Rock GPA: Duran Duran [part 10]

DD in 2015; they can still wear drainpipes

DD in 2015 – Drainpipes all ’round

Given that in real-time I had not paid any attention to 2010/2011’s triumphant “All You Need Is Now,” it’s hardly surprising that last month’s “Paper Gods” appeared in my windshield without warning. Heck, in 2010, I was too busy falling in love with the reviled “Red Carpet Massacre”to expend much energy on this supposed “comeback album.” So it’s now established as a casually lapsed fan, that I’m usually behind the Duran Duran curve by several years. It was kind of freaky getting the new album within days of its release. That almost never happens in my world, unless a pre-order scenario was underway. I wondered, after a dozen plays of the durable and lovable “All You Need Is Now,” what was in store for my ears before I moved onto the follow-up..

duran duran -papergodsUSCDA

Duran Duran – Paper Gods | 2015 – 2

Even before I played it, I could hardly not notice the deadeningly literal and positively gauche cover. Was there ever an album cover that more closely resembled a Duran Duran Colorforms® set for pre-teen girls than this? The irony was that it was probably more thematically relevant to the previous album which did trade on the sounds of their imperial period as indicated in the choice of images; but not this one. The fact that the white stroke around each iconic image was not consistently wide from image to image, suggested that it had been applied to the icons before compositing and rescaling on the cover image. Sloppy! Also, the band were now signed to Warner Brothers Records following a stint of doing all the work themselves. Back to the majors for another slog.

mr hudsonThe first track was certainly approaching from left field, to say the least. The title track featured co-producer/co-writer Mr. Hudson, who as it turned out, was a major player on this record. His name was on almost all of these tracks in at least one capacity if not two. I’d never heard of the guy. Apparently he was a fellow Brummie who had a few minor UK hits some years back? Shouldn’t Duran Duran be producing his albums? “Paper Gods” began with an idiosyncratic monk chant intro [this was apparently the vocal handiwork of Mr. Hudson, I’m guessing] that was redolent of Bowie’s similar ploy on “Looking For Satellites” back on the “Earthling” album in ’97.

The minimal synth bed made me think of “Red Carpet Massacre with the exception that John Taylor’s bass was big, fat, dry and right up in my face; not a bad thing in my book. Mr. LeBon delivered unusually scornful and angry lyrics that spoke of discontent; with exactly what it’s hard to say, as Simon can be pretty opaque with those lyrics. Invoking sweatshops and trainers was hardly his usual métier. As the song unfurled, it began to remind me of the vibe on “The Valley” specifically, from “Red Carpet Massacre.”

The middle eight was exceptionally nice with a spare guitar carrying the melody while the backing vocalist took the center stage in a swirling, late 60s, minor-key, post-psych-pop vein. This was certainly uncharted waters for this band, but very novel, and reflective of sounds that were hardly trendy, so I approved. After the middle eight, the song reconvened with full force, including a scoop or two of some synth filigree to let the long 7:02 number climax with a flourish. Wow. That was the longest Duran Duran number ever, but it was certainly an intriguing way to begin and album and it immediately won me over. How would they proceed?

Next: …The rise of cyberpop

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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7 Responses to Rock GPA: Duran Duran [part 10]

  1. Echorich says:

    Hmmm….I had the same first impression of Paper Gods, but my grin turned to frown oh so very quickly. The title track opener is good, but if feels like the band is being lead in a direction they wouldn’t normally go – this way my main issue with RCM, by the way. And there is something to be said for the fact that both Paper Gods and Red Carpet Massacre are “Duran Duran +.” The “+” is the omnipresence of the producer. Mark Ronson may have been integral to the sound and point of view of All You Need Is Now, but he didn’t force the sound…Mr. Hudson, like Timbaland before him, has made himself a member of the band. Here in lies the deepest problem I have with the new album.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – I think that Timbaland has much better ideas than Mr. Hudson, for what it’s worth. Duran Duran probably only had maybe one or two “Red Carpet Massacres” in them, and deploying another “RCM bomb” so soon after the ill-received first one was a near-fatal judgement blow. How I’d love to be a fly on the wall of their band meetings.

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  2. I haven’t heard the new album beyond the title cut (which I like), but I’m not averse to the idea, following a strong revisit to their “imperial period” as PPM says, that the next album would try something different. I don’t even mind if they have a bit of failure in that — I’d rather they attempt to stay relevant than become their own cover band, so to speak. There’s been some DD albums I’ve played once and don’t plan to play again, but like the Monk I’m behind on recent DD efforts, so I’m enjoying this series very much.

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  3. Second comment: having the producer become a member of the band can be a fabulous thing … just ask anyone who’s worked with Trevor Horn! :)

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    • Echorich says:

      Chas – there could be some sarcasm in that statement when applied to Trevor Horn. But sure, a producer as extra member of the band doesn’t always spell disaster, but when the band relies too heavily on the motivation and vision of the producer, it can go terribly wrong.

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      • postpunkmonk says:

        Echorich – It seems like DD have crises of self-confidence which lead down this dark path. They need to watch themselves more carefully. They need to make music first and foremost for themselves. All of their earliest successes were made with that edict. They should make albums with integrity that they want to hear and if they are any good, the audience will follow.

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  4. Brian Ware says:

    Well, first off I’m delighted we’re having this long overdue discussion! I agree with Chas. I always approach a new Duran album with an open mind knowing full well that it could be another “noble failure”. Just like other personal faves like Simple Minds or Neil Finn, they remain restless and open to continued experimentation. I’m totally okay with with “Paper Gods”. An eclectic batch of songs for sure, but all maintain that essential Duran-ness.

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