Duran Duran – Paper Gods | 2015 – 2
[continued from previous post]
Before I continue with my review of “Paper Gods,” I must give a little insight into my relationship with modern pop. I have none. I stopped listening to top 40 radio in 1978. I have avoided all top 40 music almost 100% since I stopped watching television [and by extension, MTV] in early 1993. Whatever it is that people listen to for the last generation has completely passed me by. While on vacation recently, in rural Southern Pennsylvania, my wife and I stayed at Ohiopyle State Park for a couple of nights while we visited the nearby Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. We ate our meals in a single restaurant/general store which was the only thing open off-season in the small hamlet [pop. 100] of Ohiopyle. Fortunately, it was much better than it could have been. The food was pretty good for vegetarians and they could have charged us anything for it, but priced it modestly. There was just one hitch, which my wife pointed out. The satellite music channel was set to modern pop music; presumably top 40 with all of the hip hop filtered out. It was ghastly.
I usually never hear this stuff, but if we wanted meals, we had no choice. This brand of hollow, yet pseudo-euphoric, cyber-pop [auto tuned to within an inch of its quasi-life] was all that was ever playing as we are our breakfast and dinner for the 3 mornings and two evening that we were there. It was a troubling glimpse at what pop music has become at the hands of the accountant-demons who are running what’s left of the music industry into the ground. It resembled nothing so much as Pariah Scary thrown into a blender with leftover trance from the 90s, a generation past its sell-by-date.
I mention this because the next track to hit was nothing more than DD wallowing in the lowest common denominator of the modern pop vernacular. “Last Night In The City [featuring Kiesza]” contains everything wrong with pop music in 2015 in spades. The song opened with Kiesza delivering what would be an impassioned climax in any other song. But any passion in this tune was strictly a by-product of the auto-tune, which was used here with a trowel. Kiesza had a writing credit here, so I assume her contribution to this song was completely bolted on afterward. It sure sounded that way. Strictly pop-by-the-numbers. It may have been a completely different song that she already had in the can since there was no connection between what she sang and the rest of the song.
LeBon was also liberally slathered with auto-tune as his vocals were stretched into infinity for leaden effect [since we all know that this is impossible – his singing talent was well-documented over the last 30 years] on some of the more egregious crescendos on offer here. It seemed like the thought here was if you didn’t like one crescendo, stick around another 45 seconds; maybe you would like the next one. Never have Duran Duran sounded so lost at sea to these ears than on this number.
The next cut was slightly better. “You Kill Me With Silence” was a queer number with a 70s/10cc vibe to the keyboards on the chorus. As weird as that was, it certainly beat the mechanical tempo of the verse structure. I get a little antsy when the mighty Duran Duran rhythm section sound absent from the proceedings. Songs like this are the reason why. The one memorable thing about this one was the distorted “guitar” on the coda, which I’m guessing was strictly Nick Rhodes, since no guitarist was credited on this song. +5 points for Nick; -10 for the rest of the song.
The fourth song was the pre-rrelease single and taster for the album. “Pressure Off” was a no-holds-barred attempt at the ol’ “all guns blazing” song that left nothing to chance. In addition to the band and Mr. Hudson, who helmed the album, this one featured additional guest production by Nile Rodgers and Mark Ronson! And special bonus guest vocals by Janelle Monáe. The songwriting credits for this one is eight names deep. Everything but the kitchen sink was thrown into the blender for this one! Was it worth it? Well, for once, too many cooks made a pretty kickin’ little tune. This one finally unleashed the Taylor Twins® with a ready-to-work rhythm section that got put to good use in this frankly awesome… Chic song.
I’ve read lots of interesting ink on Monáe and she acquitted her role here quite handily. I might even one day investigate her intriguing, afro-futuristic records if I run across them in the used bins. Her delivery of the staccato vocal hook here was a stroke of genius, whoever thought of it. Nile Rodgers guested on the authoritatively funky guitar running through this one so yes, it’s a very catchy number that sticks in the cranium with little effort. I guess it is possible to will a hit song into existence; except that this one never managed to actually trouble the charts in either the UK or America. Oops. While the tune barely counts as Duran Duran [except in how it completely channels Chic – and for good reason] there’s no denying that it has the goods to be a pop success, even if it was the product of 100% perspiration and no inspiration. The lyrics were strictly clip art, but the tune was definitely solid.
Next: …Falling down on the job