Rock GPA: Duran Duran [part 11]

duran duran - papergodsUSTARGETCDADuran 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.

The dreaded Kiesza

The dreaded Kiesza

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.

duran duran - pressureoffThe 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.

It's yer Monae I'm after baby

It’s yer Monae I’m after baby

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

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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12 Responses to Rock GPA: Duran Duran [part 11]

  1. nick says:

    ouch..[and a big one at that!]….i have a feeling about the rest that isn’t going to be pretty……

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      nick – We’ve already heard the best and worst of it with the first four tracks. We just have to slog through more of it.

      Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      nick – While it was far from a bloodbath [I’ll leave that to Echorich this time] we were cruel… but fair!

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      • nick says:

        i haven’t laughed so much about a DD album ! Its not had the best of reviews and i’m so glad i cancelled my order for the vinyl before it was released[ i still couldn’t justify £12.99 for that cover alone]. I will have to have a listen sometime to the worst tracks [ in your opinion obviously] just to see what i am missing. BTW…..any idea about the NASA popup i keep getting ? NOt sure if this is down to Firefox,……..

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        • postpunkmonk says:

          nick – Glad you got some laffs from the review, but I really didn’t have the knives out for this one. I rated each song and averaged out the score and it hit a poor, but honorable 2.1 score, which I rounded down. I approach DD with a heart full of mercy and try not to overreact to their gaffes, which are neck-and-neck with their triumphs, in my book. It’s true that there are no 4-star cuts on the album, and several tracks that rated no stars from me. If you want to really laugh along with my invective stream, then you must read my review of Ultravox’s [not so] “Brilliant” album from 2012. Given that I hold that band up to a ridiculously higher standard than for Duran Duran, I don’t hold back one iota on that review!

          The NSA lens that you refer to is put there by the Internet Defense League, who, on occasion, notify all visitors of particularly egregious erosions of our freedoms as they relate to the Internet.

          As fas as canceling your order of Duran Duran vinyl, you might rethink that posture after hearing how in 1996, I bought a copy of their nadir album “Thank You” for my now sold off DD “collection.” I paid $25 then and netted $200 when selling it in 2013. But in the hip vinyl atmosphere of 2015, they might be pressing more copies than albums got in the 90s.

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          • nick says:

            doh !!! nasa !!! what a dork eh ?? Sorry
            i will have to re-read the Ultravox review …i don’t recall it having as many daggers but it wouldn’t be the first time i’ve been wrong.

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  2. Echorich says:

    Last Night In The City makes all of Red Carpet Massacre, an album I have no love for, forgiven…well maybe not all forgiven. Keisza had one passable pop tune last year in Hideaway, but she is just a two dimensional carbon copy of Robyn, who has aquitted herself quite well in the world of Eurocentric Big Pop (EBP anyone?, no, I didn’t think so…). She has a habit of starting her songs from something approximating an ending coda, so Monk, this was nothing new. Last Night In The City is a just piece of musical trash swimming down a lonely gutter into the sewer system of Pop.
    You Kill Me With Silence is just nondescript.
    Pressure Off sounds like a track that belongs on Mark Ronson’s last album – Uptown Special. Yes it’s a great Chic song and I think that’s what Ronson and Rogers were going for. So why did they need Duran Duran on the track when it could have easily been handled by Janelle Monae and any number of other male singers who would give their right arm to work with Ronson. I wonder what a Duran Duran album fully co-produced by Ronson and Rogers without Mr. Hudson might have sounded like…we will likely never know.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – “Last Night In The City is a just piece of musical trash swimming down a lonely gutter into the sewer system of Pop.”

      ROWR!! That was poetry, sir!

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Wow! So Kiesza is, by your reckoning, a “two-dimensional Robyn clone?” I just knew that Andy McCluskey was smoking crack in 2010 when he was all over how great a “synthpop” performer Robyn was. Something about his ardor made my Spidey-Sense® tingle. I couldn’t bring myself to actually sample that woman’s music. Just the look of her put me off. If she deals in the kind of tripe that Kiesza pushes, then my instincts were spot on!

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  3. SimonH says:

    Love your description of modern pop…yes it is pretty grim….although as soon as I say that I feel ‘grumpy old man ‘ allegations coming!
    Do give Janelle a try though…I’m a bit of a fan but the live experience beats the recorded evidence so far. Maybe too much concept and too few genuinely good songs…Tightrope is a good place to start.

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