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 – 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.
The 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