Aging gracefully isn’t easy for recording artists in any genre — least of all, perhaps, those who’ve found fame with dance-pop hits. After all, what good is reflective maturity in a crowded club? On their 12th studio effort, Duran Duran’s four remaining original members deal with their looming 50th birthdays by dodging that question and hooking up with a new generation of wild boys. Pop’s reigning prince, Justin Timberlake, co-wrote two numbers for the disc, lending it his patented blend of just-this-side-of-sleazy soul. The band likewise nabbed the sonic architects of Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds — Timbaland and Nate ”Danja” Hills — to help produce Red Carpet Massacre, yielding a wealth of alluring synth textures (”Tempted,” ”Zoom In”) and skittish, syncopated hip-hop beats (”Nite-Runner,” ”Skin Divers”).
Yet FS/LS 2 it ain’t. Despite Duran’s interest in the bleeps and bloops favored by today’s youth, these graying MTV idols often end up referencing their own past: The preening New Romantic melodies of ”Box Full o’ Honey” and lead single ”Falling Down” are vintage Duran. Of course, nothing here can match the decadent thrills of the band’s classic Thatcher-era singles. But who’d expect it to? Duran Duran have updated their sound just enough to feel relevant, without embarrassing themselves in the process — no mean feat for a band in the throes of a midlife crisis. B+
DOWNLOAD THIS: ”Falling Down”