“These are days of hit and run/In the stream with everyone/Is a moment of our lives,” Simon LeBon sings over an accented backbeat in “The Valley” as he begins Duran Duran’s latest attempt at a comeback, Red Carpet Massacre. It is perhaps a fitting line for the band, which could have at one point said they were the biggest in the world. Now, they are relegated to the fringes of nostalgia, which works well for them; this time they’re not flying on the wave of ’80s revivalism that justly swept Astronaut, their last album, swiftly in and out of the music consciousness. This time Duran Duran are without guitarist Andy Taylor, but gain the use of Timbaland, whose musical touch is keenly felt throughout the album, to assist in their resurrection.
Still, the music has to be good and here it’s mostly mediocre. “Nite Runner” is dominated by Justin Timberlake’s voice and Timbaland’s beats (that have become so ubiquitous as to be cliché) to a point where LeBon has to muscle himself in. It’s a generic song that could play with any number of artists. When the album falters, this issue appears most prescient; the band has no ability for originality if it succumbs to Timbaland’s whims, which of late create catchy, if unexciting, songs.
Timbaland’s overactive ego (like the worst kind of producer) overwhelms the band, which can certainly play. When they take over, the songs show some life. “Box Full o’ Honey” is light, graceful and almost dainty. It has the feminine charm their best work exhibits, with just the amount of force to keep it danceable and catchy.
Duran Duran’s best songs have always been the ballads. For their little world, free of any care, they were perfect: never overly lovelorn, never overly sentimental. But “Falling Down” and “She’s Too Much,” the two on Red Carpet Massacre, fail miserably. They sound like rejected boy band songs, unoriginal and, for lack of a better word, stupid. If the album’s main issue is its unoriginality, these are the key symptoms. If the band solely wants to cash in on their former success these songs are fine, but if the goal is sustained artistry, they, and the album as a whole, must try harder.