Duran Duran

Red Carpet Massacre (Epic)

Duran Duran synth-pop Timbaland

Duran Duran had two options when it set out to make Red Carpet Massacre, its first album in four years: Try to reclaim new-wave disco from contemporary disciples like the Killers, or go for the commercial gusto by teaming with a red-hot producer. And there are plenty of reasons to suspect that the band made the wrong decision by going with the second choice. After all, the man pegged for the job, Timbaland, hasn't exactly had a stellar track record outside of hip-hop. But Massacre's sleek, spare, and dark vibe catapults the quartet (now minus guitarist Andy Taylor) into today's clubs with style and dignity intact — cringe-inducing raps on "Skin Divers" notwithstanding.

Once you get past the obvious credibility stabs — Timbaland's three so-so co-productions, Justin Timberlake's writing contribution to the slick but forgettable single "Nite Runner" — Massacre turns out to be a surprisingly traditional Duran album.

Timbaland protégé Nate "Danja" Hills retrofits the quartet with appropriate electro-R&B buzz, but songs like "The Valley" and "Zoom In" ride the same wave the group's been surfing since its early days. Simon Le Bon's unmistakable croon, Nick Rhodes' sweeping synth patches, and a flair for dramatic melodies remain undiminished a quarter-century after "Hungry Like the Wolf" made them MTV's first real stars. Roll out the red carpet again — they've earned it.

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