Duran Duran's 10 Best Albums
Sadly, the nickname "Fab Four" was spoken for.
Photo by Stephanie Pistel/Courtesy of Warner Bros. Records
Unless you reside under a rock, are without Internet service or are too young to really appreciate the '80s, you already know that the onetime Fab Five (known to pedestrian pop fans as Duran Duran) is due to grace the Bayou City at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion next Saturday. As one of the most anticipated concerts to resurrect the decade that gave us super-consumable pop music and deliciously satisfying men in frilly shirts and eye shadow, this show promises to be the highlight of Houston's early-summer concert season.
Incredibly, Duran Duran’s music has remained relevant since the group's late-'70s inception. Consider Eagles of Death Metal’s cover of “Save a Prayer” or Notorious B.I.G.’s rap samples, or bands like Jets to Brazil and Radiohead claiming the group as inspiration. By helping popularize a new wave/post-punk sound that soon dominated '80s dance floors, film and pop culture, Duran Duran remained an influence long after Reagan left office. So, to celebrate their arrival in Texas next week, we present DD's Top 10 albums for your nostalgic pleasure. Get out your fluorescent Ray-Bans, load up your forearms with bangles and pop that collar: it's time to reflex some careless memories.
10. Duran Duran ("The Wedding Album"), 1993
A clear departure from DD's '80s sound, this album included the tremendously popular "comeback" hits “Come Undone” and “Ordinary World.” Unfortunately, it was also a harbinger of the downward turn in their career that began in earnest with 1995's all-covers disaster Thank You and eventually included not only misfires like All You Need is Now (2011) but all-out flops like Pop Trash (2000) and Medazzaland (1997), which didn’t even chart in most countries. None of that can be laid at the feet of the majestic "Come Undone," though.
9. Big Thing (1988)
Ironically forecasting their last big thing for half a decade, this Andy Warhol-dedicated album rides what enormous popularity these boys held across the globe into their later years, where things became muddled and confused. Flawed it may be, Big Thing still recalls a time when pop music included musicians who not only played their own instruments, but wrote groundbreaking songs and had incredible talent. Would it be too much to ask of Kanye, Miley and The Biebs to rise to half of the artistry and skill of Duran Duran? Please?
8. Red Carpet Massacre (2007)
There was so much pre-release hype about this album that I, too, had hopes for a smashing comeback, but not even a collaboration with Justin Timberlake could save Duran Duran fro m themselves.
Another attempt to reincarnate themselves as someone else, the songs sound overtly cosmetic and clinical, not unlike elevator jazz. The odd yet beautiful standout is “Box Full O’ Honey,” with its classical arrangement, acoustic guitar and flute. Overall, Red Carpet Massacre is what happens when a famous producer (Timbaland) tries to modernize a classic band but only comes out looking (and sounding) awkward.
7. Paper Gods (2015)
DD's latest LP is another hit-and-miss collection, but luckily the hits are huge. The title track sounds like old Duran Duran thanks to Simon LeBon's a cappella verses; John Taylor's deep, bubbly bass; and some melodically forward synth from Nick Rhodes. The misses are pretty awful, even for Duran Duran. “Pressure Off” sounds like it was literally borrowed from High School Musical; “Butterfly Mire” like tired late-'80s bourgeois blandness from Paula Abdul. There’s not much that’s interesting here, so better move up the list quickly.
6. Decade (1989)
Yes, a greatest-hits record, but Decade is actually a well-rounded collection of wildly popular smash hits and well-chosen lesser-known tracks. Therefore, it makes a perfect DD starter album for readers who may be unfamiliar with the second wave of the British Invasion, or collectors of radio edits and various remixes.
5. Notorious (1986)
After the 1985 No. 1 hit “A View to a Kill,” theme for the James Bond film of the same name, fans anxiously anticipated another smash record. Sadly, by this time Duran Duran was no longer the Fab Five, as Andy Taylor (guitar) and Roger Taylor (drums) had left the band to pursue other interests. Despite the personnel disruptions, though, the Nile Rodgers-produced album boasts great tracks in “Notorious,” “Meet El Presidente” and “Skin Trade.”