIN! Instead, radio opts for real ’empty’ and ‘weak’ lyrics to force feed listeners in the form of: Britney Spears, The Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga, etc!…and YOU know this! Having typed that, I will say that only time will tell the impact this new album will have on both the fans and the band themselves and I will go ON RECORD to say that DD will get a Grammy nomination for, “All You Need Is Now”! Because, this album kicks ass!

    • superdeluxeedition says:

      Hi Blue Silver – thanks for visiting I can assure you I did listen to the album many times. I’m sorry you don’t agree with me but I respect your opinion.

      Obviously, I don’t think my review was unfair. I praised the production and the music, and acknowledged that some of the tracks were good (Being Followed, Girl Panic!) but the overall verdict was that many of the songs were quite average and that lyrically it was quite flat (Other People’s Lives, Networker Nation etc). I stand by this 100%.

      If you look at the review of the Big Thing reissue on this blog you will see I rated it very highly. And in this review I mention that I rate Astronaut highly too. I’ve been buying Duran Duran records for over 25 years including the ones where most of the public stayed at home (Medazzaland, Pop Trash) so I think my opinion is just as valid as anyone else’s.

      When you say the masses can’t be wrong, I’d be interested to know who you are talking about? Italy was the only country in the world where the album went Top 10. A month after release in the UK the album is not even in the top 100. You seem to be suggesting that All You Need Is Now is some kind of massive seller, when there is no evidence to support this.

  12. Battler says:

    This review just shot all of your credibility with this line: “It’s a spooky experience – Girl Panic! starts off with the same percussion, guitar sound and groove as 1982′s Rio…”

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