On All You Need Is Now, Duran Duran finally realize that stabs at innovation are not what the devoted crave, and — convinced, presumably, by none-more-retro co-producer Mark Ronson — resurrect the poppy sheen of their '80s heyday. For their lucky 13th album, they dismiss the try-hard youth-oriented tropes of 2007's Timbaland-helmed Red Carpet Massacre and enjoy doing what they're best at. Sure, there are sprinkles of modernity — Nick Rhodes's synth squalls on the hooky title cut are a tad rowdy — but for most of this fun ride through the shallow end of dance-pop, the jacket sleeves are rolled up.
Deducing that the correct response to a new era of austerity is to sing with grinning escapism about exotic locations and big-haired girls, the Brummies open big with a title track that floats gaily on the vibe of their glory years, shedding pounds and crows' feet as they go. It even mimics the "dreary verse, superior chorus" format of their best-known hits. (That chorus being pretty much "New Moon On Monday".)
The outstanding moment (and title) is "The Man Who Stole A Leopard," a grandeur-grabbing glide on which Kelis offers subdued guest vocals. "Leave A Light On" is a reboot of "Save A Prayer"; "Girl Panic!" is a throbbing floor-filler; and "Safe" is time-honored disco-funk with Ana Matronic of Scissor Sisters fulfilling her Debbie-Harry-in-"Rapture" fantasies. Owen Pallett (formerly Final Fantasy)'s string arrangements combine tastefully with Ronson's showy gimmicks and the whole affair coheres and shines beyond its just desserts — even if Simon Le Bon's voice remains reliably monotone.
Duran Duran will never be the "art" band they long to be but when, as here, they shimmy like drunken uncles at a wedding party, they're as surprisingly flexible and frolicsome as they were at their finest.