Duran Duran happily groupie-free

Rating: NNNNNWhile it's clear that fashionista pop phenoms Duran Duran have more lives than a street-smart cat, the arrival of.

Rating: NNNNN

While it’s clear that fashionista pop phenoms Duran Duran have more lives than a street-smart cat, the arrival of their umpteenth mediocre disc, Pop Trash, again posits the question of why they still bother.

Surely, the grind of touring is a pain even for jet-setting millionaire musicians like Simon LeBon and Nick Rhodes, who claim, when queried about the point, to enjoy working together too much to stop.

It’s not like their stuff has been consistently well-received, though. Despite a surprise commercial reprieve in 93 with Duran Duran (aka The Wedding Album), the group’s output in the past decade has ranged from middling to downright horrifying.

There can be no atoning for the crime of privileged white British blokes loping through Public Enemy’s hiphop diatribe 911 Is A Joke on 95’s top-to-bottom stinkerama tribute disc Thank You. Then again, Puff Daddy sampled Notorious, so maybe a kind of payback has begun.

It wasn’t always thus. Back in the day, Duran Duran helped raise the infant medium of rock video to a higher level. They brought glamour! girls! and death-defying yachting trips! to the world stage with offhand panache.

And it’s hardly an overstatement to say that in their 80s heyday the Fab Five sparked global hysteria among girls and — this is key — grown women that hadn’t been seen since the Beatles and hasn’t been seen since.

Even today, while keyboardist Rhodes is quick to elaborate on the songwriting strength in evidence on Pop Trash, nothing, save Napster, gets him blabbing more effusively than talk of the mad old days when no hotel lobby was safe from raging groupies.

In fact, as Rhodes recalls from Dallas, for a spell back then, entire countries had to be avoided for fear of groupie overload.

“We had to run off to Paris to escape it all, because the Parisians don’t take notice of anything,” Rhodes drawls. “I can’t say we really miss those days. It was an amazing thing to have happen, and nobody ever expected it. But it got completely out of hand and we had to step aside from it. We made three albums in France, and by then it had subsided somewhat. It really was… very chaotic.

“I had people camping out at my house. Many of them. Fortunately, we weren’t home that much. Then again, it was like that in every country in the world. We couldn’t go anywhere. Surreal.”

Until the day that juicy little memoir is written, however, Duranies must make do with the music. And while there are, admittedly, moments on Pop Trash that are as dodgy as some of Rhodes’s old haircuts — stand up and take a bow, Hallucinating Elvis — Rhodes, singer LeBon and Yank guitarist Warren Cuccurullo have cooked up some rather pretty ballads, too. Go figure.

Rhodes describes the new disc as “fairly schizophrenic, like most of our records. It jumps all over the place and there’s a lot of different personalities in there.

“It goes from quiet ballads to the noisiest track we’ve ever done, Last Day On Earth. But if there’s a consistent thread, it’s a study of states of mind.”

And what do the old-school kings of video think of the medium now?

“Well it’s different, isn’t it?” Rhodes says. “When we started, there was still fun in it. Now it’s a mega-industry, and millions of dollars are spent making these little commercials for songs.

“There are some great videos out there, but MTV isn’t what it used to be. I think the video we did for Someone Else Not Me is as good as anything out there. But I also think a lot of what’s out there is dull.”

kimhu@nowtoronto.comDURAN DURAN with JOHNNY FAVOURITE, at the Molson Amphitheatre (909 Lakeshore West), Saturday (August 12). $29.50-$65.50. 870-8000.

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