Duran Duran is one of those iconic groups that really doesn’t have much left to prove but insists on impressing anyway. Their sound and, at times, its quality have varied from album to album, sometimes wildly so, but four decades since their first release, they’re still as full of energy and chutzpah as they always were. Future Past (★★★★☆) seems crafted to remind us why they get to call themselves pop icons.
If the album’s title and track names — styled in all-caps — didn’t underline it enough, Duran Duran are as enthusiastic and boisterous on Future Past as ever.
The opening track “Invisible” doesn’t start things off with quite the same level of bombast that the band has introduced other albums with, but the depth lent to it by its crunchy, grungy guitars and sultry backing vocals are enough to hold your attention.
They carry that energy right into the next few tracks. Tove Lo provides guest vocals on the otherwise lowkey “Give It All Up.” Paired with Simon Le Bon’s distinct and iconic wail, her inclusion proves to be a particularly inspired choice.
It quickly becomes apparent that Duran Duran have expertly walked the line between experimenting with some uncharacteristic sounds and styles while maintaining their iconic sound. There may be a couple curveballs but there isn’t a single track that feels out of place or truly fails to land.
“Anniversary” breaks the album’s stride somewhat by dragging itself out a minute or two longer than it needs to, but it’s sweet to hear them celebrating themselves and they quickly find their footing again with a title track featuring a chorus that soars.
Some of the album’s best moments are hiding out in its latter half. “Wings” is beautifully arranged with dramatic guitars and keyboards that expertly fade in and out. Despite the singularly strange rap contribution from Ivorian Doll in the middle of “Hammerhead,” it stands out as a bizarre and memorable track.
By the time we get to closing track, “Falling,” we may not be expecting to go out on a wistful, piano-driven ballad, but its slow-burn works so well and we have already experienced so many unexpected moments that it is hard not to just roll with it.
There’s no mistaking Future Past for anything other than a Duran Duran album, thanks in large part to Le Bon’s distinct and seemingly ageless voice.
Despite some real innovations to their sound and some inconsistent moments where the album lags, it’s not an album that could have been made by anyone else. And that might be key to why it all works so well: it not only succeeds as a great Duran Duran album, but a stellar pop record in its own right.
Future Past is available to stream and purchase now. Visit www.duranduran.com.
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