It’s hard to believe that Duran Duran have been continuously at it for over forty years now, but the ever surprising and evolving back catalogue says otherwise. Emerging in the early 80s, the band has seen a wide range of acknowledgments and success spanning their entire career. 2021’s critically acclaimed FUTURE PAST showed that they are still on top form, and this new album is yet another highlight.
DANSE MACABRE begins in fitting fashion with NIGHTBOAT, an atmospheric drum machine-led ballad packed with a spooky chord progression and a gorgeous lead melody from singer Simon Le Bon. As the song builds and more instruments are introduced, there’s a feel of epic dread created that would be fitting for any halloween-season movie. The followup BLACK MOONLIGHT, featuring an uncredited Nile Rodgers, takes the band back to a groovier place, but with a tinge of horror. A melodic line created by a theremin, and backwards reverb on the vocals add more thematic through-lines. The title track also continues this thread, incorporating synths that would be at home in a Hans Zimmer soundtrack, and spoken word verses that hit somewhere between 80s hip-hop and Monster Mash.
The band cover an interesting array of artists on this album, from The Rolling Stones to Billie Eilish. The cream of the crop, however, is their version of Talking Head’s Psycho Killer. Both bands were known for melding elements of funk and ambience into their music, and therefor the song is a perfect fit for Duran Duran. There is also an interesting mashup in the song SUPER LONELY FREAK. The first half of the song is a reinterpretation of the bands own 1981 song Lonely in Your Nightmare, while the second half is a cover of Super Freak by Rick James. It’s an intriguing but enjoyable listen, one that would be very unexpected with context. There are also excellent versions of both Siouxsie and the Banshees hit Spellbound, and Ghost Town by The Specials.
With DANSE MACABRE, Duran Duran have once again come out of left field and released an album that not only celebrates songs from artists that have inspired them, but also created a well thought out concept album, featuring the band at their best. Every choice, from the mixing to the performances, has been made with the intention of embracing the spooky theme whilst bringing out the band’s strengths. Although not to be considered a main-line album from the band, the new material here is some of their strongest to date, and the reinterpretations and covers have certainly allowed them to flex their musical muscles and prove to any doubters that they still have it in them.
Writer and Musician, Ryan Bulbeck has been published with a number of online publications, and has worked with a myriad of great artists, both as a performer, and as a producer. His most recent band The 295 are still active, playing shows around the UK.