Duran Duran

Astronaut (Epic)

Duran Duran has endured as one of the few survivors of the fabricated "new romantic" movement that produced such dubious hairspray queens as Spandau Ballet and Adam & the Ants. Solid material and a strong live show put the band over the top in the Atari age, but some usual suspects -- egos, cocaine, etc. -- eventually unraveled the lipsticked lads as they tried to find their footing with everything from banal funk to a woefully bad covers collection.

Astronaut, which reunites the original lineup for the first time in nearly two decades, isn't a return to yesteryear either. "Bedroom Toys" is Prince lite, "Want You More" is dance-floor fluff, and the title track sounds like Major Tom on the prowl at a gay disco. Duran always worked best as ear candy, but if Rio is Ghirardelli, Astronaut tastes like low-grade Hershey's. The return of Roger and Andy Taylor is a nonevent. Roger Taylor's drumming is about as exciting as a metronome, and Andy Taylor's slinky rhythm bursts -- the secret ingredient behind memorable hits such as "The Reflex" and "Girls on Film" -- are almost nonexistent here. Instead, Astronaut is overwhelmed by Nick Taylor's dull synth chirps and Simon Le Bon's voice, which sounds Mary Kate-thin. -- Geoff Harkness

 
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