Album Review by Mark Bayross
The last time Nick Rhodes and Stephen Duffy worked together it was back in 1979 as an early incarnation of Duran Duran, although the latter had left before the band became all-conquering chart busters of the early-to-mid eighties.
But a couple of years ago, the pair met up and decided to write the album they would have made back in those early days, even down to dusting off some of their early Duran Duran compositions, and DARK CIRCLES was the result. The limited edition album of 5,000 sold out on its independent release last year, but interest in the record was so intense that it has now been given a full release.
The result is a collection of songs that whisk you back in time to that original Duran Duran line up and provide a fascinating insight into what might have been. The influence of electro pioneers from Kraftwerk to Tangerine Dream can be felt throughout the album, while the contemporary sounds of Ultravox, Talking Heads and Bowie are clear reference points.
At times dense and moody (the luminous SIGNALS IN SMOKE; the ghostly HAWKS DO NOT SHARE), on occasions camp as field of wigwams (WORLD EXCLUSIVE, for example), and from time to time evoking none other than Duran Duran (LOST DECADE is arena-filling material), this draws a line from the origins of synth pop to the current trend for all things electroclash.
Elsewhere, the funky COME ALIVE rides along on a late eighties vibe (think The The mixed with The Human League) with its female backing singers and handclaps, although the vocoder is pure late 90s disco, while NEWHAVEN-DIEPPE has a glorious sweetness that you can’t fail to fall for.
Given the history between the duo, this record has a personal feel that lends it a sense of occasion (if in any doubt, listen to BARBARELLAS near the end of the album). Consequently, anyone with pangs for a time when pop music was written by musicians, rather than Xeroxed by the marketing departments of the music / television conglomerates, will find much here to love.
The bizarre rough and ready feel adds to the album’s charm, while there are hints that this is only the first of many collaborations between Messrs Rhodes and Duffy. Odd, but somehow compelling.