Duran Duran: Paper Gods
Wednesday 21 Oct 2015
Label: Warner Bros
Duration: 57 minutes
4 out of 5 stars
Even in their shall we say, shallowest moments, your scribe never shared much of that disdain that Duran Duran often called down. Any band that could produce a single as brilliant as Save a Prayer had to have something worthwhile going on. That song, incidentally, seriously impressed Bob Geldof, and one can surmise it was a large part of the reason he wanted the band on Live Aid - early impressions count.
100 million albums sold, and Paper Gods, the band's 14th studio album, opens with the track of the same name sliding in on an incoming wave of smoothly layered harmonies. That intro is an elaborate Beach Boys pastiche, and then the funky synth bass comes in - well, it is Duran Duran after all. The song seems to be taking a pop at celebrity vaucuosness or materialism, or maybe both, with phrases like “money for head- shots” and “paper gods in a world that is paper thin.” One muses how much money the band paid for the team of `head shots' who helped craft the sound, an august list which includes Nile Rogers and Mark Ronson.
The track amounts to a fine production, thoughtfully put together and co-written, as are many of the tracks, by the band themselves with contributions from producer and `singer-songwriter' - there's posh - Mr Hudson. The song is honing in on Bowie-style avant garde while the single Pressure Off too has reminders of The Thin White Duke. The words “a lad insane” feature at one point among the album’s great flowing tickertapes of lyrics, which in the main seem smart enough. (Bowie's Aladdin Sane is one of Le Bon's favourite albums, as it happens.)
Last Night in the City (featuring a lass called Kiesza on vocals) is upmarket disco and catchy pop and Simon Le Bon sounds committed and gutsy. You Kill me With Silence continues the heavy synth approach, a stylish piece of work with a damn interesting distorted guitar solo. What are the Chances strides into epic, hair-blowing-in the-wind territory – in the convertible on Sunset, on the way to the disco natch - and you find yourself making the unlikely, but reasonably convincing comparison with Simple Minds. Vibrant and hungry (like the wolf), Sunset Garage and Change the Skyline are the best tracks and somehow suggest a band desperate to impress 40 years on, which is surely the way to go. Doing so, moreover, with much more passion than say the Rolling Stones when they play new songs - when was that?
The last thing you could say about Paper Gods is that Duran Duran sound jaded or in any way past it. The lads are leaping out of their skins with pure energy, or should that be leaping out of their sleek leather jackets. This is a very fine record, was not dashed off, and probably cost a fortune, given the heavy input from other personae at production level. Heck, even Lindsay Lohan narrates a few lines on one track. The album ends with The Universe Alone, which itself ends in a weird sonic implosion as if the sound had been deliberately ripped open. In fact you begin to think there is something wrong with the equipment - a quite astounding anti-art, anarchic finish. Leave your prejudices at the velvet, gold studded door, this is a fine record.