Duran Duran mixes 80s roots with modern pop in ‘Future Past’

Written By Rachel Ross, Staff Writer

4 Globes

I began my descent into the Duran Duran discography in 2017. My obsession with the 1980s led me to discover the British new romantic music movement, which Duran Duran helped pioneer. I soaked in as much music from as many artists as I could, but kept returning to Duran Duran, so much so that I was encouraged to make my way through their whole discography. What I found was a stunning, decades-spanning catalog that keeps up just fine with the changing times but still manages to be unapologetically ‘Duran Duran’ all throughout, with their signature synthesizers, funky basslines and melodious vocals. With that being said, I eagerly anticipated their new album, “Future Past,” which came out on October 22, their first since 2015. This fifteenth studio album fits beautifully into the already impressive catalog, offering a selection of 12 songs sure to greatly please any longtime fan and potentially entice new ones to join the ranks.

“Future Past” sees a continuation of Duran’s established ability to create compositions that are modern and true to their time, while still maintaining their signature sound and style. It is a smooth blend of songs that offer a current pop/rock feeling and still stays true to the band’s new romantic roots.

Four out of five of the original members of the band appear on the album, with Simon Le Bon on lead vocals, Roger Taylor on drums, Nick Rhodes on synthesizer, and John Taylor on bass. This has been the lineup since 2007, and the three albums, not including “Future Past,” that have been released since then.

Le Bon’s vocals remain captivating and impressive, and his masterful range of piercing highs and moving lows is ever present. I was most impressed with his performances on some of the slower paced offerings, specifically title track, “Future Past” and “Wing.” Roger Taylor, whose contributions I feel are often overlooked, provides greatly creative percussion ensembles, often contributing directly to the dance element of the songs. He anchors everything perfectly in time. John Taylor, whose funky, almost playful basslines has been an integral element of setting the group apart since the beginning, is here in full force. I’ve always thought of his contributions as almost hidden treasures among the layering; it might take a second to pick up on it, but once you do, you find an ultra sleek and chic addition. And then of course there’s Nick Rhodes synths, which often steal the show. Rhodes manages this incredible balancing act of creating compositions that hint at the romantic, almost mysterious melodies of their beginnings, while still sounding new and modern. They shine in every single song and act as the base of the rich backings.

All of these elements mixed together create a track list that is authentically Duran Duran, without trying to send you directly back to 1982, which is one of the things I admire deeply about the group; they never sound like they’re trying to return to a heyday. They are constantly moving forward while staying true to themselves and how they like to make music. This is most apparent on the tracks with collaborators, and this album has four. They each offer a great blend of styles; it never feels like they’re trying to bring these people on and be someone else. My favorite was “Give It All Up” featuring Tove Lo; it’s dreamy melody and feeling.

My personal favorite song on the album was undoubtedly the title track “Future Past.” I loved the synths, I loved Le Bon’s vocals, and I loved the message behind it, not only for it’s relatability, but also the statement it makes about the band. Other stand outs for myself included, “Beautiful Lies,” which has this great syncopated drum beat, and leading single, “Invisible.” But even the tracks that I found to be a little more “middle of the road” offer enjoyable musical experiences with great layering and songwriting; there were not any songs on the album that I actively disliked.

Beyond the actual content of the album, I find the concept of it to be very admirable. In an interview with NPR, when asked what the term, “Future Past” means to him, Rhodes explained, “For me, it certainly means keep moving into the future but acknowledge your past. Without it, you wouldn’t be in the present.”

With the monster success that Duran Duran found in the 80s, it would be easy for them to thrive off of that nostalgia and leave it at that—do tours every now and again playing the classics and be done with it, or even just retire. But they keep making new music and absorbing new influences because that’s what they love to do. I believe it speaks volumes to the authenticity of the band.

“Future Past” offers a musical experience that’s pleasing and satisfying not only to long time fans, but also new listeners. It beautifully flexes the group’s dynamism and mastery developed over 40 years in the industry. The Wild Boys truly never lose it.