Formed as a sophisticated meld of British New Wave and American funk, Duran Duran reapplied the glossy veneer seared off by punk and rode into the hearts and pockets of countless teenagers in the early ’80s. Despite a factional split and a mid-decade period of inactivity, three-fifths of the original group reassembled to finish the ’80s with two inexplicably popular albums.

Still defying extinction, the band now offers Liberty, alternating a resurgent rock sensibility with the herky-jerky rhythms that bassist John Taylor brought back from a 1985 sojourn in Power Station. Indeed, ”My Antarctica” draws as close to the lush allure of 1982’s excellent ”Rio” album as Duran has been in years, while ”Violence of Summer (Love’s Taking Over)” percolates like a heavyweight version of the B-52’s. But then, proving that rock and Duran don’t always mix, ”First Impression” revs up a tuneless dose of guitar raunch.

Otherwise, soul and funk pretensions dominate on such clunky creations as the title track — a nightmarish mixture of Gladys Knight and Foreigner complete with cooing backup singers — and ”All Along the Water,” which repeats a pounding three-note riff ad nauseum. Besides a shortage of original musical ideas and Simon Le Bon’s limited vocal skills, workable lyrical concepts still elude the group. A rap-oriented stab at chronicling society’s ills with snippets of audio verite (”Hothead”) almost makes sense, but ”Venice Drowning” overflows with crimes against language. But then, dinosaurs — especially rock dinosaurs — have rarely been celebrated for their intellectual powers. C-

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