Today marks the release of Duran Duran’s fourteenth studio album, Paper Gods on Warner Bros. records. It has been five years since All You Need Is Now, the album that saw the band make a return to form. They were now confident in the pop legacy they had laid down in the 80s but with a desire to move forward with a contemporary sound. With Mark Ronson on board as co- producer the album was a huge success and was considered their best release since Rio.
With Paper Gods the band (still made up of original foursome, Simon Le Bon on vocals, John Taylor on bass guitar, Roger Taylor on drums and Nick Rhodes on keyboards) team up for a second time with Ronson at the production helm, who of course has been influential himself in shaping the sound of pop in the last five years, notably with his heavy nod to 80s “Uptown Funk” on his recent partnership with Bruno Mars. Also on production they have enlisted legendary producer Nile Rodgers who produced Notorious, and Jay – Z and Kanye West collaborator, Mr Hudson and Josh Blair.
So, it seems timely to release Paper Gods on the back of the new wave style music now coming back into vogue that Duran Duran pioneered.
The band continue to be inventive and experimental. They still manage to sound fresh while executing a pop formula that they perfected in the 80s and they are not ashamed of it. John Taylor has said “It really goes back to that strange Duran mix: the hard edged pop, co-existing with this dark, weird, experimental side”. The record also features some interesting guest appearances from Mark Ronson, Mr Hudson, former Red Hot Chili Peppers Guitarist John Frusciante , Janelle Monae and erm, Lindsay Lohan ( but don’t let that put you off).
The first track, Paper Gods is a huge opener. It has an intriguing start largely due to just the soulful voice of Mr Hudson rather than the lead singer. But with the introduction of some funky synth sounds and Le Bon indignant in his vocal - “Bow to the Paper Gods, in a world that is paper thin” it’s a track full of groove and unpredictability. It’s the longest song at just over 7 minutes but on this occasion, that’s a good thing.
Pressure Off is the first single release from the album and will not disappoint Duran Duran fans. It moves with a classic Nile Rodgers funky riff that then gives way to an infectious chorus which rouses and uplifts and it features a stunning vocal from Janelle Monae. Another highlight is What Are The Chances? - a beautiful ballad that soars with a heart-rending chorus accompanied by lush synth textures and guitar overlaid by Frusciante’s lead. It’s a stand out track. The album closes with The Universe Alone which starts slowly and beautifully and morphs into a distorted bass-led song, continually building in sound then finally giving way to a choral close.
There are some songs that feel like “fillers” but there is still plenty on here to show that Duran Duran have not run out of ideas.On the whole, although Paper Gods doesn’t quite live up to the charm of All You Need Is Now, it’s still a great listen that shows that even after 35 years together, Duran Duran are not afraid to take risks while being loyal to their musical roots. They are by no means a Greatest Hits band but a band always diverse and forward thinking.