|duran2.net : reviews|
by Trevor Will, Music Reviewer
Medazzaland. A Haunting Trip
After a two year absence from the music scene and nearly five years since an album of original material, Duran Duran have triumphantly returned with their most convincing effort since 1983's Seven And The Ragged Tiger. On their ninth studio album, Medazzaland, Duran Duran have created a sound that compares to the innovation of their "New Romantic" movement -- a movement that defined a decade of British new wave. This new set takes them to a modernistic level, proving to newer acts like Prodigy and the Chemical Brothers that the band who pioneered electronica so many years ago still do it better than the competition. Quite simply, the album is brilliant.
Medazzaland capitalizes on the exceptional talents of the band members who, for the first time, self-produced the entire album. Guitarist Warren Cuccurullo takes Duran to new horizons, giving them a hard, metallic edge that complements singer/songwriter Simon Le Bon's cryptic lyrics and sultry voice. (In addition to his guitar duties, Cuccurullo fills the shoes of bassist John Taylor on half of the album Taylor left the band midway through recording to pursue a solo career.) Keyboardist Nick Rhodes has matured as well, melding electronica with modern punk rock, creating a hypnotic acid trip not of this world. Add to the blend studio drummer/co-programmer/co-mixer Anthony J. Resta, and this twelve-song set proves worthy of the highest praise.
More of a concept album than a collection of songs, Medazzaland does not suffer from overproduction or inconsistency, two problems that have plagued the band in the past (as well as making them an easy target for ridicule from music reviewers). This is their most consistent release in years, rivaling the inventiveness of their first three records from 1980 to 1983, but this is more subterranean, more diverse than anything they have done before. Medazzaland's well crafted sound has the originality to inspire a whole new decade of music.
Only a handful of record albums can get the casual listener hooked after one listen, and these are the ones that become classics. Pink Floyd have done it. So have the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and the Rolling Stones. And now Duran Duran have done it. The first single, "Electric Barbarella," sets the mood for the album: fast, furious, and in the spirit of their heyday. It's the first Duran track since "The Reflex" that is fun to dance to. The lyrics are fun too a sexual relationship with a mechanical woman ("Emotionless and cold as ice/All of the things I like"). While nearly every song is worthy of airplay, one of the most memorable selections is the eerie "Big Bang Generation," taking the listener on a journey through space ("Now that I'm so alien/Entering the atmosphere/Don't know what is waiting here"). Another track, "So Long Suicide" brings the album to an ethereal climax, with Le Bon's realization that "After all is said and done/We're only human."
Do Duran Duran have what it takes to succeed in the late nineties? Forget all of your preconceived notions and listen to Medazzaland the music speaks for itself. This breathtaking set of haunting songs sends a chill down your spine and a message to your brain to give the record one spin after another.
final rating: A