[ALBUM REVIEW] Duran Duran’s Danse Macabre is wicked good fun

English band Duran Duran releases a solid, nostalgic album for Halloween
Released Oct. 27, Danse Macabre includes three new tracks, several covers, and reimagined versions of Duran Duran classics. (Fair Use: Duran Duran Official website)
Released Oct. 27, Danse Macabre includes three new tracks, several covers, and reimagined versions of Duran Duran classics. (Fair Use: Duran Duran Official website)

Just two years after their last album, Danse Macabre has arrived at a speed only paralleled by the release of their debut album back in 1981. Luckily for listeners, Duran Duran’s haste does not make waste: Danse Macabre is anything but a devil of a time.

Released Oct. 27 (coincidentally frontman Simon Le Bon’s birthday), Danse Macabre is the Halloween-inspired sixteenth studio album of British new wave band Duran Duran. The album includes three new tracks, several covers, and reimagined versions of Duran Duran classics. Featured on the album are the band’s former guitarists (Andy Taylor, of the band’s most famous lineup, was last seen on 2004’s Astronaut; Warren Cucurullo makes his first appearance since 2000’s Pop Trash), frequent collaborator Nile Rodgers of Chic, and Victoria De Angelis of Måneskin.

Audiences at Duran Duran’s recently culminated Future Past tour had the opportunity to preview two of the album’s songs: the revamped version of deep cut “Night Boat” and the seemingly bizarre merger between “Lonely in Your Nightmare” and Rick James’s “Super Freak” (stylized as “Super Lonely Freak”); eponymous single “Danse Macabre” was added to the tour setlist Sept. 13 at the Capitol One Arena in Washington, DC.

Just as the Future Past tour opened with “Night Boat,” so too does Danse Macabre. Kicking off with a disquieting new chord scheme, the song sets a tone that defines the rest of the album, fashioning a balance of light and dark in songs simultaneously recognizable and fresh. Though evoking a sense of finessed uncanniness, “Night Boat” lacks the chilling crescendos and raw intensity that made the original spellbinding. It’s in the funk-infused revamps where Duran Duran really finds their groove. Talking Heads cover “Psycho Killer” is elevated to a near-danceable level, with prodigious bassist John Taylor working in conjunction with relative newcomer De Angelis to back up Le Bon’s breathier, roomy vocals. Likewise, “Love Voudou” (formerly “Love Voodo” on Duran Duran’s seventh studio album) is injected with – dare it be said in reference to a Halloween album – glorious new life.

Perhaps even more unexpected than “Super Lonely Freak” – which works shockingly well, one bass line transitioning smoothly into another – is a cover of Billie Eilish’s hit “Bury a Friend.” With instrumentals taking on a more prominent role (and audible lyrics to boot), the song is given a bolder, unexpected new personality. Similarly, Duran Duran’s cover of “Paint It, Black,” originally by The Rolling Stones, changes the original’s identity by altering the meter, infusing the song with a subtle mania. In order to make the new meter work, the lyrics are altered. “If I look hard enough / Into the setting sun / My love will laugh with me / Before the morning comes” becomes the grippingly darker “If I look hard enough into the setting sun / My love will be laughing at me before the morning comes.”

The best three tracks, though, are the new ones: “Danse Macabre,” featuring eerie synth from keyboardist Nick Rhodes and even eerier rap from Le Bon, “Black Moonlight,” which glides on a groovy guitar riff, and “Confession in the Afterlife,” a delicious dessert-like finale to the atmospheric feast. Together, they exemplify Duran Duran’s eternal appeal and form the heart of the album’s ambiance: a humorous, funky, cool sort of darkness ideal for the spooky season.

Is Danse Macabre a perfect album? No. It lulls at times and breaks little new ground, instead sailing on the phantom wings of nostalgia. But is that nostalgia well worth it? Yes. Danse Macabre is wicked good fun that could make even the dead dance again.

Rating: ★★★★

Danse Macabre is now available to stream on Apple Music or Spotify.

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