Paper Gods- A Reinventing, Challenging and Daring Work of Art!


Paper Gods

Duran Duran’s new album- ‘Paper Gods’ is out today and it is a stunning piece of art. It is full of surprises and experiments yet retaining that contemporary pop sensibility. Also, I think this is their most experimental album to date and may I add the most dance-orientated too. Nearly every track is a potential hit but with a twist. What I like about this work compared to their previous albums is that there is a great sense of playfulness never before heard (not even on their first album!). This is almost like a new band taking Duran Duran’s original ideas, re-shaping and extending their approach to the current times in addition to going in some strange places. This is very much evident on the title track- ‘Paper Gods’ that starts with a gospel intro, then going to electronic-dance, then into ambient territories and back to dance. The subject matter sums the present mundane plastic media driven world that we are slaves to willingly or unwillingly.

As the album moves along from that epic track through the heavy dance/techno based- ‘Last Night in the City’ and then ‘You Kill Me with Silence’, you get the variation already. ‘You Kill Me with Silence’ sounds like a re-arrangement of their underrated gem from 1982’s ‘Rio’ album- ‘The Chauffeur’ (which also happens to be my favourite DD song of all time). The only difference is that it is more slowed down and has different styles in each section… it starts with a lo-fi hip-hop track, then a sequenced synth sounds to marching beats. There is a child-like charm about it that is very addictive.Then comes ‘Pressure Off’ and this was the first lead single that was introduced to the world. On first listen, I didn’t like it to be honest and found the chorus irritating but nevertheless catchy. But on repeated listens, I warmed up to it and I think it is a very clever number, simple and to the point but with a lot of energy. ‘Face for Today’ and ‘Danceophobia’ could sound like songs from the 80s New York disco scene. After, ‘What are the Chances’, the album just keeps on soaring with gorgeous melodies on ‘Sunset Garage’, ‘Change the skyline’, ‘Butterfly Girl’. All those tracks would take one back to the disco scene as it was emerging in the late 70s-early 80s New York. By the time, it reaches the spacey track- ‘Only in Dreams’, the sounds are bound to just engulf the listener and when you are into it, little cascading snippets of sounds just fly around… arguably the most adventurous track on the album for the range of sounds used and beneath it all is a weird R ‘n’ B track more than anything. ‘The Universe Alone’- the final track on the album is a reflection and a philosophy on higher, more spiritual things in life. It is definitely the most serious song on the album with all the distorted sounds at the end and a backing female choir. If the beginning of the album is a reflection on the material world, the ultimate is about the spiritual world. Very thought-provoking end to an album. However, it doesn’t stop there as those who own the Deluxe edition are treated with three bonus numbers- ‘Planet Roaring’, ‘Valentine Stones’ and ‘Northern Lights’.

Favouites- It’s so difficult to pick out my favourites on this or to even say which say which songs are the best. Before I listened to the entire album- ‘You Kill Me with Silence’ was my favourite but after the entire listening session, I have to say I love the second half of the album. I think perhaps, ‘Only in My Dreams’ intrigues me the most and then the magnificent title track- ‘Paper Gods’ as well. But then this list could change as I listen to the album more and more in the future.

Highlights- All of them, except maybe for the over-produced techno number- ‘Last Night in the City’.

Appeal Level- Disco Lovers (Particularly classic and early disco music fans), New Romantics, New Wavers, Dark Wavers, Post-punks, Synth lovers, Pop Music Lovers, hardcore Duran Duran fans, casual fans, one time critics and haters, and last but not least- newcomers. There is something over here for anybody with an open mind.

Contributors- The influence of Nile Rodgers cannot be understated here given that he considers Duran Duran to be his second band. I think his contribution can be seen on the disco-funk anthems. Mark Ronson and Hudson are brilliant producers in their own right. The collaborations with all the artists just shine through- Josh Blair, Janelle Monáe, John Frusciante from Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Kiesza, Mr Hudson, Davidé Rossi, Lindsay Lohan and Mark Spike ‘Stent’.

The Band- However, it is the band members’ ambition and their passion for creativity and care for art that makes this album so appealing. They have always pushed the boundaries of music since they started and here they are still doing it. They are much more relevant now than they have ever been. Simon Lebon’s vocal delivery and lyrics, John and Roger’s penchant for funk-disco rhythms, Nik Rhodes’ more experimental and conceptual side of things are trademarks on every album but on this one they surpass themselves. I also wonder whether Roger’s DJ solo work had something to do on this album. Also, when their contemporaries are too stuck in their ways, they are unafraid to even collaborate with current artists. This shows their broader outlook towards music making.

Album Cover- Sums up the playful nature of this album but mixed well with thought-provoking subject matters.

I am so happy for Duran Duran. They deserve success in every sense because they don’t rest on their laurels and even criticisms. Their march is always forward, with their feet firmly on the ground and embracing everything along the way. That’s how it should be! This is their most daring album ever and it is a winner!

