Duran Duran used to be the boys that the little girls understood. Only now, those little girls are all grown up, and it's all they can do not to change the station when flashback radio blares "Hungry Like the Wolf." Sure, Duran Duran and all its lip-gloss-coated adventure music was perfect for young hormonals finding pubescent sea legs -- wan, dapper rock stars are often sexually innocuous enough to unwittingly act as such training wheels -- but the game was over by 1984. Maybe even '83. The Birmingham, England, quintet who heralded the New Romantic movement (the most visually charmed genre on early MTV's airwaves) couldn't find the spine or musicality to morph with the post-modern tides, and what once was a ticket to the biggest screamfest in rock's arena circuit became, by mid-decade, a dwindling club for hangers-on. Hell, even John and Andy Taylor had to find respite from all the Club Med saccharine and teen-zine herds in the slightly raunchier Power Station, though that Robert Palmer-led outfit packed only enough legit-funk testosterone to fill a Monopoly game shoe.
"Fab Five" Simon, John, Nick, Andy, and Roger ("Pick your favorite! Aiieee!") produced two albums with some pop endurance: the self-titled 1981 debut, featuring the perennial naughty dance gem "Girls on Film," and 1982's Rio. Back then, the band still tipped its hat to Roxy Music and Bowie, and side-winked at its adult club audience while cheerfully tolerating the teenybopper followers, the ones who hadn't seen the X-rated versions of the videos. But after that, Duran Duran couldn't muster the musical chops to buck its burgeoning image as gods of the teen wet dream. Everything that followed Rio, even the popular Seven and the Ragged Tiger, was as disposable as a cheap plastic Bic razor, and just as irritating. Alas, another band worth two albums and no more. Yet Duran Duran is a clear case of a legacy brought low by tenacity; it could've gone down in history as the romanticized epitome of early '80s sexcess -- not a bad thing, really -- but instead the band trudged on through album after album, each one more forced and trend-chasing than the last. How the band could stomach another tour of Six Flags stages after once filling Madison Square Garden is beyond the imagination of even the staunchest Duranie.
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Yet lo and behold, they're back. Again. Not in true phoenix form, of course -- only Simon LeBon and Nick Rhodes remain of the original lineup -- but they'll shake their money makers for all the Duranies out there who haven't bought a new record since MTV introduced 120 Minutes. They will, of course, play at Starplex Amphitheatre and try to convince the guilt-pleasured masses that better dance-club purveyors don't exist. In a historic context, it might be interesting to consider Duran's contribution to the boy-band trend that has resurfaced with such a sticky vengeance lately. But not that interesting.