Under the covers

How could Duran Duran make a comeback when it never went away?

It splits the difference between homage and in-joke; where the remake of Grandmaster Flash's "White Lines" is a near carbon copy, going so far as to sample the original nearly in its entirety, their take on Sly Stone's "I Wanna Take You Higher" is recast as new-wave anthem, nearly unrecognizable from the far-out funk of the original. And where Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" and the Doors' "Crystal Ship" are approached with the reverence of the fanatical, they totally destroy Elvis Costello's "Watching the Detectives," reshaping it as a reggae dirge, sapping it of the original's threatening power. Then again, their raunch-out on Iggy Pop's self-sarcastic "Success" works perfectly--Duran Duran (with, hilariously, Flo and Eddie providing backup vocals) using the words of Iggy Pop and David Bowie to comment upon their own fame past and future, laughing with themselves even as others might laugh at them: "Here comes my car / Here comes my Chinese rug / Here comes success--Whoooooooaa--owwww! Hurray success! I need success!"

Le Bon explains the band's desire to cover their favorite songs goes back to 1973, when they heard David Bowie's Pin Ups, on which Bowie performs versions of his own favorite songs.

"When we finished recording Duran Duran we didn't want to write any new songs," Le Bon says of Thank You. "We had already recorded four songs, and we thought, 'Why don't we make an album like that now?' We've been talking about that for years and years. This is one way to do something completely different and something that is a lot of fun.

"We had some really great comments on the songs. When we were recording, Elvis Costello was in the studio next door and we asked him, 'What do you think of it? Do you hate it?' He said, 'No, I like it. Of course, it's your version, not mine.' Lou Reed said, 'This is the best version of one of my songs.' And Flavor Flav [of Public Enemy] said it's an honor and a pleasure to see us do '911 Is A Joke' because it brings new life to the issue."

But what if the roles were reversed, and Le Bon had to choose the artists to perform on a Duran Duran tribute? Le Bon is quick to provide a wish list, so enamored is he of the idea.

"Let's see," he ponders. "Hole has done 'Hungry Like the Wolf,' we want that established. U2--'Ordinary World.' Barry White--'All She Wants Is.' Metallica--'Wild Boys.' Naomi Campbell--'Girls On Film.'" He laughs at the idea. "No, no, that's sick. I'd like to see people like--I'm quite perverse, you know--Billy Bragg or Shane McGowan do our songs. That would be funny."

As for the future, though, Le Bon promises (or, perhaps, threatens) a new direction--something bass player John Taylor likes to call "trance punk."

"I think trance punk is a really great label," Le Bon gushes. "John is really good at coming up with cool names and titles. We were working on one of those songs today, but I don't have the complete lyrics yet. We may play it and I'll make the words as I go, sing, 'Happy, happy fucking birthday,' or something. Everybody will try to figure out the lyrics." And again, he laughs. "The Cocteau Twins have been doing that for years."

Duran Duran performs May 28 at Sundance Square in Fort Worth, with Deep Blue Something opening, and June 7 at Starplex Amphitheatre with Human League.

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