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Mark D.- Moon Disco Album Review

Moon Disco

Everybody on the Dance Floor! MOON DISCO starts at 6:30 pm and well…. into the night.

First Impressionistic Review:

Just as the title suggests, Moon Disco is spacey disco music. This musical outing is from Mark D. (Mark Dmowski), the main creative force behind the alternative music band Higher Love. From the title track to the disco that starts at 6:30 pm through mixes to the disco at 9:45 pm., the album is set for the dance floor with its full-on, upfront rhythms and organic keyboard work.

The album does have a strong and catchy foundation. However, the building somehow doesn’t seem complete to me. It is not that music needs to be filled in with layer upon layer of intricately arranged music to be evocative. From my point of view, this kind of musical approach would have been better with more information. Here the slight problem is that the music would lean more towards the chilled out clubs or airports where you can experience the sounds but fails to do anything beyond becoming a background score for some sophisticated couples just swaying to the music. If that was intentional, then it is a fine effort. However, if attention grabbing was the intention, then it misses the “mark”. But, it can be reworked and infused with more flesh for a potential skeleton.

On Second Thoughts… rather On Second Listen:

This music needs to be listened to again to appreciate its arrangement. It sounds better than first time. It needs some psychedelic lights to go along with the music though for complete effect. This would work better if more songs are included to go along with them. Actually more non-instrumental and atmospheric songs would help the existing instrumental tracks to be appreciated more. That’s my conclusion because they all feel like they can fit into a larger, more conceptual theme. That would make this album/collection stronger.

This is music to be listened to at night or when it is dark and cloudy outside (like how it is now). It can be played during summertime but would only be truly effective in a theatre or an underground club setting. Daylight will overshadow the musical nature of this work. But that’s just me on a particular day. I cannot speak for the majority. Nevertheless, I feel that fans of 80s club and underground music, trance music lovers and DJs in general would pick up on such music. The average Joe Public would still be dancing to this totally ignorant of what is happening… but does it really matter? Music is never meant to be analysed, just experienced.

– A Review by Jill Bat

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A Show of Hands

A Show of Hands.

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A Show of Hands

Once I visited a palmist along with my parents. My parents are very much interested in palmistry and astrology. I do not disbelieve such forecasting methods but I tend to shy away from getting too involved in them. I am not that interested to know what the future holds for me and also it can be very intimidating. It is almost like tempting fate. So, I am really not comfortable with it. Anyway, during that visit, the palmist said some positive remarks about me. One of the interesting remarks she made after looking at the intersecting lines on my palm was that I will be doing two jobs simultaneously or something to suggest that I will be having two careers at some point. I was happy to hear this because I was already getting disillusioned with the kind of work I was doing.

I was working as an IT technician during that time in Mumbai, India. During job interviews, I was often asked- “Where do you see yourself in five years time?” I would bluff. I would say- “Working as a Network Specialist in a big company” when I knew deep down that I wanted to actually be involved in music or with musical instruments. Also, even prior to the visit to the palmist, I knew that I would be doing something closer to my heart and I was already working towards it. I was seriously trying to learn the keyboard and even attended classes on a regular basis. The money from my work would go into music and music books. For all the relatives and friends, I was this guy having a great job in big companies. Well, superficially yes; but I knew what it was like working for them. Most of my work involved blowing the dust from the computers, fixing loose connections and applying lubricant on stubborn dot matrix printers. I like technology but I like the creative side and the historical aspects of it. However at my work place, it was more or less the same routine. I am the sort of person who gets bored very easily.

I must admit that I did get some opportunities to make it big. For example, I was suddenly thrust into this environment where I would be climbing telecommunication towers and fixing internet telephones for busy call centres. But, I was a bit of a slow learner (always have been) and I needed a nurturing environment. In my place, we were not that cared for. Everyone was expected to be aggressive and kind of one step ahead of others. We were expected to learn ourselves and learn quickly. I needed someone to feed me with a spoon but I often felt I was at gun point. My seniors were all haughty. Office politics and rigid work environments were other issues I had to deal with. Another problem was that I was doing part-time studies as well during that time. So, it was difficult to manage everything. In the end, I was so determined to get out of that kind of rat race and robotic environment that I deliberately avoided to learn anything further in terms of my job. I even started questioning all these mantras for success and philosophies needed for living a quality life. It might be nature’s law when it talks of survival of the fittest. What about misfits, then?

I knew I had something in me but I needed to stay away from the chaos, needed to be in control to explore myself. I remember while I was in school, I used to look outside from my school bench and watch the trees and sky. Then I would dream about foreign shores… the other side. At home, I indulged in more or less the same things. Keep some music on or read some books (particularly Enid Blyton’s books and Tintin comics) and drift away into an imaginary land. Some of my hobbies during the time were also indications of my interests- music, stamp and coin collections from around the world, going through world maps and History. If my mind were an atlas, then I wanted to be a Geographer. As a result, by late 2005, I left for UK- the land of dreams and where most of my favourite music and literature originated from. My impression of Britain from a distant place was Victorian. The images were about big Gothic churches and buildings, houses with thatched roofs, green rolling hills and gardens. When I first landed here, it was more or less like what I imagined. For the first few months, I was literally living in a dream. It was almost like being in a wonderland. Everything looked like toys and pictures here. It was so unrealistically real.

