Different name, same music

For once in his life, Duran Duran’s Nick Rhodes actually garnered good reviews for his work.

The British press actually looked kindly on The Devils, Rhodes’ side project with the Lilac Time’s Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy.

Of course, Duran Duran historians know the significance of this pairing — Duffy was one of Duran Duran’s first singers, before the then-upstart band recruited Simon Le Bon as a frontman.

Dark Circles, the result of this pre-historic reunion, does the unlikely job of transporting Rhodes and Duffy back to their past, while grounding them in the now.

(Diety help me not use the word “electroclash”.)

For Duranies salivating at the prospect of a new studio album featuring Duran Duran’s original line-up, Dark Circles is a playful appetizer, a collection of robotic, deadpan pop as familiar as it is new.

I’m not impressed.

For all its retro-charm, exaggerated excess and, to its credit, orchestral scope, there’s something utterly lifeless and forgettable about Dark Circles.

At some points, Duffy could be mistaken for John Taylor, whose own solo albums sport weak singing that’s alternately charming and grating.

Rhodes, unfortunately, has been trapped by his own stubborn refusal to let Duran Duran go into that good night. Even though Dark Circles sounds like it’s played on different instruments by different people, at its core, it’s a Duran Duran album.

The guitar work even apes departed axeslinger Warren Cuccurullo, and those two aren’t even on good terms! If that’s not Tessa Niles singing back-up on these songs, that woman certainly sounds like her.

Don’t buy it? Exhibit one: “Come Alive”. Forget for a moment the conversely-titled “Come Undone” — the intro sounds alone sounds like “Girls on Film” redressed.

Maybe the British critics are right. Perhaps there’s something cool and unusual about the Devils.

And yeah — I’ll be the first to admit I’m a lapsed Duranie totally skeptical about the upcoming reunion.

But despite my own attraction to robotic rhythms, strange effects, soulful back-up singers and piercing guitars, there’s something too familiar about it all. In short, Rhodes has gone as far as he can go, and even working with friends from days of olde isn’t enough to shake it up.