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Strange Behaviour This Halloween, Duran Duran reawaken some unwanted ghosts

Strange Behaviour

This Halloween, Duran Duran reawaken some unwanted ghosts

by Jay Lewis, Reviews Editor
first published: October, 2023

approximate reading time: minutes

There is something extraordinarily crass about the band that was the epitome of escapism tackling a song about urban decay and inner-city violence

DURAN DURAN
Danse Macabre
(Tape Modern)
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It's as if the perpetrator has returned to the scene of the crime.

It may have been a long time ago, but the reverberations from this ghoulish horror tale still live on. Back in the mid-90s, Duran Duran were found to have been behind a spate of fairly grisly attacks on some iconic popular songs ( their victims included numbers by Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, The Doors, Public Enemy, Elvis Costello, Grandmaster Flash...), The whole unfortunate incident was known as the 'Thank You' album, intended as a tribute, it displayed how the road to hell can be paved with good intentions, how foolhardy experiments can result in something quite... well, macabre.

But just like that spooky house on the hill, Duran Duran have, foolhardy and fearless decided to go back. Over half of 'Danse Macabre' their Hallowe'en-themed album, are cover versions that range from the competent to the unforgivable. Then there's the handful of numbers from their own past, brought freakishly back to life and only an EP's worth of new material. Then, through some fairly weird alchemy, it has all been stitched together. If that all sounds a little uneven, then that's because it is.

Opener 'Night Boat' dates back to the faux futurism of the band's debut album. It's appropriately eerie and it's a delight to hear original guitarist Andy Taylor make a guest appearance. 'Black Moonlight' is yet another collaboration with Nile Rogers, it's buoyant, it's fun, and the lyrics are particularly banal. I imagine that its sing-along daftness may lead it to being the only song on this album that will be remembered in the long run.
Then there's the cumbersome title track, a lesson in why white men in their mid-60s should avoid rapping at all costs, especially when it gets too close to Robbie Williams' 'Rock DJ' for comfort. But then the grisly stuff really begins...



Of the cover versions, only 'Psycho Killer' and 'Spellbound' are exciting re-inventions. Again, it's Andy Taylor's guitar work that drives the numbers and, on the former, there's some truly surprising vocal gymnastics mid-way through. Strange Behaviour indeed! 'Paint it Black' seems fairly plodding, whilst 'Super Lonely Freak' - takes their own sublime 'Lonely in Your Nightmare' and clumsily merges it with Rick James' 'Super Freak' - it's a clumsy match. Their cover of Billie Eilish's 'Bury a Friend' is an awful error, OL's youngest writer, who knows more about the song than I do, said: '...it's a decent version if you have no idea of what it is a cover of. If you did you'd know how much it pales in comparison' (thanks Erin). But that's not the worst thing that 'Danse Macabre' has to offer...

If you wanted to juxtapose that image of Duran Duran on their Sri Lankan yachting escapades in the video for 'Rio' in the early eighties with the harsh reality of actual life in Britain at that time then I may choose The Specials' squeezed into an old Vauxhall Cresta and driving around an abandoned London in the (genuinely haunting) video for 'Ghost Town'. So, there is something extraordinarily crass about the band that was the epitome of escapism tackling a song about urban decay, unemployment, and inner city violence purely because it has the word 'Ghost' in the title. If their version had been a melancholy and introspective reinterpretation of the song that had felt in any way sincere, I'd be more forgiving. If it didn't have Le Bon's risible Albarn-esque cockney pastiche delivery then I wouldn't be screaming for it to stop.

When Duran Duran decided to perform a Halloween-themed show in Las Vegas last year, it seemed like an intriguing, amusing idea. As a one-off concert, it may have worked but turning that concept into an entire album feels like a joke being stretched too far. The spooked reinvention of old songs (they missed a trick by not recording 'Hungry Like the Werewolf'), is mostly unimaginative and a tad self-indulgent. Beyond the Halloween novelty, this is not an album that many who admire the band will return to. In fact, to paraphrase that unfortunate earlier episode: No Thank You.

Jay Lewis
Reviews Editor

Jay Lewis is a Birmingham based poet. He's also a music, movie and arts obsessive. Jay's encyclopedic knowledge of 80s/90s Arts films is a debt to his embedded status in the Triangle Arts Centre trenches back then.


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