However, slowly, reality reared its ugly head again in a different place and in different ways. Well… not quite but things are never as smooth as it seems from outside. It is something everyone has to deal with I guess. So far, I have tried my hands in some odd fields in Britain along with my studies. I remember one of my first job applications in UK was for working as a clown in a biscuit factory. But strangely I didn’t hear from them. I think they probably found a more efficient clown. Then, I worked as a volunteer in a community radio station preparing tea and coffee for musicians. Eventually, I got a job in McDonald’s! Over there, I was banned from the kitchen for being slow and useless except for washing dishes. I was a sorry figure at the till because I couldn’t make boxes quickly and I was mixing up drinks. I was doing most of the work in the lobby and outside. I was actively clearing dustbins and cleaning toilets. I remember getting £2 from a lady when she saw me working outside in the rain. Then, I worked as a cleaner in the hostel of University of Glamorgan until one day I was caught watching posters on the kitchen walls instead of scrubbing the dishes.

In March 2008, I went to see a music band called The Cure at Wembley Arena in London. I travelled all the way from Treforest in South Wales where I was living. During that time, I saw all these stewards working there. I thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to work and also see live music! So, when I moved to London about two or three weeks after that concert, I visited Wembley Arena again and got the phone number of this security agency. I contacted them, sent my resume through e-mail and within a few days I got this job. I am working in that company to this day and have seen few memorable events, particularly Jean Michel Jarre’s concert, horse racing, boxing, football and some Disney events. However, this is unsteady work even though I am only a few steps away from becoming a qualified bouncer.

In the winter of 2009, I worked as a traffic policeman in a car park in a place called Brent Cross in North-West London. It was the most horrible winter and was considered the coldest in 30 years. This car park work was so tedious in such a harsh environment. During that time I was even dreaming about traffic control and cars going in and out all the time. There used to be a lot of violence involved in my dreams as well. This was actually triggered by all the unpleasant events at work. Interestingly, most of these were linked to women drivers. Why do they ever get so emotional while driving a vehicle? I have never quite understood this. When I tell them to park in a better place and try to help them, they would just get so nasty. I received a death threat from a lady after I told her that she was creating a traffic block. One day, a lady was trying to park a big lorry in a place fit for a toy car and I told her that she should go in the front because there were so many parking sections. But no! She went- “I want to park here and in this spot”. In the end, she ended up five minutes reversing and going forward without any success. Then a major traffic warden came and shouted at her for causing a huge traffic block. I really felt happy seeing this. Then she got even more emotional and started defending herself. One day, a girl broke the mirror of another car while parking and she got a firing from a couple who was in that car for parking improperly. After the ordeal, she started taking pictures of the cars! Then, while going back she dashed into another car. Insane! One lady always wanted to park in the same place as if she was someone special.

I was having a completely different impression about women drivers. I used to think they were really good. Women are careful while driving (or are they?!) but they should leave their unwanted emotions at home. It was not all that bad; I was once offered a box of chocolates by a girl who was driving past me. But I graciously declined the offer as it was not the right moment and the box looked empty, anyway.

Once I worked for a digital music distribution company as an intern in London. They selected me on the basis that they were changing their physical distribution setup to digital versions and they were going online. It was interesting and something I had never experienced before. It was actually a six-week internship. But by the end of two weeks, all of a sudden, they announced that they did not need me anymore. They said something indirectly about some “minor” problems which I was somehow accountable for. For goodness sake, this was internship where they were supposed to be train me and it was not a full time paid job anyway. What on earth were they expecting from me?! They indulged in such a cheap way of using someone to do nothing but rip contents from CDs, put them on servers and upload a database. When they no longer needed my help, they decided to kick me out for some lousy reason. Anyway, thanks to those scoundrels, I have written one of the best songs of all time called ‘The Rear Side of 77’ where I expressed my discontent about that internship. One day I will release that song and use those traitors to distribute that very song without even their knowledge. The name of the company is currently withheld for obvious reasons.

Out of all activities, the one I think is the most relevant and meaningful is what I am doing with music. I play in a band and I have got my solo project as well. To me, I do not consider that as work even though it can be every bit as hard as it can be. However, that pure joy I get out of making music and playing music to people is inexplicable. I am discovering myself. There are so many areas that I didn’t even know that existed within me. The rest of the jobs are needed to function in real life. However, there is no lasting value to hardly any of them.  I don’t trust traditional jobs. I don’t trust most of the people who represent various corporations. Therefore, rather than dance to their tunes, I’ll make my own music and make them dance to my tunes.

The palmist was not at all wrong. In fact, it even surpassed her forecast. Now, I am doing more than two jobs, simultaneously and studying as well. My work has become multi-dimensional and I have become a schizophrenic.

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