Album Reviews

Duran Duran – Danse Macabre

(Tape Modern / BMG) UK release date: 27 October 2023

Simon Le Bon and co explore the darker side of their inspiration for a Halloween-themed album replete with familiar spirits

Duran Duran – Danse Macabre This time last year, Duran Duran were gearing up for a Halloween concert at Wynn Las Vegas. Their setlist was peppered with spookily themed cover versions, but on inspection of the band’s own songs they too have their fair share of dark, bloodthirsty titles. Hungry Like The Wolf, A View To A Kill, Love Voodoo, Lonely In Your Nightmare – you get the idea.

A year later, the band have rounded up and recorded the cover versions, together with a couple of old fan favourites given gothic clothing. To these they have added three new songs, completing Danse Macabre – due for release on frontman Simon Le Bon’s 65th birthday. They clearly relished the recording process, exploring the darker side of their inspiration to the extent, and recapturing a sense of fun, culminating in what Le Bon describes as ‘a crazy Halloween party’. Danse Macabre becomes a career retrospective of sorts, earning credit by not going down the obvious ‘best of’ route. However, to work it needs the different elements to complement each other, and on that score its success is extremely limited.

Perhaps not surprisingly the new material fares best. Recorded in the company of Nile Rodgers, and with guest slots for former band members Andy Taylor and Warren Cuccurullo, this is where the fans will inevitably head first. Le Bon’s voice is bold, strong as ever, the blueprint a familiar one. Black Moonlight is especially good, a typically glamorous number prompted by the guitars of Rodgers and Taylor, using a great chorus couplet to craft a pure, 1980s-fuelled high. Love Voudou is initially less successful but pulls a good chorus out of the bag, showing impressive staying power. However the title track, despite a promising, eerie beginning and big room pretensions, is tainted by Le Bon’s ham-fisted rapping in the verse.

To Duran Duran’s credit they have gone for the jugular on the cover versions, though again this is a mixed blessing, with repertoire staples and a few interesting choices, from The Rolling Stones (Paint It Black) to Billie Eilish (a clunky but fitfully inspired version of Bury A Friend). Cerrone’s Supernature works pretty well thanks to an excellent backing track and Le Bon’s commanding lead vocal, while Talking Heads‘ Psycho Killer benefits from its guest, Måneskin bassist Victoria De Angelis.

The less said about Ghost Town the better. The Specials original is such a cornerstone of British popular music that any other version is likely to sound inferior, and while Le Bon’s vocal is bold it misfires, taking any frisson or humour completely out of the song. Siouxsie and the Banshees’ Spellbound presents a similar story, a lukewarm take on the magnificent, icy original. Super Lonely Freak is a bad dream, an uncomfortable collision of the Rick James original and Duran Duran’s own Lonely In Your Nightmare. The funk of the main version is surgically removed, and with it a sense of fun.

Better to listen to Nightboat and Secret Oktober 31st, the reinterpretations that get the memo about a spooky party with dark undercurrents. They are among the more inspired moments of Danse Macabre, which proves to be a piecemeal collection that doesn’t quite add up, despite occasional bursts of inspiration. The bloodthirsty fan base will lap it up readily, but ultimately the feeling is that of being tricked rather than treated.

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