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!