’80s music lovers rejoice! Showtime has released new documentaries on two of the greatest bands of the decade — Duran Duran and New Order. While heavily associated with the 80s, these synth-heavy new wave acts from Britain carried on through the 90s and into the new millennium. Both bands continue to produce new material and tour regularly. These docs take different angles, but both provide informative career overviews for neophytes while packing in plenty of new material to satisfy hardcore fans. I’ll start with Duran Duran, and come back shortly with my thoughts on the New Order film.
Duran Duran: There’s Something You Should Know chronicles the trajectory of the stylish hit-makers, focusing on seven of their albums, beginning with the 1980 self-titled debut. It’s a traditional rock doc featuring new band interviews, commentary from pop luminaries like Nile Rodgers and Boy George, archival film footage, and clips of their groundbreaking music videos interspersed throughout. Like the band’s fashion sense and hit singles, the hour-long doc is splashy and frenetic yet tight and well-constructed.
Appropriately, much of the film focuses on their first three albums. Other albums spotlighted include 1993’s career-reviving The Wedding Album, which had the mega-hits “Ordinary World” and “Come Undone,” and 2004’s Astronaut, which saw the return of original guitarist Andy Taylor. Unfortunately, there are no new interviews with Andy, who left the band again halfway through their tour in 2006.
Particular attention is paid to Rio, their second album, which spawned the massive hit “Hungry Like the Wolf.” This is the band at the peak of their powers. Everything came together on that record as they honed their distinct sound and trend-setting image.
Likely due in part to their teenybopper fan base, Duran Duran never got the respect they deserved as musicians and were shunned by the British rock press. Bassist and founding member John Taylor recounts a New Musical Express review of an early concert that read, “Duran Duran are going to be huge, and they really don’t deserve any of it.”
The doc occasionally feels a bit too self-congratulatory. Lead singer Simon Le Bon says of Rio, “I just loved it. I thought it was so great.” And John Taylor on the band receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. “It’s a big deal…I don’t think many of my schoolmates have got one.” But for a band that’s been lambasted by critics, a little horn-tooting can be forgiven.
There is some balance too. Early in the doc, Le Bon pays a visit to his old choirmaster at a church in London where he was a choirboy. “This place had a huge effect on my musical development,” Le Bon says, before playing – and comically critiquing – a recording of himself singing a hymn as a youth.
A highlight for me is the scene with Mark Ronson, who produced their 2010 album All You Need is Now and their 2015 release Paper Gods, interviewing John Taylor and breaking down their trademark sound — crunchy rock riffs backed by a funky rhythm section and Moroder-esque synths. “There’s a reason that they sold 18 million records,” Ronson says. “They were just attuned to writing really great universal songs.”
“I feel like we’ve proved the detractors wrong,” Le Bon says. “The fact is we’re still here 40 years after we started. That’s the real proof.”
To stream the film with Showtime, click here.
360 Rating: 4 degrees °°°° out of 5