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Picks and Pans Review: Notorious

updated 12/15/1986 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/15/1986 01:00AM

Duran Duran

A song about corruption in the judicial system. Such lines as "Would someone please explain/ The reason for this strange behavior/ In exploitation's name./ We must be working for the skin trade." A tune called American Science that seems to comment on megalomania. Whoa! Who are these guys? They seem like a bunch of socio-rockers, unless maybe they replaced Andy and Roger Taylor with Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger. If they have gone a little overboard in trying to prove they're not just glamour boys though, there does seem to be an attempt to blend their synthesized disco blather with songs that say something, however cryptic. This is the band's first album in two years. All five of the group's original members had gone off to do independent projects as the cores of the bands Arcadia and Power Station; now Andy and Roger seem gone for good. Roger was replaced by Average White Band/Scritti Politti veteran Steve Ferrone on drums; after Andy left, his guitar role was assumed on this album by Warren Cuccurullo (Missing Persons) and producer Nile Rodgers. Lead vocalist Simon Le Bon is still around however, as are keyboardist Nick Rhodes and bassist John Taylor. The basic sound is still polished, though there's more intensity, such as Mac Gollehon's trumpet solo on Skin Trade or the moodiness of Winter Marches On. It makes for a wary listener, not knowing whether to want more substance or more fun. They're not mutually exclusive of course—Talking Heads, to name one group, mix and match quite adroitly—but Duran Duran has become the very definition of pop-music froth. It's hardly possible to renounce a reputation like that overnight, and this album, often more interesting intellectually than musically, suggests they aren't sure how to go about it. (Capitol)

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