Future Past comes forty years after the 1981 release of the self-titled album, Duran Duran—the members in their early 60s except for Nick Rhodes, the relative youngster at 59—sound incredibly vital and energized. And, importantly, it's obvious they're still having fun … maybe even more than they have had in a long time. The band has cleverly brought in some youthful guest stars for their 16th album, but, just as cleverly, refuse to let them steal the show. Swedish singer Tove Lo comes the closest, on the dancefloor-ready, EDM-pumped Give It All Up, when she takes the lead on the second verse. But there's no mistaking that it is still Simon LeBon who owns that big, fat shimmering chorus. It's one of several songs co-written with former Blur guitarist Graham Coxon, which you would never guess from listening to Future Past. But he actually co-wrote two of the album's best songs. All of You and its super-disco chorus is a great addition to the Duran Duran canon, all funky bass (courtesy, as always, of the smooth John Taylor) and Nick Rhodes' hooky keyboard loop. And Anniversary—a celebration of the band's four-decade career—actually sounds like it could've been an outtake from the band's first album: It's propulsive, flying along on spooky, spacey synth, and packed with great New Wave hooks, including a doo-doo-doo that cheekily references their eternal hit Rio from their massive second album.
Co-producer Mark Ronson gave a writing assist on Wing, a slinky, slower track redolent with hand drums, rich bass and chilly synth. LeBon truly doesn't sound different from the old days as he delivers signature elliptical flourishes like "If all we are is memory/ Doorways on a garden/ Flowers of the century/ We are growing stronger" on the title track, a ballad with a slip-sliding chorus that recalls '90s hit Ordinary World. On the super slinky Hammerhead, he smartly sings lyrics that could be rapped—"Bang bang boomerang/ Come search and destroy/ Hit man knocking down/ The blue in my sky"—leaving it to 'internet personality' Ivorian Doll to rap the bridge. It's too bad, though, that neo-kawaii Japanese band Chai are underused on the truly joyous More Joy, simply chanting the title and chattering in the background. (But wow, Roger Taylor's drums sound as big and crisp as ever.)
Disco wonder Giorgio Moroder co-produced the album and helped compose the galloping Beautiful Lies and catchy Tonight United, which is made for getting out on the dancefloor and raising your hands to the sky. As with the best Duran Duran records, there's a lot packed in—including the delightfully off-kilter coda, Falling, which features Bowie pianist Mark Garson bringing impressive high drama to a band in which that's never lacking. It seems that after all these years, Duran Duran still have something special up their sleeves to share with us.