- Lock up your mother, Duran Duran is back.
Scientists searching for a fountain of youth need only attend a Duran Duran concert. At the group's Blossom show in 2000, the scene resembled a debauched 20th high school reunion. Minivan moms snuck tokes from a doobie with the guilty haste of teenagers; others raided their daughters' closets and snatched up Contempo Casuals wardrobe essentials for the night. The only concession to adulthood seemed to be the groups who rented limos for the night, unwittingly creating adult sleepovers driven not by "Truth or Dare," but by overindulgence in wine coolers.
This thirst for revisiting swooning adolescent fantasies has increased tenfold, now that the original Duran Duran lineup -- composed of vocalist Simon LeBon, bassist John Taylor, keyboardist Nick Rhodes, guitarist Andy Taylor, and drummer Roger Taylor -- is touring again behind last year's Astronaut, the first album the quintet has recorded together since 1983's Seven and the Ragged Tiger.
Chatting from a tour stop in Calgary, John Taylor expresses his appreciation for the audience's enthusiasm toward the reunion -- although he isn't quite sure how to explain the rabid nature of some Durannies, as hardcore fans are called. Still, the 44-year-old is certain of one thing: The Duran Duran lineup of 2005 is better than the band whose photos its admirers pinned to bedroom walls and pasted in lockers 20-odd years ago.
"We've just dug in, and we're finding a groove that is deeper than we've ever gone with each other before," he says. "You know, this is a 45-date tour, and there's something that can be a little bit intimidating about that. But when you're a musician, you clamor to get that opportunity.
"How else are you going to learn?" he continues. "You don't learn by sitting in your room and noodling. You have to get your audience back. We're improving every day. You feel like you're back in touch with that youthfulness, because you can actually feel the improvement going on. It's not like we're on some sort of old-age-pension retirement scheme."
Showing no sign of the stresses that caused all three Taylors to leave the band at separate times, Astronaut proves that the playful side of Duran Duran remains strong. In fact, it's nothing short of pure musical hedonism, crackling with the same seductive discofunk and slinky synthpop of yore. Unlike the tabloid circus and constant external scrutiny that plagued Duran Duran at its Tiger Beat apex, however, the biggest challenges the now grown-up band faced when writing and recording anew came from having to leave loved ones behind.
"We'd all worked very hard on our families," Taylor says. "It's not easy for guys like us to have stable family life when you've been through the fame, the wringer, like we have. It's very, very difficult. And we all found a way to do it. We'd all got our lives together, and everything was working.
"But artistically, we all knew we could do something together. It meant that all that family, all that work, had to shift to a different gear. I mean, I've spent about five hours with my daughter this year so far, which doesn't feel good. But it's part of the lot of being a musician, I guess. It's like working on an oil rig or something. You just have to accept it and work with it."
For some, reconciling the Duran Duran of the '80s -- whose members embodied the Me Decade in their overindulgence in models, yachts, and drug habits -- with the sagging flesh of middle age and the responsibilities of parenthood might be tough to envision. But only a few more wrinkles betray the players' ages. Taylor speaks with an impish British accent and possesses an easygoing conversational style -- on being in Calgary: "I keep thinking, 'Isn't that where Christ died? No, that's Calvary, right'" -- which are traits that certainly helped him earn his reputation as "the sexy one" of the band.
Part of Duran Duran's enduring appeal is that the group members still look good; they've aged from boyishly hot to strikingly handsome, meaning that girlhood crushes can advance seamlessly to extramarital fantasies. The paradox is that while their comely visages helped the band members become popular, such good looks ultimately overshadowed their musical talent -- discrediting the strength of the group's massively influential catalog. (Need proof? See such obvious descendants as the Killers, the Bravery, and VHS or Beta.)
But while Duran Duran was influenced by Bowie, Roxy Music, Chic, Japan, and Blondie, it took care to stretch the notions of traditional forms of danceable synthpop; note the frozen keyboard tundra of Rio's "New Religion," the zipper-punk romp of their self-titled debut's "Careless Memories," or the gnarled post-punk prog of B-side "Khanada." These songs are the work of a glamorous band striving to flaunt its modernity, pop sensibilities, and flair for progress.
Perhaps that's the real key to the soccer-mom brigade's prolonged dedication to the band. Duran Duran peddles more than bygone memories of frivolous adolescence -- its tunes and attitude make the limitless promise inherent in youthful daydreams feel perpetually within reach.
"Oftentimes, bands get back together because it's the last-chance café," Taylor says. "And I don't think that was the case with us. I honestly can say it wasn't like I felt my life wasn't working and --" he sighs melodramatically -- "'Oh, God, okay, I've got to go back to the band, and maybe there's a bit of money to be made.' I'd stayed away from the band long enough that I had done a bit of head work, and I could actually go back in with a renewed sort of energy and a renewed vigor. I could actually move forward with these guys."