Welcome to the second entrant in the Cherry Lipstick series Duran Albums Reimagined. The aim is to take a new look at our beloved albums and... tweak them. Take some tracks out, add others from the era, mix up the running order, run it up the flag poll and see who salutes.
This is not a review of Future Past - you can find those elsewhere - but allow me to share some quick thoughts on the album and how I would like to reimagine it. On balance, I think Future Past is probably better overall than Astronaut and Red Carpet Massacre, although those albums both have more songs I’m going to be playing ten years hence. I think Future Past’s strength lies in its weakest songs, which are still better than the worst tracks on other recent Duran LPs. However, I do not prefer Future Past to either All You Need is Now or Paper Gods, or any other pre-2001 DD album. (I am likely in the minority on this within the fandom, which is familiar ground for me!)
Can this album be redeemed? I think, at a minimum, we can trim some of the fat and re-order it, so the truly great songs - and there are some of those - can shine.
This is how it starts:
1. Anniversary: Similar to Hallucinating Elvis on Pop Trash, this track can easily be the opener and set the tone for the album. It’s catchy and fun and the most similar to Duran’s classic sound. I know some will not agree about its positioning because of the nice instrumental transition from Give it All Up on the original album. But don’t worry, I’ve solved that problem. Read on to find out.
2. Invisible: Who says Duran doesn’t release the best songs as singles? Invisible – just past its two year anniversary - is indisputably the best song on Future Past, and probably a top 10 reunion era song. Powered by John and Roger’s rhythm section and Duran-guitarist-of-the-week Graham Coxon’s gunshot-like guitar riffs, and augmented by Nick’s haunting synths, it’s the perfect synthesis (pun intended) of classic and reunion era Duran. Simon’s lyrics are about…something. I think originally a relationship, since retconned to COVID or other stuff, but who really cares about the lyrics? What’s important is that this song is the quintessential second track.
3. All of You: Indisputably almost the best song on Future Past, All of You is everything I was hoping for when I heard that Erol Alkan was producing the album. The disco vibe is similar to the Alkan-produced Killer’s song The Man and it’s a direction I wish Duran would lean into more often. As with Invisible, the band gets space to play, and no one instrument dominates, although Roger’s beat is again driving the proceedings. This opening sequence of Anniversary to Invisible to All of You is now easily the best 1-2-3 opening of any prior Duran LP since The Wedding Album.
4. Hammerhead/Invocation: The slinky Hammerhead is the perfect change of pace song, akin to Love Voodoo on The Wedding Album. But, it does need some fixing. First, we’re adding back in the original ending. In last year’s Cherry Lipstick Future Past retrospective, I speculated that this song got the Silent Icy River treatment (i.e. when the band were so desperate to make What Happens Tomorrow radio friendly they cut an entire verse out of the album version - that’s right, the album version.) When I first heard the Future Past bonus tracks, it seemed as if Invocation was simply an alternate ending of Hammerhead. I accused the band of selling out by adding Ivorian Doll’s rap in its place, thus making the song worse, and I stand by that. Simon later confirmed in an Ask Katy that Invocation was, indeed, the original ending before the rap was added. Here I’m adding it back to its rightful place, and eliminating the rap. However, the “I’m coming for you!” can stay.
5. Nothing Less: If Anyone Out There and Come Undone had a child, it would be Nothing Less, which deserved to be higher in the running order. Coxon is finally unleashed. Nothing Less is another standout track on Future Past, and we slow the proceedings down a bit as we approach the midpoint of the album.
6. Laughing Boy: A perfect mid-tempo, mid-running order track to bridge us to Future Past’s rousing conclusion. This one grew on me and is easily the choice here over other contenders like Wing.
7. Tonight United: Let’s clear something up: The two Moroder tracks are perfectly fine, and Tonight United is the one I prefer, gratuitous bass solo and complete lack of guitar notwithstanding. It’s a fun, celebratory song - and unlike some of my curmudgeonly Cherry Lipstick co-contributors, I find nothing wrong with “forced positivity” of the song’s lyrics. Not every song needs to be “about” something, and please God spare me any more Duran lyrics about fame, super models, and grappling with nihilism whilst approaching old age. Simon builds the song road for this version of Future Past’s rousing conclusion.
8. More Joy: I love when Duran drops in a track that is nothing like the rest of the album. Tracks like Breath After Breath, Buried in the Sand, the entire b side of Big Thing, The Sun Doesn’t Shine Forever, Sunset Garage, and now, More Joy. It’s essentially a jam akin to Lake Shore Driving but with a verse and a half of lyrics thrown in. After an initial, “Oh my God, what’s this?” reaction in 2021, I now find it one of my favourite Future Past tracks, and the perfect penultimate song on the album. It is also a fitting coda to Graham Coxon’s stellar contributions, as the guitar on the final track is only present for a few seconds.
9. Falling: This is a beautiful song that makes me wish Duran would use more piano; Nick sounds amazing. The bassline, which I initially found out of place (I was hoping for a more stripped-down sound, similar to Edge of America,) has also grown on me. It’s heartfelt and tragic and maybe the best Duran ballad since Pop Trash Movie. Wait - you’re saying that Nick isn’t playing piano, it’s some guy who played with David Bowie? Oh. That explains it… But I still love it. A great ending track that ranks with other epic Duran closers like The Universe Alone and The Seventh Stranger.
And… that’s it. That’s your classic, nine-track version of Future Past. Can you deal with the tracks I left on the cutting room floor? I have my reasons. Wing and Beautiful Lies are likeable but forgettable. Give It All Up is the 21st Century Chauffeur, i.e. the love it gets from fans and the band is not commensurate with the song’s quality. Thanks to “Future Past”, “Astronaut” is no longer the worst Duran title track in the catalogue. And even the band relegated Velvet Newton to bonus track oblivion, so you can’t fault me for excluding it here.
Overall, this version of Future Past trims the fat and puts the focus on the best tracks. The album still may not be one of my favourites, but I think this version is a big improvement.
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