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Duran Duran Paper Gods Review

Post past and present concert & album reviews and interviews.

Duran Duran Paper Gods Review

Postby zill » Sat Nov 07, 2015 11:19 pm

I know activity on NWO has dramatically waned of late but I am surprised at the lack of discussion of new releases by new wave icons the likes of Pseudo Echo, Duran Duran and New Order. Where is the love?

Like most Duran Duran albums since the release of Rio, 33 years ago in 1982, reaction to Paper Gods seems to be mixed. Some reviewers have harshly trashed the album for being formulaic electronic pop performed with collaborators such as Kiesza to drum up interest. Nonetheless, Paper Gods entered the Billboard 200 at number 10 and became their first top 10 success since The Wedding Album in 1993. It subsequently plummeted to number 76 in week two and 194 in week three. Probably not the result Warner Brothers was hoping for but hopefully there is enough commercial success to pave the way for at least one more DD record.

This album is not Rio. And despite some involvement from Mark Ronson, this album does not have nearly as much guitar as 2010’s All You Need Is Now, which was a return to their signature new wave sound from the early days. Make no mistake about it, this is mainly an electronic and dance oriented effort with plenty of collaborations from newer artists. The result is a well executed 2015-era pop record, produced by Mr. Hudson, Nile Rodgers, Mark Ronson and Joshua Blair. If you are too cool to like pop music anymore, then you obviously won’t enjoy Paper Gods. Personally, I find this album to be a triumph for a band on its 14th album attempting to stay fresh and relevant 34 years after their first release. My major complaint about the album is that the official 12 track release omits 3 terrific bonus tracks AND an additional 2 tracks that appear on a Target only release!

Track by track review:

1. Paper Gods – Believe me there is a great pop song buried in this 7 minute opus that opens the album. I’m not sure I would have started a pop record with this, but whatever. We get almost a minute of a Gregorian chant before the electronics kick in along with John Taylor’s bass. The song still doesn’t really get going until around for 1:40 but LeBon’s voice is well suited to the melody and he sounds fantastic. Finally around 3:50 a driving beat kicks in with the chorus and the song starts soaring. And then URK! They put on the brakes for an unnecessary long slow break that runs from 4:20 until almost 5:40! Finally, if you had the patience to weather what came before, the track really soars with the bass, the driving beat, LeBon’s vocals and a nifty Howard Jones New Song-esque synth line in the back ground. The radio edit is a vibrant electronic pop song with a strong vocal performance, while the album version is a drawn out, meandering affair.

2. Last Night in the City - Featuring guest vocals by Canadian singer Kiesza, this is more aptly described as Kiesza featuring Duran Duran. The song is a straight forward upbeat electronic dance number. It is perhaps a tad formulaic and predictable, but it sounds as good or better than the songs on the radio from which it draws its inspiration. There is no shortage of melodic hooks, but maybe it sounds a little cold and soulless compared to the vocals on other tracks.

3. You Kill Me With Silence – This is a haunting, moody, maybe even dramatic electronic song reflecting on a relationship that seems to be fading away. The verse ticks along like synthetic clockwork but then LeBon’s vocals on the emotive chorus recall something from Split Enz. Easy to listen to, the track winds down with distorted guitar that works well as the music fades with the relationship.

4. Pressure Off – The lead single from the album is easily the best Duran Duran song since Notorious and could easily fit onto that album. The song is a bit less electronic and a bit more funk inspired than other tracks on Paper Gods. LeBon is joined on vocals by Janelle Monáe and Nile Rodgers adds his Chic guitar alongside a great bass line by Jon Taylor, and the result is magic. The song chugs along effortlessly, firing on all cylinders and the result is a funky pop masterpiece.

5. Face For Today – A nice slice of new wave synth pop. There is a synth part that runs throughout the song that reminds me of a left over from the Please Please Tell Me Now / Faith in this Colour 12” single. A booming bass, retro synths and sleek vocals giving this a sound stuck somewhere between the 80’s and today. Overall it is a very listenable and enjoyable Duran Duran track.

6. Danceophobia – Featuring a spoken word part by Lindsay Lohan (???), I probably liked this song the least of all when I first heard it but it has really grown on me. On the surface it is a driving dance floor affair that sounds similar to many other modern dance tunes, the names of which have never registered in my brain. The more I listen though, the more I have come to appreciate there is an interesting bass and subtle guitar piece buried below the synths that is reminiscent of APB’s Danceability, which it most reminds me of. When the song gets to the bridge, Lindsay Lohan has a brief spoken-word part that is almost as good as Vincent Price on Thriller. Trust me. Overall a great dance track and very infectious.

