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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