Album Review: Duran Duran – Paper Gods

Sooner or later it seems everyone comes to grips with their mortality and what lies beyond.

It makes for good discussions among friends and when musicians enter that phase of life it tends to come out in their music. Such appears to be the case with Duran Duran and their new album Paper Gods, out September 11.

The 12-song record is the band’s 14th and fourth since the 80s heartthrobs reunited in 2004 with the great Astronaut. Though guitarist Andy Taylor left the band, again, shortly after, the core of the group Simon Le Bon, Roger Taylor, John Taylor and Nick Rhodes remains intact.

Paper Gods should certainly be praised for the band’s attempt to reach something not only out of their comfort zone (and their fans) but completely different from anything they’ve released. However, it’s a bit too far and falls well short of 2011’s classic All You Need Is Now.

The dance heavy album starts off with the title tract and perhaps a bit of a double entendre referring to religious beliefs all based on paper but there’s a clear shot against those who use faith to get rich –It’s all on sale for dirty cash/We can wash it clean /So hang it out on line/Confess and you’ll feel fine. It’s got a great bass line and despite the chanting that gets a bit old it’s one of the better songs on the album.

“Last Night in the City” is a straight-up dance song featuring somebody named Kiesza. Like any other dance tune out there it’s got a great beat and should prove popular in dance clubs the world over but radio airplay it will not.

“You Kill Me With Silence” feels like it was left off the last album and should have been left off this album. It’s a bit awkward, doesn’t boast much melody and though the guitar solo reaches it ultimately fumbles its way to the end.

“Pressure Off” was the first single released earlier this summer and for good reason, it’s one of the best songs. It features everything so many of the other tracts on this album are missing. It’s a vintage Duran Duran song without sounding like they’re trying to remake “Girls on Film” or “Rio.” “Face for Today” continues in the same vein and could be a forthcoming single.

“Danceophobia” is inexplicable. It’s definitely an attempt at producing another night club dance tract, is loaded with synthesizers and drummer Roger Taylor must have taken the day off because the drum machine abounds. Then Lindsay Lohan starts talking. The mid-song narrative worked on “The Man Who Stole a Leopard” from the last album but it completely fails here. So does Lindsay Lohan.

“What Are The Chances” in many respects saves this album because it is indeed a beautiful song with stellar vocals by Mr. Le Bon. “Paper Gods” started the religious theme and “Chances” continues that trek – So what are the chances/We are lost in the flow/And looking for answers. This is Duran Duran at its finest and they do a great job bringing in such emotional depth, when they want to.

“Sunset Garage” begins the last half of the album and gives bassist John Taylor a chance to shine with a great bass line. It’s a fun pop song  with a bit of 70s disco. The dance music returns with “Change the Skyline” another synth heavy song featuring someone named Jonas Bjerre followed by “Butterfly Girl” which invites another guest singer. It’s got a great opening funk beat with Taylor’s bass that helps carry the song but that noisy guitar solo falls way flat.

“Only in Dreams” strives to a be a strong cut, once it gets started, thanks to the catchy guitar lick but the silly synth jingle peppered throughout sounds like a frame from some bad 80s sitcom theme song. It’s annoying! Finally “The Universe Alone” closes out the album (a deluxe version features bonus tracts) and is pretty heavy lyrically – Now we go to face the universe alone/In plain view the mistakes we’ve made/But is there anything we’d really want to change. It’s a bit dreamy and gets away from the dance stuff but isn’t overly memorable though the imagery blasting through space using the guitar is effective.

Paper Gods comes across a bit confused. The album title starts it but the religious theme drops off so the band can dabble in some dance songs, then it picks up again, then drops and finally closes it out. On the plus side, it resembles little to anything from past efforts so give the boys some applause for not regurgitating their own sound. And Le Bon’s vocals? Just phenomenal.

But the dance tracks sound more like what fellow Brits the Pet Shops Boys have produced of late and it just doesn’t suit them. The songs come across like those extended play remixes DJs and other artists fool around with post-album release. The guest singers detract a bit and perhaps it’s an attempt to reach a younger, more “hip” audience but it’s a good bet the women who fill the seats on the forthcoming tour haven’t a clue who Mr. Hudson is.

The album is heavy on the drum machine and keyboards with a smattering of guitar, the latter feeling more of an afterthought. In many respects Paper Gods sounds like a pre-reunion release from the 90s when it was just Le Bon and Rhodes trying to carry the Duran Duran name forward.

Grade: C+

Duran Duran Paper Gods Track List:

  1. Paper Gods
  2. Last Night in the City
  3. You Kill Me with Silence
  4. Pressure Off
  5. Face for Today
  6. Danceophobia
  7. What Are the Chances?
  8. Sunset Garage
  9. Change the Skyline
  10. Butterfly Girl
  11. Only in Dreams
  12. The Universe Alone

Written By: AndrewT

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