7. What Are the Chances – Next up is the best ballad the band has written since Save a Prayer. The song starts slowly with dreamy synths and a melody perfectly suited to LeBon’s voice, and features guitar by John Frusciante of Red Hot Chili Peppers. The first time LeBon harmonizes with himself it harkens back to how he sounded on those early DD albums we all love. The chorus soars beautifully, supported by the synths and that fabulous guitar in the background. This is an incredible, grandiose power ballad that is among the best songs the band has ever recorded!

8. Sunset Garage – This track is again maybe a little less electronic and maybe even 60s inspired. It is more soulful with a groovy bass line and laid back vocals over a sweet melody. The lyrics are optimistic and whatever happens, we’re still here. This could be another single.

9. Change the Skyline – Opening with the cheesiest synths since Nik Kershaw’s The Riddle album, this song features Jonas Bjerre, vocalist for Mew, although he sounds so much like LeBon I don’t know what his appearance adds to this dance track. It is definitely an upbeat dance number with a nice enough melody, but this is perhaps my least favorite track merely because there is no heart and the synths are so cheesy. They could have left this off the record and substituted it with any one of the bonus tracks.

10. Butterfly Girl - After the disastrous Change the Skyline, Paper Gods shifts gears with a soulful rocker titled Butterfly Girl. It has a straight forward rock beat and darker sound with Anna Ross doing a fabulous job on the backing vocals. I love the bass, and there is a tremendous guitar solo by John Frusciante. Overall a very decent track.

11. Only in Dreams – OK, I think I was pretty accepting of the modern influences on the previous tracks for the most part, but this is where I draw the line. This sounds like Justin Timberlake masturbating on a boy band. It starts innocently enough with a decent melody but then all these funky weird sounds start popping up all over the place and it ends up sounding like a 70s porn movie. Brown Chicken Brown Cow!

12. The Universe Alone – The album closes off with another 6 minute epic. It’s a slow burning track that is decent enough though I find LeBon’s vocal sound whiny and off key and that ruins it for me.

And so ends the official album. Personally, I think they could have left off Change the Skyline, Only in Dreams and The Universe Alone and included the bonus tracks instead, which to me are much more enjoyable. Definitely purchase the deluxe edition so you don’t miss the bonus tracks, which I suppose sound more like early Duran Duran.

13. Planet Roaring – The first bonus track is an upbeat electronic track with a pulsating rhythm and a great bursting chorus belted out by LeBon. The second time around the chorus expands to add a piece with the backup soul singers coming to the forefront and also some interesting guitar. This track sounds like they are genuinely having fun making music and I love it.

14. Valentine Stones – Wow! Is this an 80s outtake? This is one of my favourite tracks from Paper Gods! Good tempo, nice bass line, the guitar, the darker melody fitting perfectly in LeBon’s vocal range...this song has it all.

15. Northern Lights – Apart from the needless intro with the footsteps and panting, this is another outstanding DD track! The opening drums could be from the original Duran Duran album and we get treated to a little bit of that old school galloping bass as well. The section from 1:26 to 1:42 is absolutely brilliant. Brilliant!

So now you think you have it all right? You bought the deluxe edition and got these fine bonus tracks that make up for some of the weaker album tracks and you’re feeling pretty good until you discover there are two more tracks on the Target only release!

16. Evil Beach – This is a fairly dark song for Duran Duran but it is another winner. Great bass, cool synths and a decent melody. This is a real new wave track.

17. Cinderella Ride – LeBon’s vocals sound great singing this melody and once again some throwback synths in the background make this another new wave number that older DD fans should love. If you told me this was a new romantic era b-side I would believe you.

What I love about Paper Gods is that it sounds great blaring on a loud pair of speakers but then with your headphones on you discover all sorts of subtle electronic tweaks and bass notes hiding below the surface. Duran Duran definitely took some time to create some interesting new music and they are far from “going through the motions” as seems to happen with many bands. I think that, including the bonus tracks, this is a really exciting release. It is mainly upbeat, positive, and exhilarating. This is what well crafted modern pop music should sound like. Despite some weak moments, I am very pleased with Paper Gods overall.
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Re: Duran Duran Paper Gods Review

Postby wherewereuin82 » Sat Nov 14, 2015 8:45 am

Well, now you did it. With a review like that, who has to listen to it?
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Re: Duran Duran Paper Gods Review

Postby postpunkmonk » Wed Dec 16, 2015 7:51 am

It's funny. I loved "Red Carpet Massacre" but don't love this one and they seem to be very similar on the face of it. One has much better songs, though. And the production on RCM worked for me. I liked the vocal production, especially. I don't think LeBon ever sounded better before or since. He seemed to be singing in his range for once and sounded great. If it was Autotune, then Timbaland/Timberlake are genii. "Paper Gods" could sound better if some of the much better bonus tracks were swapped out for the more egregious gaffes. Full review here:
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