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by Anthony Thornton (Q Magazine)
For a while Duran Duran could justifiably claim to be the biggest band on the planet. As the Falklands War and the miners' strike raged, the five-piece from Birmingham made glamorous expensive videos and (MTV-aided) broke America. Pretty faces, big shirts and oceans of hairspray led to them being sometimes dismissed as mere teenyboppers. In retrospect - along with Wham! - they are chief contenders for the singles act of the early-'80s. Strangely, Simon Le Bon's vocals were stylish if adequate at best. His lyrics aspired to poetry but didn't make it ('You're about as easy as a nuclear war', 'Don't monkey with the business') but Duran Duran were more than a frontman. Borrowing from Bowie and Chic, they rocked with one eye on the disco in a way rarely achieved since. Girls On Film (racy video banned by BBC, inevitably their first Top 10 hit), Planet Earth and 1985's Bond theme, A View To A Kill, were propelled by the most insistent of grooves. Subsequently, Duran Duran mania cooled off and following side projects (Power Station, Arcadia), drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor (no relation) quit in 1986. The albums had been uneven affairs but now even their deft singles touch was fading. Their most emotional moment, 1982's Save A Prayer, easily transcended the sound of the synthesizer drums and keyboards, but now All She Wants Is and I Don't Want Your Love sounded forced and clunky in comparison.
Their first greatest hits, 1989's DECADE (which shares all its 14 tracks with GREATEST, although some in slightly different versions) failed to resuscitate their career. Indeed it served only to underline that the game was up, although 1993's singles, the gorgeous Ordinary World, the introverted Come Undone and the accompanying self-titled album were an unexpected and brief return to past glories. The much-maligned covers album, THANK YOU, followed. Bassist John Taylor then walked leaving only Simon Le Bon and Nick Rhodes as original members. The public largely ignored their self-consciously modern album, MEDAZZALAND. As Duran Duran return to arenas this December, this bizarrely ordered 19-track collection rightly focuses on the glorious early years (11 tracks 1981-1985) underlining how thrilling the pop/rock/disco crossover can be.